April 03, 2017
Jeffrey Lurie has owned the Eagles for 23 years, none of which ended with a parade down Broad Street. Last week, in his first words to the fans in an entire calendar year, he preached patience.
Has he lost his mind?
In all likelihood, Lurie is still clinically sane, but his message at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix was illogical, for many reasons. Above all, there has been much speculation that his status as a billionaire has detached him from the reality of owning a sports franchise in Philadelphia. Well, this is no longer speculation. It has.
Lurie’s exact words were: “It takes a very patient, disciplined approach. Short-term solutions to get to 10-6 … are non-sustainable. You’ve got to draft well. You’ve got to have multiple drafts in a row, hopefully, where you’re surrounding that quarterback on all sides of the ball. That’s the formula. It’s hard to accomplish, but it’s not that complicated.”
First of all, did it ever occur to Lurie how ridiculous it is for an owner who has never won a championship to pontificate about what it takes to win one? If it’s not that complicated, why did it take him all these years to figure it out? And here’s the most important question: Is it possible Lurie still has no idea how to run a sports franchise?
Secondly, his idea on how to draft well is to give the final word to the same man, Howie Roseman, who botched most of the last seven drafts. With the exception of the 11 months when Chip Kelly wrested away control, it was Roseman who fell in love with Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith and dozens of other draft busts.
The owner suggested the future would be different now because an accomplished player evaluator, Joe Douglas, has joined the front office, but Lurie never addressed what would happen if Roseman ignored the advice of his aide and picked the next Nelson Agholor. If Douglas is so skilled, why does Roseman still have the last word?
And third is the utterly ludicrous comment by Lurie that giving Kelly responsibility for the 2015 draft was not a mistake because otherwise there was no way to find out if the coach could do it. In what world does the CEO hold tryouts, on the job, that could result in dire consequences for his corporation? Oh, please.
For 23 years, Jeff Lurie has hidden behind his grandiose words and neighborly attitude while making mistake after mistake. His decision to bring in longtime friend (now ex-friend) Joe Banner to run the team failed to bring a championship. Even his best decision, hiring Andy Reid, didn’t secure the trophy. Kelly was a catastrophe.
Now, after all of those misfires, the owner wants fans to be patient. He wants an intensely loyal fan base that has waited 57 years for a championship – most weren’t even born the last time the Eagles won it all – to wait some more while his “not that complicated” formula works its magic.
Behind the scenes, people who know Lurie say his frustration with failing to win a Super Bowl has grown over the years. Above all, they say he can’t understand why the Eagles only made it to the big game one time under his leadership – and why they haven’t won a playoff game since 2008.
Let’s try to solve the puzzle. Lurie has changed presidents, general managers, personnel directors, coaches, assistant coaches and all of the players over those 23 years. The only constant has been Jeffrey Lurie himself.
Hey, it’s really not that complicated, is it?
The Phillies opened the season this afternoon in Cincinnati with one main goal – to be better than last season’s 71-win team. From the GM to the manager to the players to the clubhouse boys, they think they are improved in every facet of the game.
I don’t. In fact, I think they will be lucky to match the win total of last season because – despite their mumbo-jumbo about the wave of major young talent on its way – they seem to be going nowhere.
For example, the Opening Day starting pitcher is Jeremy Hellickson, a journeyman whom they are paying an absurd $17 million this year. Of the five starters in the rotation, only Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez have the stuff that projects to long-term success. (Aaron Nola is the next Hellickson, at best.)
The starting lineup also features only three players who figure to be here five years from now, Tommy Joseph, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. All of the stop-gaps acquired in the off-season – Howie Kendricks, Michael Saunders, Daniel Nava – will be long gone by the time the Phillies are ready to contend.
Yes, there are some promising young players in the farm system, but every team in baseball can make the same claim. The truth is, MLB.com has only three of the Phils minor leaguers ranked in the top 100 – shortstop J.P. Crawford (6), outfielder Mickey Moniak (19) and catcher Jorge Alfaro (72).
Of course, no prospect is a sure thing (see: Domonic Brown), as the Phillies learned last season when even their best kids, Franco and Nola, struggled mightily. For a franchise that has not had a winning season since 2011, the Phils actually should have more kids closer to the big leagues than they do.
Which leads us to the front office, which has been totally remade since that last great Phillies team six years ago. President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak are making all of the big decisions now, and they have talked a much better game than they have played so far. The newfangled analytics approach is already showing signs of being a dud.
I realize none of this negative analysis is welcome on the most optimistic day of the baseball season, but I’ve got a bad feeling that the Phillies are going 68-94 this year. Sorry.
At the risk of repeating myself, is there any end to the unfathomable failure this season of the Sixers medical staff headed by Australian zoologist David Martin? Has any staff, anywhere, ever failed to diagnose and treat players correctly as frequently as the Sixers have this year?
The latest misfires surfaced over the weekend when both Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington were shut down for the season after being cleared to play with what turned out to be partially torn meniscuses. Add an identical fate to Joel Embiid two months ago, and you’ve got a medical trifecta.
In all three cases, the staff cleared the players to return, and they all got more seriously hurt in the games that followed. In Covington’s case, he actually played eight games after medical clearance — including almost 45 minutes in one contest — before the full scope of his injury was identified.
It is no secret at this point that the Sixers are employing an unconventional approach to NBA medical care, since then-GM Sam Hinkie hired Martin two years ago to “oversee all aspects of the Sixers sport science, performance, training, rehabilitation and medical initiatives.” Dr. Martin made his name in Australia treating cyclists.
Since his hiring – which Hinkie said was the result of an arduous year-long search – the Sixers have had a maddening inability to get their players back on the court, but there has been no indication of dissatisfaction within the organization. Martin has never been made available to discuss his unusual sports-medicine theories.
In addition to the three meniscus misfires, the Sixers have also lost No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons for his entire rookie season with a foot injury that was originally diagnosed as a far less serious issue. So far, there is no evidence that Dr. Martin’s groundbreaking approach has helped a single player.
I am obviously no doctor, but I’m ready to offer a second opinion here, free of charge. The Sixers need to make some major changes in their medical staff, as soon as possible.
And finally …
• The only thing more bizarre than the collapse of Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth early in Saturday night’s game was GM Ron Hextall’s early diagnosis that the player was suffering from a head cold. Thank you, Dr. Hextall. Neuvirth appears to be fine now, and dour coach Dave Hakstol even showed a rare glimpse of personality when he tried to insert emergency backup Eric Semborski near the end of the game. Still, the next night they were eliminated from the playoffs.
• If you want a real sense of the lack of humanity that still exists at Penn State five years after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, consider the comment last week by one of the 38 trustees who oversee the university, Albert Lord. This delusional community leader referred to the dozens of young people attacked by Sandusky as “so-called victims” and said he was “running out of sympathy” for them. Wow. Happy Valley is even a sicker place than I thought.
• The best story at Phillies spring training, if not the only story, was the decision to add Brock Stassi to the big-league roster late last week. A 33rd-round draft pick, the 27-year-old first baseman defied the odds with a sensational spring. Stassi’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father all played in the minors. The fourth generation finally made it. If you’re looking for an unsung Phillie to root for this season, Stassi is the one.
• The Broncos have Eagles left tackle Jason Peters at the top of their wish list to acquire in a trade before or during the draft, PhillyVoice's own Jimmy Kempski reported. Peters is over the hill, prone to jumping offsides at inopportune times and costs $11 million this season. If Denver offers a second-round draft pick, the Birds should grab it. Hell, I’d take a fourth-rounder for the overrated, injury-prone 35-year-old lineman right now. Wouldn’t you?
• The bidding war for Dallas quarterback Tony Romo among TV networks intensified last week, with rumors that CBS wants Mr. Personality to replace Phil Simms as its lead analyst. Has anyone in broadcasting listened to this man speak? His pauses are so long, his comments so vacuous, that he isn’t qualified to do the Westminister Dog Show, let alone NFL games. What are these people thinking?