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January 08, 2018

The Eagles will beat the Falcons and Nick Foles will be a big reason why

Opinion Angelo Cataldi
122717NickFoles Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Nick Foles

The best thing about having a bye in the first round of the NFL playoffs is watching other teams flop before your own team takes the field. The worst thing is what we are all enduring right now, the incessant clatter of negativity from people who have already demonstrated they are clueless about the Eagles.

In the interest of ending the suspense five days before the Birds face the Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field late Saturday afternoon, here are some highly educated predictions about the next week in the life of our favorite football team:

• The Eagles will beat the Falcons. I guarantee it.

• Nick Foles will play well. I guarantee that, too.

 The fans will exult, finally lifting this cloud of disappointment that has been hovering since Carson Wentz tore his ACL.
 The media naysayers – just about everybody right now – will pretend they knew the Birds would be fine all along.

Of all the doom-and-gloom prophesies that have accumulated since the Eagles ended the regular season, the news that 10 of 11 Sports Illustrated football writers were forecasting a loss for the Birds in five days is what created my current fury.

Really? A team that won 13 games, has the best run defense in the NFL, has a formidable running game of its own, and has home-field advantage until the Super Bowl is going to roll over and die? And all because Wentz is walking around on crutches? Really?

The ironic twist to this suffocating pessimism is that not one of these football experts – not a single one – predicted the Eagles would win 13 games, or that Wentz would be an MVP candidate, or that Doug Pederson would have a chance to be the coach of the year.

All of this naysaying is based on a bad game (which the Eagles won, by the way) against Oakland and the first three series of a meaningless 6-0 loss to Dallas. The logic is, since backup quarterback Nick Foles performed poorly in those five quarters, he will remain inept in the playoffs.

What about his brilliant play in Los Angeles, when he drove the Eagles for the winning score in the fourth quarter and then sealed the victory with a pinpoint first-down pass to Nelson Agholor? What about the 34 points he put up against the Giants? For that matter, what about the 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 2013?

It’s all ancient history to the sky-is-falling pundits, just like their laughable 8-8 and 7-9 Eagles forecasts for 2017. What have you done for me lately? That’s all these blind fools can process in their narrow little minds.

I’m guaranteeing an Eagles victory because I know this team better than these bozos – remember, I predicted they would make the playoffs this season – and because I’ve been around long enough to know the difference five bad quarters and a hopeless football team. Nick Foles will finish with at least 250 passing yards. Bet on it.

The most underreported story last week was how quickly playoff tickets sold out at Lincoln Financial Field. According to the tour agency Green Legion, it took one minute. That’s right – 60 seconds. Does that sound like a city anticipating imminent failure? Is that not a screw-you to every media naysayer in Philadelphia and beyond?

Saturday is going to be a day of redemption for clear-headed fans like me (and hopefully you). The rest of next week is going to be fun, too, when we laugh in the faces of all of these prophets of doom.

***

Joe Douglas has earned the title general manager, but not in Houston or in any other city that covets him right now. The Eagles’ vice president of player personnel should have the title right here in Philadelphia. Allowing him to leave, after one of the best roster-rebuilding seasons in the team’s history, would be insane.

My solution, which I offered here last month with scant fan support, is to promote Douglas to the GM title, pay him commensurate with the top GMs in the NFL, and keep Howie Roseman in place as the executive vice president of player personnel.

It’s impossible to say for sure which of the two-man personnel tandem is more responsible for the stunning success of the 2017 Eagles, but there’s no denying that the Birds’ brain trust has been brilliant since Roseman came back from his one-year hiatus in 2015.

Since Douglas hadn’t arrived here yet, Roseman deserves all the credit for the astonishing double-move up the draft to claim franchise quarterback Carson Wentz in 2016. It’s easy to forget that Roseman came back after the one-year Chip Kelly GM fiasco with a four-win roster.

In two years, Roseman and Douglas built that team into a champion. Regardless of how this season ends, who can argue that the current cast, plus Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles and Chris Maragos, isn’t talented enough to win it all? Heck, the team won 13 games without those players for the full season.

Douglas made his reputation as a smart judge of talent working for one of the best GMs in NFL history, Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, and his input into the additions of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Alshon Jeffrey, Patrick Robinson and a terrific cast of draftees was undeniably impressive.

No one currently holds the official title of GM on the Eagles, so why allow Douglas to win that title elsewhere? The new, improved Roseman has said repeatedly that it’s not important who gets the credit for the team’s success, only that it achieve its loftiest goals. Well, Douglas clearly is part of a winning formula.

Howie Roseman has made a lot of great moves since his return. Now it’s time for one more. Keep Joe Douglas. Please.

***

NoneWinslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady points to teammates as head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft look on after the 2017 AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium.


As someone who has loathed the New England Patriots since the partnership of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady began 18 years ago, I read with great joy the ESPN report last Friday that the legendary coach and the greatest NFL quarterback in history were engaged in a blood feud that could bring down their dynasty.

It couldn’t happen to two bigger jerks.

Like many Eagles fans, my hatred of the Patriots – hey, I grew up in New England – reached its current scope after we learned that they cheated many teams, including the Birds in the 2005 Super Bowl, during Spygate. The later Deflategate scandal only added to our belief that they won five championships through nefarious means.

What none of us could have guessed is that these two obnoxious personalities – the terminally grumpy Belichick and the increasingly weird Brady – were engaging in a battle of egos that included an equally contemptible third party, owner Robert Kraft.

The gist of the issue is that Brady felt threatened by Jimmy Garoppolo, so he got Kraft to force Belichick to trade the talented backup quarterback. Of course, since that deal in October, Garoppolo has emerged as a stellar starter in San Francisco. Now Belichick is reportedly plotting a move to the Giants.

The most amazing part of this story is that Belichick, such a brazen bully in his daily dealings with the media, caved to the pressure. First of all, Kraft is just another dumb owner without the genius coach. And second, Brady, a sixth-round draft pick, might still be a nobody if not for Belichick.

The coach could have told both his insecure quarterback and his meddling owner to go to hell and kept Garoppolo as Brady’s heir apparent, showering him with money at the end of the season before the young quarterback became a free agent. Instead, it’s pretty clear now, Belichick started planning his escape.

Moral bankruptcy ultimately always prevails, and that’s what we are seeing right now. Brady started the process by ignoring the team’s medical staff, aligning with wacko trainer Alex Guerrero and writing a ridiculous best-selling book– as if Brady needed the money. Then his jackass owner rewarded the act of treason. Beautiful.

Now I know what you’re thinking. If Belichick actually completes his escape and joins the Giants, that move will be bad for the Eagles. Not really. At 65, Belichick is nothing without Brady (or Garappolo). And at 40, Brady is nothing without Belichick.

And that’s what makes this such a wonderful story. The bad guys are finally going to lose. In the end, their contempt for basic decency, their utter disdain for fair play, is going to make losers of both of them.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. . . when first we practice to deceive.

And finally ...

     • Andy Reid, whose Kansas City Chiefs started the season 5-0, is heading home again with no Super Bowl ring on his finger. His team blew a 21-3 lead in the playoffs against Tennessee on Saturday. The former Eagles coach was not pleased with the officials. Understandably, the fans are not pleased with their coach, who is 1-4 in the playoffs with the Chiefs, and 10-12 overall. Maybe they’re finally figuring out what we have known for years: Reid is the most overrated coach in NFL history.

     • Jon Gruden worked his last broadcast for ESPN in Kansas City on Saturday, and we can all be grateful for that. The former Eagle assistant accepted a 10-year, $100-million offer to coach the Oakland Raiders, thereby ending (at least for now) his putrid career behind a mic. Gruden was terrible at every aspect of broadcasting. Aside from the endless babble during every game, he was a horrible interviewer. For example, he ended a fawning conversation with KC running back Kareem Hunt on Saturday by saying: “You like football, don’t you?” Duh.

     • In the same week when Terrell Owens was named a finalist again for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Donovan McNabb was fired at ESPN after an investigation into sexual-harassment allegations. Did anyone anticipate that Owens, a troublemaker as a player, would have a more respectable retirement than his far more honorable Eagles nemesis? I know I didn’t.

     • The biggest blowhard in sports was in town last week dispensing his usual arrogant prattle about basketball and politics. Gregg Popovich is a terrific coach in San Antonio, but he’s worn out his welcome with me. He’s the genius who started this stupid practice of resting perfectly healthy players during the season; five Spurs didn’t dress last Wednesday here. And now he thinks we care how he feels about Washington. Shut up, Gregg. There, somebody finally said it.

    • Is there ever a week when the Sixers’ medical staff doesn’t screw something up? Last Wednesday, it was the laughable handling of Joel Embiid’s hand injury, when the franchise center was ruled out until half an hour before game time. Then, suddenly, he was in the starting lineup. Did the Sixers find a miracle cure? No, the doctors just changed their minds – no doubt at the urging of Embiid himself. If anyone thinks these docs know what they’re doing, I’ve got some advice. Get a checkup yourself. Start with your head.

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