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January 27, 2021

Eytan Shander: Busting Philly sports myths about Nick Sirianni, J.T. Realmuto, Duce Staley and more

Opinion Eagles
Duce-Staley-Doug-Pederson-Eagles_011020 Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Duce Staley has been passed over for head coaching and offensive coordinator jobs three times in recent years.

Fact or myth? Let's dive right in.

Myth: “Nick Sirianni was brought in here to ‘fix’ Carson Wentz”


Nobody was brought in here to fix Wentz. That isn’t the same as the QB doesn’t need any fixing. The fact of the matter is that nobody – not even on defense – comes in with any true “fixing” experience.

Still not convinced with resume alone? Look at it this way: fixing the franchise is so important that the team is using guys with minimal to no experience. How does this make sense to anyone?

We can wish the new coaches all the best, including the new OC from San Diego. But we have to be honest with the situation. There is nothing to even remotely point to in any of these guy’s history that would indicate they have any experience in fixing QBs.

No, Sirianni wasn’t hired to fix Wentz. That job seems to be impossible. A guy who won a Super Bowl couldn’t do it, so naturally the Eagles went to … a guy with zero head coaching experience.

Again, this doesn't have anything to do with the new coach, nor his ability to run an offense. It has everything to do with dispelling the myth ahead of time that he was charged with the impossible. You never know how far the shrapnel of a Howie-grenade will fly. The narrative is false now and will be in a year or two when – once again – Wentz remains unfixable.

Myth: “Nobody else snatched up Duce Staley, so he clearly wasn’t ready to be a head coach!”


We need to be careful with how the optics of this entire situation were building for years. One or two passing overs of Staley for any position doesn’t represent the entire picture here. Staley was a victim of carrot-dangling at best, colorism at worst. Don’t take it from just me, I’ll let you hear from one of the most prominent NFL writers and from a former player who also coached.

Jim Trotter – Longtime NFL columnist & host of an amazing podcast with Steve Wyche, “Huddle&Flow” – available where you get your podcasts.

Nick Ferguson – Longtime NFL Safety. Ferguson hosts in Denver now and coached for the 49ers after his playing days.

The ripple effects of what was done to Staley are seen on social media and heard on the radio, even downplaying those who have experienced something similar. It’s why I went to Jim Trotter and Nick Ferguson, to provide voices that will never be mine, but speak to a troubling – and growing – issue in the league.

By dangling this carrot, the Eagles did a couple of things, all which add up to the misinformed masses who incorrectly assume, no call = not qualified. It’s how the act of keeping Staley down is perpetuated. He’s far from the only one. Teams don’t have all the information, they see a man routinely passed over from the outside, with nobody of real stature (Who’s it gonna be, YOU, Roseman?) making calls around the league. So, Staley is told by his own team, “Hey, hey, don’t worry, we got you!” Time and time again, but the optics are “Well, he’s just not ready.”

Twitter or another GM, all the same from the outside. The Eagles keep their glue. He's the guy who played here and is loved by the fans, current, and former players. New coaches get the benefit of having him by their side, a huge help in warming up to a new locker room.

Don’t perpetuate the optics of this nonsense by falling for what the Eagles want you to believe. “Well, he should have taken the OC without play calling duties.” More nonsense. If you don’t have the right person grooming you, making a call for you, it won’t work in your favor. The goalposts moved once again, as this time it was all about hiring a guy a year away from being the guy. Funny, Staley and others like him never get thrown in the mix.

Myth: “The honeymoon is over”


It’s amazing. Three years to squander something that nobody thought could ever be squandered. The feelings I have heading into this season couldn’t be more polar opposite than the ones I felt during the 2007 run through the start of the 2018 season.

The front office – ownership – managed to kill whatever success fell in their hands faster than a rabbit in Lennie’s hands.

• Jeff Lurie brought this city a Super Bowl parade and is back to being blamed for a terrible power structure.

• Howie Roseman destroyed his amazing story, “Roseman: Basement to Broad” and is public enemy #1. Even more so than Carson Wentz.

• Wentz managed to make everything over the past couple of years about him – in the worst way possible. There were so many elements that went wrong with this team, from injury to coaching to drafting, yet this season is ALL about Wentz. He did that by pushing out more guys on the staff and refusing to address anything since the end of the season.

The two guys immortalized by a statue outside of the stadium were pushed out of the organization – for different reasons – centered around the same person, Wentz.

Myth: “Joel Embiid is the MVP”


This is going to sound like a cop-out but unfortunately, the NBA is routinely predictable. The short answer is nobody is dominating and meaning more to the direct success of their team than Joel Embiid. The longer – and now disappointing – answer is that it would take the Sixers in the NBA Finals just to push him in the conversation.

The league has center-bias and it’s going to directly impact Embiid’s MVP bid this year. My co-host on The Middle Harry Mayes always asks, “Who cares if he wins the MVP?” and while many share that same curiosity, let me tell ya, Embiid does. Players do. The NBA looks at this award as major currency when discussing a legacy.

Here’s the good news; Embiid isn’t winning the award unless the Sixers are in DEEP contention. So you won’t have one without the other. I’m rooting for the team, but part of that is rooting for this young man’s continued success. Watching him blossom into an MVP like Iverson would be magical.

For us – and a lot of people around the league – he’s already there. Unfortunately, the NBA isn’t ready to hand over that award to a center, no matter how advanced and unique that center may be. As long as LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and Jayson Tatum are balling, it’s an uphill battle for Embiid.

Let’s hope this is the first year where the barrier is broken down, opening things up for years to come. The NBA hasn’t seen a '5' like him before, not even in this new era of centers.

Myth: “You can’t win squat unless Ben Simmons starts scoring!”

Fact, but… 

You can win if everything else falls in place. It's the perfect antithesis to what we saw Monday night in Detroit. The inability for Simmons to take over a game – outside of scoring more than 14 points – when Embiid is out becomes the most troubling angle of this.

I put scoring above rather than shooting or even driving, mainly because it’s all about results, no matter how they come. For Simmons it’s simple, IF you are going to refuse to drive to the lane, create FT opportunities and/or inside buckets, then everything else you do must be flawless. Crazy ask? I don’t think so.

Simmons is one of the better passers in the NBA – especially touching the ball as much as he does each night. He has size mismatches all-around on both sides of the floor, aiding his ability to rebound. He can guard multiple positions, locking down a point guard outside or battling inside with a power forward. He is ridiculously fast with the ball in transition for his size, making him a tough target in any break.

He’s already there. We just need to see it every night. Tobias Harris, Danny Green, and Seth Curry are charged with adding up to a “Big 1.5” each night. Simmons can add some, but the majority of scoring should always be handled by Embiid. If Simmons does everything else extremely well, how much he scores is the last thing on your mind.

Myth: “Eh… The Phillies overpaid for JT Realmuto in a non-World Series year.”


Let me be the (first to 999,999,999th) person to tell you, I love it. This move had to be made for multiple reasons, starting with it ain’t our money. This owner wants to sell us on trying to build a contender? Good, don’t let the best catcher in baseball walk.

Also, you simply have to overpay to keep a talent like that if you are not a destination. Despite having both Realmuto and Bryce Harper, along with Aaron Nola and a good top-heavy rotation, this is not a place to come play to win games. Not yet. Keeping someone of this caliber here allows the team to continue to sell the city and squad as a destination.

They also kept Harper. They kept him here and kept him happy. That’s almost as important as bringing back the catcher. Harper isn’t the GM nor part of any ownership group, but his demands suggestions are just as important. He’s the most important piece of this team, carrying the most celebrity in the sport as a Phillie. The inevitable ugly divorce that was to happen as a result of ignoring Realmuto is now avoided. A huge victory by the team.

Overpaying in a capped league like the NBA or NFL jumps out more than re-setting the market in MLB. I wouldn’t care if the Eagles overpaid for a top talent they were about to lose, and sure as heck am ready to enjoy five more years of watching the best catcher in the league.

Bet of the week

Joel Embiid is +1100 for the MVP and outside of a major injury, that’s not going anywhere but down. There is still some good value out there for Embiid to win the MVP, despite how far his team may go, monster numbers could prevail in an upset. He’s doing major damage to the league right now and is a better bet than a lot of people, including Luka Doncic.

We will have a ton of Super Bowl props next week, but I wanted to at least throw this one out ahead of time. Sometimes you just have to take a risk with these props, sprinkling in the absurd with whatever appears rational. In this case, we are going full absurd. Jump on it, double up the units if you have to, but I have a feeling we will see some crossbar action.

Also, take YES +425 on Any FG to Hit Uprights or Crossbar. We’ve just added excitement to the routine field goal. You’re welcome.

The Middle w/ BROOKS, MAYES & EYTAN – Clip of the Week

The Eagles paraded their new head coach around like it was an intern’s first day at the office:

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Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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