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December 12, 2016

It’s looking more and more like ‘genius’ Jim Schwartz conned us all

Jim Schwartz, the feisty genius who was going to lead the Eagles back to greatness – and himself back to a head coaching job in the NFL – is the biggest disappointment in a season of disappointments. The truth is, he is not all that feisty, and by no means is he a genius.

After a demoralizing 27-22 loss to Washington on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Schwartz clearly is failing to lead a defensive unit far more talented, and far more responsible for the Birds’ disappointing 5-8 record, than any other element of the team.

Despite talented players like Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks, the coordinator has somehow coordinated the Eagles into one of the least reliable defenses in the NFL during the final minutes of close games.

Need I remind anyone of the double meltdown against Dallas earlier this season – a 90-yard drive that tied the game in the fourth quarter and then a 75-yarder that sealed the loss in overtime? Or how about the late 44-yard drive in the Detroit game after Ryan Mathews’ fumble? The ensuing field goal denied the Eagles a 4-0 start.

Now we can add to Schwartz’s abysmal season the Washington loss, which included an 80-yard touchdown reception by DeSean Jackson against single coverage by Leodis McKelvin, clutch catch after clutch catch by Pierre Garcon, and the game-deciding 77-yard drive in the final minutes after the Eagles had pulled ahead, 22-21.

Graham said following the loss that the defense keeps squandering games because it cannot make one big play … cause one big stop in a pivotal moment. Well, he can thank Schwartz for that problem. The former Detroit head coach is simply not the defensive guru we all thought he would be.

Upon further review, Schwartz was never as good a coach as we wanted to believe. Yes, he had a couple of good years in Detroit, and a decent one in Buffalo. But he also had a defense ranked 20th or worse six times in his 13-year career. Twice, his defenses allowed the most yards in the NFL, and once the most points.

Under Schwartz’s leadership, Cox is having one of his worst seasons (despite a much better game Sunday), Vinny Curry is a $47-million bust and Connor Barwin is so inconspicuous right now, he may require a search party. Two years ago, Barwin had 14.5 sacks; this season he has four.

And Schwartz’s failure goes well beyond the numbers. Last week, in a moment of surprising honesty, head coach Doug Pederson admitted not every player had given full effort in Cincinnati. Tough-talking Jim Schwartz had a chance to support his boss and take a stand. Instead, he offered some lame excuses for his underachievers.

Upon further review, Schwartz was never as good a coach as we wanted to believe. Yes, he had a couple of good years in Detroit, and a decent one in Buffalo. But he also had a defense ranked 20th or worse six times in his 13-year career. Twice, his defenses allowed the most yards in the NFL, and once the most points.

At training camp last summer, Schwartz actually cringed at the warm reception Philadelphia had given him. After all, he was replacing a defensive coordinator everyone agreed was a disaster – Billy Davis. Schwartz reminded me then that today’s hero is often tomorrow’s goat.

Jim Schwartz himself never really believed the hype. And now we all know why.

He is not the answer to our prayers for the Eagles.

He is, in fact, the main cause of the problems.


Here’s a confession: Even though I got to cover the NHL for two seasons while working at the Inquirer, hockey has always been my fourth sport. It may be the best game to experience live, but it doesn’t translate well on TV. There’s just not enough scoring for me, not enough reasons to jump out of my trusty Barcalounger.

And that’s why it must mean something that I was sitting there on Saturday, growling and whooping throughout a 4-2 win by the Flyers. Obviously, I am a fair-weather fan, since it was the eighth-straight win for the local heroes. There’s little doubt I will bail at the first sign of adversity, as usual.

But this is a team that promises more than our either three pro teams can right now. Their mix of veterans – especially Jakub Voracek, who is playing out of his mind – and kids like Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov suggest they will be a playoff team this season, and a Stanley Cup contender next year.

What GM Ron Hextall is proving is that sports is not like alcoholism; you don’t have to hit rock-bottom like the Sixers and Phillies before you can recover. Even at their worst, the Flyers have offered something every fan requires, every season – hope.

Jose Juarez/AP

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz is congratulated by left wing Taylor Leier (58) after defeating the Red Wings, 1-0 in overtime.

The best sports event so far this season in Philadelphia was last Thursday night’s exhilarating 6-5 win over Edmonton, for a couple of reasons. First, the Flyers came back in the final minutes. And second, it created the next great villain here in amazing young superstar Connor McDavid.

When Brandon Manning started heckling McDavid over a check last season that broke the clavicle of the 19-year-old center, the kid showed his immaturity with an over-the-top celebration after he scored a goal to make it 2-0. Soon the crowd and Manning would make him pay, with three quick goals and a verbal thrashing.

That kind of game does more than just entertain the throngs who have spent more than they can afford to attend the games. It demands the attention of casual fans like me. How do you think the Phillies sold out every seat for three seasons earlier this decade?

So, let it be known that, until further notice, I am a big fan of hockey and the Flyers.

What’s that? The Flyers won their ninth straight last night?

I’m in, boys. Until further notice, I’m in.


Finally coming into focus after another boring week for the Phillies at the baseball Winter Meetings was Matt Klentak’s master plan for rebuilding his roster. It is, like most things associated with the novice GM, illogical.

Now, before you suggest that Klentak doesn’t have the power to shape the franchise’s future, keep in mind that invisible president Andy MacPhail was emphatic last week – in a rare public statement – that the GM indeed does have autonomy to make any deals or signings (up to a point).

And, after the underwhelming contract agreement last week with Joaquin Benoit, a soon-to-be 40-year-old relief pitcher, Klentak made it very clear that he is much more concerned about 2019 than 2017.

It is no secret that the free-agent class in two years figures to be the best in recent baseball history, with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Clayton Kershaw, among many others, available for bidding. Klentak figures that by then he will be able to outbid all of the big-market teams.

Of course, this thinking is absurd. There is already speculation that both Harper and Machado could command $400-million deals. Does Klentak really believe they would take an extra $20 million or so to play on a Phillies team that will have lost 89 or more games for six years in a row? Over New York, Boston and Los Angeles? Really?

The other leap of logic Klentak is asking fans to make is that he is capable of masterminding this rebuild when he has no resume to inspire such confidence. At 36, he is still seen as little more than a stat geek by those savvy fans who – 14 months after he took the job – actually know who he is.

So far, Klentak has mastered only one part of the job – tamping down expectations. While manager Pete Mackanin has done everything but use a bullhorn to proclaim his desire for more hitters, the GM has provided Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava. One is over the hill, and the other never reached it.

Two years from now, when this rebuilding plan fizzles, the only thing fans will discover is that Matt Klentak is definitely not the man who will dig the Phillies out of the hole where they currently reside.

And finally …

     • Matt Rhule was one of the best head football coaches in Temple history, but his exit last week was disgraceful. First, he picked a second-tier destination, Baylor. Second, he proclaimed that “our work is done” at Temple. And third, he bailed on his players two weeks before a bowl game they had worked an entire season for. Rhule preached to fight hard on every play. Then he quit on his team. Shame on him.

     • When Kansas City beat Oakland, 24-16, last Thursday night, coach Andy Reid’s team tied for the AFC West with a 10-3 record. Somehow, against all odds, Reid has managed to hit double figures in wins again, despite the loss of his offensive coordinator and part-time play-caller, Doug Pederson. Either Reid truly is a genius, or Pederson wasn’t all that important to the Chiefs’ recent success. No?

     • Remember how everybody was so thrilled by Howie Roseman’s coup last winter, when the Eagles GM dumped two Chip Kelly mistakes, Byron Maxwell and Kiki Alonso, on the Miami Dolphins? Well, don’t look now but both are having excellent seasons – as is DeMarco Murray in Tennessee. Maybe Kelly wasn’t that bad a GM. And maybe Roseman isn’t that good a GM, after all.

     • Is there any argument at all that the best coach working in Philadelphia right now is Jay Wright? Coming off an NCAA championship, the Villanova coach has his team at 10-0 despite the graduation of captain Ryan Arciadiacono. If the Sixers ever decide to replace Brett Brown, their first call – and only call, really – should be to Jay Wright.

     • Dorial Green-Beckham has never been compared to Albert Einstein, but the Eagle receiver’s latest stunt is a new mark for stupidity. Given a chance to use his footwear to promote a charity last week, Green-Beckham instead wore a pair of cleats from Kanye West’s Yeezy Collection and claimed they represented a fake cause. The NFL fined the receiver $6,076, which, we can only hope, will be used for brain research.