December 14, 2015
LeSean McCoy began one of the most important days of his career by kissing the Eagles logo Sunday on the field at the Linc. Four hours later, his former fans offered a strong suggestion on what else he could kiss.
It didn’t have to be this way, of course. McCoy’s return could have been a celebration of his six brilliant years as an Eagle. He could have basked in the adulation of fans who once loved him. He could have come back with a dignity and class worthy of the occasion.
Instead, he was the target of boos, assaulted from all sides by people who couldn’t believe how a soft-spoken Harrisburg kid could turn into such a jerk. By day’s end, McCoy had flipped off someone on the field, had shoved ex-teammate Fletcher Cox, had flung his helmet against a wall in the locker room and had refused to answer all questions.
Oh, yeah. His Buffalo Bills also lost a game they desperately needed to win, 23-20, thanks to the paltry 15 yards on his final 11 carries that capped the performance of a player who once called himself the best running back in the NFL. He is no longer in the conversation for that honor. Now, he is probably its biggest diva.
McCoy holds a grudge against the Eagles not just because Chip Kelly discarded him in a March 10 trade designed to save some salary-cap space, but also because the coach didn’t tell him about the move before it was announced. Kelly admitted his mistake last week, but by then McCoy was in a full-blown snit.
According to his Buffalo teammates, the running back was in their faces all week, pleading for help in exacting his revenge. Even after Kelly’s apology, McCoy said he would not shake the coach’s hand – though he gave a generous hug, and a weird rump pat, to Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. No, this was not going to be a happy reunion.
What McCoy could never have expected is the venom that poured out of the stands, especially when he exited 14 seconds before the end of the game with no warm goodbye for any of his former teammates. Many of those fans remain undecided about Kelly, but they have made their minds up about the team’s all-time leading runner.
If McCoy had been talking after the game, he would have acknowledged how encouraging the start of the game had been, when he ran for 59 yards on his first nine carries before Cox began abusing bully lineman Richie Incognito, before the Eagles defense adjusted to McCoy’s dance steps, and before McCoy shrunk from the spotlight.
The truth is, the best Buffalo runner was not LeSean McCoy on Sunday. He finished third behind elusive quarterback Tyrod Taylor and McCoy’s speedy backup, Mike Gillislee, who snaked through the Eagles defense for a game-tying 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. McCoy was past his prime last season, and he is even further along now.
Maybe that’s why he was so obnoxious all week. Maybe he realizes the best part of his career is behind him now. Maybe he made all of those sacrifices earlier in his career for a team and city that never really appreciated him. Or maybe all of the money and fame just turned that sweet kid into a jackass.
Someday, he will want to return to Philadelphia under more pleasing circumstances. He will want the same recognition Eagle players like Donovan McNabb and Brian Dawkins have received. He will expect his name on a wall, maybe even his number retired.
Well, here’s one loud vote against all of that. LeSean McCoy proved over the past week that he is worthy of none of that. He also proved that Chip Kelly was right to send him, and his bad attitude, out of town.
Sam Hinkie got exactly what he deserved last week – a major demotion and a public spanking – after humiliating the NBA and the city of Philadelphia for three excruciating years as Sixers GM.
The only people remaining who still “trust the process” are too naive even to realize what just happened to their hero. The experiment is over. Hinkie’s idiotic plan to tank three seasons, and to avoid all questions in the process, has failed as spectacularly as his 1-24 team.
All you really need to know is how Brett Brown reacted the day when Jerry Colangelo, an NBA executive who has actually accomplished something over the past 50 years, greeted him.
“Boy, do I need you,” Brown said.
Don’t we all?
Meanwhile, Hinkie – who actually had the audacity last year to seek a contract extension through 2019 – took the news by spouting obscure words like “ethos” and “meritocracy” before hinting at his own doubts about the way he has done business.
In an interview with ESPN, he admitted his miscalculation by not adding a point guard to the hideous current edition of the Sixers and by refusing to address most questions about his team during his reclusive reign.
The most revealing moment in the entire week happened on my WIP radio show, when I asked Colangelo whether he would defer to the bunch of nobodies running the Sixers if they wanted to do something he thought was wrong.
“No, I would never do that,” he said.
There’s a very good reason why Jerry Colangelo was not hired as just a consultant to Hinkie; an executive with his track record would never have taken that job. Colangelo was named chairman of basketball operations because he will have the final word on any future transactions. Hinkie is now his assistant, nothing more.
Because of Colangelo’s influence, what you will see in the weeks ahead is the acquisition of some veteran talent, both to help on the court and to mentor misguided young players like Jahlil Okafor. You will see the addition of an experienced assistant coach (Mike D’Antonio?). You will see no more trades of rookies of the year like Michael Carter-Williams for more draft picks. You will see no more tanking.
It is no secret that NBA commissioner Adam Silver was the catalyst in the Sixers’ power shift last week, a reflection of the contempt the entire league has developed for the substance and style of Hinkie’s tenure as GM. Silver didn’t ask owner Josh Harris to demote Hinkie; the commissioner demanded it.
Sixers fans should be thrilled at what happened last week, the first tangible sign of hope in a very long time. The next big step forward should be obvious by now, too. It’ll be the day Sam Hinkie packs up his trusty computer and leaves town for good.
The first reaction to the Phillies’ trade of Ken Giles last week was no surprise. Most fans said it was the kind of deal former GM Ruben Amaro would never have made, a swap of the present for the future.
What most fans ignored was the one element that made it alarmingly reminiscent of Amaro’s work. It was incredibly stupid.
Yes, I’ve heard the argument that Giles is a luxury that a bad team doesn’t need, a closer with nothing to close. But that cliché was invented for players far older and less talented than Giles. The Phillies gave up their most promising young player last week for . . . what?
Even by the most optimistic projections, the best of the five prospects the Phils received from Houston, starter Vincent Velasquez, is a future No. 3 in the rotation. Experts say he “sits in the mid-90s,” which suggests to me that he ought to find some air conditioning. Not a single one of the young pitchers – including No. 1 draftee Mark Appel -- had an ERA under four last season.
Here’s why we don’t have to wait a few years before we assess the first major transaction in the tenure of president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak: The Phillies traded away a 25-year-old pitcher who throws 100 miles per hour and owns a career 1.56 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 116 innings. Those are actual stats, not projections.
Only in a sport so immersed in the babble of sabermetrics would there even be an argument in favor of dealing a known quantity like Giles for five wild guesses. The counter argument is overpowering. At 25, Giles would be in his prime, ready to lock down games, for many years after the Phillies’ rebuild is complete.
The sad truth is that Amaro isn’t the only GM who would never have made a trade like this. Anyone else who bothered to look beyond over the mountain of statistics and used basic common sense would have reached the same conclusion
I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but, in the days since that Giles trade became official, I have actually missed Ruben Amaro.
I’m sure the feeling will pass.
And finally ...
• Years ago, Charlie Morton changed his pitching delivery to mirror that of Roy Halladay, so it makes sense that the Phils traded for the Pittsburgh starter over the weekend. Halladay was terrific. Unfortunately, Morton is not terrific. In fact, he ‘s pretty awful. Halladay should sue him for plagiarism.
• DeMarco Murray is 1,000 yards behind his league-leading pace of last season, and Miles Austin is gone. If Chip Kelly has learned nothing else this season, he needs to realize this: Former Dallas players never perform well for the Eagles. They are toxic. No more Cowboys, please.
• OK, who wants to argue that Steve Mason is still the No. 1 goaltender on the Flyers? Anybody? If Michal Neuvirth hasn’t proven he’s a far superior choice, what is it going to take? And one more question: Wasn’t the new Flyers brain trust supposed to be more open-minded than this?
• Forbes Magazine reported last week that Sixers owner Joshua Harris is planning to sell his NBA team to raise funds for a new London affiliate in the NFL. A spokesman for Harris labeled the story “inaccurate” and “not true.” Hmmm. Now we’ve got to decide whom to believe. Boy, this is a tough one, isn’t it?
• The tickets for Pistons-Sixers last Friday night were going as low as $6.95 on StubHub. A beer at the game cost $8. Now I’m no consumer reporter, but – with Detroit leading, 35-14, at the end of the first quarter – the beer seemed like a much a better deal than the game.