November 20, 2017
Before the start of the Eagles’ 37-9 romp over the Cowboys on Sunday night in Dallas, Al Michaels was fantasizing about an NFL championship in Philadelphia.
"Nothing could eclipse a Super Bowl and the Lombardi Trophy in a parade down Broad Street," the legendary NBC broadcaster said. "I'm flying in for that one."
The conventional wisdom is that no one – not even a Hall of Famer like Michaels – should be talking about any team winning it all with six games left on the schedule and then the playoffs still ahead, but there is nothing about this Eagles season that is conventional, and that includes the team itself.
The demolition of the Cowboys was the most emphatic statement yet that this is a unique team, with emphasis on team. There were so many heroes in a win that moved the Eagles to an NFL-best 9-1 record and all but clinched the NFC East, it might actually be easier to name the people who didn’t contribute.
But we never take the easy way out here, so let’s name the most obvious stars in Dallas: Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz, Ronald Darby, Derek Barnett, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Alshon Jeffery, the entire offensive line, the entire defensive line, Nigel Bradham, Jake Elliott and even Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Pederson was so prepared for the game that he rolled out four different two-point conversion plays after Elliott got hurt stopping a touchdown on the opening kickoff, and three of them worked with stunning precision. Remember when we all doubted that Peterson could handle the job?
Down 9-7 at the half, the coach calmly assured everyone in the locker room that the slow start was just a little rust after the bye week and predicted far greater success in the second half. Then the Birds outscored the Cowboys, 30-0, and sent the fickle Dallas fans exiting big, ugly AT&T Stadium late in the third quarter.
Darby, just back from 10 weeks on the sidelines, led the defense with eight tackles and an interception. Barnett, the first-round rookie defensive end sacked Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott twice and forced a fumble that led to a touchdown by Bradham.
Ajayi averaged 13 yards per carry, including a 71-yard burst up the middle. Blount added a 30-yard run during the onslaught. Clement scored for the sixth time from the red zone this season. Jeffery made a magical catch at the goal line. Both lines dominated throughout the second half. And Wentz was a model of efficiency once he shook off the effects of a vicious hit early in the game.
Hey, I almost forgot Grugier-Hill, the backup linebacker who replaced Elliott on kickoffs for most of the night. He was so inept in warm-ups, he actually missed the kicking net with one ball, and it ended up smacking a fan in the stands. During the game, though, he was terrific.
Basically, they were all great – just as they have been for most of this implausible season. How unpredictable has 2017 been for the Eagles? Las Vegas had the over-under for wins at 8½, which the team surpassed with six games to go. Not even the pro gamblers saw this level of success for such a young team.
In fact, Philadelphia is so smitten with these Eagles right now that 67 percent – two out of three – predicted a Super Bowl parade in an Internet poll at WIP radio on Monday morning. Long-suffering fans, who have waited 57 years for a championship, no longer are hoping for a happy ending. Now, they expect one.
And they should. Just as Sunday night provided a special win for Cowboy-haters, this entire season has been something beyond our fondest projections. This entire season feels like the Super Bowl.
See you at the parade, Al Michaels.
The moral bankruptcy of Jerry Jones has been an overriding theme of his 29 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys, as he has protected and supported one bad act after another in his relentless effort to field a champion. Since his last Super Bowl in 1994, he has been an abject failure at every aspect of his job.
And yet nothing approaches the hideous behavior Jones has displayed this season, ignoring the horrors of domestic abuse while immersing himself in a power struggle against commissioner Roger Goodell. The full scope of Jones’ corruption didn’t become clear until ESPN.com chronicled his recent acts of vengeance last Friday.
Compared to his harboring of social miscreants like Michael Irvin and Greg Hardy – not to mention the photos of Jones himself grabbing the breasts of a stripper – this latest flurry of rotten conduct marks a new low for him, including threats, lies and the egomaniacal delusion that he is actually running the NFL.
According to the ESPN report, Jones told Goodell after the commissioner ruled, correctly, earlier this season to suspend running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games because of domestic abuse: “I’m gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p***y compared to what I’m going to do.”
Jones was referring to the long battle between the New England owner and Goodell over Deflategate, a controversy in which Jones adamantly defended the commissioner. In fact, Jones had been one of the most vocal supporters of Goodell on all major issues before he got burned himself by the Elliott ruling.
Only a lost soul like Jones would engage in this kind of ugliness and then publicly insist that Goodell’s suspension of Elliott has nothing to do with the owner’s sudden dislike of the commissioner. Does he think everyone is as dumb as Cowboys fans?
It’s hardly a revelation that Jerry Jones is all about himself. He doesn’t give a damn about the NFL, about the eroding image of its players, about the future health of the people he employs or about anything that doesn’t bolster his already bloated ego.
The good news is that his deviance is available for public viewing now in a way it has never been before. He is out of control, reportedly because he actually believed that the combination of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott would bring him his first Super Bowl in 23 years this season.
Now it’s possible that his fellow owners, disgusted by his selfishness, will explore the ultimate weapon, what they call “the nuclear option,” and force him to sell the Cowboys.
If they do, believe this: There will be a long line of people volunteering to push the button.
Joel Embiid has been an enigma in his four-plus years as a Sixer, blessed with skills that match the very best who have ever played the game, but also burdened with a body that often abandons him. Until last Wednesday – appropriately in Hollywood, California – not even his most optimistic fans believed he could ever be this dominant.
Against a Laker team featuring its own bright young hope, Lonzo Ball, Embiid put up 46 points, and added 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks in the best performance of his career. If Embiid is capable of that kind of night while still rounding into shape, imagine what he can do when fully conditioned?
I became a basketball fan – and a Sixers fan, for that matter – more than a half-century ago watching my favorite athlete of all time, Wilt Chamberlain, and I have been careful since then never to compare anyone to the greatest player in NBA history. (If you doubt that designation, please consult the NBA record book. It’s not close.)
Well, now I’m going to compare Embiid to Chamberlain because they share an extraordinary athleticism for men over seven feet tall, because they are unstoppable if they are so inclined and because they share a charisma reserved only for the biggest superstars.
What was truly reminiscent of Chamberlain in that Laker win was Embiid’s inside moves. His ability to step around or power through defenders near the basket was supernatural. Shaquille O’Neal had power like that. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the quickness. No one has had both – except for Chamberlain, and now Embiid.
Of course, before Embiid can claim a place anywhere near Chamberlain, he’s going to have to do something that is unheard of in today’s NBA. Embiid is going to have to avoid injuries, play through pain, and be there for his team every night.
Wilt Chamberlain averaged almost 46 minutes per game during his 14-year career, and in 1961-‘62, he never left the court, averaging 48.5 minutes (including overtime) per game. In all, 44 years after his retirement, Chamberlain holds 68 NBA records.
Embiid will never approach those numbers – no one will – but, at least for one night, he brought back some sweet memories of what true greatness is.
And finally ...
• In a note here last week, I pointed out that legendary broadcaster Bob Costas’ grim prognosis for the NFL was convenient since he didn’t offer it while serving as host of Sunday Night Football on NBC. Last week, Costas called me and explained that, in fact, he offered the same opinion about concussions for years on the program, albeit in a subtle and diplomatic manner. I stand corrected. As someone who has never mastered subtlety or diplomacy, I totally missed it. Sorry.
• The Flyers are one-quarter of the way through the season now, and they’ve lost 12 of 20, including the last four. Some games, they cannot score at all (see Minnesota, twice), and in others, they race out to a lead before flopping late. They are a major disappointment, starting with GM Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol. Neither would still be here if chairman Ed Snider were still alive. The question now is, how long will the new guys wait before they do the right thing?
• Golden State coach Steve Kerr proclaimed last week that the Boston Celtics are the team of the future in the NBA's Eastern Conference. Hey, wait a minute. Weren’t the Sixers supposed to have the next great team? Isn’t that why they tanked for four years? Boston didn’t tank at all, and they are in the midst of a 14-game winning streak right now. Is it possible ex-GM Sam Hinkie wasn’t a genius after all?
• Terrell Owens told TMZ.com last week that he’d prefer Carson Wentz over Donovan McNabb, even though the kid is in only his second year and McNabb holds most of the Eagles’ quarterbacking records. It’s not exactly news that Owens never really liked McNabb, but you’ve got to admit, the wide receiver has a point. Already, Wentz shows more leadership qualities than McNabb ever did, and far more poise under duress. If Wentz hasn’t surpassed McNabb quite yet, it’s pretty much inevitable now, isn’t it?
• No one knows if Gabe Kapler will be a successful Phillies manager, but it’s already clear that he’s going to be a unique character. Last week, the fitness fanatic revealed that he loves ice cream, but he never swallows it. He just takes a lick and then spits the ice cream into a cup. Oh, this guy is going to be fun. Bet on it.