April 25, 2016
Just months after winning an improbable new lease on life in the NFL, Howie Roseman ruined it last week by mortgaging the future of the Eagles. The trade up to No. 2 in the draft – presumably for North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz – is a mistake that will haunt the organization for years.
Roseman’s idiotic rationale for giving up six draft picks in the first three rounds between now and 2018 is that, after a year of intense study spanning the globe, he concluded that the best teams have good quarterbacks. It’s amazing he needed all that time to figure out what a stumbling drunk leaving an Eagles game could have told him.
As a result of this epiphany, the reborn GM then looked at tape of Wentz, a kid who played 23 games of 1AA football, and fell instantly in love. It was just too perfect. The blueprint for 1999 was back in place, with the second pick in the draft and a talented young quarterback available to lead the Eagles into a new era.
The only problem is that Carson Wentz is not Donovan McNabb – not even close. He was projected to go in the middle of the first round, where the Eagles were originally located before a legion of self-proclaimed draft experts came along and gushed over his intelligence and his arm.
In other words, Wentz is the latest combine hero, great at performing drills and answering questions but still an unknown quantity as a potential NFL star quarterback. Can’t you just see Roseman squirming with delight while Wentz deftly handled the interview with his thoughtful answers and his winning smile?
Unfortunately, the NFL plays its games on a football field, with players much faster than Wentz has ever seen play, with defenses far more sophisticated than anything he has ever encountered, and in a setting that is a world away from his lifelong home in Bismarck, North Dakota.
The best way to evaluate extreme moves like this one is not to listen to the so-called draft experts but to look at coaches who actually deal with quarterbacks, genuine authorities in the art of developing NFL leaders. Near the head of that pack is a man named Hue Jackson, the new coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Jackson oversaw the extraordinary progress of Andy Dalton the past two seasons in Cincinnati and before that Joe Flacco in Baltimore, Carson Palmer at USC and Jake Plummer at Arizona State. Jackson knows quarterbacks, and he couldn’t run away fast enough from Carson Wentz. In fact, he did it twice.
First, Jackson attended Wentz’s pro workout on March 24, and even stayed after it to put the young quarterback through some of his own drills. Hours later, Cleveland signed recent Washington bust Robert Griffin III to a two-year, $15-million contract.
And then Jackson endorsed – maybe even insisted on – the trade with the Eagles that denied him the chance to risk his own future on Wentz. What we can say with absolute certainty is that Jackson was not wiping away tears after the Browns made the deal last week.
When he was asked if he agreed that Wentz and Jared Goff of Cal are the best two quarterbacks in the draft, Jackson said: “We will see how it all unfolds in two or three years and see if we were right or wrong. I feel very good about where we are and what we’re doing.”
No one knows for sure who is right or wrong yet, of course. Wentz may take that big arm and bigger brain and turn himself into an elite quarterback. It is possible. But it is far more likely that he will follow the path of the other quarterbacks Roseman has drafted in recent years: Kevin Kolb, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley.
What it really all comes down to is this: Whose opinion do you trust more, Hue Jackson’s or Howie Roseman’s? If your answer is Howie Roseman, congratulations. You’re as crazy as he was for making this illogical deal.
By their very nature, Philadelphia sports fans have become an easy target for media assault. Need we bring up one more time the tired clichés of throwing snowballs at Santa or Tazing a fan in the outfield? No, we do not have to mention those missteps again; the lazy columnists of America will do it for us, every chance they get.
Well, for what it’s worth, here’s a minority opinion about what happened last week at the Wells Fargo Center: I didn’t find the throwing of less than 100 wristbands onto the ice during a meltdown by the Flyers all that horrific.
Around half of one percent of the 19,678 fans got angry and did something stupid. This is hardly a display that deserved the censure that it received. Flyers center Ryan White said he would have done the same thing. If I had paid $250 for a ticket to that disgraceful performance, I would have had to fight a similar urge.
Granted, it was unfortunate that this snit happened on the night when the Flyers honored the late Ed Snider – in one of several perfectly-executed public testimonials for the beloved boss – but given the many stories told about the tempestuous owner, who’s to say he might not have reacted the same way?
The bottom line is, it has become far too easy for people – including many in our own city – to overreact to the passion of Philadelphia sports fans, while ignoring far more significant incidents of fan misbehavior in other places.
On the very same night that the Flyers fans were tossing wristbands, Jason Heyward was greeted by St. Louis fans with racial insults – including several uses of the worst word imaginable, caught on tape by ESPN – by the residents of so-called Baseball Heaven. Heyward had committed the unpardonable sin of leaving the Cards for the Cubs as a free agent last winter.
What was worse, what the Flyers fans did, or what the Cardinals fans said? Why did Philadelphia get a far greater national beating than St. Louis?
At this point, do we even have to ask?
The Flyers failed to score a goal yesterday, but they had already achieved their goal for the season long before that. Although they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the Flyers’ presence in the postseason, and the six games they waged against Washington once there were a preview of coming attractions.
Under a new coach with zero NHL experience, Dave Hakstol, and with a roster filled with retreads and novices, the Flyers gave Philadelphia its first playoff action in two years — including all four major sports — and offered some exhilarating performances.
Shayne Gostisbehere’s amazing debut, which included scoring in 15 straight games — an NHL record for rookie defensemen — was the biggest story of the season, not just because he is a superstar in the making but also because he should be the first of a half-dozen promising young players arriving soon.
Steve Mason proved he is a great clutch performer in goal, and Michal Neuvirth is probably even better. Neuvirth’s work in the final two playoff games was extraordinary, especially after being out of action for a month with a torn meniscus. The Flyers should be set in goal for years.
Wayne Simmonds had his best season with 32 goals, Brayden Schenn suddenly reached his potential after his brother Luke was traded, and even Radko Gudas provided a spark during the playoff race.
Of course, the offense as a whole is still sadly lacking. Claude Giroux remains an enigma, fulfilling his promise neither as a top scorer nor as a captain. Don’t get me wrong; he’s still an excellent player, just not a game-changer. A bigger disappointment was Jakub Voracek, who scored half as many goals (11) as he did last season.
Chairman Ed Snider is gone now, but this team — once the kids arrive — is the one that will fulfill his dream of winning the first Stanley Cup here since 1975. It won’t be next year, but it’s coming. It’s definitely coming.
And finally ...
• Well, Curt Schilling has really done it this time, hasn’t he? ESPN finally fired the ex-Phillie for spouting his extremist right-wing views again on social media. Schilling is so egomaniacal, he never figured out nobody cares what he thinks about political issues. Good riddance, Curt. You have finally earned the irrelevancy you so richly deserve.
• An early entry for manager of the year is Pete Mackanin, the baseball lifer who is proving every day that he’s very good at managing the Phillies. Mackanin has his dysfunctional roster flirting with .500, and he has done so with a refreshing honesty. Why didn’t he get a big-league job long before he turned 64?
• The NFL ruled that the Kansas City Chiefs broke the rules by tampering with Jeremy Maclin before signing him last year, and the appeals process has now upheld that decision. The only other team bidding at the time was the Eagles, but there will be no compensation for them. Am I the only one who thinks this is a blatant injustice?
• Black Hawks play by player Pat Foley spoke for millions of fans last week when he skewered the NHL over the late start times of playoff games: “I can say with certainty (that) players cannot stand these late starts, coaches cannot stand them (and) most importantly, the fans can't stand them.” Foley was still ranting when NBC, which was airing the Chicago feed, cut to a commercial.
• The NBA has decided to allow advertising on its uniforms, starting in 2017. Because, let’s face it, the billionaire owners are barely getting by right now.