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November 21, 2016

Why is Doug Pederson letting Nelson Agholor sabotage the Eagles' season?

Nelson Agholor is one of the worst starting wide receivers in the NFL this year, a fact confirmed both by statistical analysis and by actually watching Eagles games. He is inept physically and mentally.

For want of a better word, he stinks.

Unfortunately for fans of the team, no one in charge is willing to acknowledge these basic truths. That’s why GM Howie Roseman did nothing to replace this first-round draft bust before the trade deadline, why coach Doug Pederson keeps defending Agholor’s indefensible mistakes and why the Eagles have lost five of their last seven games.

As a result, the Eagles currently employ a starting wide receiver ranked 125th among pass catchers, a man whose slippery fingers have corralled exactly two passes for seven yards in the past two games – not including his two-point conversion grab in a 26-15 loss to Seattle on Sunday.

“I’m going to keep loving on him, encouraging him,” Pederson said after the game. “By no means am I going to be down on him.”

Well, that’s just plain ridiculous. The rookie coach is allowing a player who has lost his way on the field, and is gripped by doubt now off it, to sabotage his team. In the name of loyalty, Pederson is placing Agholor’s interests above the rest of the roster.

Never was that development more obvious than when Agholor ignored the pleadings of his coach and the line judge to take a step up to the line of scrimmage before the Eagles executed an otherwise flawless touchdown play that resulted in a 57-yard catch and run by tight end Zach Ertz late in the first half.

Instead of the Birds pulling in front at 14-13, however, they were still down 13-7 because of Agholor’s brain cramp. The player failed to take one step forward, so the Eagles took two steps backward. Before they could recover, they had a 5-5 record, and their hopes for a playoff berth were suddenly in jeopardy.

In case Pederson wasn’t sure yet about just how badly Agholor was playing, on the very next series the receiver dropped a 25-yard pass with no one near him. On TV, the CBS broadcasters were actually explaining Agholor’s previous gaffe when he added his new one. What more do the people running the Eagles need to see?

Unlike his defiant demeanor earlier this month after a key drop, Agholor was docile this time. He talked about feeling the scrutiny all the time now, pressing on every play to make up for two lost seasons.

“I’m thinking too much,” he said. “I’m so worried. It’s such a selfish thing that I need to stop.”

Yes, he does. And the best way to do that is to bench him, right now, indefinitely. The Eagles have a far better receiver – who isn’t these days? – in Paul Turner, the breakout star of the preseason who is wasting away on the practice squad. Surely, the Eagles don’t believe Agholor is a better option than Turner. No way.

And yet, there is no indication that the Eagles plan to do anything about Nelson Agholor. Barring a sudden change of course, they will put him back out there next Monday night against Green Bay, risking another stupid mistake, or another key drop, with the season at stake.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. If the Eagles keep Agholor on the active roster after that debacle in Seattle, there will be only one conclusion to draw. They are insane.


The hardest thing to do in Philadelphia sports these days is to root for the 76ers. They are in the early stages of a fourth atrocious season, and the people running the organization don’t give a damn about winning games or respecting the fans.

In their latest middle finger to the city, the Sixers announced – on the day of the game, no less – that they would not play main attraction Joel Embiid in a home game against Houston last Wednesday, presumably so that he would be available on national television the next night in Minnesota.

People who bought tickets to see the exciting rookie center ended up seeing a rare victory, but were not at all appeased after laying down their money to watch the team’s most entertaining player since Allen Iverson. Those who tried to trade the tickets for another game were told it was too late; there’s a 24-hour limit on swaps.

Frustrated with this screw-you attitude, fans called my WIP radio show last week with stories of how they paid serious money to see Embiid last Wednesday – one doled out $300 to take his 13-year-old daughter – only to discover when they got to the game that he was a healthy scratch.

Meanwhile, new GM Bryan Colangelo, who vowed when he replaced the reclusive Sam Hinkie that he would communicate regularly and honestly with the fans, has been hiding in plain view for weeks. In fact, he was standing 50 feet away from a group of reporters at practice earlier this month but refused to speak.

The explanation by a team spokesman that day was the Colangelo only plans to make himself available after “major” roster moves – and he’ll be the only one to define what “major” is. Wouldn’t it be more honest just to tell your fan base to go to hell?

What makes this latest outrage even more perplexing is how it has developed this season. For reasons the Sixers choose not to explain, they are restricting the minutes of both Embiid (foot issues) and Jahlil Okafor (knee) in a way that no team has ever done. Embiid is limited to 24 minutes a night and does not play back-to-back games.

The mastermind of this plan is an Australian physician, Dr. David Martin, whose principal athletic experience prior to coming here was with cycling and combat sports. Dr. Martin – also never available – has developed a secret schedule for Embiid and Okafor.

Frustrated with this screw-you attitude, fans called my WIP radio show last week with stories of how they paid serious money to see Embiid last Wednesday – one doled out $300 to take his 13-year-old daughter – only to discover when they got to the game that he was a healthy scratch.

Is it asking too much for the Sixers to announce and explain Embiid’s schedule?

Is it asking too much for a GM being paid millions (they won’t divulge his salary, either) to answer questions?

Is it asking too much for a team with a record of 50-209 over the last three-plus seasons to show some basic respect for what is left of its fan base?

Other than the fans, the most obvious victim here is beleaguered coach Brett Brown, who must speak for an organization that is not keeping him informed, either. He said last week that the schedule for Embiid is “fluid,” and even admitted he didn’t know his best player wasn’t available last Wednesday until the morning of the game.

Brown, whose job security is tenuous right now, is no longer hiding his own disdain for his bosses. Basically, he is being asked to speak for Colangelo and absentee owner Joshua Harris every day while coaching a dysfunctional roster in front of a half-empty arena.

What troubles me the most is the complacency of younger fans, who clearly do not understand that in Philadelphia, this kind of behavior not acceptable. The fans do have a loud voice in how their sports franchises conduct themselves – if they choose to use it.

Until they do, they can expect more of the same from an organization that needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, how to conduct business in the most demanding sports city in America.

And finally ...

• The one constant in sports, win or lose, is the nauseating nature of the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, Tony Romo read a prepared statement officially handing over the starting quarterback job to Dak Prescott. As usual, Romo somehow thought he was relevant because he plays in Dallas. The rest of the world doesn’t care. Get over yourself, Romo. And tell your teammates to do likewise.

• Congratulations to Mike Trout on his second American League MVP award. If the Phillies really are as aggressive as owner John Middleton wants us to believe, they will find a way to get this Millville, N.J. superstar in the uniform of his favorite team. Rebuilding around an exciting player – and great citizen – like Trout should be the top priority of this boring franchise.

• Brian Dawkins is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an honor he deserves to receive on the first ballot. Maybe if Dawkins gets in, Eagles fans can finally purge that awful taste in their mouths over his departure for Denver in 2009. Then, while they’re at it, the Eagles can finally acknowledge their outrageous mistake in letting the most popular Eagle of all time leave that way.

• Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Eric Lindros made an emotional and compelling speech upon his induction into hockey’s hallowed place last week. Is it wrong to say the ex-Flyer would be even more beloved if he was half that interesting during the eight years he played here? Yeah, it probably is.

• Offensive coordinator Frank Reich actually said last week that he loves his Eagles wide receivers. This raises an obvious question: How would he feel if these guys actually could catch the ball?