At the beginning of the 2011 Eagles season, there were plenty of emotions, skepticism, and optimism. There were all the familiar faces not resigned to new contracts, all the new draft picks, all the new free agents who WERE signed. Through it all, I grew nervous. Guys just signed were talking loud and proud to the media before ever stepping foot onto a practice field. Media were writing "this could be the year" stories as fast as their computers would let them. No offseason, condensed training camps/preseason. New faces. New schemes. New hopes.
I was quick to jump on the fact that the senior statesmen of the Eagles had gone away. No more BDawk or Trotter to talk the kids and new faces through the stormy first games. With so many new schemes and no time to practice, the voices of sanity and reason - those players who would take control of the locker room and enforce the blind discipline required to stay together as a unit - seemed to fail us.
What the Eagles needed was a leader.
Now, there are many definitions of a leader. But it doesn't have to be the highest paid, the strongest, nor the most popular. He has to be the one who sees the goal and can call out cadence to everyone so that they work towards that goal as a unit.
We have such a guy, folks. We have the guy who calls player only meetings and challenges players on the team to contemplate if they want to be the guy who gets the coach fired.
We have the guy who calls out the fans, telling us to ease off the hate-o-rade throttle. They got this.
We have the guy who calls out the media for spinning simple statements into front page storylines.
Eagles fans are passionate. Eagles fans are knowledgeable. But most of all, Eagles fans love the blue collar guy who calls it like he sees it. We are a tough loving bunch, but if we get that "blue collar guy", not only do we support him, we got his back. Jason Avant, you are that leader.
I may have misunderstood what you were trying to say at first, but I get it now. You want some die hard fans who will follow you and this team one more time? You got it. Make us believers.
I read the passion in your statements that we fans have had for years. I get it. And nobody needs to apologize to anyone. Just do your best. Play hard.
"I don’t really care, you know why?” Avant asked rhetorically. “Because I play my hardest. I play my hardest for Jesus Christ and for this team. You going to boo me for playing hard? You going to boo me for being the guy that’s going to chase down the play when nobody else is running? You going to boo me for being the guy that’s doing special teams or going over the middle and taking a big shot?"
No Jason. We are not going to boo anyone for playing hard. We get it. But we don't always get that 100% you talk about. We often get this - Ricky Watters: “For who? For what?”
Lead 'em Jason. Or find somebody who can. But we can't cheer unfounded boasts, or undefendable rhetoric. We can't clap for fluke plays that end up losing a heartbreaker in games we could win. We cannot give standing ovations for the potential.
We live by the rules of the NFL. We need it to happen on the field.
You give us that, and you will see how many of us who cheer you on there are. We aren't bandwagon fans. We just need something real to make some noise over.