My cousin Owen is a Vikings Lifer...which means he's part of perhaps the only other old-school NFL fan base whose suffering can match that of the Eagles', in terms of being condemned to watch the Sisyphean efforts of our teams year after year. Like Philadelphia, Minnesota has come tantalizingly close to the NFL mountaintop numerous times-4 Super Bowl losses, the mystifying Gary Anderson missed field goal in the 1998 playoffs, Brett Favre's utterly Brett Favrian INT late in the NOLA playoff game in 2009-only to have the stone come tumbling down the mountainside yet again.
As such, Owen takes a rather pessimistic view of the Vikings, even when things are going well--the Vikes might be up 31-10 but Owen will text me that the defensive line isn't getting much push. Since he's a guy with a sunny disposition otherwise, encountering this dyspepsia in him is at once disarming and amusing. My guess is that it's a form of self-protection: When you've been let down so many times before, you learn not to let your hopes get too high. Nonetheless, hearing his commentary on the Vikings always reminds me of a proverbial Jewish grandmother-nothing but worry, worry, worry. Highly amusing.
As Eagles fans, many of us also have a little worried Jewish grandmother in us too. I have to laugh when my dad's comes out-poor clock management by Andy Reid or an insipid Marty Mornigweg game plan brings out his inner Maude like no other. For me, it was always Philly's ignominious refusal to address their most glaring need--getting Donovan a true #1 WR during his prime as the Eagles' QB. (Seriously-from 2000 to 2007, Philly's leading receivers were: Chad Lewis, James Thrash, Todd Pinkston (2x), Terrell Owens (2x, although he was suspended for most of the 2nd year), Reggie Brown, and Kevin Curtis. A nauseating list if there ever was one. And the one year they did have a true #1 (in non-diva mode)? 3 lousy points from a Super Bowl title.)
My own inner Mavis was in full effect during most of this past offseason. Despite murmurs that management planned to be very active in free agency, I was convinced that they would once again ignore a glaring need and go to battle with essentially the same offensive line that got Vick battered last year. And then this week happened. Not only has Philly addressed most of their obvious needs, they have made a huge splash in doing so....getting not only ‘name' guys, but guys that make a lot of sense, and at mostly affordable prices. Yeah--I got goosebumps when I found out the Eagles signed Nmandi, and now it's gotten to the point that all I could do was giggle a little when word came that we signed Ronnie Brown and Ryan Harris. It's been an embarrassment of riches if there ever was one.
And of course amidst all of the excitement this week there has been the attendant hype too. Does anyone else wish our new backup QB had never uttered the phrase "Dream Team" before we've played a down, for instance? A lot can happen over the course of a season, of course, and the Packers and Falcons present daunting obstacles just to get out of the NFC. SO: at the risk of being a turd in the punch bowl, allow me to channel my inner Mavis and present to you 3 Things You Still Should Be Worried About, Despite the Amazing, Awesome, Goosebumpy Week That Just Was:
1. The Eagles new Defensive Coordinator has no coordinating experience, and in fact last year coached the offensive line. Juan Castillo may be a swell fella, and he may turn out to be a hell of a defensive coach. (We already know that he's an intense guy...) But the fact is he remains perhaps the biggest question mark for the Eagles heading into the 2011 season. For a team that clearly considers itself Going For It, the offseason decision to elevate the unproven, under-qualified Castillo to DC will remain a head-scratcher until proven otherwise.
2. There is currently a gaping maw at linebacker. Moise Foku, Jamar Chaney, Akeem Jordan, Casey Matthews. If the season started tomorrow, three of these guys would comprise your starting linebacker corps. One was undrafted, two were taken in the 7th round, and one in the 4th. None is bigger than 240 lbs. I refer again to the idea spelled out in item 1-if you're going to Go For It, are you sure these are the linebackers that are going to get you there?
3. When the chips are down (and at all other times) Andy Reid will abandon the run. It's a maddening, well-documented trend. Andy Reid is fatally addicted to the pass, and will continue to pass two-thirds of the time even when common sense (and local journos, per the link) plead otherwise. The Green Bay defense ranked 6th against the pass in 2010, versus 18th in rushing D. Yet in the totally winnable playoff game against them last year, Reid called 36 pass plays versus only 21 runs. Green Bay, meanwhile, rushed 32 times versus only 27 passes. We know which team won.
Yes, Reid's run-pass formula has led to wild success the last 13 years, and for that we should all be grateful. But it hasn't brought him a Super Bowl title as of yet, and for once wouldn't you like to see what happens if the Eagles were to commit to the run when the game plan clearly calls for it?
I honestly intended to make this a list of 5 Things You Should Be Worried About, but it's late, and finding more stuff to be negative about (especially in the midst of such a delightful week) really does require a lot of energy. Besides, the Eagles DID actually address my Deepest Fear this week, signing the Mathis kid from Cincy (no sacks allowed the last two years!) and then today signing Ryan Harris from Denver, where I currently reside. Harris has been the starting OT for the Broncos the last few years, and in 2008 was considered to be a surefire stalwart of the Broncos offensive line for years to come (Peter King even named him to Sports Illustrated's 2008 All-Pro team). Then in 2009 he got hurt and found his way into Josh Mc
TicklesDaniels' dog house, and suddenly the word was he couldn't play anymore. Given Joshie Pajamas' track record as a talent evaluator (it's a long, undistinguished list, believe me), and the fact that Harris is only 26, my guess is he can still play a little.
So yeah-things are actually pretty good right now. There will be PLENTY of time for hand-wringing later, but I think for now I'm going to sit back and enjoy the daydreams the front office has afforded us over the course of this amazing past week.