The SportsTalk Shop: Eagles Season Recap

One of my pet peeves in the sports broadcasting industry is commentators who make dozens of ridiculous predictions each sports season for the sole purpose of claiming “victory” once one of his/her inane insights happen to come true. These same people will quietly forget or ignore the other, incorrect guesses they made in an effort to make themselves look smarter than they may actually be.

We made our own predictions on an Eagles preview edition of RCN SportsTalk and, in the interest of full disclosure, I went back to see how we did. Here’s the good…and the bad…predictions we made about the Eagles 2013 season, keeping in mind these were made by our panelists and myself several weeks prior to the start of the season.

Preseason prediction #1: The Eagles will end the year with a .500 record or better.
When the team started the year 1-3 and their defense had more holes than Gruyére Swiss, this prediction wasn’t looking too solid. Even when the Eagles lost to the Giants—giving New York their first win of the season—not many people thought this team would break even record-wise, led alone win the division. Between fate (you couldn’t have ask for more opposing teams’ number-one players to go down with injuries), an improved defensive scheme, and an offense that learned to trust new starting quarterback Nick Foles, the team won seven of its last eight games. Despite a frustrating loss to the Saints in the first round of the playoffs, this year’s 10-7 season was a success and built a solid foundation for 2014.

Preseason prediction #2: Michael Vick will start 10-12 games this year.
WRONG! Not one of us on the panel thought that Vick had the slightest chance to go the entire season without missing at least a few games due to injury and/or ineffectiveness. However, Vick went down with debilitating injuries early and often and Nick Foles took full advantage of the increased playing time, turning in a performance for the record books. For a time, he had the highest quarterback passer rating in the HISTORY of the game. Despite a lackluster finish, he ended the year third on the all-time list sandwiched by future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Foles’ rapid ascension to the starting quarterback spot made Vick—even after recovering from injuries–an afterthought by season’s end.

Preseason prediction #3: Nick Foles will finish the year as the starting quarterback.
Correct—but….
Most of our panel believed that Foles would eventually win the job anyway, or he’s be the last QB standing by default. Matt Barkley never did anything to indicate that he would be a signal-caller to run this offense in training camp, and the limited times we saw him during the season suggests he’ll only return next year as a third-stringer at best. I know people don’t want to hear any possibility that Foles DOESN’T return as the starter next year, and I still highly doubt that the team will seriously look to move him. However, there’s a few well-respected Eagles’ journalists that I’ve spoken with that insist the team will at least venture into the possibility of “selling high” and getting a bundle in return for him—or at least, ASKING for a king’s ransom, and keeping Foles if no team bites.

Preseason prediction #4: Mychal Kendricks will emerge as a star.
This prediction came true very early in the season as the second-year, 23-year-old out of California established himself as the top-notch middle linebacker this team has sorely needed since the first departure of Jeremiah Trotter. But what we didn’t foresee back in early August was the way the players around Kendricks would step up their games. Connor Barwin also become a force on defense for the Eagles, disrupting passing lanes and rarely allowing a ball carrier to break free in his territory. By season’s end, Trent Cole looked extremely comfortable after adjusting to his “hybrid” position in the Eagles new 3-4 alignment. Really, there weren’t too many weaknesses in this defense overall—with the exception of depth, especially at outside linebacker and safety. Improving on the core with Kendricks at the center of it all will be the Eagles number one priority this offseason. Adding bigger, taller and stronger players into the fold was a focus of Chip Kelly’s post-season analysis and will be the main mission of the front office this offseason.

Preseason prediction #5: Jeremy Maclin will return next year.
At the time this prediction was made and contrary to many other players like him in the last year of a contract, Maclin had made the classy decision to NOT sit-out of training camp. Perceived as a critical piece of the puzzle in Kelly’s new offense, Maclin participated in preseason drills for the betterment of the team, only to tear his ACL, and lose all negotiating leverage he had when trying to extend his contract.

This will be a key issue for the team to address in the coming months. With the emergence of Riley Cooper as a solid number two receiver (despite that dropped pass over the middle in the Saints game), and another steady season by slot receiver Jason Avant, it appears that Maclin will not have a place on next year’s team. The Eagles have dropped the public relations ball on previous players who gave their heart-and-soul to the team (i.e., Reggie Brown, Brian Dawkins) only to be spurned a respectable offer to return. I know Maclin is not in that group’s class of all-time greats, but if the team is truly looking to embark on a new year, it should bite a small financial bullet and bring Jeremy back. It still remains to be seen if one of the top-skilled position players from a year ago will be back this fall.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Eagles season and on what steps the team needs to take this offseason to further its playoff drive for next season. Post a comment below or email your sports opinions to us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and tune in on Thursdays at 6pm for the latest local, regional and national sports conversations.

 

Behind the Mic: Ray Donovan meet A-Rod and Riley Cooper

 

Ray Donovan meet A-Rod and Riley Cooper

Showtime has a new program on TV this summer titled Ray Donovan. It is adult in nature and reminds me of The Sopranos, in a way, but with a different “family”. Donovan’s family is made up of entertainment and sports figures. They hire him to keep their scandalous indiscretions out of the gossip pages and, more importantly, out of the mainstream media. His tactics are crude, violent, immoral, creative, and, yes, jaw dropping (dare I say, also entertaining?).

Now on to real life – You have to be living like a recluse this past week if you are unaware of the media bombardment of facts, opinions, and responses to both the Alex Rodriquez and Riley Cooper situations. One is accused of using performance- enhancing drugs in order to play the game of baseball better, the other of spewing an incendiary racial term at a security guard at a concert in order to prove (?) he is a racist.

To me, the common denominator here is not that these two men are prominent professional athletes who made some very bad decisions, but that they both committed serious offenses in a world where Big Brother is constantly watching and they should KNOW it. Throughout history, the sinner has never thought so much about “Don’t do it” but more about “Don’t get caught”. Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Pete Rose, Lance Armstrong, (you can add as many as you want) are all good examples of noted individuals who lived in the limelight and thought they could get away with indiscretions and lies.

We have all heard the expression, “History teaches us that…” Obviously, this message does not resonate at all. Every day in the news and, perhaps, in our own lives, we make choices that we hope no one ever finds out about. That goal is so much more difficult these days with the advent of security cameras that are virtually everywhere and phones, with cameras, that ARE everywhere. Any high profile individual who thinks they can “do it” and “not get caught” is highly delusional.

I am sure A-Rod felt the pressure and stress of succeeding and coupled that with the “everybody is doing it” belief in order to convince himself PED’s would not only help him succeed, but he could use them without getting caught. Riley Cooper can fall back on the alcohol excuse, but, to his credit, he has accepted responsibility for his inappropriate actions. However, one could logically ask if either man would honestly feel they did anything wrong if they had not gotten caught.

And that is the shocking aspect. In this day and age, when virtually everything a high profile person does has the potential for being seen by others in some form through social media, one would think our athletes, entertainment figures, and politicians would be wiser. I am sure they each have their own “Ray Donovan’s”, but, unlike the Showtime series, they do not always succeed in making the problem go away. Change the adage: “Don’t do it because you WILL get caught!”

“History teaches us…” – Never mind!