Tag Archives: Atlanta Falcons

The More Things Change; The More They Stay the Same: Eagles-Falcons Haiku

That game very much reminded me of the last time the Eagles lost 26-24. This was back on January 4, 2014 and featured a slow start, a key missed goal, some key drops, and an NFC South opponent.

That night did not feature two interceptions thrown by the Eagles quarterback, but that’s a different topic for a different day. The more things change; the more they stay the same.

Let’s hit the haiku. Fuck that playoff game and fuck the game we just watched:

Slow start slower end

Conservative call haunts Chip

Maxwell worth the bread?

Eagles-Packers Preseason Beatdown Haiku

For full disclosure, I’m writing this haiku mostly off of live look-ins, tweets, and now re-watching the game on NFL Network after not having access to it last night.

It sure seemed like a fun one to miss, and while all of this comes with the normal disclaimer of ‘it’s only the preseason’ and is admittedly irrelevant if the Eagles don’t start the regular season hot, it would be difficult to script a better three games of preseason football.

All that’s left to do now is watching Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow battle for a job Thursday night and sort through some of the more difficult roster cuts before psychologically preparing for the journey ahead.

Let’s hit the haiku:

All of the touchdowns

Incompletions no such thing

Time for Atlanta?

Countdown to Eagles Football — 41 Days: Is There a Quarterback Competition in Training Camp?

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first, second, and third parts can be found here, here, and here

The answer to the above question is yes, well, sort of.

The Eagles actually have two quarterback competitions taking place in training camp right now, but neither of them involve Mark Sanchez, a name you would expect to be mentioned in that realm.

Below are the two that we’re looking at here:

Matt Barkley vs. Tim Tebow 

These two will battle it out through the month of August to be the team’s third-string quarterback, but for better or for worse, Chip Kelly may already have his mind made up. Like most things with Kelly, we just don’t know what it is until a formal announcement is made and one of the players is released.

If Kelly is concerned about Sam Bradford and Sanchez suffering injuries that would force him to play a third signal-caller, he likely goes with the safer option in Barkley. If he trusts one of those two to stay heathy, then Tebow potentially has the upper-hand with the option of using him in certain sub-packages and two-point conversion attempts.

This brings us to the second quarterback competition, and the far more important one, because let’s face it, while backup quarterback can arguably be the second most important position on the team, you’re not seeing January if your third-stringer needs to play any significant amount of time.

Sam Bradford vs. Sam Bradford’s Health 

If Bradford makes it through August healthy, and he has survived the first four days, no small task given his injury history, he will enter the regular season as the starting quarterback. Something drastic like throwing three interceptions and struggling mightily to move the offense in a preseason game could prompt Kelly to give a bit more of an extended look at Sanchez, but the idea of an actual quarterback battle has been overblown.

While Kelly tried for as long as possible to insist one existed, it was always difficult to fathom. We mentioned resource allocation and asset management the other day, and that ties in here. Giving up Nick Foles, a future second round draft pick, and taking on a player owed 13 million dollars for him to carry a clipboard just isn’t good business.

Come September 14th in Atlanta, Bradford will be under center taking the first snap of the season from the shotgun formation.

If anything were to stop that from happening, it would be his knee before Sanchez’s arm.

10 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into Training Camp

If you followed on Twitter earlier this morning, I shared ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

While this isn’t considered part of our 44-day series, stuff like this is fun to do on occasion and will surface every now and then. Be it predictions or random thoughts, a post is a good way to expand on 140-character tidbits.

Below is our first edition of 2015:

  1. Cody Parkey is really good. It’s theoretically hard for a rookie to only miss four kicks and be even better in Year 2. He’s capable of it. Note: There isn’t much else to add here. It was clear that Parkey’s leg was tired toward the end of last year, never having been through a 16-game season before. Still, Parkey was 8-for-10 on field goals beyond 40 yards out while also consistently putting kickoffs in the end zone and should again set the bar high in Year 2.
  2. Marcus Smith is not. Odds may be against me, but I’ll stick to my prediction that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Note: Most roster projections will have Smith on the team, but it’s less of a slam dunk than people think. Smith doesn’t play special teams, and while part of that can be chalked up to the unit being so good last year that they didn’t need the services of a rookie, there’s no room for the first-round disappointment if he doesn’t show major strides from a pass-rushing standpoint in camp.
  3. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford will both have good seasons, but I am much more confident in Foles having one than I am Bradford. Note: Foles, in what was perceived to be a ‘poor’ season last year before getting hurt in early November, was still more productive than Bradford has been in some of his better seasons. A lot of excuses have been made for Bradford, and some of them, including a lack of skill position talent around him and a poor offensive line, hold water, but many assumptions have also been made about a career year in a quarterback friendly system that are less than a guarantee.
  4. Re-signing Brandon Graham was probably the correct decision, but I am concerned about how he holds up in a full-time starter role. Note: Graham, to his credit, has shed the ‘bust’ label that was stuck on him early in his career but has still never played more than 43% of a team’s total snaps during the season. The goal of free agency and player personnel decisions is ultimately to pay more for what you think you can get in the future and less so what you got in the past, and that’s what the Eagles did here. Let’s hope it was a wise investment.
  5. If Graham can play, this is the best Eagles front-7 since early Jim Johnson days, and it has the potential to be even better than that. Note: Kiko Alonso has a chance to be the best Eagles linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here. Consistency is a question, but this unit should be a major strength.
  6. Vinny Curry will be extra hungry this season, and if he puts his napkin on his lap, Billy Davis might even let him have a second dessert. Note: After playing sparingly as a rookie during the 2012 season, Curry has improved year-by-year, first with four sacks in 2013 and then reaching nine last year to go with four forced fumbles in an increased role on the defensive line. Bet your friend that he gets double digits this year and thank me in mid-December.
  7. There’s two NFL coaches I would take over Chip Kelly, and both coached in the Super Bowl last year. Could make a case for Harbaugh/Tomlin too. Note: Considering 15 other coaches have won playoff games and Kelly hasn’t, folks could certainly have a bone to pick with this one. Still, I think there are some who if starting a team right now would take Kelly as their coach in a heartbeat. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, by the way, won a combined 29 games in their first two seasons as NFL coaches. Kelly, by himself, has won 20 after taking over a 4-12 squad.
  8. The Eagles opener scares the shit out of me. They have really struggled against Dallas at home. Lose to Atlanta, and you’re looking at 0-2.  Note: The Eagles are 2-0 in season openers under Kelly, although last year’s was certainly far from perfect with the 17-0 halftime deficit to the Jaguars. Hopefully the record stays unblemished as playing a division opponent on short rest who you can’t beat at home recently would be a scary task.
  9. Nelson Agholor will have a better rookie season than Jordan Matthews did last year, and concern about wide receiver depth is overblown. Note: We’ll get more into this during our series. Coop Dawgy is not good and ideally will lose playing time rather quickly, but the rookie from USC should ease the pain of Jeremy Maclin’s departure.
  10. I don’t know if the Eagles are better than last season, but I’m semi-confident they’re not worse, and for the time being, that’s alright. Note: Part of me is worried that Kelly reshuffled chairs on the Titanic as opposed to ultimately strengthening a roster that needed strengthening, but I don’t believe he made them worse. That, all things considered, is not an awful situation in early August.

We Give a Damn About the Drama That YOU Do Bring: An Introduction to Our Eagles Training Camp Series and a Request for YOUR Questions

Beginning Sunday morning and continuing through September 14 leading up to the Week 1 Monday Night opener against the Atlanta Falcons, we’ll be answering an Eagles question on the blog each day as we countdown from Day 1 of training camp to the start of the regular season.

That’s right, the announcement of a series that we not so subtly teased the other day has arrived.

There will be content every day, and the best part is that YOU get to have a say in what it is because we give a damn about the drama that YOU do bring.

Should you continue reading, you will hear the phrase ‘we give a damn about the drama that you do bring’ a few additional times. Those words, and more so, the idea behind it is near and dear to my heart when it comes to writing and interacting with people on the Internet.

When I began to get deeper into writing about sports during my college career, one particular thing about the industry and some of the people in it bothered me above all. I felt as if they took their readers for granted, looking down upon them, insulted that someone would dare disagree with their opinion or leave a critical remark in a comments section.

Interacting with their readers was a chore rather than something that should have been a fun part of the job, and what could have been an intelligent sports conversation with opposing viewpoints turned into a writer belittling a reader, under the false impression that ‘you need me more than I need you’ as opposed to being appreciative of readers, the primary reason that someone has deemed what you do worthy of being compensated in some way.

What others saw a hinderance, I saw a competitive advantage. I would respond to all of my Twitter mentions, even those who disagreed with me on certain things, and would try to go into the comments section of my articles and interact with readers. I was no better than the people leaving the comments. I worked hard and just happened to be given a platform where people read what I had to say, and I appreciated them taking the time to pay attention to my content and wanted them to know that they were indeed valued.

Websites, blogs, even traditional newspapers that exist in an online format are nothing without their community.

I had a few haters who I was never going to win over and subscribed to the idea that if a couple people didn’t dislike you, you were doing something wrong, but I was always up for a discussion should they have ever had the courage to engage me.

These thoughts should come with a couple caveats. First off, not everyone who writes about sports is an arrogant prick. There are plenty of writers out there who do make it a point to appreciate their audience and approach interactions with an open mind. Second, there are a good number of folks who are still finding success for the time being while looking down upon the role of their readers.

I think and hope that it will begin to evaporate as more options are presented to readers and the importance of social media continues to expand, but it has not fully done so yet to completely remove people with that smug attitude from positions of power.

Back to the project at hand, I certainly have some questions made up already. I love talking to myself and could get to 44 if need be, but I would much prefer some come from the readers because we give a damn about the drama that you do bring.

From high level stuff like how long I think Chip Kelly will remain the Eagles coach to more nitty-gritty inquiries like how much the third down defense can improve from last season with a revamped secondary, we’ll pose compelling questions and attempt to give you quality answers day in and day out that state an opinion and subsequently drive conversation.

For a general idea of what to expect, the initial few posts will focus on Kelly as he enters Year 3 with the Eagles fresh off a wild offseason, his first with absolute power. From there, we’ll transition into certain team questions about different position groups, key players, run-pass ratio (I’m a sucker for a good run-pass ratio story), and more.

We’ll also have some fun along the way. We’re gonna play oddsmakers and break down the favorites to be the new whipping boy of Slap Bet’s crew with Nick Foles now in St. Louis. We’ll wax poetic about Huff Daddy’s kick return touchdown against Tennessee that had a 1 p.m. Lincoln Financial Field crowd going crazy and some of the other unforgettable moments of what looked like a memorable 2014 season before it was derailed in December.

We should probably allocate some time to talk about Sam Bradford (and maybe Mark Sanchez too), because ya know, quarterback is a pretty important position after all. Other than that, the direction of the 44-day project is very much up to you.

I have done a very similar series when I covered Penn State football (below is a screenshot of what posts will generally look like if you replace the subject matter with Eagles stuff), but I want to put more power in the hands of the readers.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 9.25.00 PM

For those who want to join us on Sunday morning, here is how the specific launch will go down from a timing standpoint:

10 a.m. 11 a.m: Over the course of this hour, we will send 10 total tweets in a segment I call ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Philadelphia Eagles headed into training camp.

11 a.m: We will publish a blog post that features these 10 tweets and expands on them.

11:10 a.m. — In addition to 10 Things I Think I Think, our series will be off and running as we answer the first of 44 questions.

We’re ready, but we want YOU to drive the conversation. Pick a question. Hit us up on the Twitter machine (@drewBbalis) or drop a line in the comments. As long as it’s appropriate, we’ll fit it into the series because…cue it

WE GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE DRAMA THAT YOU DO BRING.

Sunday Morning Haiku and Trying to Stomach Rooting for the Patriots

(Screenshot via NFL.com)

Morning, folks.

As you’re well aware, the Eagles do not play today following Thursday’s Thanksgiving beatdown of Dallas. If you need a break from Sunday stress, you have a one week respite.

If you’re anxious to get back at it like me, there are other games you can keep an eye on that will impact the jumbled playoff picture in the NFC.

The two games in particular to hone in on are the Falcons hosting the Cardinals at 4 p.m., and even more importantly, the Packers hosting the Patriots slated for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The Eagles currently lead the Packers by half a game, but the Packers of course have the tiebreaker over the birds after a blowout victory in Lambeau two weeks ago.

I actually think the Cardinals could lose a few more games. They have only scored 17 combined points in their past two games and have a tough stretch against the NFC West coming up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.19.43 AM

The Packers on the other hand, have a pretty favorable schedule following their date with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick today.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.21.35 AM

The Eagles at some point need to get ahead of them by a game in order to avoid a potential January date in Lambeau, and the Patriots might be their way of doing it.

For a multitude of reasons, it is hard to root for the Patriots, but to make the Eagles path to the Super Bowl easier, that is the task today.

Enjoy today before Seahawks week, and a fantastic matchup between my favorite coach in sports (Chip Kelly) and my third favorite coach in sports (Pete Carroll).

Past history be damned. Root for the Patriots if you can stomach it, and don’t get too used to Sundays without Eagles football. Aside from a Week 16 Saturday game in D.C., we’ll hopefully be going all the way through the first day of February.

Let’s hit the haiku:

Super Bowl champs loom

As playoff picture takes shape

Go Patriots Go

The Eagles Scored A LOT of Points in the Fourth Quarter on Sunday

A few quick, random but telling numbers you may enjoy on this Wednesday morning after looking at the scoring distribution from Week 1 in the NFL:

  • The only NFL teams to score more points than the Eagles (34) were the Falcons (37), who needed overtime to do it, the Seahawks (36), and the Lions (35) The Vikings and Saints tied the birds with 34.
  • The 34 points in the second half was the highest total of any half throughout the league. San Francisco, the Eagles’ Week 4 opponent, were close behind with 28 points against Dallas in the first half.
  • The 20 points in the fourth quarter was the highest for all 32 teams in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks, Saints, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Colts all posted 14 but none reached 20.
  • The 34 points in a half ties a record in the Chip Kelly era. The Eagles also accomplished the feat last season in the Snow Bowl against Detroit. Even in blowout wins over the Raiders and Bears in 2013 that saw the Eagles eclipse 50 points they never scored 34+ in one half.

A link to all of the Week 1 box scores can be found here.

The Eagles looked pretty inept for 30 minutes as Nick Foles worked through some early struggles, but these statistics should show just how lethal the team can be when they get rolling.

We intend to have a longer piece on Foles tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Feeling Lucky: 2014-2015 NFL Predictions

The Seattle Seahawks will put a halt to a near-decade long streak, becoming the first team since the 2005 New England Patriots to win a playoff game coming off a Super Bowl title.

Pete Carroll’s squad will do more than just win one game in January though. They will once again represent the NFC in Glendale on February 1, 2015, but the Seahawks will not repeat as champions.

If you picked up on the subtle headline hint, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will dethrone the Legion of Boom and hoist the Lombardi Trophy nearly five months from now.

Andrew Luck rises, Russell Wilson nearly does it again, Nick Foles takes another step forward, Colin Kaepernick takes a small step back, and Robert Griffin’s slide continues.

That and more as we predict team-by-team records and how the playoffs will play out below.

You can choose for yourself how much stock you put in my predictions. Last season, I did nail Seattle as my preseason Super Bowl champion but picked them to beat the Texans in the big game so…welp.

I cannot promise that I will be spot on. If I could, I might as well be in Vegas right now, but unlike hack Mike Freeman, I will try to hold myself accountable if they are embarrassingly bad.

Without further ado, let’s hit it.

NFC East

Eagles (11-5) (2)

Giants (8-8)

Redskins (6-10)

Cowboys (5-11)

Thoughts: It would be a big surprise if the Eagles do not win this semi-comfortably, and if things go according to plan, they will jump out to a quick one-game lead over everyone after this weekend. The Giants are not as bad as some seem to think but won’t be good enough to seriously challenge for a wildcard spot. Redskins and Cowboys bring up the rear in a relatively weak division.

NFC North 

Packers (10-6) (4)

Bears (9-7)

Vikings (8-8)

Lions (5-11)

Thoughts: The Seahawks can make just about an squad look bad, so I’m not reading into the Packers loss last night a ton. Aaron Rodgers hides a lot of their flaws, but they will once again find a way to take the division. The Bears come up just short again, the Vikings are a pleasant surprise, and the Lions remain the Lions.

NFC South

Saints (10-6) (3)

Bucs (8-8)

Panthers (8-8)

Falcons (7-9)

Thoughts: Always the toughest division to handicap. I think the Saints are a cut above the rest and expect Tampa Bay to be better now that they are free of the Greg Schiano experience. I love me some Kelvin Benjamin, but who else is Cam Newton throwing to outside of Greg Olsen? The Falcons get the honor of being the best last place team in the league.

NFC West

Seahawks (13-3) (1)

Cardinals (10-6) (5)

49ers (10-6) (6)

Rams (3-13)

Thoughts: It nearly happened last year, and this season it actually will — Three playoff teams out of the wild, wild west. Seattle avoids the Super Bowl hangover. I am no Bruce Arians fan, but that Cardinals team is solid. They beat out the 49ers, but Jim Harbaugh’s squad overcomes a rough start to grab the final playoff spot in the conference. The Rams win the Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota sweepstakes.

AFC East

Patriots (11-5) (3)

Jets (8-8)

Dolphins (7-9)

Bills (4-12)

Thoughts: The more things change, the more things stay the same. The Pats roll once again while the Bills sit in the cellar. The Dolphins and Jets hang around but can’t quite crash the playoff party.

AFC North

Bengals (10-6) (4)

Ravens (8-8)

Steelers (7-9)

Browns (4-12)

Thoughts: Andy Dalton once again gets the Bengals to the playoffs and once again loses in the first round. The Ravens just miss for two straight years. I would have had the Steelers with another win or two a month ago, but they just looked awful in the preseason. Johnny Manziel gets the gig pretty early and Cleveland but makes numerous NFL front offices breathe a sigh of relief that they passed on him last May.

AFC South

Colts (12-4) (2)

Texans (9-7) (6)

Jaguars (5-11)

Titans (4-12)

Thoughts: The Colts have this thing clinched by Week 12 with the Jaguars and Titans as complete afterthoughts. Bill O’Brien works his quarterback magic and gets the Texans to the playoffs in Year 1.

AFC West

Broncos (13-3) (1)

Chargers (11-5) (5)

Chiefs (8-8)

Raiders (3-13)

Thoughts: The Broncos cruise to another division title as they play out the schedule hoping for redemption in the playoffs. Mike McCoy’s Chargers take another step forward while Andy Reid’s Chiefs take a slight step back. The Raiders remain the Raiders, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Playoffs: 

AFC Wildcard Weekend

Chargers over Bengals

Patriots over Texans

NFC Wildcard Weekend

Saints over 49ers

Cardinals over Packers

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Colts over Patriots

Broncos over Chargers

NFC Divisional Playoffs

Eagles over Saints

Seahawks over Cardinals

AFC Championship Game

Colts over Broncos

NFC Championship Game 

Seahawks over Eagles

Super Bowl

Colts over Seahawks

Would love to hear your predictions if you have any because FOOTBALL BACK

Chip GIF

Jim Johnson Died Five Years Ago Today and I Cried a Lot

Truth be told, I cannot explain exactly why I’m writing this post.

Even after it was finished and ready to go, I had a couple second thoughts before hitting publish. I didn’t want it to seem like I was using the anniversary of someone’s death as a way to generate clicks on a blog.

I don’t have any type of cool anecdote about Jim Johnson. There is a hat of mine autographed by some players and coaches during a few trips to Lehigh for training camp back in the day.

Eagles Hat Blog Post

The Eagles former defensive coordinator unfortunately isn’t one of the signatures. Never once met the man.

I think, however, I’m doing this because despite never crossing paths with the guy, I loved Jim Johnson and never properly said goodbye.

Everyone knew Johnson’s battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse, but it felt like the end came so quickly.

On the day Johnson passed away, I had been off the grid for about 12 hours from early in the morning until around 8 p.m. I was working as a camp counselor the summer before heading off to college, and it coincidentally happened to be the one day of the entire camp season that I had to work late, unable to check my phone or access the Internet.

Anyone who knows me now would wonder how I was able to do that, but it was the case back then. As I was walking to my car, a lifeguard stopped me and delivered the news. I can’t recall exactly what I said in response, but I got in the car and immediately turned on sports radio hoping it somehow wasn’t true.

But sadly it was. The defending World Series champion Phillies were 24 hours away from pulling off a blockbuster trade with rumors about Roy Halladay running rampant, and sure enough, WIP was discussing Johnson’s life and Eagles tenure, hosts and callers as distraught as I was about to become.

Before I could pull out of the parking lot, tears had already begun dripping down my face. They got heavier as the drive continued. At one point, I had to slam on my breaks to avoid running through a red light that I barely noticed.

Loved by players and fans, respected universally by colleagues,  and deeply feared by opponents — Legend. For 10 years, he would appear on your television screen on Sundays, and you knew everything would be relatively okay. No longer seeing that gray hair tucked under an Eagles hat and headset on the sidelines wasn’t going to be the same.

I was supposed to see my then-girlfriend upon getting home from work but still trying to compose myself, I told her that I needed a little while. ‘Jim Johnson died,’ I texted (or something very similar along those lines)

I don’t think she knew who Jim Johnson was, but rather than completely blowing it off, she kinda pretended to care, so that was cool.

Still home and wiping my eyes after delivering the news to my dad, I logged onto Facebook and posted a pretty generic RIP status. One of my best friends who I always texted during Eagles games sent me a message that said something along the lines of ‘For someone who loved him so much, I’m kinda disappointed you didn’t come up with anything deeper.’

I tried again, but still shaken, this was the best I could do, unable to really put into words what it meant to me.

Jim Johnson Facebook

I was sad and mad — Sad that cancer had stopped the 68-year old from doing what he loved and what he was best at too soon, sad that in what turned out to be his final game six months earlier, his ‘bend but don’t break defense’ had broken late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles clinging to a 25-24 lead and 10 minutes to go, Arizona marched 72 yards while eating up 7:52 of game time.

The drive ended in a touchdown. The Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. Johnson never got to coach another game, and the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since.

Most of all, I was sad that for all his hard work and all of the terrific defenses he oversaw, Johnson never got to hoist a Lombardi trophy.

Even in a lot of the Eagles playoff losses during Johnson’s reign, a collapse like that was so rare. A week earlier, his unit held the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to three field goals in an upset victory.

In a span of three years, he twice stifled Michael Vick during the prime of his Atlanta Falcons career, limiting him to a 53.2 completion percentage and a combined 406 passing yards, 56 rushing yards, yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions over two playoff games.

I don’t watch the Steelers on a week-to-week basis to fully appreciate Dick LeBeau, but I’ve never seen a defensive coordinator call a game and confuse opponents the way Johnson consistently did.

Going back to that Facebook status though, perhaps it wasn’t so bad. I’ve always said that coordinators need players to make their schemes truly go, but as guys came and went through the years, Johnson never lost a step.

According to an ESPN article published a week after his passing, Johnson’s defenses between 2000 and 2008 ranked second in sacks, third down efficiency, and red zone percentage.

Here’s a chart that further shows how good he was and the significant drop-off after he was gone.

Year Points Allowed Average Per Game League Rank Made Playoffs Playoff Victory
1999 357 22.3 22nd No No
2000 245 15.3 4th Yes Yes
2001 208 13 2nd Yes Yes
2002 241 15.1 2nd Yes Yes
2003 287 17.9 7th Yes Yes
2004 260 16.3 2nd Yes Yes
2005 388 24.3 27th No No
2006 328 20.5 15th Yes Yes
2007 300 18.8 9th No No
2008 289 18.1 4th Yes Yes
2009 337 21.1 19th Yes No
2010 377 23.6 21st Yes No
2011 328 20.5 10th No No
2012 444 27.8 29th No No
2013 382 23.9 17th Yes No

Sean McDermott initially had the challenge of being the guy to replace “the guy,” and he was decent but deemed not good enough at the time. So thinking he was closer to a Super Bowl than he actually was, Andy Reid fired him after two years.

Then, Andy Reid Andy Reid’d harder than he had ever Andy Reid’d before, replacing McDermott with Juan Castillo. A passionate worker and teacher but never having coached defense in the NFL before, it was an unmitigated disaster,

The missed tackles, the blown coverage assignments, the lack of effort, all of it would have had Johnson rolling in his grave had he saw what had become of his once proud defense.

Despite the still somewhat ugly numbers in that chart, things stabilized in 2013 when Chip Kelly brought in Billy Davis to run the show.

Davis took a group of scheme misfits and castoffs from other places and made a defense out of it. For the first time in a long time, things are looking kinda up on that side of the ball.

When someone like Johnson no longer has his job, the typical attitude is that the team looking to fill his role has to find an exact replica, “The Next  Jim Johnson” if you will. But that’s impossible. The reason he was so good is the exact same reason he is so irreplaceable.

Since Johnson has been gone, the game has changed a decent amount. Offenses are faster and more innovative with spread formations and wide open schemes. Still, it’s unlikely the final couple years of the Reid era would have gotten as ugly as they did had Johnson still been by his side.

The Eagles current head coach is one of the leaders of that innovation charge, but for as much as I love him, for as much as any intelligent Eagles fan loves him, part of the city has always identified with a dominant defense, and that’s a big reason Johnson was so beloved.

I mentioned earlier that I don’t have any special anecdote, but I thought this one from Reuben Frank of CSN Philly was pretty good. A few days before the 2005 Super Bowl, Frank casually asks Johnson if he’s enjoying Jacksonville and he responds bluntly with “I’ve got Tom Brady on Sunday.”

The man just ate, slept, and breathed football.

He died at the same time my situation was beginning to change and looking back, I think that’s maybe what contributed to the initial sadness. I was a month away from going to college and preparing to leave a good amount of my life behind.

It sucks because you know things will never be exactly the same, but you try to solider on because what else are you going to do?

The Eagles in time have begun picking up the pieces and appear primed to make another Super Bowl run behind rising star Nick Foles over the next few seasons.

Crying over Johnson five years later won’t bring him back or make the defense as dominant as it once was, but it will help preserve memories of a great run under a brilliant coordinator. Certain people are worth occasionally crying over. Certain people worth crying over who you’ve never met? Now that’s a bit more complex, but he was one of those folks for me.

I’ll watch the Eagles practice at Lincoln Financial Field today and at some point look skyward and tear up for a split second thinking about the legend who provided so many childhood memories.

I attempted to express some of this five years ago tonight and came up pretty empty, so now, I’m trying again.

I miss you so much, Jim Johnson, and I hope you’re having fun designing blitz packages in heaven right now.