Tag Archives: Bill O’Brien

Sole Possession of First Place Haiku

I thought it would be difficult to get weirder than Eagles-Cardinals last Sunday, but this came real close between the injuries, interceptions, and penalties.

Thankfully this game had a different end result. The Eagles are back in the win column and once again have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. It may have come with a price though — a price that cannot yet be measured.

A determination will not be made there until we hear about Nicky Foles and the extent of his shoulder injury. A lot of Foles haters wanted to see Mark Sanchez play. The results were uneven with a few beautiful throws and some inexplicable ones. Sound familiar?

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Sanchez looked pretty incompetent at times, but he won, and made a big throw in the fourth quarter to do it (bless you Jeremy Maclin). I give Foles credit for doing those things, so I have to extend the same sentiment toward Sanchez.

Still, some of the bad was really bad, and I wouldn’t be too comfortable with Sanchez having to quarterback this team for an extended period of time.

Thankfully either quarterback will have the services of Darren Sproles, Jason Kelce, and Evan Mathis, but the defense may have lost its leader in DeMeco Ryans on a fluke play that had me flashing back to NaVorro Bowman in the NFC Championship game last season.

They survived no Kendricks for a few weeks, but depth at inside linebacker is one of the biggest issues on this team and has been for some time.

The win feels good, but this will be a few days filled with uncertainty as a Monday Night date with the Panthers looms. Let’s try to enjoy being in first place again and hit the haiku as we hold our breath for injury updates:

Awful injuries

But Maclin ain’t one of them

Get well soon Nicky

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Five Numbers I Would Like to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Texans Concludes

This post is back after a hiatus last Sunday because tailgating, State College, Megabus, etc.

Now we’re back though, and it returns at an interesting time, because from a personal standpoint, it is going to be rather weird to have to root against Bill O’Brien for three plus hours today. It is still sometimes surreal to me that a guy who I once sat 10 feet away from asking questions at Penn State is now running an NFL franchise. I have followed his first season with the Texans closely, but I’ll get past it for the Eagles today obviously.

It always feels like the following Sunday takes forever to arrive after a tough Eagles loss, but this week felt incredibly long. Thankfully, we made it and are only two hours away now. Provided they don’t beat themselves, the Eagles are a better team than the 4-4 Texans and should have a great opportunity to improve to 6-2 today down in Houston.

Let’s hit the numbers that I believe could key a birds road victory:

  1. 99 or fewer rushing yards from Arian Foster — The Texans star running back has been tearing it up with four consecutive games of 100+ yards and six total on the young season. Frank Gore is the only opposing running back to hit the century mark against a solid birds run defense this season. Something has to give here between two strengths, and stopping Foster from going crazy will go a long way towards keeping the Eagles defense off the field and putting more pressure on Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
  2. Seven points on the first drive of the third quarter — If Bill O’Brien had a gameday weakness at Penn State, it might have been third quarter struggles in big games, especially during the 2012 season. His offenses would occasionally go stagnant or commit a bad turnover, and generally stout defenses would suffer a breakdown. Ideally the Eagles go into halftime with a lead, and increase it right away as the second half begins.
  3. Less than two sacks for J.J. Watt — I am putting Watt down for at least one sack today. The idea is that its an isolated play that doesn’t result in further damage. Todd Herremans is essentially playing with one arm, and the Eagles are still without left guard Evan Mathis for another week. The return of Jason Kelce should help LeSean McCoy and the running game, but Watt making life miserable for Nicky Foles is the one thing that could really swing this thing in the Texans favor.
  4. At least 90 yards for Jeremy Maclin — He has become incredibly fun to root for coming back from a second torn ACL. Do the damn thing, Jeremy.
  5. One interception by an Eagles cornerback — It hasn’t happened since the playoff game against the Saints last year and needs to happen. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown seven picks in eight games so far. Let’s end this streak today.

There you have it. 99, seven, two, 90, one, and hopefully a nice road victory with a good chance to take over sole possession of first place once again.

Four Years Later: How I Got Yelled at By Bill O’Brien

(Photo credit Dave Cole/Onward State)

Editor’s Note: Today marks the four-year anniversary of me being yelled at by Bill O’Brien, simultaneously one of the greatest and most embarrassing moments of my life. This post detailing how it happened was first published two years ago in an attempt to chronicle the moment.

We now relive it every year in its original unedited format on October 16th and hope you enjoy the story below.

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Seeing Bill O’Brien’s uber-intense face appear on my TV every Sunday is met with a strange emotion of shock and awe these days.

It feels pretty surreal that a guy who not so long ago sat less than 10 feet away from me answering questions is now making millions in the most powerful league in the world.

During my year and a half covering Penn State football, I never had any real one-on-one conversations with the man who at the time was saving the program. He made it a point not to get too close to students. I once tried to email him directly after I was unable to get a final question in during a media scrum and was met with a quick reply from his PR man essentially saying ‘Please do not attempt this again.’

O’Brien knew my face, but he didn’t know my name, and there is absolutely no chance he remembers me, but today marks the two-year anniversary of the greatest interaction I ever had with the man.

Whenever I am presented with a situation where I need to state a couple fun facts about myself, I usually include ‘Bill O’Brien once yelled at me.” It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but it was also one of the best.

A lot of folks who were not present for it have asked me how it happened, and I believe this is the best medium to fully tell the story.

As previously mentioned, the date was October 16, 2012. It was a Tuesday, which meant it was the day O’Brien had his weekly press conference with reporters in the Beaver Stadium media room.

O’Brien never particularly wanted to be at these things, understandably so. His time was better spent watching tape or carrying out the other core responsibilities that are attached to being a college football coach.

There were some Tuesdays where he was pretty tight-lipped, but if you caught him in a decent mood coming off a nice victory, he would be good for a couple of jokes and good answers.

For a guy who didn’t enjoy the media spotlight, O’Brien was incredibly well-spoken. He had an amusing habit of using the verbal filler ‘sure’ before responding to most questions and would sometimes cut a reporter off if he could predict the end of a question before it was completely out of the person’s mouth.

That last point will be important later, but before going back to that day’s press conference, some background information and context is needed.

Penn State was coming off a bye week, and many professional media members had gone away for a quick vacation. For students like myself, it was a time to just be college kids and get a break from the grind of the season.

The next two paragraphs are about as #college as things get. On Tuesdays, I normally had one class in the morning. O’Brien spoke around 12:30, and then I had two classes later in the day, but on this particular fall Tuesday, my first class had been cancelled a few days in advance meaning I had nothing pressing to do all morning.

My friend Kevin and I took advantage of this and went out on a Monday Night. This was not a particularly uncommon thing during senior year of college, but we were still drinking at a bar when it closed at 2 a.m. and were pretty well taken care of from some Long Island Iced Teas by then. Fun night.

I took advantage of the opportunity to semi-sleep in the next morning, and the first thing I remember upon waking up around 9 a.m. is hopping on Twitter and seeing CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank break the news that Juan Castillo had been fired from his job as Eagles defensive coordinator.

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Not to veer to off topic but quick word on Castillo: He was a good man and a good offensive line coach. A true ‘started from the bottom now we here’ story. Castillo had made a life for himself after growing up poor, but he was in over his head as a defensive coordinator, put in an awful position as a result of Andy Reid having Andy Reid’d harder than he had ever Andy Reid’d before. It was destined to end poorly, and it did.

I spent about an hour following Eagles stuff, knocked out a quick homework assignment, and then started to prepare for this press conference.

Penn State had won four straight games after beginning the season 0-2. It had been an exhausting but really fun seven weeks covering the team. I like to think I am a pretty hard worker, but at that point, I am not sure I had ever worked so hard at something in my life. The way I saw it, I wrote for four main reasons:

  1. It was fun — People should always do things that they find to bring them a sense of enjoyment and utility. I liked writing about sports and felt like I was pretty good at it.
  2. People liked reading my stuff — Through social media, I had built up trust and credibility with a core audience who generally enjoyed what I had to say.
  3. For Onward State — I took pride in the outlet I wrote for and always wanted to represent them well.
  4. Because my haters wanted me to fail — There were a couple professional guys who thought I was too young and too inexperienced to do what they were doing. They didn’t think I could hang with them over the course of the season. I knew I could and was doing it. That made it all the more rewarding, but more than that, the reason I put in that work is because two people in particular wanted me to fail. I went all out so at the end of the day I could publish compelling content and say ‘Hey Devon, Hey Dan, I’m better than you, and all three of us know it. Deal with it.”

I didn’t break a ton of news (although we would get a big one in late November), and there was of course room for improvement, but my stuff was usually solid.

Press conferences always made me nervous though. Some national people would tune in and you didn’t want to look stupid in front of your colleagues.

Up until this point, I had avoided that. I occasionally got a one-word “No” from O’Brien and never really had a back-and-forth with him like some veteran guys did, but I asked questions that I thought were relevant and fair and could benefit not only me but others in the room too.

The way these things work are that non-present reporters ask questions over the phone first. When they are done, two microphones are available, and you raise your hand for some intern to bring one of the microphones to your seat. Everyone pretty much sits in identical seats on a week-to-week basis with most of the students to the right of the room and non-students more on the left.

One of my biggest fears was always that my question would get asked when I was holding the other microphone, leaving you with nothing. To guard against this, I always wrote out about 10 potential questions/topics. The breakdown was something like: one question I absolutely wanted to ask if no one else did, two or three backups that i thought would be good, two or three backups to those backups, and a few that wouldn’t be great but were there should I need them.

An example of my laptop screen or notepad would have looked something like:

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From those notes, it is not obvious, but Penn State was playing at Iowa that weekend, and to some of the seniors on the team, it was a really big deal. In both 2008 and 2009, Iowa had ruined undefeated seasons of good Nittany Lion squads that had national championship aspirations. Although O’Brien and most of his staff were not there to witness it, Kinnick Stadium had been a house of horrors for Penn State throughout the twenty-first century.

You could probably go as far as to say that Penn State hated Iowa. Senior cornerback Stephon Morris, the most interesting player I ever spent time around, said exactly that the night before.

Hence, the top topic saying ‘Morris tweet.’ If memory serves, Morris’ tweet was deleted, and a deep fishing expedition has yielded no results in its search. More on that is coming though, I promise.

Providing other teams with bulletin board material was never in O’Brien’s nature, and he spent part of the opening portion of his press conference talking up a pretty bad Iowa team. In addition to keeping his players grounded, O’Brien was friends with Iowa assistant Brian Ferentz, son of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz from their time together with the Patriots.

O’Brien was smart to do what he did, but his message just wasn’t completely true. There were players on the team who had stronger feelings of hatred toward Iowa than they did toward Ohio State or Michigan. As the press conference proceeded on, I looked over my notes along with the different features and players I had honed in on over the first half of the season.

Nothing new or particularly useful was emerging from here other than coach-speak about Iowa. A few of my other question ideas had been asked, and I decided it was worth a shot.

I raised my hand while O’Brien was answering some other question, and the communications assistant nodded. Ten seconds later, the microphone was in my right hand.

In this type of setting, you want to maintain your cool externally, but my legs always shook like jello a bit in the time between holding the mic and actually saying something.

In my head I briefly wondered if I should change my mind and go with something else, knowing from the past he would normally not entertain social media related questions too much, once playfully referring to Facebook and Twitter as “Spacebook and Tweeter.”

If he thought you were trying to trick him, he could get pretty defensive, but why would anyone try to trick a Brown-educated coach who was the smartest guy in the room?

Nah, this needs to be asked, let’s do it.

I ran through the question in my head while O’Brien answered the one before me.

Stephon Morris said on Twitter last night in regards to Iowa, ‘we hate them, they hate us’. Being around your players this week, do you sense any extra animosity that they have towards Iowa given the recent history of the rivalry?

Great, all set.

O’Brien was now completely finished with the previous question. I looked up. Go time.

‘Bill, Stephon Morris said on Twitter last night in regards to Iowa, ‘we hate them, they hate us.’ Being around…

By this point, O’Brien’s typical focused demeanor had given way to a look that more resembled exasperation. I attempted to continue with the next few words…your players this…

I was still holding the microphone, but that is as far as the question would get. O’Brien jumped in, his voice much louder than mine:

“YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? I HATE TWITTER.”

From there, he launched into a 30-second mini-rant about college athletes and social media. His full response can be viewed below along with video beginning right around the 10-minute mark.

Do you know what I hate? I hate Twitter. I think these guys are young guys, and I think “Tweet this, Spacebook that.” Whatever. We’ve got to go play the game. We don’t have any hatred for Iowa. We respect Iowa. We have a tremendous amount of respect for their football program and for how they play the game, for how they’re coached, and we have a tremendous amount of respect for their coaching staff and their players and the longevity of Coach Ferentz at Iowa and the amount of wins he had his 100th win last week. Just done a great job there. So there’s a lot of respect there. I think that’s just young guys Tweeting this, twitting that, and that’s how it works, I guess.

The beginning of the response elicited laughter from a lot of people there. I tried to go with it and smile, but still holding the microphone, I was in a state of shock.

Did that really just happen? Holy shit, there’s still six games left in the season. I’m here for another eight months. I gotta cover this guy. He’s going to hate me.

Those were all thoughts that raced through my head at the speed of light. When I looked over the transcript and played the recording back later that day, I had to pay specific attention to the few questions that followed because I must have completely tuned them out.

Immediately, I began to wonder if there was something I could have done differently to solicit a response that didn’t involve him yelling at me. Maybe, if I had framed it in a slightly more general way without him hearing the word “Twitter,” he answers in a different way.

I had no intentions of riling him up and wasn’t trying to spark controversy, just thought it was a valid question at the time.

Some media folks tweeted about it right away. The quote made its way into a few local stories and even one or two national headlines. My roommates heard about it from Twitter and gave me a hard time about it later that day. The whole thing even found its way to Morris (Sorry if you had to run extra laps that day after practice, Stephon).

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I mentioned it briefly in a story the following day but made it more about preparing for Iowa than myself, so two years later, I’m taking the time to depict the whole scene from a personal perspective.

Penn State rolled over Iowa that Saturday. The next Monday, I went on an ESPN show to talk about the upcoming game against Ohio State. I was somewhat nervous that following Tuesday, but for the rest of the season, he answered whatever I asked.

O’Brien always enjoyed poking a little fun at the media but knew a lot of professional folks by name, and there was a general belief that as much as he disliked doing these things, he respected people who came prepared and took their jobs seriously.

My final interaction with him occurred the following summer in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days. Fittingly perhaps, it was social media related. Another reporter asked him if he was aware of a parody Twitter account called @evilbillobrien that much of the Nittany Lions community followed and enjoyed.

O’Brien laughed and joked ‘I think Evil Bill needs to turn down the rhetoric a bit.’ For as much as he liked to play dumb at times when it came to stuff like this, he was very savvy and knew exactly what was going on.

We were all seated at a roundtable and the mood was pretty loose, a decent contrast to a typical podium press conference. O’Brien pointed at one of his younger PR people and said ‘I think it’s him doing it.’

Good guess but nope. I had met the actual person a couple times and after a few seconds of silence, I chimed in.

“Bill, I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I actually know who he is if you’d like to know.”

“You know the guy? That’s awesome.”

O’Brien’s session wrapped up within the next five minutes. I returned from Chicago and moved out of State College. Four months later, so did he, leaving Penn State after two successful seasons to coach the Houston Texans.

While I doubt he remembers this and never really knew me, those 45 seconds are engrained in me forever, a moment I will never forget and am always quick to bring up when I think people might find it to be entertaining as I did.

You were great, Bill. Thanks for yelling at me two years ago. Go lose to the Eagles in the Super Bowl now so I can tweeter about it.

Penn State Has Replaced Allen Robinson Quicker than Almost Everyone Expected

(Photo credit to Dave Cole/Onward State)

Perhaps one of the biggest — and most pleasant — surprises on Penn State’s young season is that the offense does not ‘miss’ Allen Robinson nearly as much as many folks anticipated.

That lede is not at all intended to be a knock on Robinson. He would be having another great year catching passes from Christian Hackenberg had he elected to stay for his senior season, but the Nittany Lions passing game is operating just fine with him in Jacksonville.

The two Nittany Lions responsible for this almost seamless transition are true sophomore Geno Lewis and redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton.

Lewis’ breakout goes back to the season finale against Wisconsin last year when he posted a career-high 91 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win. Lewis has been in full beast mode since then, recording no less than five receptions and 82 yards in every game since.

Hamilton was lesser known than Lewis a month ago, but that held true for all of about three minutes into the season opener when he burst onto the scene against Central Florida. Since then, Hamilton has posted at least 65 yards in all four games.

After Week 1, both receivers were in the Top 10 in the nation for receiving yardage. After Week 2, both of them remained in the Top 14, and following last Saturday, the duo was still right there after playing an instrumental part in Penn State’s comeback against Rutgers. We will provide a current update here when all of the statistics come in following tonight’s games.

As I have pointed out before in those posts, Penn State was the only FBS school with such a distinction, and Hamilton was one of only two players who did not see any snaps in 2013 to rank that high.

Before the season got underway, many believed that the majority of Penn State’s production would come from the tight ends even with Adam Breneman injured. Jesse James has been very good so far, but as of me typing this, 55 of Penn State’s 96 receptions have come via Hamilton and Lewis.

Chart breakdown below:

Opponent Hamilton/Lewis Total Receptions
Central Florida 19 32
Akron 13 22
Rutgers 14 25
Umass 9 17

What. A. Duo.

The way Lewis has progressed has impressed me even more than his raw numbers. He had his moments last season, but I thought he was a bit one-dimensional in terms of running go-routes. When he wasn’t on the receiving end of a perfect deep ball from Hackenberg, he had his share of quiet games including getting completely shut out against Central Florida, Kent State, Illinois, and Minnesota.

The Nittany Lions have not faced the toughest schedule so far, and Hamilton and Lewis will be tested in the coming weeks, but so far, things are going about as well as anyone could have imagined.

The Nittany Lions were able to get the running game going today in a rout against overmatched UMass, but were it not for Hamilton and Lewis, they might be 2-2 rather than 4-0 for the first time since 2008.

Thanks to the recruiting work put in by Bill O’Brien and James Franklin’s staff coaching them up, the Nittany Lions were much more prepared to replace their stud receiver than many folks realized.

Does Penn State miss Allen Robinson? Of course they do, but things are just fine without him right now.

Update: Working on the fly but two more thoughts for you in tweet form:

Lewis and Hamilton Post

Predicting the Eagles Record Game-By-Game

I am a little surprised I am doing this only because this exercise rarely holds up in a couple of months.

It does not so much matter where a team’s wins are from over the course of the regular season as long as they are there after Week 17. Injuries and several other variables can throw things out of whack.

At the beginning of last season, I would have told you that the Eagles would beat Dallas at home but lose to Green Bay on the road two weeks later. Nick Foles getting hurt against the Cowboys, and Aaron Rodgers not playing against the birds obviously changed that. The Eagles still split those two games, but how they did it was the contrast to what I expected.

Still, this is a fun thing to do and evaluate, so we’re going to play win-loss with the Eagles schedule starting with this Sunday against Jacksonville and going through the season finale at MetLife Stadium against the Giants.

Let’s get to it:

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Win: This one reminds me of the 2008 opener where the Eagles just steamrolled an awful Rams team at Lincoln Financial Field. Nicky Foles, Shady McCoy, and Zach Ertz pick up right where they left off as Chip Kelly’s offense soars and Billy Davis’ defense gains confidence.

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Loss — I nearly gave the Eagles a road victory here, but I think the Colts take this one as Adam Vinatieri ends a Monday Night shootout with a game-winning field goal. Foles and Andrew Luck go back and forth all game, but the Colts need one this more after falling to the Broncos this Sunday. They find a way to get it done.

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Win — DeSean Jackson catches a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter, but 70,000 at Lincoln Financial Field have already belted out the Eagles fight song four times. Kelly continues to own Jim Haslett’s defenses as the birds get back over .500.

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Win — Back in 2011, the 49ers went into Lincoln Financial Field in Game 4 and stunned an ill-prepared Eagles team with a one-point win. That Eagles team ended up not being very good, but the Eagles will turn the tables here and leave northern California riding high with a 3-1 record.

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Win — Lane Johnson returns just in time to keep Nick Foles upright against a staunch Rams defensive line. In a second half rout, Brandon Boykin picks off Shaun Hill and takes it to the house while Mark Sanchez gives a troll wave to Jeff Fisher on the opposing sideline. The Eagles are 4-1, their best start to a season since 2006.

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Win — The Giants are better than folks think and make this one tough, but Foles makes a play in the fourth quarter that Eli Manning can no longer make. The Eagles escape on Sunday Night football and open up a three game lead in the NFC East heading into their bye week.

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Loss — The Cardinals have given the Eagles fits over the past half decade and enact some revenge from last year where the Eagles may have kept them out of the playoffs. The offense finds its groove in the fourth quarter but leaves the desert with a loss.

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Win — Kelly vs. Bill O’Brien. Blink and risk missing an entire series J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney each sack Nick Foles once, but the Eagles win by 10 points on the road, sitting pretty at 6-2.

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Win — The third Monday Night game at the Linc between these teams since 2006. With the Eagles clinging to a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter, Malcolm Jenkins pays homage to Lito Sheppard and intercepts a Cam Newton throw to the end zone.

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Loss — The defense comes in feeling good about itself, but Aaron Rodgers picks them apart. Foles keeps up most of the way, but Green Bay has too much firepower and outlasts the Eagles 31-27.

Titans

Win — The birds return home angry after the Packers game, and an overmatched Titans squad is the victim of their frustration. Jordan Matthews has a big coming out party, and the birds roll comfortably.

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Win — It is a happy Turkey Day in Jerry World for the visiting Eagles. Tony Romo keeps the Cowboys in it for a half, but Chip Kelly’s squad beats an awful Cowboys defense into submission by the time the third quarter ends. McCoy goes for 160 yards on the ground as the birds reach nine wins. Perhaps we get another GIF similar to this, (H/T @CrossingBroad)

Jerry Jones GIF

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Loss — Kelly has a few extra days to prepare for a visit from the defending Super Bowl champions, but talent wins out as Seattle gains a stranglehold on homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Eagles defense rises up and keeps them in the game, but the offense never completely gets on track as the Seahawks send a raucous Lincoln Financial Field crowd home disappointed with a 24-16 win.

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Win — The Eagles treat a Sunday Night national audience to a show, snapping their two-year home losing streak to the Cowboys and clinching the NFC East in the process with a 38-10 romp. The loss all but seals Jason Garrett’s fate as Dallas falls to 5-9 in a miserable season. The three-year streak of 8-8 mediocrity is over as the bottoming out begins.

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Win — The Eagles start slow in Washington, but a long touchdown pass from Foles to Jeremy Maclin right before halftime wakes them up. The second half is sloppy, but Cody Parkey hits a 35-yarder with no time left to win it 23-20. The Eagles secure the number two seed as the Skins’ hope of finishing 8-8 in Jay Gruden’s first year fades away.

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Loss — Neither team has a ton to play for. The Eagles already know their playoff positioning, and the Giants are already eliminated. Tom Coughlin goes out on a high note, denying the Eagles a perfect 6-0 record in the division with a 26-23 win.

This puts the Eagles at 11-5 and gives them a bye on wildcard weekend for the first time since 2004 when they went to the Super Bowl.

In my season predictions for all 32 teams, I have the Eagles getting revenge against the Saints at home before succumbing to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

We can discuss this more over the next couple of days and throughout the beginning portion of the season. I believe the Eagles are going to be very good but are in need of another offseason to address the defense before they can take out the Seahawks.

The unit was better last year than many people realize, but it has not yet shown me it could win a road playoff game against that type of team. Should this actually end up being the NFC Championship Game, I may change my tune once there is 18 games of film and data on each team, but for as much as I want to go all in and say see you in Glendale, I think the Seahawks win that contest right now.

An NFC Championship appearance in Year 2 under Kelly would be nothing to scoff at though. It would mean that in two years he turned a 4-12 mess into a legitimate contender for the Lombardi Trophy.

In an ideal world, the Eagles get one this season before Foles’ well-deserved payday, but the window of opportunity will still be very much open.

There you have it. 11-5, a second straight NFC East title, a home playoff victory, and an appearance in the final four. I want a ring, but this is a pretty good place to start.

What say you folks? Would love to hear your predictions before Sunday.

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

How Did We Get Here?

I typically dislike the use of a question mark in headlines but felt it was appropriate for these first few pieces of content, so please bear with me.

As I mentioned in my initial post, I used to write every day and then went more than half a year writing next to nothing until now. That probably comes off as a bit odd.

How does someone who wrote full-time suddenly come to a complete and prolonged halt? I’ll attempt to explain below.

In order to understand much of the past eight months, you need to understand much of the previous 23, so let’s take a trip down memory lane.

The majority of my final two years of college were devoted to working for Onward State, the final year and a half spent covering Penn State football.

Onward State is a wonderful student media outlet to work for. If any young Penn Staters happen to be reading this or some high school seniors matriculating to Happy Valley in the fall with an interest in writing, editing, photography, or social media, I highly recommend checking it out. Like most work places though, it is important to have some friends because everyone doesn’t love everyone and sing Kumbaya while holding hands (although we do typically sing “Hey Jude” on press row THON weekend)

Thankfully, I had that support system. I would wager the majority of people who have worked for the site at some point did too because most of the staff is extremely friendly and nice, but if you don’t have that group of people to make you feel like you belong, I imagine it can be rather lonely at times.

I made my best friends through Onward State, but as I got more into it, I also made two of my biggest enemies.

Before morphing into the most followed college media outlet in the world, the blog built its reputation and formed its initial niche readership through snark and generating conversation with engaging posts. The former isn’t always my style.

I like to think that I can be funny and show a sense of humor when I write (perhaps best illustrated here), but controversy just for the sake of controversy was never my thing. That bothered my haters. They thought I had no guts, when really, I just liked writing about sports. If something controversial comes your way, then report it, but creating controversy for no reason was pointless in my opinion.

This all really came to a head when I began covering the football program in the spring of 2012. If it was up to my haters, I never would have written for Onward State in the first place nor would I have been promoted to a bigger role after one semester.

There’s one thing though that my haters knew in the back of their heads but would never admit to you: I was good.

Oh yeah. I was more or less teaching myself how to cover a college football team and needed to get better and more consistent, but they knew I was good and that freaked them out

Before I could go about destroying my haters though, I had to overcome a little natural shyness and a lack of confidence. I still vividly remember my body shaking as I sent a few tweet updates during the Blue-White game that spring.

I spent the first five minutes in the media room after the game looking every which way, trying to work up the courage to talk to someone. That’s one part of journalism that never came easy to me. Once I had information, I felt like I could write a great story, but asking someone to talk to me never felt completely natural.

I realized though that I had to do something or I wasn’t going to have any quotes for postgame stories. Way in the front left corner of the room, Ted Roof’s full head of gray hair stuck out and I saw only a few reporters were around him. I can’t even exactly remember what I said, but I asked him some question and in my head immediately grimaced.

What the hell kind of question was that, Drew? Why would you go with that of all things? 

As that thought raced through my head, Roof answered and gave me some good quotes about the spring and working with Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden for the first time.

Okay, phew. That was good. Let’s go talk to John Urschel now. He’ll have something intriguing to say. 

As that spring turned to summer and the season approached, I constantly thought about shutting up my haters. They were no longer with Onward State or in State College, but they wanted me to fail. They wanted to eliminate me, and I wasn’t about to let them.

Naturally I did what anyone in a similar situation does when they desire to prove detractors wrong. I worked — hard. I remember exiting the Beaver Stadium press box and walking home through a somber State College after Penn State dropped its season opener to Ohio. I opened the door to my apartment, grabbed a beer from the fridge, slumped into a chair, and nearly fell asleep within a few minutes. It couldn’t have been much past 7 p.m, still bright outside on September 1st.

“So Drew, this is what you’re gonna do every Saturday? Just work yourself to exhaustion,” quipped one of my roommates.” “I…I guess so,” shooting a half smile back. “it’s fun.”

I designed my class schedule in a way that I could attend every weekly press conference, open practice, and other media availability event without having to miss class. Sure, Saturday is the money day in college football, but this wasn’t a one or two day a week gig. You have to do the dirty work to be prepared for gameday.

As September turned to October, I reached a point where I may have started taking it too seriously for my own good. I had gotten back from Champaign, Illinois with Ryan Beckler and Kevin Horne Sunday night around 10 p.m. They were my two best friends at OS and traveled to every away game, cheering on Penn State from the stands and helping out with some crowd pictures on social media while I did my thing in the press box.

That night I was asking for it. I had put off a lengthy assignment that was due Monday morning in one of my classes. I knew I could get it done. I usually worked well under pressure, but there was an unforeseen problem here: I felt really sick.

No sleep, a long car ride, and a couple nights out at Champaign bars had gotten to me. I got done about 10 percent of my assignment and decided to rest my head for a few minutes, but it’s never just a few minutes when you hit that point.

I don’t intend for any of this to come across as bragging or self-serving. I most certainly wasn’t the busiest person on campus — far from it — but working on a huge assignment in the wee hours of the night when you don’t feel good really sucks and I don’t wish it upon any of you.

I sprung up a few hours later in a panic. Good news: It’s 4 a.m. I still have some time. Bad news: It’s 4 a.m. and I should not be awake right given how sick I feel. I kept myself up, gained a second wind at some point, and eventually finished the project (which I think I got a B+ on so not bad), but I needed sleep and the week which included two exams, my birthday, and the coverage buildup to a homecoming game against undefeated Northwestern was in full swing.

No rest for the weary, but I knew there was some light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a bye week. Just get through Saturday, I thought to myself. A scene early Saturday morning served as a microcosm for where my head was at.

It was 3 a.m. and I was laying on the couch with my laptop finishing up a game preview that always ran first thing that morning. A blanket was draped over my body and a box of tissues was an arm’s length away as I flipped through a game notes packet between typing.

One of my roommates and his girlfriend opened the door to the apartment and walked in. “Drew, why aren’t you sleeping, man? It’s so late and you gotta be up early.”

“Because my haters ain’t sleeping,” I shot back in a half-delusional manner.

I had lost it, but I didn’t care. I knew I would wake up without any issue in four hours. Despite how little I had slept during the week, it was impossible to be tired early on a Saturday. I knew what was ahead of me. I got to do a full day’s worth of work for an organization I loved while simultaneously saying “Hey Devon. Hey Dan. I’m better than you. Deal with it.”

Dom Brown Blog Post

I don’t get mad easily at all, but if you asked me to point out a character flaw in myself, I would say that I’m not a grudge-dropper. In a perfect world that wouldn’t be the case, but I didn’t let this one go. My haters couldn’t stand to constantly see my byline on the site, and it fueled me.

That Sunday night scene of me unintentionally falling asleep and popping up a few hours later repeated itself one too many times over the next month and a half, but I pushed it aside.

I’ll sleep in December, I reassured myself. I was doing everything that a full-time beat writer did. My features and analysis were well-researched. I didn’t break a whole lot of news, but I was generally quick with updates and we did get a big one in late November the day before the season finale.

The season ended. I was sleeping a bit more, but had something else to deal with the second week of December. My then girlfriend of almost four years broke up with me.

Seeing how long this post already is, I don’t want to go off on a huge tangent, but to sum things up, I saw it coming and if I’m being honest, the relationship probably should have ended a year or so earlier than it did. She went to Pitt and was really committed to her studies. Aside from breaks or summers, we hardly saw each other.

We had survived three and a half years in a long distance relationship, but part of the reason it lasted that long is because both of us were afraid to end it at times — scared of the unknown. That fall put the nail in the coffin. We stopped making time for each other. Phone calls went from daily to maybe weekly. Text messages went from nonstop to only a few each day. She was doing her own thing, and I was doing mine. The spark was gone and couldn’t be rekindled this time.

I don’t blame her at all for officially ending it. She deserved better. I just wish she could have understood that I was doing something I really loved at the time. How many 22-year old college seniors get to cover football games in Beaver Stadium and travel all over Big Ten country? If she had a similar opportunity for whatever she wanted to do, I would have expected her to pounce on it without thinking twice. So it goes sometimes.

Anyway, the few days after were rough, but my friends got me through it, so let’s fast forward ahead a few months.

The first day back from spring break was Penn State’s Pro Day, and the beginning of spring practice was only a week away. I couldn’t wait. Most of my classes were out of the way, so I was only taking 12 credits last spring meaning I’d have way more time to devote to coverage.

I had also begun to think a bit more long-term and wondered if maybe there was an opportunity for me to stay in the area and do this for real after graduation. This feeling intensified as March turned to April.

I was on a roll churning out quality news and features every day. Similar to last fall though, I had created some unrealistic expectations for myself. I would come back to my apartment at 2 a.m. after a couple Cafe teas with friends and instead of going straight to sleep I would start charting some statistic like how many of Allen Robinson’s receptions resulted in first downs and stuff like that.

I was obsessed with run-pass ratios, breaking down Bill O’Brien’s tendencies when he went for it on fourth down, anything I could think of. Absolutely no way my haters would think to do a story on something like that or be willing to put that much time into it, and if they tried some cheap knock off of my content a day or two later, I would laugh.

There was a stretch where ESPN’s Big Ten Blog included us in their lunch links roundup three times over a 5-day span. Then, one day they didn’t, and I was actually angry at myself.

Maybe a 1000-word post on how Michael Zordich’s graduation impacts the fullback position just wasn’t that interesting. Dammit though, that story was good, I thought.

Even after the Blue-White game, I tried to hang on for as long as I could. While most of my friends were either studying for finals or celebrating their final few days as college students at bars, I was waiting to see if any team was going to pick Michael Mauti in the draft so I could write about it.

I was burnt out, but at the same time I couldn’t let go. I loved it too much. After graduation, I stayed in State College doing some freelance work. My apartment lease ran through early August, and between the freelance stuff and graduation gifts, I had some money, so I was in no hurry to leave.

A month later, I was offered a full-time job with a small online news outlet in State College. I accepted it without any hesitation, but this is where things started taking a turn for the worse.

As an aside, the next day I was contacted about a job I had applied for in Miami and offered a phone interview. I politely emailed the HR person back telling her that I had just accepted another offer. I didn’t want to take up her time but was open to keeping lines of communication open for the future. She wished me well and moved on.

Who knows what would have happened? It would be completely presumptuous of me to say that I would have been offered that job had I went ahead with the interview, but to this day, I still want that email back.

You will hopefully understand why in a few minutes.

I was doing a good amount of general assignment reporting with the loose agreement that I’d cover some football stuff in the fall but felt really out of my element covering stories that were completely foreign to me while working long and unpredictable hours.

Obviously the latter is a natural part of journalism, and no one comes out of school with their dream media job. My bigger concern though was that I felt as if I didn’t fit into the company culture.

Many of my — what I believed to be — forward-thinking digital media ideas were shot down. They were in love with man-on-the-street interviews, and my creative control was really limited.

Why walk around State College asking a few random people what they think of Bill O’Brien’s amended contract when we can put out a question on Twitter, get a higher number of responses in a much more efficient manner that would likely form a more representative opinion, and then Storify some replies? While waiting for mentions to come in, we could maximize resources and be working on filing other stories that would have been put off during the time spent gathering man-on-the-street answers. 

That was my general thought process and for a “new” media site, I thought it was reasonable, but it’s a real difficult sell when someone has bought the same way for 30 years and past credentials trump a good idea.

Similar ideas like that got rejected and I get yelled at more by my boss/editor for running into a dead end or two on stories when essential sources didn’t get back to me right away, Only three weeks into the job, I began to wonder if I had settled and sold myself short.

A week later, things went from bad to worse on the Fourth of July. I had worked from 8 a.m. until about 8 p.m. and thought I was just about done for the day. Wrong. Very wrong. A massive fire broke out in a State College apartment building. I drove 10 minutes, parked my car in some random lot praying I wouldn’t get towed, and ran past police officers and traffic until I saw the flames up-close in person.

The sight of this freaked me out. Plenty of good reporters can stomach covering tragic events like this without much of a problem, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but approaching people and asking them to talk to me while they watched their homes and possessions go up in smoke shook me up.

I did it because the alternative was getting my head ripped off by my boss but felt heartless the entire time. A night later, I actually found a pretty heartwarming story, but most of my work wasn’t good enough for my boss despite the fact that we had easily the best and fastest live updates of any outlet there.

That next week was rough. If I thought I was burnt out in the fall and spring, there was no doubt about it this time. Getting yelled at every other day had done its damage. I cried myself to sleep one night. Most other nights I couldn’t sleep. My happiness was gone along with my confidence that I had built up from covering a competitive beat for over a year. I wanted to leave, but I had a full-time job, and another one was no guarantee in this economy.

I confided in a few friends and told them that while the thought had crossed my mind, I didn’t think I would pull the trigger yet without something else lined up. Media jobs are hard to come by, and I didn’t want to come off as some entitled prick. I wasn’t trying to run the place or anything; I just wanted a little more respect that I thought I deserved.

Things changed that Friday morning after a meeting. Our differences in philosophy were too far apart. Staying much longer was only going to make me more upset and threaten my health more. I indicated that I was going to have to think about my future there, but in my head I already knew the answer.

That weekend coincided with Arts Fest in State College. I had to work most of Saturday, but when I saw my friends, they could tell I wasn’t quite right.

“I don’t like to see you sad,” was a text message I received that day. “Been sad a bit too often lately,” was the best thing I could come up with as a response.

Sunday I requested a meeting with the company president. Monday I went in and resigned, gave my two weeks notice after only five weeks on the job. Our conversation was peaceful. Whether I was working or not, I was going to be in Chicago for a wedding in late July. The stars had aligned in a way that Big Ten Football Media Days, held annually in the Windy City, were scheduled to take place the same week as the wedding.

I promised them they would have a ton of good content if they let me do my thing, and I delivered on my guarantee with nine stories and a live blog over a two-day span.

It was easily the coolest event I had ever covered, but as I filed my final story (some piece about whether Adrian Amos or Stephen Obeng-Agyapong might see snaps at linebacker in the fall) sadness crept in.

The next minute was spent rummaging through my notes seeing if there was any other angle I could reasonably turn into a story. I didn’t want it to end, but anything else would have really been forcing the issue at that point.

I caught a cab back to my hotel and drove 75 minutes to a different hotel where the wedding would take place the next night. Aside from collecting my final paycheck, I never had to see my editor again or return to that office, but the thing that I had devoted the most amount of energy to over the past year was gone.

After the wedding and return trip, I spent about another week in State College hanging out and then returned home to Philadelphia.

My confidence from the past two months was still pretty shaken. I applied to some jobs in Philadelphia, New York, Florida, California, and other places, but there were some days where I got pretty discouraged.

Watching Penn State football last fall was weird at first. For better or for worse, covering sports changes the way you view things. Instead of “WOO! Allen Robinson touchdown!!!!” it becomes “Alright, how many touchdowns is that for him on the season. How many yards? Gotta tweet that Update the live blog. Dammit, why won’t you refresh and update?!! Okay got it, phew.”

Bill O’Brien turned out to be exactly what that program needed at the time and a lot of fun to cover, but unlike 95 percent of the fanbase, I didn’t view him as a demigod who was saving the program one win and verbal commit at a time. To me, he was just some social media hating, football loving good man who I sat 10 feet away from every Tuesday afternoon as he answered questions from reporters. Occasionally if he disliked a certain question, he would let the person who asked know about it, myself included. (Maybe I’ll do a post on this down the road for anyone who hasn’t heard the story)

Back on topic though, last fall was weird. I was still sort of in reporter mode, so during games I tweeted any stats I could think of. Some people on Twitter thought I was still covering the team at first and not just watching games from my living room couch.

I don’t think I really cared either way about the final result of games until Bill Belton received a handoff from Christian Hackenberg, darted left off tackle and raised his arms above his head a few yards deep in the end zone against Michigan.

Being back in Beaver Stadium against Illinois a few weeks later and sitting in the stands rather than the press box for the first time in nearly two years was odd for a few minutes, but my love was slowly coming back.

Aside from that and the Eagles though, I didn’t get excited about much in the fall. There were days where I was still pretty down from the summer and just couldn’t completely snap out of a funk.

My 9th grade class had voted me “Most Likely to Succeed.” If they saw me over these past seven months, they’d find their choice pretty hilarious.

Ninth Grade

During some bad days, I contemplated getting out of the media altogether, but then I think back to my peak time at Onward State where some wide-eyed college senior with a full course load was getting linked by ESPN three times a week and getting retweeted left and right on Saturdays while keeping thousands of people informed.

I want that feeling and sense of fulfillment again. Last summer my boss made me feel like a real worthless person, but deep down, I know that’s not true. I still have a lot to learn and there’s always room to get better, but I have ideas about digital and social media. I’m waiting for the right person and company to listen and give me a chance.

I’m 23 years old. I love Chip Kelly, Dunkin’ Donuts french vanilla iced coffee, Pete Carroll, no-huddle offenses, wheel routes, well-run Twitter accounts, Wings Over Happy Valley, Chipotle, Otto’s Apricot Wheat Beer, Domonic Brown, Cliff Lee, and Claude Giroux (mostly in that order)

I hate close-minded people, the Dallas Cowboys, punting on 4th and 1 no matter what the line of scrimmage is, and burning timeouts in the first or third quarter of a football game.

The rest of it I’m still trying to figure out and find my place in this peculiar world.

As long as I have this blog running, I hope you will join me in the process.