Tag Archives: Cleveland Browns

Eagles-Colts History Lesson: The Birds Lost a Game but Found a Quarterback

The Eagles are in Indianapolis for a Monday Night showdown against the Colts tonight.

The last time they traveled to Indianapolis, not counting a preseason game in 2009, was for a Sunday Night showdown in November 2006. There is a certain novelty to playing AFC teams since you have to wait four years to play the same team again and typically eight years before returning to the same city.

When appropriate, I would like to provide a recent history lesson on gameday about the Eagles particular opponent, and we have one here that I feel both connects past, present, and future.

The date was November 26, 2006, and the eventual Super Bowl champion Colts were rolling at 9-1. The same could not be said about the Eagles. Andy Reid’s squad entered the contest with a 5-5 record, but it felt a lot worse. They had dropped four of their past five games and a week earlier lost starting quarterback Donovan McNabb to a torn ACL in an ugly home loss to the Titans.

A McNabb sports hernia injury helped derail the 2005 season, and the general consensus was that if he was lost for any significant amount of time, the season was over.

Jeff Garcia was the Eagles next man up. Garcia at one time was a very successful signal-caller for the 49ers, but over the past few years leading up to 2006, he had lost starting jobs in San Francisco, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Garcia had played okay when called upon to relieve McNabb the previous week, but many folks did not trust him to move the ball and were calling for then fan-favorite A.J. Feeley.

The scrappy veteran did have one thing going for him though. He was familiar with Reid’s west-coast system, and back then, Reid was decently good at tailoring schemes to some of his players .

The night, as expected, was ugly. A full box score and recap is available here.

Joseph Addai gashed the Eagles for three first half touchdowns, and the visitors were down 21-0 in the second quarter before you could blink an eye. For a normally stout Jim Johnson defense, it was an embarrassing performance as the Colts posted 420 total yards in a 45-21 victory.

Peyton Manning was only responsible for 183 of those yards and honestly had a pretty pedestrian night. Garcia — based on raw numbers — actually outperformed him.

Eagles-Colts 2006

This brings us to the major point of the post. Garcia got the Eagles on the board with a touchdown pass to L.J. Smith in the second quarter and found Reggie Brown in the third quarter for another. He took care of the football and only threw four incomplete passes the entire game.

After the final whistle, the big story was how poorly the Eagles defense played and how Reid was headed for a second consecutive losing season, but another plot was now scratching the surface.

The Eagles might not have been good enough to beat a powerhouse Colts team, but if a few issues could be cleaned up, they had a quarterback capable of beating some NFC teams to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.

Garcia did just that. The next week he led the Eagles to an epic Monday Night victory over the Panthers (more on that in a couple months) and proceeded to win three consecutive NFC East road games to capture the division crown.

From the aforementioned Colts game through the end of the season, Garcia went 122-for-200, 1513 yards, 11 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

The run under Garcia ended at the Superdome with a 27-24 loss to the Saints in the second round of the playoffs after again beating the Giants one week earlier. Garcia would sign with Buccaneers in the offseason and lead them to the playoffs the following season.

A January 6, 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer article about his time in Tampa Bay still hangs in my room to this day.

Jeff Garcia Picture

You could say I really liked Jeff Garcia.

Who didn’t like Jeff Garcia though? Philadelphia was in the midst of a miserable sports winter. The Phillies had just missed out on what would have been their first playoff berth since 1993. The Flyers were in the midst of one of their worst seasons in franchise history, and the Sixers were having a falling-out with long-time franchise icon Allen Iverson.

The city needed hope, and a fiery red-head came to the rescue just in time.

This is a dangerous hypothetical path to go down, but the Eagles missed the playoffs the following year in 2007, going 8-8. Had Garcia not turned 2006 around, it would have been three straight years of no playoffs. Would Andy Reid have survived that? If he hadn’t, what are the odds that Chip Kelly would be here today? Would Nick Foles be playing somewhere else?

Those questions bring me to tonight. Eight years later, we are back in Indianapolis, and instead of Manning-Garcia, it is Andrew Luck vs. Nick Foles. The average age of the quarterbacks that night were 33. Tonight, that number is 25.

Both teams are expected to be contenders this season, and I even picked the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Much like Manning-Garcia, Luck is the perceived star. Akin to Manning, he was the number one overall pick in the draft while Luck and 86 other players heard their names called before Foles in the same draft class.

Foles’ numbers are for the most part better than Luck’s through the early portions of their careers, but most football people will tell you that Luck is the far superior player.

Tonight, we get to see them go at it head-to-head. I called for a narrow Colts victory before the season. I badly want to be wrong, but a shootout loss where Foles matches Luck, similar to what he did against Drew Brees in the playoffs last year, would not be the worst thing in the world.

Nearly eight years ago, the Eagles lost a game in Indianapolis but temporarily found a quarterback. Tonight, they have an opportunity to show the football world that they have a quarterback for years to come.

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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

Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Mark Sanchez. We Have the Technology

Work with me for a second here as we progress through this fake conversation.

The date is Monday, March 24, and Chip Kelly is sitting in his NovaCare Complex office watching tape from the 2013 season.

Footage from the fourth quarter of the first Cowboys game just finished playing featuring rookie Matt Barkley throwing three interceptions after having to relieve a concussed Nick Foles.

Kelly: Secretary, bring me a smoothie and set me up on a Skype call with Howie, Pat, and Bill. 

Secretary: Sure coach, but if you don’t mind me asking, who is Bill, Billy Davis? We have a lot of Bill’s who work for us. 

Kelly: No, not him. Bill Musgrave, our new quarterbacks coach. 

Secretary: Wait, wasn’t the old quarterbacks coach also named Bill? Billy Lazor or something?

Kelly: Yes, he’s in Miami now. You know I hate wasting time, and right now you’re being inefficient with these questions. Get them on the phone, please.

(Shurmur’s ring tone is the Michigan State fight song. Musgrave, in the process of completing his move from Minnesota to Philadelphia, takes a few rings to answer)

Kelly: Afternoon, guys. I’ll cut to the chase real quick. We need to address our quarterback situation. Nick may be the starter for the next 1000 years, but he has suffered some type of injury just about every year going back to his college days at Arizona. I like Matt, but watching some tape from last year, I’m not sure he’s ready to be our backup. Let’s hear some suggestions.

Shurmur: Why don’t we make it easy and just re-sign Mike, Chip? He liked it here and already knows the system.

Kelly: Pat, you gotta keep up here, dawgy. Mike signed with the Jets last Friday. That’s why I’m calling. Bill, you’ll be their position coach. What have you got? (Silence) Bill, talk!

Musgrave: Sorry, Chip, little hard to hear over the Minnesota wind outside the airport here, can’t wait to get to Philly. I used to coach Joe Webb…

Roseman: Bill, no! I realize you’re new here, but we don’t mention that name around these parts after what Webb did on a Tuesday night in December 2010.

Kelly: Howie, let’s make Bill feel welcome and let him finish. In December 2010, I was preparing for Nick Fairley and Auburn’s defense. I wasn’t here for any of that. Go ahead, Bill.

Musgrave: Sorry, Howie, I should have thought of that,, but yeah Joe Webb, very athletic, he would be my choice.

Kelly: Meh. Let’s…

Roseman: Uh Chip, not to interrupt, but I just got a text. Webb signed with the Panthers 30 seconds ago.

Kelly: No loss. Pat, now that you’re all caught up, what do you think?

Shurmur: Well Chip, I used to coach Colt McCoy in Cleveland, threw 14 touchdown passes for me in 2011. What about him?

Kelly: I don’t hate it, but he’s had some bad shoulder injuries. Let me jump in here guys. You know who I like? Mark Sanchez.

(Silence for 10 seconds)

Kelly: I said I like Mark Sanchez, guys. Wind blowing up again, Bill?

Musgrave: Nah Chip, I heard you that time. I’m just kinda shocked. I’d be happy to try to coach him up, but he had 27 turnovers in his final year with the Jets. Are you sure?

Shurmur: Yeah, Chip, I’m kinda with Bill here. I know you were still at Oregon, but in Mark’s final four games with the Jets in 2012, he threw eight interceptions to only one touchdown pass and completed 50.4 percent of his passes. Plus, you mentioned shoulder troubles with Colt. Mark had surgery for a torn labrum in the fall. I just…

Kelly: Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology — and good wide receivers. Get the deal done, Howie. We’ll talk about DeSean later.

(Phone clicks as Kelly immediately returns to watching film)

I have not yet really broached the topic that is the revitalization of Mark Sanchez throughout this preseason. I avoided it in part because I didn’t believe what I was seeing. I also thought there were more pressing issues to address, but to ignore writing about Sanchez any longer would be irresponsible given what we are witnessing.

Considering Kelly announced that Sanchez will not play against his former employer when the Eagles host the Jets Thursday night, now seems like a good time to go more in-depth on him. Sanchez’s preseason is over — a three game stretch that saw him go 25-31 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception while leading six touchdown drives.

Most impressive perhaps is that in the third game, Sanchez successfully moved the ball against the Steelers’ starters on defense, who were still playing deep into the third quarter.

The sixth year signal-caller was poised and comfortable in Kelly’s up-temp offense, looking like the quarterback who defeated Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady in playoff games during his first two years in the league and nothing like the deer-in-headlights quarterback who lost his way during his final two years with the Jets.

Consider me as surprised as anyone. I never had any major reason to dislike Sanchez but watching how bad things had gotten for him had almost become a must-see circus from afar. Nothing would top the butt fumble, but you started tuning in just to see what crazy turnover he would commit next.

Needless to say, I was not excited when the Eagles signed him. I had been decently high on Matt Barkley going back to when the birds drafted him. In Kelly’s system, a quarterback needs to be a good, quick decision-maker above all, and Sanchez, with 95 turnovers over four seasons, was far from that.

As I alluded to earlier in the fake conversation, I thought a guy like Colt McCoy — who has a lesser resume but also fewer turnovers — would have been a solid pick if they didn’t give the job to Barkley.

Even as training camp started, I held out hope that Barkley would be able to beat Sanchez out. I really don’t think Barkley played poorly either, but it became crystal clear during the opening game against the Bears, that I was not going to get my wish.

I was wrong, and unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will try to admit when I am wrong about something.

Sanchez right now looks like a great signing for 2.25 million dollars and one of the best backup quarterback options in the NFL.

Eagles Mark Sanchez
Cowboys Brandon Weeden
Giants Ryan Nassib
Redskins Kirk Cousins
Packers Matt Flynn
Bears Jimmy Clausen
Lions Dan Orlovsky
Vikings Teddy Bridgewater
Panthers Derek Anderson
Saints Luke McCown
Bucs Mike Glennon
Falcons T.J. Yates
Seahawks Tarvaris Jackson
49ers Blaine Gabbert
Cardinals Drew Stanton
Rams Shaun Hill
Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo
Dolphins Matt Moore
Jets Michael Vick
Bills Thaddeus Lewis
Bengals Jason Campbell
Steelers Bruce Gradkowski
Ravens Tyrod Taylor
Browns Johnny Manziel
Colts Matt Hasselbeck
Titans Charlie Whitehurst
Jaguars Blake Bortles
Texans Case Keenum
Broncos Brock Osweiler
Chiefs Chase Daniel
Chargers Kellen Clemens
Raiders Derek Carr

What we have in that chart is a list of all the projected backup quarterbacks in the league. The 32 of them combine for 12 playoff wins. Matt Hasselbeck owns five, Michael Vick has two, T.J. Yates is responsible for one, and Sanchez has four.

If you are high on rookies like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo, you could say that they are better options than Sanchez, but once the first three become starters, it is tough to make a solid case that Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Cassel are better.

No one on that list can say they have out-dueled two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks en route to road playoff victories.

After being left hung out to dry with no competent weapons and a defensive oriented staff in New York, Sanchez again looks like a capable quarterback with guys like Jordan Matthews, my dude Zach Ertz, James Casey, and Arrelious Benn to sling the ball to.

The bad Sanchez flashed at one point against the Patriots with an ill-advised throw into double coverage intended for Casey that resulted in an interception, but mistakes have been few and far between.

All of a sudden, Sanchez is an asset again after being an afterthought as recently as five months ago. The best part is that other teams know it too. The Rams just lost starter Sam Bradford to a torn ACL and in the past have been on record as wanting Sanchez.

This is what I am referring to when I constantly say on Twitter that the Eagles’ bottom half of the roster is the best it has been in quite some time. Talent at a few starting positions probably needs to improve before they can really challenge the Seahawks in the NFC, but depth is a valuable thing, and they have reserve players who could start for other teams.

It sounds like Sanchez doesn’t want the Rams though as much as they might want him, and the Eagles have no reason to move him unless the Rams absolutely blow them away. Sanchez, of course, wants to be a starter again, but why be in such a hurry to leave the coaching staff that is helping to save your career?

Sanchez Tweet

Some folks will want to see Sanchez show competency in a regular season game before they believe this is for real, however, I think some quarterback needy teams would be willing to take a chance even if they never get to see that.

In a perfect world, they won’t. I believe Nick Foles is way better than Sanchez. Therefore, I won’t go as far as saying ‘Foles could get hurt and the offense won’t miss a beat,’ but I do now believe that Sanchez could step in for a week or two, move the offense, and win a game if the Eagles needed him. I didn’t think that a month ago.

It appears I was wrong, and as weird as it is for me to see him in a different shade of green, I couldn’t be happier about being wrong here.

The ideal outcome is that Sanchez will carry a clipboard throughout the season and then take what he learned here and sign somewhere in the offseason where he can really compete to be a starter again.

If Chip Kelly stays in the NFL long enough, his influence will touch many people and places. His Year 1 offense already set several Eagles records. Other organizations are already trying to catch up to him when it comes to the sports science department and play-calling. His coaching tree has already started to grow with Bill Lazor going from Eagles quarterbacks coach to Dolphins offensive coordinator, hired to try to take what he learned from Kelly and apply it elsewhere.

The last paragraph and Kelly’s resume will only grow as the years go by. Hopefully there is a Super Bowl on it soon that will sit at the top, but rebuilding Mark Sanchez?

That wouldn’t be too far behind.

“The Kid from Stanford Who They Got Playing for ‘Em” is Going to Be Really, Really Good

No, I’m not talking about fifth round pick Ed Reynolds.

This blog post is inspired by a question that my dad would repeatedly ask last Eagles season every time Zach Ertz made a big catch.

“Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for ’em?” 

I am unsure if he ever learned the rookie tight end’s actual name.

No worries, “the kid from Stanford” went on to have a very solid first season in midnight green, finishing his rookie campaign with 39 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns (including a playoff game with three receptions for 22 yards and the go-ahead score with under five minutes remaining).

(5:18 mark of the video to see the pretty touchdown)

Extrapolate the final eight games of the regular season over a full year, and the total would come out to 44 receptions for 536 yards and eight touchdowns.

Now in his second NFL season, Ertz is going to be even better. Through two preseason games, he has posted six catches totaling 86 yards and a nice touchdown last Friday night against the Patriots, using his size to get open and haul in the red zone catch from Nick Foles. (Vine available here if it does not embed properly)

Early on last year, Chip Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff was hesitant to put Ertz on the field a ton because he needed to improve as a blocker and had struggled with some drops in the preseason.

Kelly, rightfully so, still loves Brent Celek, who is going into his eighth season with the birds, but it is going to be impossible for him to keep Ertz off the field this year. Look for the offense to feature some more two-tight end sets and do whatever it takes to get Ertz on the field.

I realize what I am telling you here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s exciting to have a young weapon who is on his way toward becoming a stud.

This chart from Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com paints an even more complete picture. Sorted by yards, it compares the rookie seasons of some of the game’s current elite tight ends, and the only player to post better numbers than Ertz is Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots in 2010.

Tight End Chart

In his final season at Stanford in 2012, Ertz posted a line of 69-898-6, and I foresee him doing something very similar to that this year, just add in a few more touchdowns.

The only tight end in the league who is a lock to put up better numbers than Ertz is the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will be hard to beat, but I would not at all be shocked if it happened, which brings me to this.

Zach Ertz Tweet

Do that, dawgies.

I am fully expecting to hear “Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em?” a ton over the next five and a half months.