Tag Archives: Michael Vick

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.

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Nick Foles, Kevin Kolb, Bobby Hoying, and not Letting Past Failures Frighten You About the Future

It is impossible to be on the Internet these days and not come across multiple Nick Foles think-pieces. Buzz phrases like dropped interceptions, small sample size, and system quarterback usually populate these articles.

Things sure have come a long way from a year ago when hack Mike Freeman had no idea who the Eagles signal-caller was.

The Eagles report for camp today. For the first time in five seasons, Michael Vick won’t be there, and that’s freakin awesome in my opinion. Vick left Philadelphia a better and more mature person than when he arrived, but the Eagles were never going to win anything beyond maybe a division title with him.

Those who follow me on the Twitter machine know that I was advocating for Foles to win the job from Day 1 last spring and summer. I don’t mention this now simply to say I was correct that Foles would ultimately end up with the gig at some point. Rather, it just seemed from the start that Foles was more equipped to run a Chip Kelly offense.

Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas put up monster numbers under Kelly before Marcus Mariota carried the torch, but I always perceived a quarterback in a Kelly led-system akin to a very good, but not quite superstar point guard in the NBA. The quarterback facilitates and distributes while the offense runs through everyone. Foles is exactly that. When Vick was the starter during the first quarter of the season, the offense went too much through Vick as the focal point.

By sticking with Foles and forgoing the opportunity to draft Johnny Manziel, Kelly — intentionally or not — fought back against the inaccurate narrative that he needs a mobile quarterback to win in the NFL.

The common theme regardless of the pundit opining on the guy who replaced Vick is that his 2013 touchdown to interception ratio of 27:2 is unsustainable and some natural regression will set in because quarterbacks just don’t throw so few interceptions in a season.

This is in all likelihood correct to a good extent, but in Philadelphia, the doubt seems to take on a different angle. The fear here comes from previous heartbreaks of seeing under the radar quarterbacks burst onto the scene only to quickly and violently combust before ever truly arriving.

It happened in 1998 with Bobby Hoying and occurred again more recently with Kevin Kolb. Now, four years removed from the Kolb sequel, some worry that another young, potential quarterback of the future has teased folks into thinking he’s the one only to let us down again.

Not so, my friends. Not so.

Let’s take a trip down memory’s lane with Hoying’s game log from 1997 courtesy of Pro-Football Reference:

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD
1 1997 10 1997-11-10 25-051 PHI SFO L 12-24 8 14 57.14% 94 1 0 101.5 6.71 8.14 0 0 0
2 1997 11 1997-11-16 25-057 PHI @ BAL T 10-10 * 26 38 68.42% 276 0 0 89.4 7.26 7.26 1 6 6.00 0
3 1997 12 1997-11-23 25-064 PHI PIT W 23-20 * 15 31 48.39% 246 2 0 97.0 7.94 9.23 5 -4 -0.80 0
4 1997 13 1997-11-30 25-071 PHI CIN W 44-42 * 26 42 61.90% 313 4 1 106.5 7.45 8.29 5 62 12.40 0
5 1997 14 1997-12-07 25-078 PHI NYG L 21-31 * 16 35 45.71% 209 1 3 38.9 5.97 2.69 1 6 6.00 0
6 1997 15 1997-12-14 25-085 PHI @ ATL L 17-20 * 16 34 47.06% 180 1 1 60.9 5.29 4.56 2 6 3.00 0
7 1997 16 1997-12-21 25-092 PHI @ WAS L 32-35 * 21 31 67.74% 255 2 1 100.9 8.23 8.06 2 2 1.00 0

That amounts to season statistics of: 11 TD’s, 6 INT’s , 1573 yards, and a relatively weak 56.9 completion percentage.

Not counting the 49ers game in which Hoying didn’t actually start, this totals a 2-3-1 record, but a further look inside the box scores shows that the shootout against Cincinnati really inflated these numbers. Hoying tossed six interceptions in his final four games and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in two of the three.

While these certainly aren’t awful numbers to post as a second year player and first-time starter on a below average team, the 1998 collapse isn’t shocking when seeing how the year before ended.

Open your eyes slowly. I assume no liability for what this chart may do to them.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD
8 1998 1 1998-09-06 25-351 PHI SEA L 0-38 * 9 23 39.13% 60 0 1 29.1 2.61 0.65 3 13 4.33 0
9 1998 2 1998-09-13 25-358 PHI @ ATL L 12-17 * 24 35 68.57% 232 0 0 86.8 6.63 6.63 4 18 4.50 0
10 1998 3 1998-09-20 26-000 PHI @ ARI L 3-17 * 13 23 56.52% 121 0 1 53.0 5.26 3.30 3 18 6.00 0
11 1998 5 1998-10-04 26-014 PHI @ DEN L 16-41 * 11 24 45.83% 96 0 1 39.6 4.00 2.13 1 6 6.00 0
12 1998 8 1998-11-02 26-043 PHI DAL L 0-34 13 39 33.33% 124 0 2 21.7 3.18 0.87 2 5 2.50 0
13 1998 9 1998-11-08 26-049 PHI DET W 10-9 * 15 21 71.43% 97 0 0 80.9 4.62 4.62 2 -4 -2.00 0
14 1998 10 1998-11-15 26-056 PHI @ WAS L 3-28 * 15 31 48.39% 110 0 2 30.3 3.55 0.65 3 5 1.67 0
15 1998 11 1998-11-22 26-063 PHI @ NYG L 0-20 * 14 28 50.00% 121 0 2 32.0 4.32 1.11 4 23 5.75 0

Season stats: Zero touchdowns, nine interceptions, 961 yards, and an even worse 50.9 completion percentage over eight games.

As a rookie with two years less experience and playing behind a broken down offensive line along with a dysfunctional coaching staff on its way out the door, Foles in comparison posted six touchdowns, five interceptions, 1699 yards, and a very respectable 60.8 completion percentage over seven games.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
1 2012 9 2012-11-11 23-296 PHI DAL L 23-38 22 32 68.75% 219 1 1 85.3 6.84 6.06 0 0 0 0 0
2 2012 10 2012-11-18 23-303 PHI @ WAS L 6-31 * 21 46 45.65% 204 0 2 40.5 4.43 2.48 1 0 0.00 0 0 0
3 2012 11 2012-11-26 23-311 PHI CAR L 22-30 * 16 21 76.19% 119 0 0 89.2 5.67 5.67 1 0 0.00 0 0 0
4 2012 12 2012-12-02 23-317 PHI @ DAL L 33-38 * 22 34 64.71% 251 1 0 96.6 7.38 7.97 0 0 0 0 0
5 2012 13 2012-12-09 23-324 PHI @ TAM W 23-21 * 32 51 62.75% 381 2 0 98.6 7.47 8.25 3 27 9.00 1 1 6
6 2012 14 2012-12-13 23-328 PHI CIN L 13-34 * 16 33 48.48% 180 1 1 62.7 5.45 4.70 2 5 2.50 0 0 0
7 2012 15 2012-12-23 23-338 PHI WAS L 20-27 * 32 48 66.67% 345 1 1 85.9 7.19 6.67 4 10 2.50 0 0 0

Opposite of Hoying’s first season, Foles ended on a high note with five touchdown passes and two interceptions over his final four games.

Let’s proceed to Kolb’s charts:

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
8 2009 1 2009-09-13 25-020 PHI @ CAR W 38-10 7 11 63.64% 23 0 0 67.6 2.09 2.09 3 4 1.33 0 0 0
9 2009 2 2009-09-20 25-027 PHI NOR L 22-48 * 31 51 60.78% 391 2 3 73.2 7.67 5.80 1 -6 -6.00 0 0 0
10 2009 3 2009-09-27 25-034 PHI KAN W 34-14 * 24 34 70.59% 327 2 0 120.6 9.62 10.79 1 1 1.00 1 1 6
11 2009 4 2009-10-11 25-048 PHI TAM W 33-14
12 2009 12 2009-12-06 25-104 PHI @ ATL W 34-7

These final numbers in a small sample size aren’t bad, but the three interceptions against New Orleans raises a bit of a flag. Foles has only once thrown multiple interceptions in an NFL game, and it occurred in his first ever start against the Redskins, zero times since.

Kolb’s 2010 season paints a slightly bigger picture of mediocrity.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
13 2010 1 2010-09-12 26-019 PHI GNB L 20-27 * 5 10 50.00% 24 0 0 56.2 2.40 2.40 0 0 0 0 0
14 2010 4 2010-10-03 26-040 PHI WAS L 12-17 22 35 62.86% 201 1 1 76.0 5.74 5.03 2 21 10.50 0 0 0
15 2010 5 2010-10-10 26-047 PHI @ SFO W 27-24 * 21 31 67.74% 253 1 0 103.3 8.16 8.81 3 17 5.67 0 0 0
16 2010 6 2010-10-17 26-054 PHI ATL W 31-17 * 23 29 79.31% 326 3 1 133.6 11.24 11.76 2 1 0.50 0 0 0
17 2010 7 2010-10-24 26-061 PHI @ TEN L 19-37 * 26 48 54.17% 231 1 2 56.9 4.81 3.35 3 18 6.00 0 0 0
18 2010 9 2010-11-15 26-083 PHI @ WAS W 59-28 0 0 0 0 0 1 -1 -1.00 0 0 0
19 2010 16 2011-01-02 26-131 PHI DAL L 13-14 * 18 36 50.00% 162 1 3 37.0 4.50 1.31 4 9 2.25 0 0 0

Completion percentage was always a strong attribute, and in fairness to him, the Cowboys game was played surrounded by backups. Still, this was a fourth year quarterback in a familiar system, and his numbers are still nowhere close to Foles’ last season.

Passing Rushing
Rk Year G# Date Age Tm Opp Result GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Att Yds Y/A TD TD Pts
8 2013 2 2013-09-15 24-238 PHI SDG L 30-33 0 1 0.00% 0 0 0 39.6 0.00 0.00 0 0 0 0 0
9 2013 4 2013-09-29 24-252 PHI @ DEN L 20-52 3 4 75.00% 49 1 0 155.2 12.25 17.25 0 0 0 0 0
10 2013 5 2013-10-06 24-259 PHI @ NYG W 36-21 16 25 64.00% 197 2 0 114.9 7.88 9.48 3 1 0.33 0 0 0
11 2013 6 2013-10-13 24-266 PHI @ TAM W 31-20 * 22 31 70.97% 296 3 0 133.3 9.55 11.48 3 2 0.67 1 1 6
12 2013 7 2013-10-20 24-273 PHI DAL L 3-17 * 11 29 37.93% 80 0 0 46.2 2.76 2.76 3 25 8.33 0 0 0
13 2013 9 2013-11-03 24-287 PHI @ OAK W 49-20 * 22 28 78.57% 406 7 0 158.3 14.50 19.50 4 10 2.50 0 0 0
14 2013 10 2013-11-10 24-294 PHI @ GNB W 27-13 * 12 18 66.67% 228 3 0 149.3 12.67 16.00 8 38 4.75 0 0 0
15 2013 11 2013-11-17 24-301 PHI WAS W 24-16 * 17 26 65.38% 298 0 0 104.3 11.46 11.46 9 47 5.22 1 1 6
16 2013 12 2013-12-01 24-315 PHI ARI W 24-21 * 21 34 61.76% 237 3 0 112.0 6.97 8.74 9 22 2.44 0 0 0
17 2013 13 2013-12-08 24-322 PHI DET W 34-20 * 11 22 50.00% 179 1 1 73.9 8.14 7.00 6 23 3.83 1 1 6
18 2013 14 2013-12-15 24-329 PHI @ MIN L 30-48 * 30 48 62.50% 428 3 1 103.5 8.92 9.23 5 41 8.20 0 0 0
19 2013 15 2013-12-22 24-336 PHI CHI W 54-11 * 21 25 84.00% 230 2 0 131.7 9.20 10.80 2 17 8.50 0 0 0
20 2013 16 2013-12-29 24-343 PHI @ DAL W 24-22 * 17 26 65.38% 263 2 0 124.4 10.12 11.65 5 -5 -1.00 0 0 0

Minus the odd fiasco of the first Dallas game, it is pretty difficult to pinpoint a contest where Foles played poorly. His numbers against Detroit are average, but that game probably deserves to be graded on a steep curve given the snowy conditions. The Minnesota game is a bit inflated due to being behind in the second half and throwing nonstop but still nothing to really scoff at.

It should be clear as day that Foles is not a third coming of Hoying or Kolb, but we’ll touch on this topic again later. First, let’s have a bit more fun and compare Foles to some of the newer, more accomplished quarterbacks in the league.

QB Comp Att Comp % Yards TD INT Sacks Record
Nick Foles 323 520 62.1 4125 29 6 45 10 W, 6 L
Andrew Luck 339 627 54.1 4374 23 18 41 11 W, 5 L
Robert Griffin 288 442 65.1 3529 22 7 35 9 W, 7 L
Russell Wilson 252 393 64.1 3118 26 10 40 11 W, 5 L
Ryan Tannehill 282 484 58.3 3294 12 13 35 7 W, 9 L
Colin Kaepernick 259 433 59.8 3627 22 10 29 11 W, 5 L

All of these quarterbacks were selected in the 2012 draft ahead of Foles aside from Kaepernick who went early in the second round a year earlier. Brandon Weeden was left off because…well yeah. Some notes here as I want to be transparent with methodology:

  • I cut RG3 a break and did not include his playoff start against the Seahawks where he suffered a torn ACL. Rather, his 2013 opener against the Eagles was included to make 16 games.
  • Foles’ stats begin with the 2012 game at the Redskins and continue through the 2013 season beginning with the contest at the Bucs. The Giants game the previous week was not included since he did not start. The playoff game is also not included (but I promise more is coming on that)
  • Kaepernick begins with the 2012 game against the Bears, includes all three playoff games, and runs through the Week 6 game against the Cardinals in 2013.

Going through the categories, Foles is third in completion percentage, first in yards, and first in touchdown passes. His record is better than Griffin and Tannehill and only a game behind Luck, Wilson, and Kaepernick. Those three obviously have won playoff games, something Foles has yet to accomplish.

Taking less sacks is clearly something Foles can improve upon, but despite the second most passing attempts by a pretty wide margin, he has still thrown the least amount of interceptions with six.

There seems to be some perception that Foles got incredibly lucky when it comes to throwing only two interceptions last season. The overturned Patrick Peterson play is a popular one to cite, but as pointed out by Mike Tanier of Sports of Earth and several others, Foles only benefited from three of these dropped balls last season, which is totally normal.

Also consider that Foles didn’t play in three games and barely played in two others. While 27 and two won’t be repeated, there’s nothing wrong with 32 and 10. Plenty of quarterbacks get teams to the playoffs doing just that.

No scout would tell you that Foles is more talented than Luck, but based on the numbers from this chart, he can go toe-to-toe with any of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.

While this point cannot be measured in numbers, I’m going to make the claim that Foles’ roadmap to NFL success was a bit more challenging. He is the only quarterback on this list who played for a different head coach between Year 1 and Year 2. CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank has done a nice job chronicling Foles’ path to rising stardom in a 5-part series.

Never a sought after recruit, Foles by my count has been challenged to learn five different offensive systems going back to his senior year of high school in 2006. In his senior season at Arizona, head coach Mike Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start. For the first time in a long time, Foles finally has stability around him.

Additionally, Foles has to fight back against the narrative of being a third round pick. Generally, quarterbacks selected in the third round aren’t expected to become franchise cornerstones. If Luck or Cam Newton has a bad day and tosses three interceptions (something that has happened to them six and five times respectively), it’s more or less written off because they’re number one overall picks progressing through growing pains.

Foles has never thrown three interceptions in a single game, but all it took was one bad showing against Dallas last season for some folks to make the declaration that he can’t play and is destined to be a career backup.

Fittingly enough, the Eagles face every quarterback listed on the chart other than Tannehill this season.

There’s one quarterback not yet mentioned however. Let’s talk about Drew Brees for a minute — the guy who ended Foles’ 2013 season.

QB Comp Att Comp % Yards TD INT Sacks
Foles 23 33 69.7 195 2 0 2
Brees 20 30 66.7 250 1 2 2

I don’t think it’s any question which quarterback was better that night. Yes, the Saints won the game. The Eagles lost because of a disastrous first half drive, which included a sack of Foles, that ended with an Alex Henery missed field goal. Billy Davis made it such a priority to contain Jimmy Graham that the Saints gashed the Eagles on the ground, Riley Cooper dropped a wide open pass, and the offense took too long to get going.

When it got going though, it was something to watch, almost capping off a comeback after being down 20-7.

In Buzz Bissinger’s lengthy profile on Foles, he mentions that the quarterback “looked confused in the second half of the loss to the New Orleans Saints in last year’s playoffs.”

The numbers don’t really back that up. In the final two quarters, Foles was 10 of 16 for 97 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.

The last we saw of Foles was him finding Zach Ertz in the end zone to put the Eagles in the lead late in the fourth quarter. Does this drive chart resemble a quarterback who looked scared or “confused”?

Foles vs. Saints

Against a future Hall of Fame quarterback, a Super Bowl champion coach, and a defense that had surrendered the fourth lowest point total in the regular season, Foles in his first ever playoff game, calmly engineered a near flawless drive to walk off the field with the lead.

There was no way the Eagles were getting by Seattle last season, but they certainly would have stood a strong chance against Carolina and playing two more games would have been huge for the team’s development.

Unfortunately, it ended so quickly. The short kickoff, the horse collar, the 13 yard run on 2nd and 11, the chip shot field goal. It was over, and Foles never got another chance.

Seventy seven yards on nine plays though with your season on the line and absolutely needing a touchdown. I’d like to see Kolb or Hoying attempt that.

Thankfully we don’t have to because these aren’t your older brother’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Hell no. These aren’t Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles or Kevin Kolb’s Philadelphia Eagles, and they’re certainly not Ray Rhodes’ or Bobby Hoying’s Philadelphia Eagles.

No, these are Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles, and Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles are Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles, and “Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles” has a pretty nice ring to it — perhaps even a Super Bowl ring to it.

Mike Freeman’s 2013 Eagles Training Camp Preview is HiLOLarious to Go Back and Read

If you have ever read this blog previously or actually met me in-person before, then you know that I have a really good memory.

Sometimes it’s a blessing; other times it’s a curse, but I don’t forget things, so naturally, I remembered last Sunday that it was the one-year anniversary of me being blocked on Twitter by then CBS Sports and now Bleacher Report NFL columnist hack Mike Freeman.

Freeman 4

That will all be explained later for anyone who doesn’t know the story, but this memory recall led to me re-reading Freeman’s Eagles training camp preview from last summer, and holy shit, is it embarrassingly bad.

Here’s the full thing, but we’re going to go through it a few paragraphs at a time to examine just how awful this truly was.

If the Eagles can find a decent quarterback (and that’s a big if), and if they can keep that quarterback healthy (if it’s Mike Vick, that’s a huge if), and if Chip Kelly’s offense can work (gigantic if) then the player who could have a monster year is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

There continues to be talk that Jackson has a chip on his shoulder and this offseason he’s worked as hard as ever. Jackson is still an intimidating weapon and if there’s a miracle, and Kelly can reproduce a reasonable facsimile of his college offense, Jackson could be the one to benefit the most.

Man, you sure love the word “if,” Mike. Overall though, this started off not terrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that DeSean Jackson had a chip on his shoulder after missing five games due to injury in 2012, but he was correct about that. It gets better, I promise.

Key changes

For the first time since 1999, Andy Reid will not be coaching the Eagles. Think about that for a moment. This is a landmark year for the organization and it is also potentially a chaotic one. Chip Kelly is the coach now and he promises a more up-tempo style of offense. But many a college coach has promised to transform the NFL with their college-y ideas and many have failed. See: Spurrier, Steve, among others.

Ah, a Steve Spurrier reference. That’s about as lazy as you can get right there, Mike. At least drop Dennis Erickson’s name or something, makes you sound slightly less unoriginal.

Kelly does inherit a team with talent. The cupboard, despite Philadelphia’s dismal record last year, is not bare. LeSean McCoy missed four games last year but still had 1,213 total yards and five scores. What Kelly will have to do is patch an offensive line that was constantly injured last season. The quarterback situation is a mess. It’s basically an open competition that Mike Vick will likely win but even if he does, Vick doesn’t stay healthy. Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley will see playing time, maybe a significant amount.

The Matt Barkley line is the easy target, but more of that will be coming later, so let’s focus on the offensive line sentence. Can you name the starting offensive line, Mike? If you could, you would know that it was set going into camp last summer. Were there injuries in 2012? Yes, but “patch” is a pretty poor verb to describe a unit comprised of four previous starters (one of which was a five-time Pro Bowler) plus the fourth overall selection in the draft.

The most interesting thing to watch will be Kelly. He wants to run 80 to 100 plays a game, which will never consistently happen. For the past 30 years, the average number of offensive NFL plays has been in the 60s. The Patriots last season once ran 92. That was considered Haley’s comet territory. To run that many plays weekly is impossible and would lead to Kelly’s offense being physically battered. There wouldn’t be enough players to finish a season.

Alright, 80-100 plays might not be doable, but the Eagles ran 70+ plays four times and aside from Vick whose injury history predates even Kelly’s time at Oregon not once did an offensive starter miss a game due to injury.

Position battles

The quarterback spot. That’s the biggest. There are players on the Eagles who believe that Kelly will do everything in his power to name Barkley the starter.

LOLWUT. Your #sources were pulling a fast one on you here, buddy. Barkley took third-team reps just about all minicamp, and you would have known this had you done even a hint of research.

New schemes

For all of its alleged fast pace and openness, Kelly will utilize two (and sometimes three) tight ends to shore up a shaky offensive line. It’s yet another attempt by a team to duplicate the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end tandem that was the best in football until injuries and homicide charges destroyed it.

All indications are that the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Philadelphia wants to do on defense what the Eagles will try on offense — keep the game up-tempo and the team in attack mode.

All indications = Chip Kelly prefers a 3-4 base defense, and defensive coordinator Billy Davis has ran it throughout his career. Also, two mentions of a shaky offensive line doesn’t make your false claim any more true.

Bubble watch

Tight end Clay Harbor spent time this offseason practicing at outside linebacker. Jason Avant, a wide receiver, practiced several times in the secondary. When the new coach puts a player at a different position, well, that does not bode well for the future of those players.

For the sake of fairness, I’ll acknowledge that neither player is still on the Eagles roster, but Jason Avant played 841 snaps at wide receiver and zero in the secondary during the 2013 season.

Unheard-of-guy to watch

Isaac Sopoaga was a crucial free-agent pickup because he’s a ferocious run stopper.

Isaac Sopoaga was such a ferocious run stopper that he and his 10 total tackles scared the Eagles away. They traded him eight games into the season, inserted rookie Bennie Logan as the starting defensive tackle and watched him record 21 total tackles and two sacks as the defense surrendered 21.4 points per game during a 7-1 stretch compared to 26.4 in the first half.

Biggest concerns

Where to begin? Can Vick stay healthy? Can the offensive line? Can DeSean Jackson?

Most of all, will Kelly’s schemes hold up?

 

No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s move on to the best part now.

Something to prove

This is for certain: Around the league, few coaches think Kelly will succeed. Coaches are a highly cynical bunch. They think the daily rigors of the sport will beat Kelly’s schemes into oblivion and he’ll be chased back to college. It will be up to Kelly to prove them wrong.

So sneaky, Mike. Thought you could slip a cliché ‘this ain’t #college’ reference in at the end hoping no one would see it.

Upon first reading this a year ago, I was left with some questions. Which coaches? If you really did talk to coaches, wouldn’t one have fed you some anonymous quote to use? I didn’t expect to find that out, but curious, I decided to ask Freeman something else.

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He “answered.”

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Well Mike, that really doesn’t tell me anything. I tried again.

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I responded once more.

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Unfortunately, he never got it.

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Likely receiving some way less cordial reactions than the one I thought I provided, he followed up with this:

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Please tell me which of these categories I fit into, Mike. Do I like the Eagles? Yeah. Was I high on Chip Kelly as a hire? Yeah, but if you come with some loosely sourced claim like that, you better be able to back it up and not act like an arrogant prick, especially when Bill Belichick, the best and one of the most influential NFL coaches of this generation, had picked Kelly’s brain and was on record that he would succeed.

A classic win-win situation for the columnist. If Kelly goes 5-11 last season and his offense averages 17 points a game, Freeman can high-five himself and say ‘I told you so.’ If Kelly succeeds like he did, there’s the ‘I never believed that. One or two coaches just mentioned it to me in passing’ way out.

More troubling, this is a perfect example of the ‘you need me more than I need you’ attitude that plagues part of sports media into falsely thinking readers and commenters aren’t important. He can question all he wants, but don’t you dare try to question him.

People who write about sports make mistakes all the time, myself included. I said Domonic Brown would hit 30 home runs this season. He’s lucky if he reaches 15.

When I covered Penn State football for Onward State, I wrote a piece essentially saying that former defensive coordinator John Butler would be a head coach within five years. While I still wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, he wasn’t as successful as I expected in his first — and only — season running Penn State’s defense. There are a few people who dislike both me and Butler who likely love that I wrote that article and talked him up as much as I did.

It’s one of the beautiful things about sports that despite all of the information and data readily available, we can still get stuff so wrong.

The thing is though, Freeman didn’t simply get predictions wrong. Had he wrote something like ‘Trent Cole will record less than five sacks and struggle transitioning to linebacker in a 3-4 defense after playing defensive end in a 4-3 for eight seasons,’ I could let him off the hook, but these aren’t incorrect prognostications. It’s a bunch of half-assed, uninformed, logical fallacies that could be thrown together in 15 minutes and does nothing to inform readers.

The worst part is should Freeman ever come across this, he’ll treat it as ‘Punk TwentySomething Takes Shot at Established Writer,’ and the exact same type of lazy journalism will be produced again and again.

Deep breath. We’re done, right? Nope. But Drew, that was the end of the article. What else could there possibly be to say here?

I don’t know, maybe that the buffoon DIDN’T MENTION NICK FOLES ONCE?!?!?!

Matt Barkley, a fourth round rookie coming off a separated shoulder taking third-team reps a month earlier in minicamp was referenced twice while Freeman pretended that Foles didn’t exist.

As surprising as Foles’ season was, it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Foles quarterbacked the team for seven games in 2012, and while he didn’t win many contests, he did throw for six touchdown passes to only five interceptions and completed 60.8 percent of his passes as a rookie.

Perhaps more relevant, Foles and Vick split first-team reps evenly all throughout minicamp. While Vick may have been the perceived favorite, Foles pushed hard enough that Vick requested to no avail that Kelly name a starter going into training camp.

Apparently, Freeman chose to ignore all that. I guess someone eventually clued him in on who Foles was though because we got this hot garbage after Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Raiders.

Go screw, Mike. Go screw, and I’d leave these two clips off your resume.

Freeman Resume