Tag Archive | "Michael Conroy"

Conroy: The Eagles Have Cancelled the Apocalypse

What If
Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

By now, the Eagles’ victory over the Washington (Professional Football Team) last Sunday has been covered from every conceivable angle. While the outcome was sweet for Philadelphia fans everywhere, I can’t shake this feeling that we’ve all missed out on something special; absolutely horrifying, but special.

When Brandon Boykin came down in the endzone with an errant Robert Griffin III throw, I exhaled for the first time in about 27 minutes. While a cool wave of overwhelming relief washed over me, I felt as if something disappeared from a hundred polaroid photos, somewhere, à la Back to the Future. I think it’s time we take a moment to mourn the loss of a week that might have been, had RGIII completed his improbable comeback.

If you really think about it, what happened in the fourth quarter of last week’s game could have been the biggest swing in the NFL’s recent history. I think about all of the consequences that might have unfolded following an overtime Eagles loss and am truly mesmerized. Think I’m being melodramatic? Let’s examine the possibilities together, shall we?

What If the Eagles Had Lost?

Chip Kelly’s system isn’t right for the NFL…again

Oh, sure the Eagles had another game where they piled up yards like calories in soda cans. Those calories, much like the Eagles’ brand of yards are a bit hollow and offer very little in the way of substance. I mean really think about it: Are the team’s bevy of 20+ yard plays truly leading to points on a consistent enough basis? Games are won on the scoreboard, not the stat sheet and Chip Kelly’s proven that he’s got it where it doesn’t count.

Another glaring hole in his strategy is his inability to run this offense with a lead. Time and time again this season, we’ve seen him close up shop and head home early in the 3rd quarter. That’s simply unacceptable at the professional level. NFL games are quite literally won and lost in the second half. His team now sports a slightly lucky 5-6 record and he’ll be coaching USC before you know it.

Nick Foles is not a “closer”

We’ve seen Nickfolean Dynamite light up the sky in the first halves of meaningless games against bad teams. That doesn’t prove anything in the NFL. What Foles HAS proven, if anything in his young career, is this: When faced with an big game in which the meticulously constructed “plan” is no longer effective, he’s got nothing else to offer.

Nick Foles has benefited from a new system and it’s many cheap gimmicks on his way to a farce of a three game stretch. The arm strength, IQ and mobility just aren’t there to bail out the offense when things don’t go according to plan.

Billy Davis loses his job

That’s all she wrote, folks. Billy Davis’s defense yielded yet again in a crucial moment, proving just how fluky the preceding performances against inferior opponents were. His blitzes are ill-timed and he just doesn’t have a strong understanding of the personnel he’s working with. You can’t leave Roc Carmichael on an island with constant blitzes all game long and watch a 24 point 4th quarter lead melt away.

More than likely, Chip Kelly looks for a replacement in the offseason. The Eagles use Davis just as they used Sean McDermott as their proverbial scapegoat at the end of the year. Sorry, Bill, we just don’t “trust you” anymore.

The locker room falls apart

You think that the —skins are rotting from within right now? Think about the finger pointing that would have gone on had the Eagles come away losers last Sunday. What leadership would step up and inspire the team to overcome their strife? Who would silence the chaos in the locker room?

Nick Foles isn’t the leader of this team. He’s not standing up on a table and rallying the troops. Demeco Ryans has made it clear that he leads by example. I don’t expect the team to honor his silence and workmanlike attitude in the wake of this collapse.

LeSean McCoy is a fiery guy and might just be the most outraged member of an all-around angry team. Couldn’t you see him totally pulling an Andre Johnson routine? Desean Jackson probably would have decided this season isn’t worth getting hurt over when the —skins made it 24-24. (okay, okay. That was unfair. DJacc’s been balling out this season.)

436 days and counting

This loss would have guaranteed Philadelphia at least another 14 days of “…since the Eagles have won a home game” material and I, for one, simply hadn’t had enough of that yet. Think of the possibilities: “10,000,000 babies have been born since the Eagles have won a home game.” “x amount of Marvel movies have been released since the Eagles have won a home game.” On second thought, maybe we’ll file this one under things we can be glad we missed out on.

Angelo Cataldi retires

Would the morning show on 94WIP ever be better than it was that Monday morning? Would Angelo ever be able to achieve such a euphoria for the rest of his career? I seriously doubt it.

He’d have former players, drunk fans, mayors, governors and presidents of foreign countries on the line. He’d drag damning criticisms our of reluctant writers and reporters until they physically removed him from the studio. Angelo would break a guinness world record for staging the largest organized profane sign smuggling event in the history of America. This, I have to admit is my greatest regret from Sunday.

Spike Eskin eats his cat

Understandably, Spike was going to bolt the doors and hold up in his home until the end of the world had blown over. As he had forgotten to go shopping for food prior to the game, it looked like there might be feline casualties. It was just something he’d have to live with and I respect that. Luckily for the cat and decent, animal loving human beings everywhere, this situation was avoided. Thank god Brandon Boykin can catch.

 

As I’ve said, the win was nice to have, and it’s one we absolutely had to have, but there’s no denying the fact that we’ve all missed out on something truly remarkable. Philadelphia might never see a quarter of football as potentially damaging as the one they escaped on Sunday. At the very least, we won’t before our next Super Bowl run. We’re all just stranded here in some strange limbo, a world created only in the absence of a destined sports apocalypse that never was. For now, I can only sit and wonder what might have been.

 

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Conroy: Kelly Is Above The Foles, Below Expectations

Conroy
Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

It was a revelation,  in more ways than one. The Dallas Cowboys saddled up and rode into the ever so inviting Lincoln Financial Field for a matinee pummeling of a helpless Philly team. During the game, two major issues concerning the Eagles became apparent; as usual, it was the coach and the quarterback.

Above the Foles

When Chip Kelly first spoke about the Eagles quarterback position, he was quick to point out that his system can be tailored to fit the skillset of any player on his roster. It took only seven games to determine that, unless you’re dealing with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning level talent, this simply is not the case.

When Nick Foles entered the game vs. the New York Giants a few weeks prior to Sunday’s thrashing, he seemed to run the offense well enough. When the sophomore quarterback carved up Tampa Bay’s secondary the following week, it seemed as if the genius of Chip Kelly’s system could prevail in any scenario. Alas, not even the vaunted Oregon offense could offer an answer to what the Eagles faced against the Cowboys on Sunday; man coverage.

The Philadelphia Eagles do not have the personnel to execute an effective passing attack against tight man coverage without a quarterback who can run. The reason this took until week seven to seem relevant is because this was the first time the opposing team game planned for a quarterback who, when every defender turned their back to run, could not make them pay.

With receivers who struggle to get off the line of scrimmage, there’s only one reason to allow the Eagles a free release. That is the threat that a running quarterback presents. So, unless Chip Kelly’s planning on drafting the next Tom Brady, (a silly thing to bank on any year) or three wide receivers who can beat NFL corners off the line, the right quarterback for this iteration of the Philadelphia Eagles is one who can run.

With that in mind, the Nick Foles era seems to have vanished, lost within the archives of “Almost Philadelphia Sports History.” At least, if Foles does manage to have a successful career in the NFL, one cannot reasonably assume it will be with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.

Below the Foles

While Foles issue is a deeply troubling development in its own right (for oh so many people), it can’t hold a candle to what’s going on in South Philly of late. Bubbling, quietly beneath the surface issues concerning the Philadelphia Eagles this season, is a volatile solution of compromised goals and withering ambition. This is the sad state of Chip Kelly.

Sunday, facing 4th and 1 on the opponent’s side of the field, I watched a grown man with a headset send Alex Henery out to kick a 60 yard field goal. The ensuing miss left Tony Romo with great field position and almost a minute to drive down and expand on his lead.

Coach is a mess. He’s simply not who many of us, including this writer, expected him to be at this point.

While some of his conservative play calling can be excused by the current quarterback situation, there are other factors to consider. The offense that Oregon made so famous relies heavily on post-snap reading of a defense. This is to say that the skill position players, out running routes on any given play, need reps too. They may need them even more than the quarterback in order to master the more complicated aspects of this offense. In recent weeks, the vanilla play calling has served nobody in that respect.

Chip Kelly’s game day coaching has also taken a shocking turn for the conventional. What ever happened to the fourth down number crunching, two-point conversion policy-having pioneer who was set to test the boundaries of this game? Maybe those ideas didn’t make it into Chip’s final cut of his 2013 Eagles’ master plan. You may even think it’s reasonable to hold off for a year on the more radical strategies a coach plans to employ.

Here’s the problem with that line of thinking: Chip Kelly is now almost half of a season into what is usually a two-three year grace period that any given coach can expect to be afforded. During that allotted time, he’s been given the authority, by almost any means, to sculpt an NFL version of his system. If he doesn’t hit the lottery with his quarterback selection this off-season, and he ends up spending all of next season testing what he should have been now, Kelly will likely face a make-or-break 2015. In a flash, everything that Chip Kelly could have been in the NFL might disappear.

This past off-season, there were a number of capable NFL coaches on the Eagles’ radar. But Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie flew across the country, meeting for over nine hours to recruit a very specific candidate. They chose a man who they thought added something unique to their organization. It’s hard to believe the Eagles are pleased with the return they’ve gotten on that investment so far.

We simply must hope that Chip Kelly’s belief in his system and its potential at the professional level is as firm as it ever was. If the NFL has already beaten that idealism out of the rookie coach, and he isn’t totally committed, how can he expect that commitment from his players? How can the Philadelphia Eagles expect that commitment from their fans?

This year could have been anything. It could have been a struggle. It could have been hard to watch. One thing we all were certain of, however, was that things would at least be different. What Philadelphia Eagles fans are witnessing right now is all too familiar.

 

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Conroy: Who Stole Chip Kelly?

Chip Kelly
Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

Coaching is the art of cultivating a process, through trial and error, that yields positive results. In the NFL, though, the final results of games are anything but reliable data. Sample sizes are smaller than they are in any other American sport. Fluke wins, upsets and one possession games are the bread and butter of 21st century football. Whether you want to call that parity or just maddening inconsistency is completely up to you. Knowing how difficult it can be to find truly bankable results, it is more important than ever for an NFL head coach to believe in his process.

The NFL has shaken Chip Kelly’s belief in his process.

Most fans of the Philadelphia Eagles came into this season with measured expectations. We knew this was most likely not a Super Bowl team. There were simply too many holes in the roster. With that in mind, you had to think that, in the first year of a new coaching regime, there would be some growing pains.

The Eagles were always going to lose their fair share of contests this season, so what was everybody so darn excited about?

For one, the Eagles had cleaned house in multiple areas, and brought in fresh faces to take the reigns. Whatever was going to happen this season would be fundamentally different from the past 14 seasons in Philadelphia. Secondly, and most importantly, the new head coach was bringing something with him to the NFL that we had never seen before. This was not a radically fast-paced offense or sarcastic dealings with the media. What Chip Kelly was bringing with him was a way of thinking. At his core, Chip Kelly believes in a different way of running a football team.

At Oregon, Kelly molded a process and the results were undeniable. Calculated risk taking, confoundedly simple methods of play calling and a dominating disrespect for “the way things are done” at any level. This man was a pioneer and the Eagles were going to spend the next few years giving him a rare opportunity to set out and make waves. In the name of that mission and of progress, we were more than happy to sacrifice this season and maybe even the next. This was a football pilgrimage that gave us a final destination we could all believe in.

Last Sunday, Chip Kelly seemed like a man struggling with doubt. Repeated opportunities to apply his process of calculated aggression and unconventional methods presented themselves and his nerve fell by the wayside. This isn’t Madden 25. We all understand that. Nobody is expecting the Eagles to line up in the Shotgun formation on 4th and 7 from their own 23 yard line, but when you go into Denver to play Peyton Manning, you’d better be prepared to pull out all of the stops.

While Manning and his troops marched up and down the field without contest, the Eagles shriveled into a shell. There was no sign of that fearless tactician from Oregon on the sideline. Choosing to trade touchdowns for field goals with the best team in the league, Chip Kelly played it safe and eased conservatively into a 52-20 drubbing. The final score of that game could have been exactly the same had Kelly thrown the kitchen sink at the Broncos. They are the far more talented team and it’s simply not close. What’s important here, however is that the Philadelphia Eagles abandoned their process; they abandoned what makes them different from any other terrible NFL team. For Chip Kelly to do so this early into his first season is a betrayal.

The Philadelphia Eagles probably will not win many games over the next two seasons. That much is to be expected when transitioning from relative golden age in the Andy Reid era. Still, any amount of losses the Eagles sustain in that time needs to be in service of something. If Chip Kelly can embrace that notion and use this grace period to truly commit to his process in Philadelphia, he has a chance to do some real damage at the professional level. If what happened in Denver on Sunday is an omen of waivering that is to come, he may simply become one of many who “tried” to change the NFL.

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Conroy: The Philly Sports Top Ten

Vick

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

Spring is here in Philadelphia, and the local sports landscape is barren as can be. So I thought now is as good a time as ever to re-examine who the most important athletes in Philly are right now. I based my rankings on how much of an impact each athlete could potentially have on our sports world in the next year. Who holds the keys to the city? Before we answer that question, let’s recap a few key points from last year’s list.

Last Year’s Most Important

How much difference can one year make? You don’t need to look much further than last year’s number nine most important athlete in Philly. For one, he is no longer a member of the Philadelphia sports scene. In fact, he’s about as far from Philadelphia as the league he belongs to would allow him to go. I’m speaking, of course, of Nnamdi Asomugha. I referred to him last year as a “money pit.” This was partially meant as a joke at the time, but Nnamdi proved this label fairly accurate during his last campaign with the Eagles. There’s a lot to regret about how the whole relationship played out in the end, but Eagles fans can find solace in the fact that we no longer have to watch him try to cover someone or ring out Kurt Coleman ever again. Count your blessings.

Another pair of highlights from last year’s list were Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner. This time last year, most of us had thought that Iguodala would have been dealt for something of value and Turner would have blossomed into a beautiful shot-making butterfly. Neither of those things came to fruition and the Sixers faithful are looking at one of the ugliest roster situations in all of the NBA. Good thing Jrue Holiday opted to sign that extension months ago. I’m not entirely sure he would make decision today.

The List

Enough about last year. It’s time to figure out who holds the position of “Most Important Athlete” in all of Philadelphia Sports.

 

10. Ilya Bryzgalov

This is quite the fall for last year’s number two most important athlete and, to be honest, I struggled even ranking the Flyers’ embattled goaltender. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that any goaltender should make this list so long as the defense remains so ineffective. Bryz hasn’t exactly gone above and beyond as you’d expect from a goalie with his talent, but I’m not sure Bernie Parent, himself could hold up against the mind-numbingly consistent one-on-one situations the Flyers have allowed.

To say that his contract is a problem is lenient. His potential buyout may be the only means of creating the cap space needed to fix the defense. Steve Mason’s exemplary play towards the end of the season may make the decision a bit easier.If he is not bought out and remains with the team, it will be difficult to expect anything better from the Flyers in 2014.

9. Jrue Holiday

It’s difficult to put any member of the 76ers on this list for a very simple reason. The 76ers are not important and won’t be for a few years, save a move or a series of moves that would shock us all. The team gutted themselves involuntarily in the trade for Andrew Bynum. While I was and still am completely okay with that, the state of the franchise on the basis of meaning anything to the NBA is downright bleak.

The reason I’ve included Jrue Holiday has little to do with the position of his franchise. Jrue took massive steps this year, making his first ever all-star game. He became one of the top (uninjured) point guards in the Eastern conference and showed all of us Sixers fans the difference between genuine growth and whatever the hell it is Evan Turner’s doing.

Jrue is also important as an asset. If he does not weather the storm of futility that will be the next 3 years of 76ers basketball, a trade involving the young point guard could net a hefty gain. Whatever the Sixers do in the next few years, at least Philadelphia will have Holiday’s box score to follow.

8. Brayden Schenn / Sean Couturier

So the Flyers have this very highly touted prospect. He is a Center and can play both ways. He came to the Flyers as a result of a trade and performed well above expectations in his playoff debut. Last year, however, Philadelphia witnessed a bit of a downturn in his performance on the ice. He is not the shimmering ray of potential that he once seemed to be. I think it’s time we started seeing some more concrete production out of this young forward. He’s going to have to earn his reputation back.

Was I talking about Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier? You’re not sure? Neither am I, but I’m not so sure it matters anymore. These were the keys to the Flyers’ rebuild just one off-season ago and Philadelphia simply needs to see more production from them on the ice in 2014. Otherwise, the Flyers might have to rebuild all over again.

7. Claude Giroux

The leader always gets the credit when his team’s doing well. It’s only fair that. having been only the second Captain in the past 17 seasons who failed to lead the Flyers to a playoff berth, he takes some blame. I could make excuses such as his line mates being in flux for most of the year or his wingers missing open shots by embarrassing margins. I could even say that the Flyer’s abysmal defense forced Claude Giroux to focus less on his offensive game than he’d like.

As the Captain, however, there can be no excuses. Giroux set out to lead his team to the playoffs this season and he failed. That’s the way he has to look at it. It’s the way his team must look at it. Whether fair or unfair, the burden of the “C” is undeniable. Claude Giroux is the Captain and undisputed leader of the Philadelphia Flyers for the foreseeable future. This is his story to write and it began with an ugly stumble.

6. Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson or “Lame” Johnson, amirite? No? Okay we’ll move on.

This is more about this year’s draft class as a whole than Johnson on his own but the lineman represents one of the first true football decisions of a new coach. With his first ever first round selection, Andy Reid took Donavon Mcnabb. The two are now synonymous, seminal parts of Philadelphia sports history. Will this be the case for Chip Kelly and Lane Johnson? It’s difficult to compare situations as there is no greater football bond than that between a coach and his quarterback. Nevertheless, this was Chip Kelly’s first draft class and their level of success in the NFL can tell us a couple of things.

First, we will see if it was Howie Roseman or Andy Reid who botched so many draft choices in recent years. If Lane Johnson spends the next two seasons on the bench or struggling to stay afloat, Chip Kelly may survive but Roseman should be on the hot seat. Second, and more importantly, Eagles fans can learn just a little bit more about what makes a #4 overall caliber player in the mind of Chip Kelly,

5, Domonic Brown

He’s finally arrived! Or, wait..no nevermind he didn’t. Oh wait, yeah he definitely did! Can we make up our mind on this guy? Let me rephrase that question. Can this guy make up his mind on this guy? In all seriousness, I cannot tell whether Dominic Brown is a good player or not. One night, he’s a butcher in the outfield who doesn’t look comfortable with a routine fly ball. The next night, he’s flying through the sky like a tiger, lunging to make a Sportscenter top-10 highlight reel catch. Then there’s the matter of his batting which may be half as predictable as his fielding.

At the moment, it seems he’s put together a few good games in a row, but Phillies fans still can’t totally trust him. With such cornerstones as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley losing a bit of “it” every day, the fate of the Phils appears to rest solely upon the shoulders of this confusing young player. That scares me.

4. Lesean Mccoy

Kenjon Barner flourished in Chip Kelly’s system. He ran amok in the Pac-12. This could be a huge year for Lesean Mccoy as he enters his prime under the direction of one of the most progressive offensive minds in football. Mccoy is arguably one of the best backs in the league already, despite a down year in 2012. The opportunity is there for Lesean Mccoy to assert himself as the number one running back in all of the NFL. His success could also mean good things for an offensive line that has less pass protecting to do and a quarterback who has proved incapable of efficiently running a passing oriented offense.

3. Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels isn’t the most important athlete in Philadelphia but he sure as hell should be. He’s the home-grown, MVP ace of the only team to bring Philadelphia a championship since 1983. He gave us all a damn parade. As far as I’m concerned he can have at least the money his contract is worth and be terrible for the rest of his career and I wouldn’t be angry with him. I realize I’m in the minority here, but when you really sit down and think about it, Cole Hamels is an icon in Philadelphia sports and we rarely speak of him as such.

He chose to remain with this declining team last season and leave money on the table. He chose Philly over Los Angeles, over the Dodgers. He’s Philadelphia royalty and number three on my list.

2. Jason Peters

Boy, did the Eagles ever miss Jason Peters last season. The old adage goes:”You don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” and it’s completely applicable in Jason Peters’ situation. The offensive line went from being one of the most impressive units in all of football in 2011 to an absolute mess in 2012. Again I say, what a difference a year makes…

When we last saw Jason Peters, he was arguable the best player at the second most important position in his sport. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever see that player again. His twice-torn Achilles and a year off from the game will likely prevent a full return to power. It’s not all bad news, though as 80% of what Peters was could make 100% of the difference for the 2013-2014 Eagles team and bring stability to a unit that sorely needs it.

I don’t know how far the Eagles can go in 2014, but it’s not out of the question to think that, with a new coach and scheme, a healthy Philadelphia team could catch the league by surprise. Playoffs?! Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs!

Your winner…(long pause)…and STILL reigning champion is

1. Michael Vick

Football is stupid. Every single year, stupid things happen that simply cannot be explained. Whether this is due to the uniquely small sample size of the NFL regular season or the presence of extreme parity throughout the league, you can depend on having ample cause to scratch your head in the coming football year. Don’t kid yourself. A potential third act in the Michael Vick experience is in play here.

Perhaps the Eagles’ presumed starting quarterback’s 2010 season represented the “A New Hope” portion of this trilogy. Then his 2011-2013 years saw the “Empire” strike back. Is Philadelphia due for a “Return of the Jedi” scenario? Does that make Chip Kelly the “Yoda” figure in this narrative? But then who’s the “Han Solo” here? I’ve gotten totally off-track with this analogy haven’t I?

Anyway you slice this number one ranking, you can’t avoid a depressing thought. There really isn’t a great pool of competition this year. Also, when considering the parameters of this list, you’d have to admit that Michael Vick possesses the most potential to affect the world of Philadelphia sports in the coming year. If he can recapture some of that post-reinstatement magic once more, the Eagles can make a significant run. An NFL playoff game in South Philadelphia would blow anything that’s happened in the past 1,210 comparatively flaccid days.

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Conroy: How To Train Your Quarterback

genoopenn

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

The 2012-13 NFL Regular Season was nothing short of remarkable. It was a season that should radically change the way we view Quarterback prospects. In the wake of the success that talents like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have enjoyed, we must now question just what our criteria should be for a “Franchise Quarterback” moving forward.  With 35 players hearing their name called before Kaepernick and 76 before Wilson, it’s fair to assume that our current definition for the ideal signal caller may be outdated.

A “Worthy” Pick

In any discussion of the immanent 2013 NFL draft, seemingly the first point made is that there is no clear-cut “Franchise Quarterback” available. Not only is that statement completely unfair to those prospects, it is unfair to the people who evaluate them. Let’s examine just what makes a player a “worthy” selection in the NFL Draft.

When personalities like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd Mcshay decry this year’s Quarterback class, they do so based upon prospective draft value from a largely economic perspective. These draft experts didn’t rate Russell Wilson based upon what they thought he’d eventually become in the NFL – Although that is a small part of their thinking – they were rating him based upon his value in a draft scenario. To put it another way, draft pundits base their rankings heavily upon availability at any given time during the draft. From their perspective, the timing of a draft selection is just as important as the quality of the prospect.

Keeping that in mind, when the statement “There are no first-round caliber Quarterbacks in this year’s draft” is made, in no way does that mean there is no Quarterback worth drafting. That is a leap that many Philly fans seem to have made and I hope, for their sake, that the Philadelphia Eagles organization has not. If, at any point during the past few months, Chip Kelly or Howie Roseman saw something special in a prospect, their perceived value in a draft scenario should not enter into their decision making process.

In summary, it is absolutely absurd to proclaim that the Philadelphia Eagles cannot find their Quarterback of the future in this year’s draft. Players like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and, yes, even Tom Brady are active testaments to that sentiment. What is important is whether or not the Eagles believe in his skillset enough to make him an early pick.

Playing a Name Game

Chip Kelly claims that he can adapt his system to any player. Until he proves otherwise, I’m inclined to believe him, especially considering his only youthful alternatives are Nick Foles and Dennis Dixon. Ignoring their perceived “Draft Value,” there are certainly a bevy of intriguing prospects at the Quarterback position in 2013.

Geno Smith tops the list as the most prospect most likely to be selected early on. In short, he’s a stud talent with great tools. Smith is capable of being everything you’d want your franchise Quarterback to be. He’s accurate, tall, athletic, and above all, he makes good decisions. The drawback with Geno Smith is the fact that his production fell off a cliff down the stretch during this past college season. There’s also the issue of his drop off in decision making when placed in high pressure situations. Overall, the potential outweighs any cause for concern.

Where I stand on Geno Smith: I’ll take him.

Matt Barkley is not Mark Sanchez. I have to tell myself that at least three times a day as long as he remains a candidate for the Eagles’ starting Quarterback position. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve followed his career religiously. Any opinion I have about Barkley stems from about four or five nationally televised games that I made it a point to watch. That being said, I didn’t see anything in those opportunities that would make me think about spending a pick in the first two rounds on him.

At a glance, the offense that he operated seemed to be of the down-the-field, low-percentage variety. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how his numbers could have changed so drastically from one year to the next. Still, inconsistency at the Quarterback position can be infuriating to a fan base and I can’t imagine Philadelphia fans giving him too much time to sort things out.

Where I stand on Matt Barkley: HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…HE’S NOT MARK SANCHEZ…

Tyler Wilson is an interesting prospect…okay I lied, he totally isn’t. In Wilson, you’ve got possibly the most stereotypical Quarterback that could go in the first round. Don’t get me wrong, that could be a good thing in the long run. I know everyone is swooning over Colin Kaepernick and this new “read-option” mobile attack, but as we’ve seen, these things are cyclical in the NFL. Despite what Trent Dilfer might think, someone is going to “write the book” on that offense and the teams employing it will be forced to adjust. If you’re looking to avoid that eventual obstacle, you might be inclined to take Wilson, an accurate, intelligent pocket passer with good size and some athleticism.

Where I stand on Tyler Wilson: Not a great fit.

Mike Glennon is a guy that I’d like to avoid for one simple reason; he’s inaccurate. Above all, my biggest pet peeve regarding Quarterbacks is an inability to hit your targets consistently. A player like Glennon could have major struggles in the NFL.

Where I stand on Mike Glennon: I’ll pass…

Landry Jones would be a solid addition to any franchise. He’s accurate, experienced, and as statistically consistent as a college prospect can possibly be. Jones has played in plenty of important games and won some on the road. the University of Oklahoma enjoyed their time with him and I believe that the city of Philadelphia would as well.

I have no real criticism to offer regarding Landry Jones. I like him a ton and wouldn’t fault the Eagles for taking him off the board as early as the second round.

Where I stand on Landry Jones: I like him.

Tyler Bray reminds me a ton of Jay Cutler. I like Jay Cutler. I hate Jay Cutler. This could be one of those toss-up relationships where either the fan base despises him or adores him. He’s got a sensational arm, great size and a bad attitude. I’ve seen him stick his facemask right in the grill of a defensive lineman after the whistle. I don’t know what was said between the two players but Bray was grinning from ear to ear. In short, I think this could be a homerun pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is an immense talent, a strong leader and doesn’t take any guff. Inconsistent in the best possible way, if anyone else on this list is a first round caliber talent, Tyler Bray is as well.

Where I stand on Tyler Bray: He’d look good in green.

So You Have Your Quarterback

Regardless of which Quarterback (if any) the Eagles eventually settle on, it will become Chip Kelly and Pat Shurmur’s (Shurmur? Really, guys?) responsibility to make sure that the offensive system is tailored to suit his strengths. This isn’t as simple a task as one might initially assume. Though we’ve seen Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and the Shanahan(ahan)s have early success in this area, there are also ample examples of this sort of endeavor dooming a coaching staff, i.e. Shurmur’s Browns and Mike Mularky’s Jaguars.

I’d like to think that, given enough time to polish things off, any coach could cultivate a system that would suit their specific talent at the Quarterback position. The problem, however is that few coaches can reasonably expect to be afforded that kind of time before organizational changes are made. The trick to being successful in this situation in maintaining patience within reason. The Philadelphia Eagles have hired a coach in Chip Kelly whose approach to football allows for that patience while also demanding constant measured evaluation. In theory, Kelly seems like the best possible candidate for the job. Still, as Eagles fans have been made painfully aware of in recent years, what looks good on paper doesn’t always come to fruition.

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Conroy: The Flyers, A New Hope

Giroux

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

Three days ago, if there was one word in the English dictionary that would aptly describe the state of professional sports in Philadelphia, that word is hopeless. The juggernaut that was the 2008-2011 Phillies collapsed into rubble last season and the Reid-era Eagles were finally laid to rest. With the 76ers almost out of ways to avoid a total rebuild, the Philadelphia sports scene had descended into darkness.

Suddenly, out on the cold, foggy horizon, a bright orange light appeared. News started to trickle out in bits and pieces on twitter. Countless sources began to indicate that the NHL lockout was nearing an end. Dawn was breaking for Philadelphia sports fans. Miraculously, on Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2013 season was saved.

The most relevant professional sports team in Philadelphia will begin their season this weekend. They will do so against the Penguins, cross-state rivals, Stanley Cup favorites, and employers of two of the best four hockey players in the world. For the first time in months, a meaningful sporting event will take place in Philly and fans are responding. Already setting a record for attendance at Sunday’s practice session, (we talkin’ bout practice) Philadelphia seems ready to embrace this spirited sprint of an NHL season.

Setting aside those emotions, the Flyers’ opening week of action offers little opportunity to shake off the rust. The team will play three of their first four games within the division. All three of those division opponents qualified for the playoffs last season and will be looking to establish an early advantage in the Atlantic division. Of course, this presents as much of an opportunity for the Flyers as it does an obstacle. If the team can get off to a fast start, they can quickly create some breathing room for themselves in the playoff hunt.

Reliably, the Flyers have managed to create some conflict surrounding the goalie position even before the season has begun, re-acquiring the ageless Brian Boucher from the Carolina Hurricanes. Cosmonaut, philosopher, and Chinese tiger law enthusiast, Ilya Bryzgalov will have his work cut out for him dispelling any controversy when he makes his first start of the season against the NHL’s top scoring team.

New face, Luke Schenn will be a key component in making life easier for his goalie, joining a defense that struggled for long stretches of their 2011-2012 campaign. With Chris Pronger likely to retire, the defense needs find some consistency if the Flyers are going to make a deep postseason push. The experience of returning veterans, Kimmo Timonen and Nicklas Grossman should go a long way to stabilize that unit.

Goaltending and defense important as they may be, it’s no secret what the bread and butter of this Philadelphia Flyers team is. Led by their soon-to-be captain, Claude Giroux, the offense is poised for a breakout season. With exciting young talents like Matt Read, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Wayne Simmonds the unit has become impressively deep and dynamic. The only true question regarding the Flyers offense is who will have the pleasure of playing right wing on the top line with Giroux. It looks like Brayden Schenn will get the first crack at it. Last year, Scott Hartnell flourished on the top line, posting a career best 35 goals. Whoever seizes that top line spot could enjoy similar success.

The 2013 Flyers make their debut at 3PM this Saturday before a national audience. The excitement is mounting for what is sure to feel like a playoff game at the Wells Fargo Center. From the dull, lifeless ashes of 2012-2013 Philadelphia sports, a new hope has emerged.

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Conroy: A Sixers Question And Answer Session

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

They get money. Don’t be mad, now. Stop, hatin’ is bad. The Philadelphia 76ers did exactly what we wanted them to last year. They won a playoff round and played a tough second series against the Celtics. That was the goal that had been established earlier in the season by the most optimistic Sixers fans. Yet somehow, through the ups and downs of the season, we still found a way to be a bit disappointed in them.

That’s the beauty of sports; the ability of the many twists and turns of a season to pull us all out of our analytical, logical way of thinking. It injects some emotion into our dull lives, and that’s a good thing; in most cases. Still, I feel like we owe it to the team and ourselves, this time around, to pay a little more attention to those realistic expectations as this season moves forward.

Last week, in New Orleans, I could already feel the rage boiling up inside as the Sixers bricked seventeen 3’s against the Hornets. Then I found myself all excited again following a damn fun win in Boston. After Monday night’s fourth quarter collapse against Milwaukee, I felt enough was enough. It may be necessary to step back for a moment and evaluate my own expectations before I go insane.

Is this team a contender for a championship? Do we really need them to make the playoffs? Where does Swaggy-P’s irrational confidence end? Did Jrue Holiday just do another point-guardy thing? All of this and more comin’ atcha!

Are the Philadelphia 76ers championship contenders this season?

(Having a healthy chortle to myself) Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean they are the most horrible thing in the world either.

This week, the 76ers gave all Philly sports fans something new to freak out about when they announced that Andrew Bynum will most likely not be playing basketball until January (at the earliest). As devastating as that may feel, it actually isn’t that big a deal for two reasons.

First, it’s unclear whether or not Andrew Bynum actually exists. Think about it, have you ever seen him play?

Second, this isn’t a championship roster with the big man in the lineup anyway.This season is about development and as ugly as the Philadelphia 76ers have looked in their first three losses of the 2012-2013 season, there are some very positive things developing in Andrew Bynum’s absence.

Jrue Holiday looks very promising at point-guard. He’s not Chris Paul, but he certainly looks like he plays the same position on the court – which was absolutely not the case in the eyes of basketball dummies like myself last season.

Another positive, for me is that Spencer Hawes doesn’t look awful. If you sort of squint and catch him in your peripherals, he actually looks pretty darn good at basketball. Also, that whole Doug Collins “power forward” idea looks like it might be nothing more than a pipe dream, which is good news for most reasonable Sixers fans. I, however, still hold out hope for this. I mean, is Spencer Hawes really that different from Pau Gasol? They’re both white. They’re both tall and can shoot sometimes.

The next positive is that Nick Young’s contract is a one-year deal. I don’t think there’s ever been a player more consistently likely to make it onto Sportscenter without playing well. When he retires, the Not-Top-10 Hall of Fame is going to be calling about that jersey.

To circle back, it is not realistic to expect this team to contend for a championship this season.

What are some “realistic” goals for this team, then?

That’s a great question. You have a lot of great questions.

Well, as I’ve mentioned before, seeing Jrue Holiday develop as a true point guard is seminal to the long-term success of the team. Next, it is important that Doug Collins proves emphatically, that Evan Turner can’t play. Mere embers remain of the once vibrant flame that was “Team Evan.” If we’re going to move forward as a fan base, he needs as much playing time as possible in order to stamp that out.

Finally, and most importantly, Andrew Bynum needs to get healthy and feel good about playing for Sixers; good enough to re-sign in the off-season. Bynum is the reason a total rebuild wasn’t necessary for this team and without that component, it’s back to the drawing board. In order to keep him here, the organization needs to show him that they care about his health and success. In being so careful with the big fella, they have been attempting to do just that. The next step in that process is making him feel comfortable with the long-term players on this team. It’s on Doug Collins to make sure that, once Andrew Bynum is able to play, he finds success.

You may have noticed that I did not include a specific number of “wins” required for this season to be considered a success. That’s because, in this case, the win total for this year’s 76ers is almost completely irrelevant. I know that’s not what most people want to hear, but if you’ve been paying attention, you know that there is plenty to root for regarding this team aside from victory on the scoreboard. The 76ers are building something here. The walls aren’t painted, there’s no electricity and the carpet guy hasn’t been out yet, but there’s a definite plan here; which is more than we could say for the past twelve years.

If all goes well, what will it take to finally make this team a title contender?

The way things work in the NBA, even if everything the 76ers need to happen does this year, the team is going to need to find a second “star” player; an effective scoring option to pair with Andrew Bynum. This is much easier said than done, but if Bynum proves to be what we all hope he will for the Sixers, Philly will certainly be a more attractive destination for free agents than it has been. Still, regarding the second “star” player, it’s better to take the long view and plan for that at least two years from now. I conferred with an expert analyst on the matter and this year’s options don’t seem viable to him.

Me: Hey Spike, do you think Chris Paul would be somebody the 76ers are interested in this off-season?

Me: (heartbroken but still defiantly hopeful) Hmm…well then how about a more realistic option? Maybe somebody like Josh Smith? He’s looked pretty good lately right?

Me: Oh…well okay… =(

The underlying point to all of this micro-managing of expectations is to avoid a trap that Philadelphia fans seem to fall into more often, and with greater ease than anyone else. That trap is thinking that a team that loses; that has no shot to win a championship isn’t worth your time. As I’ve said, there will be a TON to root for regarding the 2012-2013 Philadelphia 76ers. At times, they will even be fun to watch (maybe). They will have their ups and downs, but through it all, we can keep our eyes fixed on the light at the end of the tunnel — just like a college student. It’s like we’re in 76ers college and when we graduate, instead of a degree, we get a good basketball team…or something.

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Conroy: Eagles Missing Key Ingredient For Success, Trust

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

Too many football fans fall into the trap of overvaluing a team’s talent. While stacking your team with gifted athletes can certainly give you an edge, it isn’t ability alone that ultimately wins out in the National Football League, it’s trust.

The NFL is truly a spectacular mess right now. Across the sport, bad teams are competing with good teams with stunning consistency. Still, if you’re watching closely, there is a winning formula to be deciphered.

Winning teams like Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, and Atlanta all have one thing in common. The players on the field and in those locker rooms, the coaches and even the owners, trust each other, and it shows. Whether it’s in a winning effort or not, those teams are on the same page. They sacrifice for each other, learn from mistakes and, for better or worse, shoulder the responsibility together. After identifying trust as the essential ingredient in this winning formula, it becomes much easier to see why a talented team like the Philadelphia Eagles has struggled so mightily.

Since the “Dream Team” was assembled, the Philadelphia Eagles have had a nervous energy about them. The team introduced new coaches on the offensive and defensive lines and promoted offensive line coach, Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator in a whirlwind of change.

From day one, it was clear that Castillo was going to be fighting an uphill battle. For a fresh crop of young defensive players, the coach may have been well received, but for a highly skilled, highly touted group of free agent stars, the move was met with skepticism. It seemed like Nnamdi Asomugha immediately recognized the limitations of his new coach. A free agent star cornerback determined to succeed in a big market would remember such limitations if ever things were to go wrong. This attitude had, without a doubt, spread throughout the Eagles’ locker room.

The defense could never wholeheartedly trust their coach. They had a built-in excuse for failure and it showed on game day.

Jim Washburn’s presence only compounded the issue when he assumed a militaristic command of the defensive line. From the outset, Washburn seemed to alienate his squad, separating the defensive line almost entirely from the rest of the defense. Irresponsibly, Jim Washburn made the defensive line a separate entity, effectively absolving them of responsibility for the failings of their teammates.

Howard Mudd began his tenure with the Eagles on a positive note. His new blocking schemes seemed to be a revelation for the Eagles’ running game. Recently, Mudd’s contributions have eroded with the talent on the offensive line. A major free agent commitment and first-round selection are flailing in their coach’s system. Why should those players believe that Mudd has their best interests in mind? He is a proprietor of the only offensive scheme in which they have ever failed to succeed.

Perhaps the most volatile element of the Philadelphia Eagles is the starting quarterback position. Michael Vick has struggled for the better part of his last 22 games as an Eagle. He can’t trust his offensive line to protect him and he can’t trust his receivers to make plays. Now it seems he has lost the ability to trust what he has depended on since the first time he picked up a football; his own ability. Losing a step, just a single step, can destroy the confidence of a mobile quarterback. It was evident with Mcnabb and now it’s evident with Vick.

Despite their personal failings to date, Washburn, Mudd, Vick and Castillo represent something far more important. They represent the decisions of the head coach; one who had previously looked infallible in the eyes of his subordinates. Andy Reid’s decisions in 2011 tested the trust of the entire organization in it’s Head Coach. Last week, that trust was completely destroyed.

When Reid fired Castillo, he sent a message to every member of his organization that he is capable of mis-evaluating as important a position as defensive coordinator. If he’s capable of making such a big mistake, the players and coaches in the locker room have to assume Reid is capable of making mistakes elsewhere. Did he make a mistake with the O-line coach? Did he make a mistake with the gameplan? Has he made a mistake at quarterback? These are all questions that will plague the least-entrenched members of the Philadelphia Eagles organization if the losses keep coming.

For years, the Philadelphia media has anticipated this situation. Andy Reid is finally at a crossroads. Whatever credibility, respect, or trust had previously been handed to the coach of 13+ years has been spent. Reid may have a couple of games to prove to his players and coaches that he can make the right decisions; the right decisions for his players, for the coaches he’s hired and for the organization. For 13 years, Andy Reid has been taking full responsibility. For 13 years, he’s admitted he needs to do a better job. If he really can, now is the time. This may be Andy’s last chance.

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Conroy: Michael Vick’s Fourth Quarter Comebacks Making History

Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.

Michael Vick:

13/20 159 yards 1 TD Rushing: 5/33 yards 1 TD QB Rating: 106.0

% of total offense: 68

Eli Manning:

6/9 126 yds 1 TD 1 INT QB Rating: 107.2

% of total offense: 64%

In the latest installment of the maddeningly unpredictable ongoing series that is Michael Vick’s career, a bizarre trend is materializing. Many are aware of Vick’s constant battle with decision-making and his affinity for making bad situations worse (sometimes in spectacular fashion). For this reason, many may find this developing pattern, and its subsequent comparison, baffling.

The Eagles are 3-1 through their first four games this season. While their record may not be surprising, the manner by which it was achieved certainly was. In all three of the Eagles’ wins thus far, a late 4th quarter, game-winning drive was required. That’s a tall order even for some of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL. In a show of impressive resiliency, Michael Vick has come through for the Eagles whenever he’s had the opportunity.

Just how impressive have Michael Vick’s late game heroics been? For the answer, look no further than the performance of an ELIte quarterback just one year ago. (Do you see what I did there? No one has ever used that before right…right?)  Eli Manning made history in 2011, posting a stunning EIGHT game-winning fourth quarter drives. Still, it took until week 6 for the New York Giants’ signal caller to match Vick’s current total. The comparison between these two late-game heroes is even more compelling upon closer inspection.

“Clutch”

As is stated above, Michael Vick has had three opportunities this year to be “clutch”; to drive his team down the field to a 4th quarter, game-winning score. Thus, a fair comparison would warrant examination of Eli’s first three opportunities in 2011. Most importantly, overall record in these situations should be considered. Vick edges Manning here with an impressive 3-0. Eli converted on two of his first three attempts. As erratic as Philly’s quarterback has been at times, it’s hard to believe that he has been more reliable than his Giants counterpart in 2011.

Taking a Closer Look

While Michael Vick has posted a better overall record in these close games, it is a common misconception that Manning is simply rELIed on to do more. (Again, do you see what I was able to do here? It’s gold!) Taking a closer look, the statistics polygraph has determined that is a lie. During these late-game adventures, Michael Vick has had the ball placed in his hands on 68% of the plays. That’s 4% higher than Eli’s rate through his first three such drives in 2011. This really brings Andy Reid’s trust in his quarterback to light for a few reasons.

For one, Michael Vick had not been exceptional through the first three and a half quarters of most of these games. This would lead most coaches to take the ball out of his hands in crunch time, but Andy had the courage of his convictions and deserves some credit. After all, it’s his job that’s on the line. Another reason this reliance on Vick is surprising is that, for the most part, there has been plenty of time left on the clock during these late-game drives. The running game was certainly still a viable option in most of these cases.

Eli Gets One

There just had to be one area where Eli Manning and his 201l campaign could gain an advantage over Vick. It’s true, Manning’s quarterback rating of 107.2 during his first three game-winning opportunities is impressive. Connecting on 6 of his 9 pass attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown, Eli made his presence felt. What kept his rating down, however was a soul-crushing pick-6 that the New York quarterback threw at the goal line, in the waning moments of a home game vs. the Seahawks.

Michael Vick certainly has had his share of head-scratching throws this season, but few have come during his comeback bids. He’s hit his targets on 13 of 20 attempts for 159 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles’ savior has also made use of his legs, rushing 5 times for 33 yards and another score. It should be noted that this success on the ground doesn’t even factor into Vick’s impressive 106.0 quarterback rating on game-winning drives.

What Does it Mean?

Is Michael Vick a better quarterback than Eli Manning? No. I’m fairly certain that, aside from a few die-hard Vick fans, there will be little argument here. Still, the stats would suggest that what Michael Vick is doing this season in the 4th quarter is special. It’s entirely possible that Philadelphia’s quarterback is making some history of his own. There’s a lot of football left to be played, and there are sure to be some bumps along the way, but if Michael Vick is building a “dynasty,” these fourth quarter drives make for a solid foundation.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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