Tag Archive | "Mike 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: 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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Conroy: The Eagles Cannot Win The Super Bowl

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’s a common belief that, no matter the magnitude, one loss only counts as one loss. For the Eagles, yesterday’s debacle in Arizona counts as a lot, lot more. Through the first two weeks of the 2012 season, the Eagles had overcome seemingly unsustainable misfortune, stumbling clumsily to a hollow 2-0 record. After Michael Vick led the way to a go-ahead touchdown on the final drive against Baltimore, Philadelphia fans were inspired to believe that, beneath the disorganization, carelessness and chaos, a Super Bowl contender laid dormant. After 3 weeks, the sample size is now large enough to draw some conclusions that would point to the contrary.

Conclusion #1

Michael Vick is no longer a starting caliber NFL quarterback.

It’s been the source of a sense of dread that most Eagles fans have felt but explained away for over a year now, watching Michael Vick lead this offense. The entertaining highlights and reputation that accompany a player like Vick have gone a long way to mask a disturbing trend that has surfaced during his tenure with Philly. This most glaring fact that Eagles fans must come to terms with is that Michael Vick is no longer a good player.

This honestly isn’t an arguable fact (it’s not a fact, it’s an opinion, and it is arguable, -spike) but for those who choose to disregard what their eyes are telling them, consider this: Michael Vick is currently the 29th rated quarterback in the NFL. He is rated behind Blaine Gabbert, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jake Locker, all of whom are considered to be the biggest reason their respective teams are not a threat to win a super bowl. Additionally, Michael Vick has led the league in turnovers since the start of the 2011 season.

This is important because the biggest difference between a starting quarterback and his potential replacement is his tendency to turn the ball over. It is absolutely reasonable to assume that Nick Foles, Trent Edwards, or even Mike Kafka could give the Eagles more efficient quarterback play. Thus, a strong argument can be made that Michael Vick is no longer above his replacement level.

Conclusion #2

We have seen the best Andy Reid has to offer.

When a band releases their first “Greatest Hits” album, it’s pretty much a lock that their best work is behind them. In 2004, Andy Reid released his last platinum record. We saw the most successful manifestation of his “plan” for the Eagles and it just wasn’t good enough. That’s not to say that Andy Reid cannot be successful or even show some glimpses of the brilliance he once possessed, but to expect a return to that level on a consistent basis is unrealistic at this point.

With that in mind, one question looms over Philadelphia. What are the Eagles doing? On one hand, you have a coach whose sole focus should be on finishing with a record “substantially better” than 8-8. Thus, the notion of benching the irresponsible Michael Vick in lieu of an unproven commodity like Nick Foles is inert. Andy Reid has no choice in the matter. Making a change at quarterback is tantamount to handing in his resignation.

On the other hand, you have a quarterback who is rapidly declining in an offense that demands more from him than ever before. As the season drags on, this volatile situation is going to become toxic. While the coach is trying desperately to salvage the present and the quarterback struggles to hold onto his past, fans will begin to realize that what matters most is the team’s future; a future that does not include either.

Conclusion #3

The Philadelphia Eagles CANNOT win the Super Bowl.

On the last snap of the first half, Sunday, Michael Vick rolled to the right, straight into oncoming pressure, and was strip-sacked from behind. The ball was picked up by the Cardinals and returned, with zero seconds remaining on the clock, for a game breaking touchdown. This is damning in a few respects. For one, this is a play the Eagles have seen many times at the goal line in since 2010. A similar defensive play call was employed just last week when Vick almost fumbled his team to their first loss of the season.

To think that, not only has the team made no discernible progress in dealing with this situation, but they seem to have gotten worse is nonsensical. Whether this is a failure of the coaches to make adjustments or the quarterback’s limited understanding of opposing defenses, the results on the field speak for themselves.

Another troubling part of this play was the fact that Vick held the ball until the clock ran out. At the 1-yard line, with a deafening crowd, when the best weapon on your team is a running back, the only justification for throwing the football is keeping the possibility of a field goal open. When Vick held the ball so long, he ensured that the only advantage to keeping it out of Lesean Mccoy’s hands was eliminated. This is the type of lazy, sloppy, irresponsible behavior has spread through the team like a fungus in recent years.

This brings a larger point to light. In a league where the talent has become so evenly distributed; where parity is rampant, what separates good teams from championship teams is their attention to detail, preparation, in-game adjustments and situational football. The Eagles have proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are lacking in all of these areas.

Regardless of the outcome, the Eagles have entered every single one of their first three games unprepared. The offense has been maddeningly slow to adjust to opposing defensive schemes. The Eagles do not pay attention to detail, they do not play situational football, how can they be legitimate super bowl contenders?

While many will be hiding behind the hackneyed drivel that is “it’s just one game,” I urge you to understand something. When you claim that the Eagles can contend for a super bowl, you are arguing against all available evidence. There is nothing that the Philadelphia Eagles have shown to indicate that they are capable of being as consistent and efficient as a world champion needs to be.

Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” This may be the 19th time in three seasons that this Eagles team has shown us who they are. Can we please, at long last, believe them?

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Conroy: The 2012 Phillies Stink, But It’s Nobody’s Fault

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.

Those damned, dirty Phillies are ruining our summer. How could Reuben Amaro Jr. do this to us loyal fans? How could Charlie Manuel put us through such agony? The players clearly don’t care about winning and it’s time to trade and fire everyone.

Okay, that was a little engagement in some hyperbolic sarcasm. I can’t actually join the angry mob that is forming over at Citizen’s Bank Park even though I’m bored and I REALLY want to. The truth is that Charlie Manuel has never been a great manager but he is better now then he was when the Phillies won the world series in 2008. We can’t get mad at Michael Martinez for being Michael Martinez either. As for Ruben Amaro, maybe this is a “me problem” but I will never be able to attack a general manager for going out and spending gobs of money on the best talent available. My heart just wouldn’t be in it. With all of that in mind, I feel it’s important that we, as a fan base, collectively come to one realization. The Philadelphia Phillies are a bad baseball team and it’s nobody’s fault.

If you were to ask me if this season has been a disappointment, I’d reply with a question of my own: “Do you still beat your wife?” That’s because your question is a loaded one. I think we need to identify what our expectations were coming into a season with a worse roster, one year older. If you didn’t expect a step back, you were being unreasonable. The problem is that no one knew how to quantify that expected drop off. There was no way to tell how far the team would fall as a result of injury, aging, and turnover on the depth chart.

As of right now, the Phillies sit four games below .500 and everybody has their own solution to this “problem.” I’m writing this to tell you that you’re wrong. You’re wrong and you should stop wasting your time. There is no bright young talent for this team in the minor leagues. There is no blockbuster trade that is going to return the team to title contender status. We have exhausted all of the team’s resources in pursuit of the success that we’ve enjoyed during the past five seasons…and that’s okay.

When a perennial championship contender falls from it’s pedestal in a city, the situation can be categorized in one of two ways. One of these categories is divorce. This is, by far, Philadelphia’s favorite way to process the loss of a title contending team. It’s very simple, we get to pick sides, gossip and our anger can be directed at clearly defined targets as we see fit. The fans have lost something, but we get to make someone pay for it. The loss of our 2008-2011 Phillies simply cannot be processed this way. That team lived a vibrant life, accomplished many great things, realized it’s dream; our dream as a world champion and now it’s gone. This falls under the category of death. In Philly, we hate accepting this point of view because in this scenario, there is simply nobody to blame; no one to direct our anger at.

We went through our denial phase before the year when we signed a $50 million closer to an aging team that had assuredly taken a massive step backwards with the loss of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley as we knew him. Next came anger, which we have directed towards just about anyone we possibly could. From Reuben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel to Michael Martinez, Mike Fontenot, and even our beloved Chase Utley, they’ve all been the “reason” we lost our Phillies this summer.

Next up was bargaining. During this phase is when you heard all of the talk about “treading water” until Halladay, Utley and Howard come back. Countless media members brought up how much of a second-half team this is and that if the team could just get in to the post-season, then anything could happen. For the past week or two, Philadelphia has been in the depression phase. The fans have finally realized how bleak the situation is and that the team just simply isn’t who they were anymore. The run of division titles; the dominance over the National League is over.

Now we have finally come to face the most difficult stage of grief: acceptance. Our dominant Phillies are dead and gone. It won’t be an upset when they lose anymore. We all won’t “expect” to see a win everytime we spend money on a ticket to a game. The time has come for us to accept these facts and move on. I am asking you all to just move on. Stop all of the trade talk and stop pointing fingers. This team has given us fans so much to cheer for since 2008. The core of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Cole Hamels provided fans with everything we could have asked for. They brought us wins, excitement, consistent playoff success and above all, this team brought Philadelphia a world championship. This had to end at some point. The fans needed to pay for all of it but I wouldn’t give the time and experiences we had with that team back just to avoid the pain we are feeling now.

So go to the games and cheer for the team. Enjoy the treat of watching Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee pitch for as long as they remain here. Take in the at-bats of our captain, Jimmy Rollins who has been a symbol for one of the most successful teams in Philadelphia sports history. Do all of these things and don’t agonize over the many losses this hollowed team will undoubtedly suffer.  For a world series in Philly, for the memories the team gave us, we can watch some ugly baseball for the next few years and do it with a smile on our faces.

 

 

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Conroy: The Top Ten Most Important Athletes In Philadelphia

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.

Summer is here in Philadelphia, and the sports landscape is barren as can be. So I thought I’d take a minute or 360 to 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?

10. Chris Pronger

The boys call him (Cap)tain down at the Wells Fargo Center and in a lot of ways, Chris Pronger represents what Philly has been about in recent years. A huge name free agent signing that was heralded as the “answer” to our championship problem. Though in previous years his importance might hinge on his play on the ice, this year the focus should be on his employment status.

The NHL salary cap is pretty confusing in a lot of areas and the rule concerning retirement is certainly one of them. Unlike in the NFL, if Chris Pronger decides to retire, his massive cap hit will remain with the Flyers. With the team in need of an overhaul on defense, that cap space could be seminal to the success of the team.

If Pronger should decide to return to hockey, a serious question looms about his ability as a defensemen going forward. If he can be pursuaded to remain here with “Long Term Injury” status, the Flyers would be better off. The team can find a replacement who’s salary does not exceed that of the injured player which, in this case, is humangus beeg right?

Whatever Pronger decides will directly impact the Flyers’ ability to return their defense to just a league-average level. We’re gonna need that to even begin to evaluate our 9-year franchise goalie … which is kind of important.

9. Nnamdi Asomugha

Hey look, another money pit!

While I may detest the infatuation Philly has developed with big name free agents recently, I really couldn’t find anything wrong with this signing at the time of the announcement.

Nnamdi Asomugha was absolutely one of the best two cornerbacks and top ten defensive players in the entire NFL. He is a consumate professional with a fantastic work ethic and attitude. Last year, however, he just wasn’t the same player. Don’t get me wrong, I believe he actually played pretty well considering the circumstances but Nnamdi was not brought here to play “pretty well”.

This is the kind of player that a coach designs an entire game plan around on most weeks, rotating his receivers and creating new formations just to avoid him. The Eagles were coined the “Dream Team” based on that reputation; Asomugha’s reputation. He did not live up to the hype.

If the Eagles have even a thought about playing in the Super Bowl in 2013, Nnamdi Asomugha needs to stop being a great cover corner and return to being a black hole occupying an entire half of the field.

8. Cole Hamels

Much like Chris Pronger, Cole Hamels’ importance to Philadelphia is based entirely on his decisions off of the field. Most assume he will sign elsewhere at the end of this season. I will tell you that I don’t think the Phillies can contend in this division if that happens.

Call me an optimist, but I still believe there is a chance he stays.

With all of the talent the Phillies have had at pitcher in the past few seasons, a case can be made that our very own, home grown King Cole has been the best. Keeping him on the roster is the biggest personnel move the front office could possibly make this season.

If the Phillies can get out from under the Roy Halladay contract due to his current injury, signing Cole Hamels is entirely possible. With our World Series MVP (Just like Roy Halladay Cliff Lee) as the center piece, a quick re-tooling and getting some key players back in the lineup may put the Phillies right back in the discussion for a title. Otherwise, it could be a while before the next Red October.

7. Andre Iguodala

“Nowadays, everybody wants to talk like they’ve got something to say but nothing comes out when they move their lips. It’s just a bunch of jibberish and (Philly fans) act like they forgot about ‘Dre”.

I’m about 80% sure that hip-hop artist Eminem wrote those words over a decade ago about Andre Iguodala’s situation with the 76ers. I could be wrong though.

Iggy (sorry, Dre) certainly had his moments this season. As the much-maligned leader of our island of misfit toy 76ers, Andre has proven his worth. Still, as valuable a player he is, he may be an even more valuable asset.

Rumors surfaced last week about a potential deal involving Andre Iguodala and the Toronto Raptors. Essentially the trade would net the 76ers a top ten draft pick…in a so-so draft.

I guess what Sixers fans should be asking themselves is whether that draft pick has any shot whatsoever at bringing Philly a title before Andre could. I’d say we’d be lucky to grab a player the caliber of Iguodala at that spot in this draft. Regardless of the salary difference, this would most likely be an immediate downgrade.

The 76ers’ playoff success and general direction in the coming years will depend heavily on what is done with Iguodala. Questions remain about whether this team will be blown up despite this season’s success. You’d have to believe this decision will help to determine how long Doug Collins’ tenure in Philadelphia lasts. Making this trade will toss everything up in the air and once that happens, there’s no telling what will come back down.

6. DeMeco Ryans

The quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense has arrived. Having demonstrated his leadership and defensive skills for years as a Houston Texan, acquiring Demeco Ryans has created a Nnamdi-like buzz around the Novacare Complex right now. This guy (Gruden voice) brings a level of experience to this linebacking core that cannot be over-emphasized.

In a scheme like the wide 9, the responsibilites of the linebackers are magnified because gaps open much (wide)r along the defensive line.

Last season, teams exploited our young linebackers’ lack of experience with those gap responsibilities ad nauseum. The hope is that in bringing in Ryans, a linebacker familiar with responsibility management, the younger players will have a lot less thinking to do pre-snap.

Imagine the difference between having to find out which guy you’re about to run into at full speed and just having someone grab you on the shoulder and point. Demeco Ryans’ direction of the Eagles’ front seven will be a major key to success and development in the upcoming season.

5. Claude Giroux

Remember that this list is not of my top ten “favorite” players in Philly. If it were, you can rest assured that Mr. Orange Jesus would be a firm #1. Instead, I want to point out an elephant in the room after almost any successful season in the NHL.

As Flyers fans can vividly recall, superstars in hockey are often a mirage. Moreso than with any other major sport, talent on the ice can vanish as suddenly as it appears. Claude Giroux was an absolutely electric playmaker in the 2011-2012 season but it was his first season with this level of responsibility. It is imperative that the star center does not take a step back next year.

It was his leadership and vastly improved play on the ice that made the preceding off-season’s controversial overhaul a success. Be it for injury or over-confidence, Giroux cannot allow his team mates to face another season without their probable captain. Next year will be the difference between “G” becoming a cornerstone of this storied franchise or just another flash in the pan.

4. Ryan Howard

As the fourth most important athlete in the city, Ryan Howard sort of symbolizes the downfall of the 2008-2011 Phillies juggernaut. His massive contract was the first thing we were able to complain about after that World Series Championship held our negativity hostage for so long.

Howard’s injury this season has been the only worthwhile storyline concerning the Phillies’ aging core. If you have an opinion at all, you either believe or do not believe Ryan Howard can help to put the team back in playoff contention.

This is an important distinction to make. When you consider what this Phillies team has meant to Philadelphia, it’s hard to imagine blowing it up. That, however, is precisely what will happen if this group does not improve after Howard’s return to the lineup.

Ryan Howard needs to come back. He needs to hit early and often to validate those who still believe in this current roster. If this last gasp isn’t enough, it will most likely be the dying breath of our World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

3. Evan Turner

E.T. phone home already. We’ve all been waiting for so long to hear from you and Philly is growing restless. It would be too easy to write off Turner as a bust at this point in his young career, especially when he has shown such flashes of brilliance in a 76ers uniform. Unfortunately time is running out and the franchise needs to know where this team is and where it is going.

The young shooting guard’s upcoming season could have very easily been ranked as the city’s most important. Regardless, if Evan Turner does not develop some sort of consistency this year, we’ll stop caring about his potential and moves will be made in the Sixers’ front office to cut bait and move on.

As passionate as I am about allowing players to develop and excercising patience, the 2012 baskeball season will be a make or break scenario and I do think that’s justified. It’s time for dis dude to get it done!

2. Ilya Bryzgalov

I enjoyed our first year with Bryz. as rocky as the road seemed at times, he survived the initiation by fire that is goaltending for the Flyers. From opening the season with a win over the defending champions in their house to that defining shootout victory in Calgary,  Ilya’s season had some potent high moments.

Playing behind as undisciplined a defense as I’ve ever seen on ice for most of the year, Bryzgalov still managed to set a franchise record for consecutive shut out minutes in a season. Still, the low moments were just as memorable. His benching for the Winter Classic may live on in Flyers lore forever.

In the NHL, a hot goalie can win you a Stanley Cup. Bryzgalov has shown us how hot he can be but the peaks and valleys in his performance need to level out going forward. If the defense is fixed in the off-season, there will be no excuse for this team falling short in the Playoffs again.

With an elite offense, and the resources to make the defense better, a goalie who’s shown he is capable needs to step up. If Bryzgalov can make that last leap, the Philadelphia Flyers will win a Stanley Cup or two in the next five years. There is no doubt in my mind.

1. Michael Vick

Well who were you expecting at number one? As entertaining as I’ve tried to make this list, my hands were tied here. The most important athlete in Philadelphia is Michael Vick. I took a trip to the Novacare complex recently for the Eagles’ Academy for Men and had the opportunity to chat with several members of the organization.

From the faux press conference with Howie Roseman to the scouting lesson in the locker room, one message remained consistent. Every member of the organization believes this team is good enough to win a Super Bowl. From top to bottom on defense, offense, special teams and coaching, there just aren’t any excuses for failure…except for one.

Michael Vick needs to be on the field. Since entering the league, Vick has consistenly been sacked more frequently than any other quarterback. This hasn’t always been his fault but this year, if it continues, it will be.

When Michael Vick plays every snap of a game for the Philadelphia Eagles, they can compete with any team in the NFL. That is why every decision he makes to turn upfield instead of getting to the sideline; every extra second taken waiting for Desean Jackson to come open sixty yards downfield matters.

Each irresponsible decision Vick makes this year will be and should be married to him. How our quarterback handles that pressure will likely define his entire career. It could define how we view the careers of Howie Roseman and even Andy Reid.

Last season, I wrote that Vick was no longer playing with house money. This season, all he’s got is the deed to his house and a very nice watch. He should think long and hard about when to hold and when to fold the fantastic hand he’s been dealt.

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The Flyers 2011-’12, An Autopsy

The Flyers 2011-’12, An Autopsy

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.

A lot has been said about the disappointment most of us are feeling about the end to this Flyers season. That feeling is understandable. This team was so captivating all season long, so likeable, they truly did suck you in. You really wanted to see this cast of characters succeed. But on Tuesday night, to our collective dismay, the Philadelphia Flyers played their final game of the year.

They were beaten four straight times and truthfully, they deserved to be. The Devils proved over and over (and over) again to be the superior team. As Philadelphia sports fans, most of us awoke on Wednesday morning desperately seeking answers. WHO IS TO BLAME? Why did this team fall so short of their potential?

I, however, awoke asking different questions. Is anyone really to blame? Did this roster actually fall short at all?

The Philadelphia Flyers began this season by trading almost every cornerstone of the team away. This led some to speculate that we may be in for a rebuilding season of sorts. The Flyers were also introducing a goalie into a far less disciplined defensive scheme than he
has ever played in; a scheme minus its most important defensive player.

All that considered, maybe the Flyers over-achieved.

Still, as I glanced at the day’s Inquirer from across a busy convenience store, I could see that my optimism was not shared. The “Bryzaster”
headline let me know exactly what I was in for. This fanbase was looking for a scapegoat to slaughter and in this town, nothing’s quite as sweet as the blood of a goalie.

The Flyers’ goaltender has become, to us, that first guy they question in a Law and Order episode. You know that guy; the one who is out on parole and is un-cooperative before eventually leading the police on a lengthy chase. We chase down that man until he trips over something or one of us heads him off with a vehicle of some sort. It’s only after we get the ex-convict back to headquarters that he is revealed to be innocent.

Indeed, Ilya Brygalov was an issue that the Flyers needed to overcome to win their first series against the Penguins. He was not the goalie the Flyers paid him to be this season or post-season and I don’t believe that is debatable. But this isn’t all on Bryz.

The incredible saves that crazy Russian made to keep the Flyers in some of those games versus the Devils go a long way to absolve him of most of the blame. Given the circumstances, I’d say that Bryzgalov played well for most of this series. We, as a fan base, can not charge him solely with the crime of ruining the season.

If you’d like a more viable candidate for “Ruiner of all Things Sacred and Beautiful” as it pertains to the Flyers, I may be able to provide you with a solid lineup to choose from. To effectively single out any of these players,though, we must also accept that this season, we were trying to have our cake and eat it too.

When rookies on this team were playing out of their minds against Pittsburgh, we attributed that mostly to them being too young to understand
the gravity of the situation and that’s what allowed them to perform at such a high level. Maybe those same rookies were just too young to understand the gravity of the situation and that’s what prevented them from performing at a high level against New Jersey.

Untimely penalties, incessant turnovers at the blue-line, sloppy checking and misplaced aggression buried this team often this year. Those are
trademarks of a young team and when the Flyers ran up against a team that took advantage of those mistakes, they struggled mightily. When you remove the emotional and unlikely triumph over the cup favorites, we certainly could accept this ending.

This season took us for a wild ride. There were twists and turns, we laughed and cried but in the end the team ended up right about
where we thought they’d be. I don’t think we could have expected anything more. When you fill your roster with young exciting talent, your roster becomes filled with YOUNG exciting talent. That seldom wins championships.

That all being said, losing still sucks. It really sucks, but let’s try to keep this in perspective as best as we Philadelphians can. This was not a choke-job; this isn’t the “wrong mix of players” and the Flyers don’t need to draft a clutch quarterback. This team had a great season.

Those sloppy, inexperienced rookies are brimming with potential. What do you say to a little optimism this off-season? Let’s bask in the glow of what this team could be for a little while. There will be plenty of time to condemn them all when they come up short again sometime in the future and dammit, I just know we will.

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