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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

But Don't Bury The Team Yet, Either -- Commentator Malpractice

While the reasonable Philadelphia Eagles' fan should be concerned about injuries, that same fan shouldn't be writing off his team, shouldn't be selling his tickets, and shouldn't be converting his allegiance to the Baltimore Ravens or New York Jets. He shouldn't go so overboard in chanting the mantra "Defense Wins Championships" that he should put the hometown team's defense under a nuclear microscope and lament that the DTs may be too light, the cornerbacks too short, the linebackers too nice and perhaps weak, the defensive game plans too risky. In the modern NFL, all teams have shortcomings, but if you're team is 3-0 at the season's start, you should be focusing on the positives. Big time.

Unless, of course, you are Merrill Hoge, ESPN commentator, who authored this piece last Friday (before the Eagles thrashed upstart Detroit in the Lions' own cage). The basic premise: the Eagles aren't that good, and the Eagles will not make the playoffs.

So, quick, name the six teams from the NFC that will make the playoffs if the Eagles don't. You can't.

And it's interesting how all of the hype about coaching in the NFC has focused on Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs, and how there was so much hype about those two Hall of Famers matching up in last night's Monday Night game (in which, by the way, Coach Parcells demonstrated that he is a disciple of SportsProf's multi-flex offense by having FB Richie Anderson catch the ball, run the ball and throw a 26 yard TD pass -- that's the multi-athleticism I've stressed will work to keep defenses deceived and off balance). And what resulted? A not very well-played game by either team. Dallas prevailed, mainly because their defense was superior, but their running game was almost non-existent.

Andy Reid should get some credit, shouldn't he? As should oft-maligned Mike Holmgren, who did wonders in Green Bay, didn't get it down during his early tenure in Seattle, and now it looks like he has a special team. But instead of focusing on the Super Bowl-winning coach (Holmgren) and his former assistant (Reid) (and there was a graphic on the Eagles' broadcaston Sunday that showed Holmgren and how many of his former assistants are head coaches in the NFL -- there are 6), most of the focus is on Parcells and Gibbs.

(There was so much hype about the match-up of those two coaches that I couldn't help but remember the Sopranos episode where Tony asked Uncle Junior for some advice as to where to hire a hit man to take out a New York mobster in NYC. Uncle Junior replied that Tony needed to go out of town, and he recommended a group in Rhode Island, who had a name like the "Beach Road Boys". So, Tony went up to Rhode Island, and he basically visited some very old, unfit, unwell men, one of whom was waiting for his medication, and the other of whom was waiting for a ride to the doctor. My point: Gibbs and Parcells were/are great coaches, but it's unclear whether either of them will get to return to the Super Bowl, and, in the process, the MSM is overlooking other coaches who are doing very fine jobs and whose time is very much now).

It's great that those guys get some attention, but just because they're there doesn't mean that their team automatically will make the playoffs. This isn't tennis or golf -- there are no sponsors' exemptions. This is 2004, and the teams these coaches have are not nearly as good as the ones they won the Super Bowl with.

I don't understand why Merrill Hoge has chosen to go out on a limb about the Eagles, who, certainly, are not a perfect team. But Hoge has isolated himself on this issue, and his assessments just don't sound credible. You can read the article and decide for yourself.

It says here that the main thing standing between the Eagles and the playoffs is the injury factor.

And it says here that Merrill Hoge's ratings on cable are probably about as good as John McEnroe's.


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