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The Pundit List presents: Things to be thankful for

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Pundit List, so it seemed like time. I decided to list the things I was thankful for both in the spirit of the holiday and because I’ve been so negative about the Eagles lately. My thanks will be primarily directed toward the sporting world, but I will undoubtably stray from time to time.  Obvious things, such as my family, friends, shelter, food, etc. will be left off of the list because they aren’t as much fun to write about. But they would be at the top. Probably. Anyway, on to the list.

8. The Flyers and Sixers – Eventually, I’ll actually start watching their games. I’m thankful I have something to look forward to once football is done for the year.

7. Emmananuelle Chriqui – You probably know her better as Sloan from Entourage. She might be the sexiest woman on this planet, at least in this humble Pundit’s opinion. If you aren’t familiar with the show, take a look– you won’t want to look away.

6. Beer – I don’t really need to go into depth here, do I? Though I will say, I am extremely thankful for my two favorite watering holes, The Pope (Pub on Passyunk East) and the South Philly Tap Room.

5. The BCS – The system blows, and I would like a playoff, but at least it gives me something to constantly bitch about on the site. The BCS, if for nothing else, is great for material. Think about how much has been written aruging that one team should be ranked higher than another, or about how there should be a playoff, and how it would be formatted. It’s a story-generator, and for that, and that alone, I offer my thanks.

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Entourage, Generation Kill, John Adams, Weeds – After The Wire ended last year, I needed something to fill the gigantic void that was left in my soul from its wake. (Editor’s note: Oh brother). Any show and/or mini-series listed above either helped, or is currently helping, to fill that void. Rest in peace, The Wire – you were the greatest show ever crafted for television. Hell, I’m thankful I ever tuned in.

3. The Eagles – They are driving me absolutely crazy this year – how could I possibly be thankful for them? Well, much like the BCS, they constantly give me something to talk about. I mean, they tied the Bengals. Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb, and is starting him this week. They blew chances to win close games against the Bears, Redskins, Cowboys and Giants. Honestly, a few clutch plays, and this team could potentially be undeafeted right now. And honestly, that is what makes them so damn frustrating – wasted potential. But success wouldn’t stir conversation, now would it? The Eagles are like the girl in the neighborhood who sleeps around – everyone knows her business, has their own idea of how she should be living, and are constantly gossiping about her. (Editor’s note: So wait…are the Eagles like the town’s bike?) I suppose I’m just thankful for football in general, but as a writer, the Eagles specifically are wonderful for controversy. (Editor’s note: Kind of sad, really).

2. Change – More than everything except for one thing on this list, I am thankful for the possibility, and the hope, of change. It was what made the number one item on this list so very special. I am thankful that “Yes We Can” became “Yes We Did.” I am thankful for the possibility that the Eagles will move in a new direction after this season. I am thankful for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, college football will someday have a playoff. I am thankful that the Sixers brought in Elton Brand, the legitamate big man they haven’t had since Charles Barkley. (Editor’s note: What, no love for Dikembe “Cookie Monster” Mutombo?) I am thankful that, after 25 years of failure, we finally had ourselves a winner. Which brings me to number one:

1. The 2008, World Phucking Champion, Philadelphia Phillies – I mean, what is there to be said that hasn’t already been said? They brought us the parade we had been waiting for so long. They were a team full of players that were easy to embrace. Talented. Team-oriented. Focused. Unflappable. They were led by a manager with the waddle to the mound. The guy who had divine hunches. I offer my thanks to Charlie Manuel, Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyre, J.C Romero, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett, and So Taguchi. On second thought, not So Taguchi. Sorry, pal. I give my thanks to the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies – it was one hell of a ride, and I sure hope to take it with you guys again.

I hope everybody a damn good Thanksgiving. Stuff your faces, take a nap while watching a football game, and enjoy seeing your family. But don’t use it as an excuse to be thankful for the things in your life – we should all be doing that everyday. (Editor’s note: I’m thankful for self-righteous advice!). Oh, and Rant: I’m thankful for you too, man. Rant has been the man. Many thanks go out to him. Now…bring on the feasting!

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The Pundit says goodbye to Andy and Donovan

Before Sunday’s game against the Ravens, I was going to write a post about how it was time for all of Philadelphia to give up any hope for the Eagles. How, whenever we give up on our teams in the middle of the year, they seem to suddenly rebound and make magic happen. Remember Jeff Garcia? How about the Sixers in the second half of last year? Or the Phillies two seasons ago, when they were down 7 games to the Mets with 17 to go? I don’t know what it is, but if our team is within arm’s length of success, but has routinely been falling short of reaching it, what always seems to propel them the final distance is the complete lack of faith our city places in them.

What a crazy, mixed up town we call home.

I was going to compare it to a section in the book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend. Awesome book. Anyway, there was a section about flying, and the general gist was that the only way humans could actually fly was if you forgot you were falling. (Editor’s note: And the only way you will forget you are falling is by taking a few too many tabs of acid). Like I said, it’s an awesome book. The Eagles are the opposite: they fly, or “succeed,” when we assume all is lost.

So maybe Hitchhiker’s Guide was making a more poignant and optimistic evaluation of human behavior…whatever.

I guess there was a reason I never wrote that post – the reason being that, in all reality, all hope is lost. Seriously. It’s over. Everything…is…over. The Donovan McNabb era is over. The Andy Reid era is over. This season is lost. This is not an underhanded attempt to somehow send weird karma the Eagles way to save the season – there is no longer a season to save. Even if the Eagles win out, they will be 10-5-1, which probably would still get them in. But honestly – does anybody think they’ll win out with games against the Cardinals, Giants, Redskins and Cowboys, all in the playoff hunt, still on the schedule? I sure as hell don’t.

I mean, Kevin Kolb came out to start the second half! For those of you who somehow missed the implication of the previous statement, I will repeat myself: Kevin Kolb came out to start the second half! Andy Reid said that nobody’s job was safe, but I never thought I’d see the day that he would bench number 5. I suppose 8-18 with two picks and a fumble will do the trick, but this was as symbolic to me as anything else.

Think about it for a second. You are the Eagles, and you aren’t sure how much longer you will have McNabb as your quarterback. You have a young backup in place, but you really don’t know anything about him. The season seems to be slipping into oblivion, and your head coach benched the incumbent, who has started painfully slow every game, and hasn’t showed the ability to lead a team to victory in the tight games.

Think you might want to know how good the backup is before you start the next season?

After all, you may still be able to get some value for McNabb in a trade this offseason. If Kolb doesn’t have the look of a winner in the next couple of games, you can start to explore other options at QB. And, perhaps most importantly, you can see how Kolb fits into Reid’s system, and determine whether or not Mr. Reid has a future with this team.

And, though it pains me to say it, I don’t think he should. The system just isn’t working anymore.

It’s time to move on.

Not all was bleak from today. The defense, though it will never show it on the scoreboard because of the all of the points derived from turnovers, played well. DeSean Jackson, if he works his butt off, will be a very, very good receiver in this league. Brian Westbrook will get healthy once more. There are many bright spots on this team – for next season. But, barring a miraculous turn-around, the likes of which I have never yet seen, this year is over. Let’s see what Kolb has going on. At the end of the year, let’s ship McNabb out. (Editor’s note: Rant, during the game today, asked me what I thought was going through McNabb’s head after he had been benched. I answered, “Hmmmm…Minnesota, or Chicago?”) At the end of the year, let’s respectfully move on from the Andy Reid era. Maybe we could bring Steve Spagnola back into the fold, who knows?

But it’s all over. Seriously. Normally, I would chalk up my negativity to a bad loss, but this feels worse. Deeper. Like something ended today, something that we can’t get back. So surrender all hope. Throw in the towel. Forget you are falling. This time, I don’t think we are going to recover. (Editor’s note: You’re really bringing me down, Pundit).

It was a great ten years, and I’ll miss you, Andy and Donovan. But I think it’s time to say our farewells.

Farewell.

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Need a theme song for the 2008 Eagles? How about The Who?

The Pundit

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

People are really, really frustrated with the Eagles right now. And justifiably so – the Eagles are a really frustrating team to watch. Yet, I can’t help but think that a lot of the disappointment with the team isn’t just the normal Philly fan griping – I think we all have had unrealistic expectations of this team from the start.

We can thank Dr. Z for that.

Remember Dr. Z, the Patron Saint of Lunacy, predicting the Eagles to make it to the Superbowl? Remember that? (Editor’s note: When I asked The Pundit why he didn’t post that link, he told me that he wasn’t a friggin’ trash picker. Well, alllllllll-righty then!) And everyone in town started getting excited, and the buzz got going, and next thing you know, people really believed we could make the Superbowl this year. Then, we smeared the Rams, had a chance at the end of the game to beat a Dallas team everyone thought was the best in the NFC, and out smashed the Steelers. After the first three games, this team looked like a serious contender.

But then, the issues started coming out. We couldn’t punch it in against the Bears. The Redskins and Giants ran the ball all over us. Andy Reid was getting crazy with his one-dimensional playcalling. Donovan couldn’t make the big plays late in the game.

Are any of these issues actually new issues? Or did we ignore them and forget about them because of a flashy start and the predictions of a guy like Dr. Z, who only picked the Eagles because he retracted his earlier pick of the Vikings due to the fact that they actually went into the season with Tavaris Jackson as their starter?

If you want to know how I thought the Eagles would do earlier in the year, and still do, take a look back at my Eagles preview from earlier this year. Oh, and please ignore most of my other predictions. Seriously, it’s pretty rough.

And tell me: what do you think? Are the Eagles underachieving this hard, or did we just think they were better than they actually are? Share your thoughts, and have a damn good weekend.

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Are the Birds cooked? This Pundit isn’t convinced…

The radio hosts and their faithful lackeys will tell you that Andy Reid is washed up as a coach, that his scheme is outdated and his player personnel decisions are shaky, at best. He shouldn’t have been given the duel responsibility, and the harmful effects of that decision are rearing their ugly head this season.

Maybe they’re right.

They think that McNabb is washed up, that he can’t win the big game, his early inconsistency hurts us, and its time to see what Aaron Rodgers…cough, I’m sorry…Kevin Kolb can do.

Maybe they’re on to something.

They think that the defense is overmatched against good offenses, that our defensive line is too small, that we just can’t stop a good running attack.

They could be right about that.

They’re saying that our receivers are pretty terrible, with the exception of DeSean Jackson, and that we should have gotten Tony Gonzalez because our tight ends stink (Editor’s note: Hey, everybody’s shit stinks, you know?), and we just can’t run the ball when we really need to in short yardage situations.

Yeah, there’s probably truth in there, though I would never, ever give up anything higher than a 3rd round pick for Tony Gonzalez, and I’m not even sure if I would have given that up for an aging tight end. Trivia question: what round was Brian Westbrook drafted in? Oh, the third round – ahhh, I see what you did there, Pundit. (Editor’s note: Ohhhhhhh, snap. The Pundit always be playin’, yo).

Fact is, a lot of people are getting pretty fed up with this Eagles team. They’re inconsistent, they can’t seem to make the key plays to lock up a win, and in general, their games this year have often been maddening and frustrating and fickle – they’re like a teenage girl, for Chrissakes. They seem to be struggling with the identity they’ve been given by their parents (Andy Reid), but they don’t really know how to break out of it just yet, so their play becomes tempermental and inconsistent and difficult to watch.

But the Eagles have an advantage that we’re all ignoring – they are still a “pretty” team. They have guys like McNabb, who has shown glimpses of brilliance, and Brian Westbrook, who might be the best player in football, and DeSean Jackson, who is developing into a pretty good player. They have Trent Cole, who when not double-teamed is a force, and Asante Samuel, who has been extremely solid.

When everybody was talking, early in the season, about how the Cowboys were the NFC’s team to beat, the Eagles took them to the limit. They beat the Steelers, a team that, at this stage in the year, would be third in my Power Rankings of Pure Punditry, if I thought that ranking every team every week of the season came even close to being relevant or worth anyone’s time. (Editor’s note: However, a Power Rankings of Pure Punditry over the entire spectrum of the sporting world might be worth doing – stay tuned…)

Let’s take a quick look at the Eagles four losses this year. When they lost to the Cowboys, they were a team that was 100 percent and playing well. I think everyone deemed that an acceptable loss at the time. The Giants are 8-1; they are clicking on all cylinders; they just outplayed us, though we kept ourselves in a game we probably should have lost by a lot more. I judge this an acceptable loss, though certainly one that was frustrating as hell.

We didn’t play well against the Redskins, but they are a pretty good team, and you’ll lose games like that from time to time. Though, at some point, this team needs to beat a conference foe. The Bears loss was painful, they had ample opportunity to beat them, and they are just a better team than the Bears. That, to me, is the only completely unacceptable loss of the season. All four losses came by a combined 19 points, all under a touchdown, all games they had the chance to win.

You see, all is not lost, people.

The rest of the schedule is favorable. For the duration of November, we have the Bengals, the Ravens, and the Cardinals. The Bengals should be a no-brainer, and though I think the Ravens and Cardinals are good teams, the Eagles should beat them. I expect this team to win the next three games, and head into December at 8-4.

December will be when we find out what this team is really made of. They get the Giants again, followed by the Browns, the Redskins and the season finale with the Cowboys, a game that will proabably have playoff implications for both teams. We’ll assume the win against the Browns, which leaves the 3 games against the NFC East. Take 2 of 3, and you are sitting at 11-5 – hello, wildcard. Take 1 of 3, and you might be in, though you’d be 1-5 against the East, and would not have the tiebreaker against the Bears, which could hurt. 10-6 may be good enough on its own to get them in, though I don’t think I’d want to risk it. Lose 3 of 3, and enjoy all of the time you now have to go golfing.

With 7 games to go, this Eagles team could get hot. See, last year, when the Giants began their run to the Superbowl, a couple of things fell into place for them. They bought into Tom Coughlin’s system whole-heartedly, and started playing like a team. Eli Manning developed into a top-tier quarterback. Their defensive scheme and strengths happened to make them they only team in the NFL that actually had a shot to beat Tom Brady’s Patriots (able to generate a rush with only their front four, disguised a multitude of blitzes and coverages to keep Brady, Moss and Welker guessing, had a solid ground game that could chew up clock, had weapons of their own on offense like Plaxico Burress and a suddenly poised Manning that could score some points. Really, they were the perfect storm needed to beat last year’s Patriots).

For the Eagles, the same could happen, though a bit differently. Andy Reid and the offensive line could find a way to better utilize and execute a running game. Donovan could start showing up in the first quarter; I mean, honestly, if he played a consistent 4 quarters, was able to make a few more plays down the stretch, and got this team into the playoffs, he’d have had himself a pretty nice season. He’s already having a pretty good one – 2372 yards, 13 TD’s, 5 INT’s, a 90.7 QB rating. They need to find a way to convert short-yardage plays – it killed them against the Bears, and again against the Giants. Three-and-outs that chew up little or no clock tax the defense, and in turn, the defense needs to be able to consistently stop the other team’s running attack. The Giants absolutely gashed us. It was ugly.

So that’s it – the schedule is challenging, but one that can be conquered. Our issues exist, but they are not  beyond repair. This team still has a very good chance at making the playoffs, and if they get hot in a lukewarm NFC, they have a dreamer’s chance at making the Superbowl. I wouldn’t start making reservations, but I wouldn’t write this team off just yet, either.

Maybe them radio folks aren’t right at all.

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Absolutely Infuriating – Quick Hits from the Eagles Game

– This was one of the more frustrating games I have watched in a long time. The Eagles offense, minus Brian Westbrook, could not capitalize on the opportunities they were given. The defense provided four turnovers. We had three chances from the 1 to take the lead, and we blew it. David Akers missed 2 field goals. Aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!

– Donovan McNabb’s body language was not pretty as the game went along. He looked frustrated and a bit hobbled.

– A lot of Donovan’s throws were less than stellar, but there were too many drops by Eagles receivers and tight ends.

– The ups-and-downs of DeSean Jackson are exhilarating and debilitating to watch. He is really fast around the corner on the reverses, and he darted behind the defense on the first quarter touchdown catch. But he had a few drops, and he did not look good fielding punts. Obviously, there was the fumble, but he also let one roll that cost the Eagles a substantial chunk of real estate. He keeps you on the edge of your seat, for better and for worse (Editor’s note: Nickname idea – DeSean “Wall Street” Jackson. Sure, he’s been money, but his actions have also caused confusion and despair for those trusting in him).

– I’m sure Chicago fans were pretty pissed off watching this game also, as every time it seemed as though the Bears had a golden opportunity to seize control of the game, they somehow blew it. Case in point: after taking an interception to the Eagles 11, already up by a touchdown, Kyle Orton throws a pick in the end zone. It seemed at times as if neither team wanted to win this game.

– Give Chicago’s defense credit. They pressured McNabb and stifled the run game. They stood tall at the goal line and assured the win. In a season where there does not appear to be many teams standing above the pack, this Bears’ defense should keep in the playoff discussion as the season progresses.

– Omar Gaither, you did everything you could to help the Eagles win this game. Every time the defense made a big play, you seemed to be in the middle of it. If you can continue to play with the energy and nose for the ball you exhibited tonight, the Eagles defense will be really tough.

– Nice job Trent Cole and Juqua Parker. Kept the pressure on Orton for most of the night, especially in the second half. This was the second straight week I have been impressed by the play of the front four and the pressure they generated on the QB – when they are capable of getting to the passer on their own, it enables the Eagles to be more selective with their blitz schemes. This keeps the offense on their toes, as it eliminates obvious blitzing situations and allows the defense to disguise both their blitzes and their drops into coverage.

– Correll Buckhalter, I said it last week and I’ll say it again: I love the heart, baby. Love the way you play the game. You aren’t Westbrook, but you give us everything you have, and that’s all we expect.

– I felt as though the Eagles should have gone for the early 4th and 1 instead of trying 50 yarder that Akers ended up missing in the first half. Even if you don’t get the first down, you still give up possession deeper in Bears territory than you do if you miss the field goal.

– How, in God’s name, with three chances from the one to score, do you not get in? And how, in three plays, is one of them not play-action? The Bears are a tough defense, and you knew they would stack the line; I don’t care which play it was, why not try the play-action? Didn’t understand that, and I think it may have cost us the game. That, and we squandered a slew of other golden opportunities.

– This was what I call an Infuriating Game. Your team blows all of its chances, yet continues to get more, and then blows them. Every time you think you’ve got the game in control, the team squanders a key opportunity. You know that your team should be winning, but can’t stop beating itself. You find yourself daydreaming a Brian Westbrook highlight reel, as Aerosmith blasts I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing in your imagination. (Editor’s note: Alright, that’s just frightening). But it was more than just this game – it blew my perfect weekend trifecta. The Phillies clinched while the Mets blew the wildcard (Editor’s note: Trying…so…hard….to…be…classy…BAHAHAHAHAHAHA, they blew it again!), Penn State looked extremely impressive against Illinois and moved to number six in the polls, and then the Eagles went out and beat the Bears. Except they didn’t. Ah, what can you do? Two out of three ain’t bad.

– Bring on the Redskins, they of the outdated, innapropriate, and totally racist moniker. At least they don’t play in our nation’s capital. Oh, shit. They do. Right. Good work, guys.

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