If nothing else, that Donovan McNabb wants to retire as an Eagle should serve as definitive proof that “rivalries” in the NFL are a complete crock. McNabb’s retirement doesn’t represent some kind of cathartic grant of forgiveness on either side. Coming back to the Eagles cap in hand after playing for the “bitter rival” Redskins puts you in the rarefied territory of James Thrash and Jeremiah Trotter.
This reunion needs to happen because both parties truly deserve each other. The same things that made McNabb a liability as a quarterback — a cavalier approach to his job, a passive-aggressive relationship with his coworkers, and an utter inability to seize the moment — will make him a tremendous Eagles fan. I mean the self-loathing, the victimhood. Silver Linings Playbook didn’t teach us anything so much as confirm what we already knew: Teaching in a Philadelphia school is a great way for a certifiably insane person to hide in plain sight, and there’s more actual hostility in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field than on the gridiron.
With all that in mind, here are McNabb’s realest quotes as an Eagles diehard in training.
In case you were out looking at buffalo and thanking the heavens that you never had to actually traverse the Oregon Trail by wagon, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers remained red hot at home as they pushed the New York Knicks to the brink of elimination with a 93-82 win. This battle of the second- and third-best teams in the Eastern Conference has now tilted firmly in favor of Indiana, which has New York residents stunned. "This was our year," said Daniel Czaplinski of Woodside. "We at least had to make it to the Heat. The Pacers? Gimme a break. Who the heck are they?" When asked if he had seen the Pacers play at all this season, Czaplinski said, "Yeah, they had that Zeller kid, and Oladipo. Not sure what happened to them, but Melo shouldn't be letting this George Paul guy take over. This is an abomination and all these bums should be fired."
The Spurs grabbed a pivotal Game 5 win in the friendly confines of San Antonio, beating the Golden State Warriors, 109-91, behind 25 points and 10 assists from Tony Parker. Parker, a noted French person from Belgium, was quietly finishing off a pack of Gauloises after the game before he mused about the idea of a falcon he had in his mind. "You know, bird that does not exist, your ability to fly is less impressive to some because of your lack of corporeal form. But to me, nonexistent falcon I just named Tweet-Tweet, you are more impressive, as you at least know you do not exist, where as real falcons contend daily with the illusion of reality." After a brief pause when Tweet-Tweet likely asked Parker for his last Gauloise, as Parker dropped one onto the ground next to him, Parker added, "And that is how I defeat the Warriors. They expect me to move at speeds, or to distribute the basketball. But that's all the secondary creative act. The original creative act was forgetting my own creation. Here, let me imagine a treatise for you to read." Unfortunately, Tweet-Tweet does not read French, and used Parker's imaginary philosophical text as bedding for his imaginary nest.
Chip Kelly has been busy revolutionizing the Philadelphia Eagles. I think it was Lenin who said all revolutions have casualties. The first casualty in Chip Kelly's revolution was Mexican cuisine. Kelly banned "Taco Tuesdays," a staple of the Andy Reid regime (why are you laughing?). It's all protein shakes everything up in Philadelphia now. The second casualty was music. The whole thing. Music is dead. Chip killed it.
The Philadelphia Eagles' selection of USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round of this year’s draft appears, by any logical measure, to be a great value pick. At one time, Barkley was talked about as a high first-round pick, and there's no doubting his precise footwork or his accuracy on short and intermediate passes. That’s saying nothing of his personality and whiteboard smarts, which coaches and scouts have raved about since he started as a true freshman at powerhouse Mater Dei High School.
Barkley steadied USC through the loss of Pete Carroll to the NFL, NCAA sanctions that limited scholarships and depleted the Trojans roster, and the often bizarre antics of his coach, Lane Kiffin. Barkley’s final season at USC, one in which the Trojans began the season ranked no. 1 in the country before finishing 7-6, was one to forget. His play was inconsistent, and he finished the year on the sideline after suffering a shoulder injury against UCLA. But for Chip Kelly and the Eagles, grabbing such an accomplished player in the fourth round should qualify as the quintessential "value" pick.
In case you were busy on eBay trying to unload your Tim Tebow Jets jersey, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The San Antonio Spurs dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-82, to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. Lakers center Dwight Howard, who was ejected from the game after getting two technical fouls, said after the game, "Gotcha! Oh, man, that was hilarious! Classic Howard. I was all like, 'T me up! I totally want to never play basketball in a Lakers uniform again,' and they totally did! Joke's on them! I'm pranking people left and right! L.A. is Prank City!" When asked if this meant he was going to re-sign with L.A., Howard's demeanor quickly shifted. "Absolutely not," he said. "This has been the worst year of my life."
Stephen Curry drained six 3-pointers as the Golden State Warriors beat the Denver Nuggets 115-101 in a pivotal Game 4. "Do I feel threatened by Curry? Absolutely not; my legacy is intact," said TNT analyst Reggie Miller after the game. Miller then wiped the steam off his bathroom mirror and examined his temples. Were they grayer than the day prior? "Perhaps," Miller said to himself, "but that just means you're getting wiser. More mature. And some punk kid in Oakland can't take that away from you."
Before making his fourth move in five years, Dana Holgorsen needed a little convincing. West Virginia had contacted the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and expressed interest in grooming him to be its next head coach. But prior to any commitments, Holgorsen wanted to see what it was his new home had to offer. So in late fall of 2010, he boarded a plane for Pittsburgh, where he was met by WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. And on they went, the 75 miles south to Morgantown.
Holgorsen’s first request was to see WVU’s indoor practice area, an amenity Oklahoma State had yet to add. The tour moved through the football facilities, and it was there, walking past photos of that year’s team, that Oliver Luck first mentioned Tavon Austin. “One of the first things Oliver did when he walked me through the building was point to a picture of Tavon Austin and say, ‘You need to get that guy the ball as much as you possibly can,’” Holgorsen recalls. “[Tavon] certainly was not shy about wanting the ball, and we certainly weren’t shy about giving it to him.”
During two seasons in Holgorsen’s offense, Austin got the ball plenty — 303 times, an average of more than 11.5 touches per game. As a senior, he caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards. He added another 643 yards rushing, on 8.9 yards per carry. Including kick returns, Austin hit the end zone 17 times. He was, along with USC’s Marqise Lee, one of the two most electric players in college football.
Anyone in my life can tell you that I have a serious problem when it comes to Fear of Missing Out. I could be off having a good time — a great time — but the moment I hear that something else is happening somewhere else, the fear begins to creep in. Uh-oh, is that more fun than this? Nah. Wait is it? It’s exhausting. This crippling dread manifests most fully in three areas: two or more of my friends attending a live music event, second-Thursday-of-the-month night at Wrightwood Tap in Chicago, and NFL free agency.
For the most part, I, as a Bears fan, should be happy with what’s gone down this week. Tight end Martellus Bennett was the best player available at a position of dire need, and although opinions are split about the money given to left tackle Jermon Bushrod (not really — most people think he got way too much money), two things about the signing are undeniable — the Bears now have another starting-caliber tackle in the fold, and GM Phil Emery now has infinitely more flexibility in the draft’s first round.
With both deals getting done in the first few hours of free agency, I should’ve been able to take the rest of the week off — give the refresh button on my browser a break and let other teams and fans open their new toys. Sadly, because I suffer from sports anhedonia, that just wasn’t an option. I watched with bitter jealousy as other teams cheaply picked off players I wanted or enjoy watching, and by this morning, that feeling had mostly enveloped any joy I’d taken earlier in the week. So I figured I might as well share my pain and lay out the fan bases that have garnered most of my jealousy.
Attention, shoppers: The bargains have finally started to make their way into the NFL free-agency marketplace. After two days of average players getting premium contracts, Thursday was really the first day when teams were able to sign players on significant discounts from both the reported expectations of those players and the actual value of their performance. It's a trend that should continue into and through the weekend before becoming even more obvious next week. The flooded-market model is really beginning to take hold.
The best deal of the day came out of Seattle, where general manager John Schneider is having a pretty wonderful offseason. Faced with the possibility of having a limited Chris Clemons for most (or all) of the 2013 campaign after Clemons tore his ACL on the substance-resembling-a-field in Washington during the playoffs, Schneider has made two bold moves to restore his front four. On Wednesday, he gave a very credible deal to Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, who signed for $15 million over two years. Yesterday, he topped that contract with a one-year, $5 million deal for Buccaneers end Michael Bennett, who had nine sacks last year despite serving as the only viable edge rusher in Tampa Bay for most of the season. Combined with 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin, who was a terrifying pass rusher in a situational role last year, the Seahawks should be able to rotate at least two above-average and fresh pass rushers in on every play. They can even move one of these guys to the interior on obvious passing downs and try to create pressure against a slow guard up the gut. Schneider has turned a weakness into a strength while spending just $20 million over two years, which is just a little more than what the Chiefs gave tight end Anthony Fasano. It's impressive work from a general manager who's quickly gaining recognition as one of the best in the league.
Sometimes there are terrible ideas, but you support them nonetheless. This is a safe place for you to defend those ideas.
This Is a Terrible Idea
Yesterday the Philadelphia Eagles announced they were re-signing Michael Vick to a one-year contract worth up to $10 million. Or maybe it's a three-year deal with a bunch of the money pushed into the second two years, structured so that the Eagles can pretty much shove the contract into a shredder after the first 12 months. A lot of the money is tied up in performance incentives — for instance it's been reported that Vick will make $900,000 if he participates in 70 percent of the snaps — which should make Vick and upstart second-year Napoleon Dynamite look-alike Nick Foles practically inseparable bowling buddies 4 life off the field.
The decision to bring Vick back seems to be all Chip Kelly's. The new head coach had a chance to part ways with the veteran quarterback/tackling dummy. And Vick's recent performances gave him all the reasons he needed: Vick has gone 10-13 in his last two seasons, with 30 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. The organization had a chance to start fresh — be it with Foles or someone else — by cutting Vick before February 6, and decided not to. Kelly must have come to the conclusion that they'd rather have Vick, with the flexibility of trading him or releasing him down the line, rather than no Vick at all. "You have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks," Kelly said on Monday. Hi, Alex Smith. Bye, Alex Smith. For Eagles fans, it doesn't exactly make your heart sing with hope.
In case you were busy fixating on that piece of popcorn stuck between your molars, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The San Antonio Spurs took down the Bulls in Chicago, 103-89, despite missing their trio of future Hall of Famers, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. When asked about the challenge his team faced, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "It doesn't matter; I could wring 40 wins in the NBA out of the San Antonio Silver Stars. Seriously, I started some French guy named Nando de Colo at the point today. None of our scouts had ever heard of him. Apparently, he's a friend of Tony's. They met at a Parisian falafel stand last winter, debated the nature of existence until 6 in the morning over a pack of Gauloises and three bottles of Malbec, before deciding that we're just shadows of an unforgiving god who vomited our spirits into this hellhole we call Earth. Whatever. Tony tells me to sign him up; guy's never even heard of basketball before, but apparently he's a hell of a freestyle walker, and in our system, he gets seven assists in his first start." Popovich then offered to play any of the reporters in the room at small forward against the Cavaliers to prove his point, but there were no takers.
The Charlotte Bobcats ended the Boston Celtics' seven-game winning streak with a 94-91 home win. Byron Mullens powered the Bobcats' upset with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was apoplectic after the game, saying, "Who let Nowitzki come down to Charlotte and wear some Mullens jersey so he could clown on KG? Y'all know I got the best sense of smell on this team, and something here was stinking to the high heavens." Garnett then broke into the Bobcats' locker room and started yelling "Sprechen sie Deutsch" at Mullens in a hapless effort to secure some sort of confession.
On a day with trade rumors swirling around the team, the Brooklyn Nets got a huge conference road win over Indiana in overtime, 89-84. "Everyone was a little on edge with all the speculation, but for some reason, I'm kind of used to it," said Nets forward Kris Humphries, who was ineffective in limited minutes and is rumored to be included in proposed deals with Atlanta and Charlotte. "Relatively speaking, this media attention seems pretty nice."
Marquette fell at Georgetown in a battle of soon-to-be Catholic 7 rivals. The game was decided late when all the players huddled at midcourt and deemed Georgetown the most prepared to be a communicative vessel for God. The referees then released a could of white smoke into the Verizon Center, which activated the sprinkler system and caused the game to be called with a final score of 63-55.
Kansas ended its three-game skid with an 83-62 win over in-state rival Kansas State. Ben McLemore had 30 points for the Jayhawks, and center Jeff Withey broke Greg Ostertag's school record for career blocks. "I view Greg as a bit of an idol," Withey said after the game. "I, too, wish to one day play center in the NBA, establish myself as a bona fide quality defensive player, sign a massive contract, and immediately stop trying. Also, I fully expect Glenn Robinson III to do something like this to me in the tournament this year."
Michael Vick renegotiated his deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, and will join new head coach Chip Kelly as the Eagles attempt to bounce back from a disappointing four-win season. Philadelphia fan Burt Gortowski reacted with uncharacteristic calm to the news, as he decided to only throw one rock through Kelly's window as a show of support for the new coach. "I think that Vick's game could work coming out of Kelly's blur offense," Gortowski said as he picked through the "throwing pile" of empty Yuengling bottles and rocks that he keeps in his backyard, "but just in case he doesn't, I don't want to be the one guy who didn't throw a rock through Chip's window. How would I be able to show my face around the Wawa?"
Liverpool squandered a number of scoring opportunities, including a Steven Gerrard penalty, before conceding twice to fall to West Bromwich Albion, 2-0, at Anfield. West Brom keeper Ben Foster, who had seven saves in the win, said after the match, "Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League, and a real threat to get back into the Champions League, so you know you have to bring your top game …" before collapsing in a heap of laughter. "Oh man," Foster continued, "I almost kept it together for that one. No, but seriously, Stewart Downing wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, so I did have to try almost all match long."
Kobe Bryant took to Twitter to admonish one of his fans (@PacSmoove) for calling a fellow Lakers fan "gay." Kobe went on to say, "If you really want to hurt someone with words, you can't be homophobic. I learned that lesson the hard way; it's wrong and only makes you look ignorant. What you have to do is get personal, learn about your foe, what they care about, and what they're ashamed of. Then you'll be ready to hurt people the way your high school girlfriend Michelle hurt you when she made out with your best friend on the way to junior prom. The way it hurt you when your dog Patches got real sick and died after you accidentally let it eat a piece of your birthday cake and you cried and cried and cried. The way it hurt you when your mom said your sister Kelly was her favorite kid, and that you'd never amount to anything. Then and only then will you, @PacSmoove, or should I say, 17-year-old Michael McFarlane, be ready to play with the Mamba."
The final prize on the MLB free agent market, All-Star center fielder Michael Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. Bourn, a client of super-agent Scott Boras, said he chose the Indians because of "the wonderful town of Cleveland? Are you kidding me? It was the money! No one else was going over $30 million in this market. Do you know what you can buy with $18 million? Art, you dumbass. This painting by Gerhard Richter. Look at it! I own that now. Best $16 million I've ever spent. Plus, I'll still have two million "Boras dollars" left over to get this work by Richard Serra installed next to my hedge maze. Yeah, I have a hedge maze."
In case you were busy deleting everything interesting from your Facebook account before Graph Search goes live, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
LeBron James reached a major milestone Wednesday night, becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points in a 92-75 Heat win over the Golden State Warriors. James broke Kobe Bryant's previous record scoring pace by over a year. "I'm just trying to secure my legacy," James said, "and I'm very fortunate that Kobe doesn't have a chance to put this record further out of reach."
In case you were out doing some very last-minute ballot-box stuffing for the People's Choice Awards, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Kansas avoided an upset in their Big-12 opener beating Iowa State, 97-89, in overtime, as freshman sensation Ben McLemore banked in a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation. "When it left my hand, I actually kind of called 'bank,'" said McLemore in his postgame interview, using the same rhetorical technique he did in ninth grade when he failed to convince his friends that he "actually kind of got to second base" with his sleepaway camp girlfriend, Mindy Williams.
New Mexico edged out UNLV, 65-60, at home in a matchup of ranked Mountain West foes. "I heard that the Pit was a tough place to play, but, man, I don't see how they can get away with that," complained UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett. "That court was just concrete, and like 30 feet deep, and there were no fans or hoops or anything. It was just, like, a bunch of snakes. I don't know how they came up with that final score, but I'm surprised we kept it that close. I'm terrified of snakes. Unless, maybe my terror scored points? The game we were playing certainly wasn't basketball. All I'm saying is that this better not affect our seeding come tournament time."
Black Monday delivered. The first morning of the offseason for 20 of the league's 32 teams brought a stunning wave of pink slips, as more than half of those 20 teams responded to their disappointing campaigns by firing at least one prominent member of their front offices or coaching staffs. Most handled it with class. Bud Adams of the Titans fired his COO, former general manager Mike Reinfeldt, by noting "I think we’d be better off without him," which is a total disregard for tact that you can only possess by being 90 years old and an NFL owner. It's like sending a telegram whose entire contents read "IDGAF." By the end of the day, seven head coaches and five general managers had hit the street, despite the continued employment of embattled candidates like Mike Munchak, Ron Rivera, and Jeff Ireland. Somehow, though, the only move that seemed truly surprising came out of Chicago, where Lovie Smith was sacrificed for the Bears' second-half collapse.
It's much easier to figure out which coaches and general managers are likely to be fired than fill those same holes with available candidates, so I'm going to avoid prognosticating here. My rule of thumb is that teams tend to notice their personnel's weaknesses as they fire them and replace them with personnel of the opposite persuasion. If they've just fired an offensive-minded leader with a reputation for being a player's coach, teams often look for a defensive coordinator with a disciplinarian streak. I don't know that the pattern I'm describing is necessarily what teams should follow, but I think it's a path that a fair amount of the league's teams do, in fact, take.
So, with that in mind, I want to examine why these 12 men didn't make it into 2013 with their jobs. Understanding what went wrong (or what was perceived to have gone wrong) should give us some insight into whether the moves made any sense and if the teams in question are actually going to improve by making a switch.
There's no clear-cut smoking gun in every case, but there is one factor that plays an obvious role in many of these firings: disappointing quarterback play. By my count, the only firings on Monday that weren't directly preceded by a failed season from the sacked employee's quarterbacks were with Smith in Chicago and the combination of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner in San Diego. You can make a case that Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers didn't quite meet expectations, but consider that each of the nine other candidates oversaw quarterbacks who will either lose their job or be in a battle for their previously secure starting job in 2013, and you have an idea of just how closely quarterback play and coach/GM job security are related.
Let's start with the most surprising firing of Black Monday and work our way down.
Last year, Washington's clean sweep of the Giants was a curiosity lost amid New York's run to a second Super Bowl in five years. It was some sort of anomaly that Giants fans wrote off in their heads as irrelevant, a bad dream with Rex Grossman impossibly slicing through the same defense that brought the Packers and Patriots to their knees. This year, though, Washington's excellent work against their northern neighbors has produced a close loss and a hugely important narrow win.
That victory last night moves Washington into a playoff chase with surprisingly good opportunities available. As I covered yesterday, Washington's win last night gives them a likely tiebreaker advantage over the Giants in terms of in-division record, and if the Giants slip up once more over their difficult final four games, the Redskins would have a chance to control their own destiny with a win over the Cowboys in Week 17. Washington also holds tie-breaking victories over the Buccaneers, Cowboys, Saints, and Vikings, each of which could come in handy in terms of a possible wild-card berth.