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Philly Welcomes Eagles Back to Mediocrity
2005-11-08 09:55
by Mike Carminati

"Apparently because he's a dick."
—Jon Stewart explaining the Eagles' decision to suspend/release/kill Terrell Owens in his opening monologue for the Daily Show last night.

It was a good news/bad news kind of day in Philly. The morning commute was brightened by the news that a transit strike had ended and that beleaguered commuters would actually be able to get home before Fox's daily airing of Prison Break rerun. But the afternoon commute delivered, if not totally unexpected, at least unwanted news.

The Eagles have suspended Terrell Owens for four games for his behavior leading up to the Washington game Sunday. That's the maximum the league allows and will cost Owens an estimated $800K. He began serving the suspension before the Redskin game, in case no one told him before.

But wait—there's more…

When Owens finishes up his suspension, he'll be deactivated/released by the Eagles to serve out his contract under house arrest talking to reporters while exercising.

But if you act today, you'll get this…

Next, Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid have formed a posse to go after the bounty on Owens' head…No wait, that one has not yet been corroborated.

So ends the T.O. saga. He ended the season last year a local hero for the way he came back from injuries to play and play very well in the Super Bowl. But when his contract demands and his rhetoric got out of line with the team's point of view, it seemed this day—when he and the team would part ways—was inevitable.

Some analysts are saying that if this was how it would end, why did it take this long and why did the Eagles allow it to affect their season. Good questions.

However, you can't blame the Eagles woes all on Owens. The Eagles are now a .500 team in the NFC East basement, and no matter how much their rabid fans refuse to accept that (and hope to blame Owens), that's the reality.

It's a hard fall for a team that has made the NFC championship game every season since the Johnson administration. If they lose one more game, something that may come as early as next weekend when they face their arch-rivals, the Cowboys, they will have equaled their high in losses for a season (5) for the entire decade—make that the millennium.

And as for another NFC championship game or even reaching the playoffs, they had better start worrying about finishing .500 and getting out of last place.

I can understand the fans making Owens the focal point for a poor season. He's an easy target. It's all the more vitriolic given that expectations had been ratcheted up so high during the unalloyed success of the Andy Reid era (at least during the regular season). With the Flyers on hiatus, the Sixers suffering through the post-Larry Brown era, and the Phils logging their annual 86-win quota, the Eagles had become the pride of the city.

But it seems that the mediocrity that is Philadelphia has caught up with Reid and the Eagles, too.

And as if you didn't already need a reminder, MLB gave you one yesterday selecting the Phils' Ryan Howard the NL Rookie of the Year. Howard deserved the award (though Thom Brennamen is pouting somewhere now that his fave rookie, Willy Taveras, finished second). He put up numbers that would have been respectable over a full season and took just 88 games to do it (24 HR, 68 RBI, .942 OPS).

But the award, as all thing in Philly sports are, was bittersweet. Howard's future with the team is uncertain. Incumbent first baseman Jim Thome—and his contract—should bounce back from injury for 2006. Moving Howard to another position (LF?) would be problematic, both for him and the rest of the team. And moving Thome with his age, contract, and injury history seems extremely unlikely.

Indeed the first base situation is new GM Pat Gillick's Gordian Knot. It will have deep repercussions for this season and for the future of the team. At least the Phils replaced Ed Wade with a sentient life form before making that decision. It's the linchpin, but I can't see this team being able to make a decision about it until Thome's health is accessed after a few weeks of spring training. Every Philly team needs to start a season with insurmountable, unresolved issues. From T.O. to Howard-or-Thome.

By the way, if you don't believe that every bit of good Philly sports news is bittersweet, that being a Philly sports fan is something akin to being a Russian literature devotee, take a look at the previous RoY winners.

They are Scott Rolen in 1997, Richie "Don't Call Me Dick" Allen in 1964, and Jack Sanford in 1957. Rolen and Allen both were young players that the Phils expected to carry the franchise, but both were jettisoned for their individualistic approach and personalities that did not lead themselves to the typical leadership roles. They both moved on to other teams and had their fair share of success elsewhere. Allen's award had to come in the most bittersweet of all Phils seasons, 1964.

Sanford doesn't fit the Allen-Rolen Jungian archetype, but does represent another trail of tears for this team, trades. Though Sanford's trade to the Giants a season after winning the RoY award, albeit at 28, doesn't rank up with trading two young Hall of Famers (Sandberg and Jenkins), it was pretty awful. The Phils got two scrubs who played sparingly and poorly for them while the Giants got a pitcher who threw 200 innings a year in his first five seasons and had a monster year in 1962 (24 wins, 16 consecutively). The Giants blew his arm out with 284.1 innings in 1963, but he still pitched four more years.

So now Howard in one day seems consigned to this bit of Phils legacy, not to mention some T.O.-esque controversy to start next season. To quote John Cleese in Time Bandits, "Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very, very much… What god-awful people."

2005-11-08 10:06:24
1.   ChuckM
Keeps coming up roses for Philly sports-Urbina got arrested for attempted murder...
2005-11-08 10:21:25
2.   rbj
Given the lopsided nature of NFL contracts, I do have some sympathy for TO on renegotiating. And not acknowledging his 100th TD seems churlish. But you never knock your teammates.
2005-11-08 11:59:59
3.   Todd S
Agreed with #2. The fall of this year's Eagles team has been astounding. Didn't expect it at all.
2005-11-08 15:25:46
4.   das411
Not really, when you consider the holes that management created on the DLine with Simon and Burgess leaving, at RB when Duce was told to take a hike before last season and Correll "I've Never Played A Full Season" Buckhalter became our #2 back, and on special teams where the likes of Ike Reese, Brian Mitchell, and even filler like Sean Morey and Raheem Brock have been dumped the last couple of years.

For a team that has made 4 straight NFC Championships, they have let an awful lot of talent just walk away in recent years. Good think new GM Hugh Douglas has locked up an injured David Akers and a fragile Brian Westbrook for so long; maybe they will still be productive once the team has rebuilt itself out of this mess.

The 2005 Eagles look an awful lot like the 2005 Yankees, don't they...

2005-11-09 09:13:42
5.   ChuckM
I think a lot of it has more to do with the rest of the "competition" catching up in the NFC. Eagles have been a good team in a sub-par conference for quite awhile-with last season being the perfect example. Look at the record the NFC had against teams in the AFC last year...
2005-11-09 09:29:04
6.   Dimelo
"The 2005 Eagles look an awful lot like the 2005 Yankees". I would disagree, at least the Yankees made the playoffs and won 95 games and finished with a .586 Winning %. To say the Eagles are like the Yankees is a convenient argument, but not a true statement. One of those teams managed to overcome its shortcomings, can you say the same thing for the Eagles? I think not....

Go Giants!!!

2005-11-09 10:55:25
7.   rbj
The Patriots aren't doing so well either; just remember that the NFL wants different teams to win.
and Go Giants (now if they'd only show a freakin' Giants game here in Ohio.)
2005-11-09 11:11:45
8.   Mike Carminati
"Go Giants"?!? Is that really necessary? I bet you guys cheer whenever you hear a mention of Route 9 in a Springsteen song.

And in concluson, Ray must go.

2005-11-10 06:11:23
9.   rbj
Well, it's not like the Giants have been playing in the NFC championship the last few years. . .

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