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The Disgraceful Eagles
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
NFL Playoff Quiz: 1) Who holds the playoff record for rushing yards in a game at 248? [Hint: 1980s] 2) Who holds the record for receiving yards in a playoff contest at 240? [Hint: 1999] 3) Who was the first passer to throw for 400 in a playoff? [Hint: 1960s, in a losing effort, AFL.] Answers below.
1:05 PM …Colts at Bills
4:40 PM …Rams at Seahawks
8:15 PM …Bucs at Washington
1:05 PM …Ravens at Titans
4:40 PM …Bears at Saints
8:15 PM …Browns at Steelers
Green Bay, Kansas City have byes
Sadly, despite some primo winter weather sites, we aren’t going to be watching any of the above in a blizzard, at least according to the forecasts as I write. This sucks.
--There were more than a few locals who were fuming over the Eagles-Redskins game Sunday night and Philadelphia’s obvious tank job in going to backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld over starter Jalen Hurts, Washington clinging to a 17-14 lead, needing a win to take the NFC East, otherwise the Giants were going to the playoffs.
Yes, Hurts had been ineffective throwing the ball, but he had rushed for two touchdowns and at season end he had supplanted Carson Wentz because he was more of a playmaker, in the mold of Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray.
The move to Sudfeld made zero sense, except by doing so, the Eagles moved up a few places in the draft order after their eventual 20-14 loss to the team that Al Michaels keeps calling the Redskins.
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky tweeted, “That was a mockery.” But he also took the team to task.
“The NFL is a league that is about respect,” Orlovsky said. “In every aspect, Philly is a city that prides itself on having a chance when no one thinks they do, for never ever ever giving in. Not one that bows down and looks for the easy road. What happened to respecting the game and respecting the other teams in the league?”
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, two Eagles defenders had to be held back from confronting coach Doug Pederson for waving the white flag. Pederson defended his decision, saying he wanted to get Sudfeld, a career backup, playing time for the first time in two years.
“We were struggling just a little bit to move the ball,” Pederson told reporters Monday. “Defensively, they kept us in the game with a couple of takeaways late. And my plan was to get Nate in the game.”
Dan Shaughnessy / Boston Globe
“The Philadelphia Eagles are a disgrace and should be punished by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
“The Eagles intentionally lost a ‘Sunday Night Football’ game that had massive playoff implications for two other franchises. Philadelphia’s tank job served to improve its draft position from ninth to sixth, so the league should take away that first-round pick. Then fine the owner, suspend coach Doug Pederson, and apologize to all of us for insulting our intelligence and allowing Philly to throw a game.
“Remember Deflategate? The Patriots lost their first-round pick, a fourth-rounder, got fined a million bucks, and saw Tom Brady suspended four games just for taking a little air out of the footballs. The Patriots were punished for breaching the integrity of the game. Tampering with the footballs was deemed a competition violation.
“This was much worse….
“ ‘I was coaching to win,’ Pederson said after the game.
“Baloney. Everyone knew what he was doing. Broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth made no attempt to hide the obvious fact that the fix was in, but were restrained from calling it the disgrace it was because of NBC’s partnership with the NFL.
“There was nothing funny or clever about it. This was not a playoff-bound team resting and protecting stars to get ready for the playoffs. This was a team trying to lose to improve its draft position. Maybe it would be justifiable if this meant going from the second overall pick to No. 1 and bagging Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It might also be grudgingly acceptable if the outcome didn’t matter to any other team.
“But the outcome affected Washington and New York in a big way. And Pederson and the Eagles were obligated to try to play spoiler.
“I hope there’s an insurrection in the Eagle locker room. In the old days, reporters could comb the room and find the disgruntled vets. Now the teams have Covid cover from uncomfortable truths leaking out….
“Hop into the Wayback Machine to October of 1967, the final day of the Red Sox Impossible Dream season. The Sox beat the Twins in their season finale, then gathered in the Fenway clubhouse and turned on a radio to listen to the Tigers’ finale in Detroit.
“Boston had clinched at least a tie for the American League pennant and needed an Angels win over the Tigers to win the flag outright and advance to the World Series. The sixth-place Angels had zero to play for. But they battled the Tigers. Angels manager Bill Rigney used his best relievers in the late innings and had three pitchers warming in the bullpen to protect a two-run lead.
“The Red Sox clubhouse erupted when the Angels prevailed. In Detroit, Tigers owner John Fetzer went out for drinks with Rigney and toasted him for upholding the integrity of the game.
“We saw none of this Sunday night in Philadelphia. We saw a sports disgrace.
“Just law week, J.J. Watt of the eliminated Texans said, ‘There are a lot of people that watch us and invest their time and their money in buying our jerseys. They care about us. They care every single week. We’re in Week 16 and we’re 4-11 and there are fans that show up and they care about this.
“ ‘You can’t care enough to go out there and try your hardest? You shouldn’t be here.’
“Nor should you be owner or head coach of an NFL team.”
Giants coach Joe Judge was not happy with how the Eagles handled the fourth quarter, telling reporters Monday that it would be disrespectful to his players and the entire league if they went out and didn’t try to compete for 60 minutes in order to try to win a game.
--Meanwhile, the Giants are moving forward with Dave Gettleman as their general manager, as ownership believes the team is headed in the right direction and Gettleman is the right man to continue the building process alongside head coach Joe Judge.
New York’s 6-10 record is just a slight uptick from 4-12 in 2019, though Gettleman’s rate of return in the 2020 draft and especially in free agency was high, ditto his controversial commitment to Leonard Williams, who finished the season with a career-high 11.5 sacks.
That said, in three years the Giants are 15-33 in the Gettleman era, and not everyone is happy the guy gets to return.
Steve Politi / Star-Ledger (NJ.com)
“The Giants still have the league’s worst pass-blocking offensive line, still have arguably the least dynamic collection of playmakers and, as a result, still can’t be sure if Daniel Jones is a franchise quarterback.
“That’s on Gettleman. He arrived here promising that he’d head off to Cape Cod a happy man if he found the long-term replacement for Eli Manning, but near the end of his second season, Jones’ production has taken a troubling step back.
“In 13 games as a rookie, Jones had 26 touchdowns and 23 turnovers. In 14 games this season, he had 12 touchdowns and 16 turnovers. His quarterback rating has dropped from 87.7 to 80.4, and while he had an encouraging 178-attempt stretch without an interception, most advanced metrics have him near the bottom among NFL quarterbacks.
“If you had to decide whether or not Jones is ‘The Guy’ right now, it would be difficult to make a compelling case that he is. But how can you say for sure when he was sacked 14 times in his final four games and one of his top targets, ‘Pro Bowl’ tight end Evan Engram, is only skilled at deflecting passes into defenders’ hands?....
“Even if (CEO, co-owner John) Mara believes that the Giants are better than when Gettleman took over, that progress can be measured in inches, not miles, and he needs only to look around the league to know that it doesn’t have to take five years to build a playoff team.
“Look at Cleveland, which went from 0-16 in 2017 to 11-5 and in the playoffs. Look at Buffalo, at 6-10 three years ago to 12-3 and a legitimate Super Bowl contender this winter. Look at the Rams, a 4-12 team in 2016 that climbed to 13-3 and the NFC champions three years later….
“Mara said before the season that he wanted evidence that the Giants ‘have the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl’ when the 2020 season ended. Instead, they’ll enter the offseason needing to find stability on the offensive line, a top-level playmaker, and EDGE rusher, a cornerback and an inside linebacker, not necessarily in that order.
“But, first, they need to find a new GM to take control of this roster. The Giants pretended they were better than their 6-10 record for a few hours on Sunday, but when a long night ended, they got exactly what they deserved.”
Alas, Dave Gettleman is returning.
--The NFL is getting a preview of its worst nightmare in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Cleveland’s head coach Kevin Stefanski, two assistant coaches and two players tested positive for Covid, the team announced Tuesday, and will miss Sunday’s playoff game at Pittsburgh. Special teams coordinator, Mike Priefer, is to serve as acting head coach under the team’s contingency plans.
What if this happens prior to the Super Bowl? What if it’s Green Bay-Kansas City and either Mahomes or Rodgers suddenly tests positive? How can you go on with the game? You have to delay it a week…at least if we’re talking about the integrity of the game. It’s not an injury.
And this just in…Cleveland left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and wide receiver Rashard Higgins were both cited Tuesday morning for drag racing (Browns players off Tuesday).
Wills has started all but one game this season, while Higgins has emerged as a key target for Baker Mayfield.
Nothing from the team as yet.
--What will the Rams do at quarterback for their game Saturday at Seattle?
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“His first pass was completed to a guy from the other team.
“His third pass was overthrown. His fourth pass was underthrown. His fifth pass was wide.
“John Wolford’s first NFL game looked as if it could be his last NFL game. Yet, despite the early madness on the field, the most compelling scene was from the sideline, where the newbie sat casually after his interception, arms draped over the back of the bench, message clear.
“ ‘We’re good,’ he said to a consoling teammate.
“He was. They were. They are.
“The Rams eventually rode the smart arm, sturdy legs and resilient composure of their backup quarterback Sunday into the playoffs with an 18-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals at SoFi Stadium, and you know what has to happen now, right?
“They need to keep riding with him. They need to keep huddling around him. They need to continue to be inspired by him.
“John Wolford needs to remain the starter for the NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday in Seattle against the Seahawks.
“Even if Jared Goff’s broken right thumb is healed, start Wolford. Even if Goff throws well in practice, start Wolford.
“His athleticism lets the offense breathe. His field vision allows the passing game to expand. His game management makes the drives flow.
“With Wolford, the Rams play with more freedom, more versatility, more joy. With Wolford, the Rams’ NFL-best defense plays with more rest, less angst and better field position.
“With Wolford, especially against a Seattle defense that flustered Goff just last week, the Rams will play with more hope….
“Smart, versatile, composed execution. That’s all the Rams need from their quarterback. That’s what they haven’t been getting from Goff.
“That’s why coach Sean McVay needs to dispense with formalities and shrug off traditions and start Wolford against the Seahawks.
“Here’s guessing McVay knows it too.”
McVay said after the game he’d think about it, and he was effusive in his praise of Wolford, especially his ability to run the ball.
As I go to post, I haven’t seen any decision on the part of the Rams, and in reality they can wait a few days. Goff’s thumb will be fine by the weekend, and you saw he was throwing with no seeming issues in pregame on Sunday.
Just a guess. I think McVay will start Goff, but he’ll obviously have a short leash. At least the coach knows he has a viable option who now has playoff-like experience under his belt.
--Black Monday in the NFL hit Sunday night, after I posted, when the inevitable occurred, the firing of the Jets’ Adam Gase after he went 9-23 in his two seasons, including 2-14 this year. I’ve written more than enough about the guy. A lot of us fans like the idea of hiring Eric Bienemy, but ownership is in a bit of disarray as former principal owner, Woody Johnson, returns in a few weeks from his duty as ambassador to the UK. Brother Chris has been running things while he was away.
But I can easily see a situation where we don’t get who we want because the Jets don’t act out of a sense of urgency, and guys like Bienemy won’t wait around. He will get an offer and snap it up.
Jacksonville parted ways with head coach Doug Marrone after the worst season in franchise history, 1-15…15 straight losses after winning the opener. He was 25-44, including the postseason, in four-plus seasons with the Jaguars, which includes a 12-36 mark since winning the AFC South with a 10-6 record in 2017 and making an appearance in the AFC title game.
But three seasons later the Jags were one of the worst teams in the league. Urban Meyer would appear to be a layup for them, and Jacksonville will meet his rather hefty price tag.
In Los Angeles, I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I still was when the Chargers fired coach Anthony Lynn after the team finished strong, winning its last four to end up 7-9. But the reality is after going 9-7 and 12-4 his first two seasons, the Chargers then went 5-11 and 7-9 and with the talent on the team, that wasn’t good enough for owner Dean Spanos.
“This morning I informed Anthony Lynn that we have made the decision to part ways with him as our head coach. I’m not sure there is another person in this league more respected as a human being than Anthony, and I want to sincerely express by deepest gratitude for his leadership during a time of great change for our organization,” Spanos said in a statement.
“As we all know, this is a results-driven business and, simply put, the results of the past two years have fallen short of expectations. Moving forward, we will redouble our efforts to both build and maintain a championship-caliber program.”
Lynn’s clock and game management were called into question often, especially as the team started out 3-9, and it didn’t help that special teams were a disaster, with kicker Mike Badgley missing 12 kicks, many of them at critical stages of the game.
--In leading the league with 48 touchdown passes, Aaron Rodgers became just the second player, along with Peyton Manning, to post multiple seasons of 45+. Tom Brady was second at 40, making him the fifth quarterback with at least 40 touchdown passes in multiple seasons.
Three QBs hit the 70% completion mark for 2020; Rodgers, 70.7%; Drew Brees, 70.5%; and Deshaun Watson, 70.2%.
The rushing list was kind of strange.
1. Derrick Henry 2,027
2. Dalvin Cook 1,557
3. Jonathan Taylor 1,169
I was curious in looking at the differences between first and second, and first and third, what happened in 1973, when O.J. Simpson became the first to rush for 2,000, and in a 14-game schedule, averaging 6.0 per carry that season!
2. John Brockington 1,144
3. Calvin Hill 1,142
Just a wee bit of a difference, I think you’d agree.
Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receiving yards this season with 1,535, a Buffalo franchise record (on 127 receptions, another franchise mark).
T.J. Watt of Pittsburgh was the sack leader at 15.
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard led in interceptions with 10, which tied Dick Westmoreland’s franchise record that had stood since 1967.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey led in forced fumbles with 8.
--Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy tonight, the first receiver in 29 years to win the award, fourth receiver overall, following Desmond Howard, Tim Brown and Johnny Rodgers.
--Despite rumors to the contrary, the national championship game slated for Monday is still on…Alabama-Ohio State…despite some further Covid issues in the Buckeyes program.
Nick Saban’s daughter had tweeted today that Ohio State was using Covid as an excuse to give Justin Fields further rest from his rib injury. She then apologized for it.
--Wake Forest sophomore running back Kenneth Walker III, who had 579 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games this season before opting out of the final regular-season contest against Louisville, entered the transfer portal. This is a big blow, but there are lots of questions. Like why? Something happened.
--New AP Poll (Mon., records as of Sunday)
1. Gonzaga (63) 10-0
2. Baylor (1) 9-0
3. Villanova 8-1…just paused, postponing 3 games due to Covid
4. Texas 8-1
5. Iowa 9-2
6. Kansas 8-2
7. Creighton 8-2
8. Wisconsin 9-2
9. Tennessee 7-1
10. Michigan 9-0
15. Rutgers 7-2
T-19. Clemson 8-1
T-19. Virginia Tech 8-1
23. Saint Louis 7-1
The NCAA announced its entire postseason men’s basketball tournament will be held in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas with a bubble-like format.
All 68 teams will come to compete for the national championship and play most of the games at multiple venues in Indianapolis, with some games in Bloomington and West Lafayette. The bulk of the teams will stay in hotels connected to the Indiana Convention Center, which will be used as a practice facility, the NCAA said.
Selection Sunday is still scheduled for March 14, and the Final Four is set to be held April 3 and 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy.
A local health partner in Indianapolis will handle testing for all players, coaches, staffers, officials and others connected to the event.
Teams will stay on “dedicated hotel floors” and abide by social distancing throughout their time in the tournament. A “limited number of family members” will be permitted to watch games, while other details concerning fans remains to be determined.
This idea has been on the table since November and makes perfect sense. Now let’s see how the season goes in January and February.
It is critical for the NCAA to get this done as canceling the tournament last season resulted in a $375 million loss.
--The Brooklyn Nets, who looked like true NBA title contenders their first two games of the year with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the court together for the first time, then lost four of five, and critical cog Spencer Dinwiddie to a season-ending injury. There’s been a little talk that not everyone is on the same page with new coach Steve Nash.
It’s ridiculous to make too much of a situation this early, but it is a truncated, 72-game season, and you certainly don’t want to be 8-12 after the first 20 if you’re the Nets.
But that’s where they’re headed, as Kevin Durant has now been forced to sit out the next four games due to league health and safety protocols; Durant in close contact to someone who tested positive.
[As I go to post, Nets are whipping Utah…sans Durant…important for them.]
--Steph Curry scored a career-high 62 points Sunday night in the Warriors’ 137-112 win over Portland; Curry going 18-of-31 from the field, including 8-of-16 from three, and 18-for-19 from the free-throw line.
Curry then followed that up with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in Golden State’s 137-106 blitzing of Sacramento.
So the much-maligned Warriors are 4-3. Rookie James Wiseman is getting his feet wet, averaging 11 points and 6 rebounds in 21 minutes of action and he’s only going to get much better, and rapidly, I imagine.
--The PGA Tour is back! This week we have the Tournament of Champions from gorgeous Kapalua. The perfect elixir for those in the midst of a dreary winter…a little escape to paradise.
And this means I will no doubt resume my losing ways with my DraftKings lineups. Unlike my solid success in NASCAR, I have done so awful with my golf bets, DraftKings took the drastic step in November of sending me to Korn Ferry DK School, where I was put through the paces in order to be allowed to bet on the big tour again. Let’s just say I’m on double-secret probation.
--I can’t help but note I saw the Chicago Cubs hired Jon ‘Boog’ Sciambi as their new television play-by-play voice, though he’ll keep his ESPN role too.
Great hire. This guy’s good. Great sense of humor, as well as being knowledgeable.
--The other day Chad Stuart, of Chad & Jeremy, passed away and now the leader of another British Invasion act, Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, has left us. He was 78. Marsden died after a short illness related to a heart infection.
Gerry and the Pacemakers, like Chad & Jeremy, had a brief run, 1963-66, but they produced three Billboard top tens…the #4 “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” #9 “How Do You Do It?” and #6 “Ferry Cross The Mersey.”
“Don’t Let the Sun…” and “Ferry…” are truly timeless, sounding as good today as they did 55 years ago.
The Pacemakers were actually the first British act to hit #1 on the UK singles chart with their first three releases and held that distinction for two decades, until another Liverpool band, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, matched it.
Brian Epstein signed the group and had a #1 single with the Pacemakers before the Beatles topped the UK charts.
Marsden, the lead singer, was from Liverpool, a la The Beatles, but he has a special place in the heart of Liverpudlians because he came up with the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
If you’re not familiar with this one, YouTube the official video with the 42 million hits.
“I thought what a beautiful song. I’m going to tell my band we’re going to play that song,” Marsden told the AP in 2018 when recalling the first time he heard the song at the cinema. “So I went back and told my buddies we’re doing a ballad called ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’”
The song is adapted from “Carousel,” which was a 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that became a feature film in 1956, and was released by the Pacemakers in October 1963, becoming their third No. 1 hit on the British singles chart.
Soon it was adopted by fans of the Liverpool F.C. and has been sung before each home game for decades. There is a great YouTube clip of the fans singing it in celebration of Liverpool’s Champions League finale over Tottenham in 2019 as well.
Sadly, with the lockdown in the UK, fans can’t gather in the pubs to remember Gerry Marsden in the proper fashion, but he forever lives on in their hearts…and voices.
After his death, Paul McCartney wrote on Twitter: “Gerry was a mate from our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene. His unforgettable performances of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music.”
Top 3 songs 1/8/66: #1 “We Can Work It Out” (The Beatles) #2 “The Sounds of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel) #3 “She’s Just My Style” (Gary Lewis and the Playboys)…and…#4 “Flowers On The Wall” (The Statler Brothers) #5 “Ebb Tide” (The Righteous Brothers) #6 “Over And Over” (The Dave Clark Five) #7 “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (James Brown) #8 “Five O’Clock World” (The Vogues) #9 “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” (The Byrds) #10 Day Tripper” (The Beatles…terrific week…A…)
NFL Playoff Quiz Answers: 1) Rushing yards in a playoff game, Eric Dickerson, 248, Rams vs. Cowboys, Jan. 4, 1986. 2) Receiving yards: Eric Moulds, 240, Buffalo vs. Miami, Jan. 2, 1999. 3) The “Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica, was the first to throw for 400 in a playoff game, 401, the AFL Championship game, Dec. 29, 1968, but Oakland lost to the Jets, 27-23, Joe Namath and Co. then moving on to the Super Bowl.
Namath threw for three touchdowns, 266 yards, while Matt Snell (19-71) and Emerson Boozer (11-51) provided balance on the ground. I was a huge Boozer fan.
Bazooka Joe Asks: Where did Emerson go to school? Answer: Maryland-Eastern Shore. Which also produced the likes of Johnny Sample, Sherman Plunkett, Gerald Irons, Roger Brown, and Art Shell.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday.