Sunday, December 31, 2006

Eagles capture NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys stumbled to a 39-31 loss to the lowly Detroit Lions on Sunday, handing the NFC East to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Birds are locked into the No. 3 seed, and will host the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, will head to Seattle for their first-round matchup.

Cowher to retire

The Phanatic has learned that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher will retire on Monday or Tuesday. Cowher will cite a desire to spend more time with his family. The top in-house candidates to replace him will be Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm but Dan Rooney will also look heavily into hiring a minority candidate with Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera high on his list.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Flyers try to catch Lightning in a bottle

The Philadelphia Flyers made a move on Saturday to put themselves over the top. Seriously though, they did claim 6-2, 210-pound forward Dmitry Afanasenkov from Tampa Bay on Saturday off waivers.

The Russian has three goals and three assists in 33 games this season with Tampa and netted nine goals with six assists last year.

"Dmitry is a well rounded player," said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren in a release issued by the team. "He is a right-handed shot and can play any forward position. Due to our lack of right wings, we feel that he's a big plus for us. He's very smart defensively and has good skills."

Afanasenkov, 26, was a third-round pick by Tampa in 1998.

Howard wants raise; fires agent

Ryan Howard recently fired agent Larry Reynolds in an effort to get a better deal from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Birds lock up Herremans

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms with offensive lineman Todd Herremans on a five-year contract extension Saturday. The deal will keep Herremans in Philadelphia through the 2013 season.

The 24-year-old Herremans made a smooth transition to left guard in 2006, starting all 15 games and helping the Eagles offense rank second in yards per game (380.7) and sixth in points per game (24.9). As a rookie in 2005, Herremans started four games at left tackle for the injured William Thomas.

Herremans, a fourth round draft choice of the Eagles in 2005, becomes the eighth Eagles player to sign a long-term extension in the past six months. Earlier this year, the Eagles inked wide receiver Reggie Brown (through 2014), defensive end Trent Cole (2013), defensive tackle Mike Patterson (2016), guard Shawn Andrews (2015), center Jamaal Jackson (2013), free safety Brian Dawkins (2008), and punter Dirk Johnson (2011).

Willful Ignorance

By John McMullen

According to the self-righteous -- the Major League Baseball steroid scandal is the biggest story in sports.

And things heated up this week when a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Government investigators are now entitled to the names and urine samples of about 100 big league players who tested positive for illegal drug use in 2003.

The court's ruling is expected to fuel the Feds' witch-hunt against Barry Bonds, especially if his name is among those who tested positive.

The slugger has been the target of a perjury investigation since he testified before a grand jury that he didn't knowingly ingest illegal drugs. Meanwhile, Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, is currently in prison for refusing to testify in the perjury probe.

Understand you will not be getting any spin in this column -- Frankly, Bonds is an obvious abuser of performance enhancers, as was Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. That said, you may be asking why I think the investigation into Bonds' "alleged" wrongdoing is a witch-hunt.

It's simple -- no one cares that Bonds broke the law. They care that he is about to break the most storied record in American sports.

You will see no uproar to convict Rafael Palmeiro of perjury and few can even muster a yawn over the Jason Grimsleys of the world.

Yet, the Philadelphia Daily News' Bill Conlin recently opined "that the use of of performance-enhancing, illegal, anabolic steroids and human growth hormones should have dwarfed the 1919 Black Sox Scandal both in scope and impact."

Make no mistake, Conlin is dead on -- problem is, his words are hollow and lack credibility. It he and his ilk truly believed what they are now writing, then why did they ignore it for so long?

I'd like to believe I'm smarter than the grumpy one and hundreds of other print reporters since I first tackled the steroid issue in the early '90s. And heck, I believe I am but that's just the egoism talking. It's certainly not because I recognized the scope of this problem before most.

You see, I am well aware that Conlin and his print doppelgangers knew that hundreds of baseball players were "cheaters" long before they let you in on it.

They ignored it because they didn't care -- it was willful ignorance.

You see, at their core, most media members are just like you -- fans. And they love the 500-foot bombs as much as any season ticket holder.

So forgive me if I yawn while these same frauds now feign outrage in hopes of capturing acclaim.

They cheated you -- just like Barry Bonds.

-You can read John McMullen every Saturday at The Phanatic. He can be reached at

Friday, December 29, 2006

Not bitter, just sweet.

By Michael Rushton

My how quickly we forgot about our star quarterback.

Our prized franchise leader, a corporate man if you will, had, and still has, been silent while HIS Eagles have put together a magical run.

He says he doesn't want to be a distraction, just wants to sit in the shadows and silently root for his club while rehabbing his knee. A knee that next year will again help his shoulders support the Eagles, let me remind you.

Since going down with his season-ending knee injury, McNabb has done everything right. He has stayed quiet, supported his club, and not become a distraction. But of course, someone outside of the game has gone and ruined it.

Much like a Drew Rosenhaus or a retired ex-play --ahem, Hugh Douglas -- can make matters worse, Mama McNabb has gone and done just that.

Sure, her blog started out harmless. A win over the Cowboys was just what she wanted for Christmas. A sweep of Dallas this season -- one game with McNabb, one without -- is cause for celebration. But then, just like a mother tends to do, she overprotected her son.

It's bitter sweet, she said of the Eagles' recent success. Her and her family all feel that way apparently. But heaven forbid, what will happen to poor Donovan if the Eagles -- gasp -- win it all. She asks if her son will be crucified, or perhaps traded? A Super Bowl win would mean another horrendous offseason for No. 5, Mama McNabb says.

No offense Mrs. McNabb, but you are way off base.

I seriously doubt one of the first things that would creep into our collective minds following a championship is a quarterback controversy. If this was our third ring in say, six or seven years, maybe. But on the heels of Jeff Garcia and the Eagles ending a 20-plus year drought, not likely.

What would the McNabb family have had us do? Give up the season because we lost Donovan? Decide we didn't want to make the playoffs because we lost our starting quarterback? Give me a break.

No offense McNabb family, but follow Donovan's lead and just let us enjoy this.

We could all see that Donovan was in a lose-lose situation here. If Garcia had come in and stunk up the place, Philly's season would have been done three weeks ago. As a matter of fact, we would probably be watching A.J. under center this weekend while counting down the days until McNabb stepped back onto the field to save us.

However, Garcia and the Birds decided to go with option two: win. Now, on the surface it looks like the Eagles don't need McNabb to be successful and that is what scares Mama McNabb. This is starting to get eerily familiar to when we lost T.O. before our Super Bowl run.

But mom need not worry, every Philly fan knows deep inside how much we need McNabb -- in the long run. A foolish QB controversy next season would be squashed the minute Donovan steps back on the field and starts rifling strikes into the numbers. I have all the confidence in McNabb and his return.

And if all the stars align and the Birds to go all the way this year, McNabb will be even more dangerous next season. See, he will have something many of his teammates won't: desire. No Super Bowl hangover for No. 5.

My, how sweet it will be.

Michael Rushton can be praised or bashed at

Eagles playoff scenarios

-Courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles

There are 2,048 possible scenarios that affect the NFC playoff seeding. Here are the percentages of the possible outcomes for the Eagles...

39.9% Giants at Eagles (817)
25.0% Eagles at Seahawks (512)
15.8% Packers at Eagles (323)
9.4% Panthers at Eagles (192)
6.3% Rams at Eagles (128)
3.1% Falcons at Eagles (64)
0.5% (Packers or Giants tie broken on strength of schedule tiebreaker) at Eagles (12)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tim's Top 10

By Tim McManus

With the regular season nearly over and the postseason on the horizon, let's figure out who the real contenders are:

10. New York Jets (9-6)

Towards the bottom of the league in both offense and defense statistically, but the Jets just win, baby.

9. Dallas Cowboys (9-6)

Don't write this team completely off. Remember, many experts pegged the Cowboys the NFC's top dog just a few weeks ago. The conference is up for grabs, and Dallas has a lot of pieces in place.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6)

Unbelievable that the Birds are even on this list. Tough to envision Jeff Garcia maintaining this high level of play, but if he does, look out.

7. Denver Broncos (9-6)

The wild card of the bunch. Back-to-back wins with Jay Cutler at the helm have quieted the critics that believed removing Jake Plummer was the wrong move. Cutler and the Broncos are starting to find their groove, and could be a sleeper.

6. Indianapolis Colts (11-4)

Great start, stumble late, get knocked out of the playoffs before reaching the championship, blah, blah, blah...

5. New Orleans Saints (10-5)

Drew Brees is the only top-flight signal-caller in the NFC right now, and he's surrounded by a ton of weapons. The question marks lie on the other side of the ball, justly or otherwise.

4. New England Patriots (11-4)

A bizarre team. The Pats can lose or win any game by 20 points and nobody's shocked. Dangerous as always, but this club seems to be lacking a certain something.

3. Chicago Bears (13-2)

The question: How bad will Super Rex be? The answer: If you have to ask that question, you're probably in trouble.

2. Baltimore Ravens (12-3)

No glaring weaknesses, outstanding veteran leadership and talent, a good quarterback and a savage defense. Sounds like a winning recipe to me.

1. San Diego Chargers (13-2)

Simply the most complete team in football, led by two of the top players on their respective sides of the ball in LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman. The detractors point to the youth of Philip Rivers and Marty Schottenheimer's tendency to pucker up in the playoffs as reasons San Diego won't fare well this January. The counterargument is that Marty ball might actually be perfect for this team, because it will limit Rivers' chances to make mistakes while handing a big load to LT. They do that, they win the Bowl.

Mama McNabb speaks out

"The win this week was great and I could actually say that's what I wanted for Christmas. Yes, now we have solidly beat the Cowboys with my son and without him..."

The Baseball Factory on the 2007 Phillies

The Phanatic likes to read the work at The Baseball Factory, given they do impeccable historic research and study trends before slapping numbers on to players.

Some of the Phillies' projected totals were interesting:

Ryan Howard's mean average for 2007: .298/.397/.627 with 51 homers and 142 RBI. His optimistic season? .322/.430/.694 with 59 bombs and 175, yes 175, RBI.

I'd also take Pat Burrell's projected numbers: .262/.373/.487 with 28 home runs and 105 RBI.

The Factory seems leery of Freddy Garcia's jump to the National League, putting his numbers in line with Jamie Moyer's (13 wins, plus 4 ERA). Starts for Adam Eaton? 25 says the Hardball Think Tank, which the Phillies would gladly take.

Check out the rest for yourself at the above link.

Mets don't land Zito; Giants DO

By Jared Trexler

The Philadelphia Phillies' chances to win the National League East increased Thursday when the San Francisco Giants landed star southpaw Barry Zito, signing him to a seven-year, $126 million dollar contract.

The Giants' gain is the Mets' loss, as the defending NL East champions will be without Pedro Martinez until at least midseason, relying instead on an aging lefty (Tom Glavine), a soft-tossing right-hander (Orlando Hernandez) and a group of unknowns (John Maine, Orlando Perez).

The free-agent miss may put the Mets in the market for right-hander Jeff Weaver, who contributed to New York's playoff exit last season while pitching for the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

No matter what happens from here on out, the Mets staff will not stack up to Philadelphia's rotation on Opening Day.

The Texas Rangers also missed out on Zito, meaning their interest may peak in Jon Lieber. We all know how comfortable GM Pat Gillick is dealing with Jon Daniels.

In all, the Zito signing strengthens an aging Giants roster, but still doesn't make them better than the Phillies. It weakens the Mets' chances of repeating, placing emphasis on the remainder of the offseason and setting up a division race to remember.

The NFL from here on out...

By Jared Trexler

Just a note to our loyal readers, while the holidays have kept all of us busy with family obligations and increased workloads thanks to management vacations, The Phanatic will cap the NFL regular season and hit the playoffs running following the conclusion of regular-season finales this weekend.

Tuesday: The Phanatic's All-Pro Team
Wednesday: The Phanatic's Award Winners (Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, MVP)
Thursday: The Phanatic's Eagles season recap and playoff outlook
Friday: Staff playoff predictions

The Phanatic Voting Panel: John McMullen, Jared Trexler, Tim McManus, Steve Lienert, Michael Rushton, Greg Wiley, John Gottlieb, Eric Redner, Jeff Glauser.

NBA Source: Sixers may buyout Webber

By John McMullen

A well-placed NBA source has informed The Phanatic that the Sixers are seriously discussing a buyout of Chris Webber's contract.

Sam Smith of The Chicago Tribune first floated the story on Tuesday, citing team insiders who indicated Webber has been a bigger distraction than Allen Iverson with his clubhouse lawyering of young players.

Another year, another tear: A Philly Phable

On Comet and Cupid! The Phanatic welcomes Jeff Glauser to its pages with this riveting, poetic piece about the course of Philadelphia sports.

By Jeff Glauser

Gather round kids and I’ll tell you a story
About something called Philly Sports Purgatory

It began long ago, in the year ‘83
What now seems like an eternity
Our president back then always acted real chipper
In fact, he did act, played a fellow named Gipper

Our sports teams in town indeed had it made
Just wrapping up yet another parade
For good reason you had far less boos than were cheers
That happens while observing four titles/nine years

Then something occurred, perhaps like a curse
But this was like something that could be far worse
No billygoats, Shoeless Joe’s, no ghosts of Babe Ruth
Only the brutal reality of truth

Our teams would stop winning, post seasons were rare
Some owners stopped spending, some seemed to not care
Even with talent, we got played a cruel joke
Teams got so far, then would seemingly choke

Peerless players existed, and when they arrived
The hopes reemerged for a team that’s revived
But hope wouldn’t last, and neither the player
And on the way out, they’d blame the naysayer

On Barkley, on Rolen, on Lindros, A.I.
Our heroes would leave us a bitter goodbye
Their lives would get better and ours would get worse
And so would continue this harsh nameless curse

Memories would haunt us, like Joe Carter’s home run
And McNabb’s Super Bowl heaving was surely no fun
Soon losses would pile, the heartache would swell
Was this what it’s like to be in sports hell?

Now here we are more than two decades later
Runners up several times, but not anything greater
And as children have children, the legend will grow
Passionate fans will have nothing to show

But as you get older, as anguish goes on
As our futile squads’ dusks turn into a dawn
Kids, never forget the rhyme to the reason
And that is our motto: There’s always next season!

What State's Football is the Best?

By Jared Trexler

You may not agree with everything ESPN does, but the Worldwide Leader in Sports also puts together some informative, downright cool packages.

This Page One spread deals with which state has the best football, running the gambit from high school to the pro ranks.

Pennsylvania is ranked fourth, thanks in large part to dominating high school football in the coal regions, Joe Paterno and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No. 1 pro No. 7 college No. 6 high school: The Keystone State has three DI teams, two Heismans, four national titles, four NFL titles, five Super Bowl wins and 26 NFL Hall of Famers.

Yes, you read it correctly. Pennsylvania is the top state for the NFL, which can't be argued considering the success of the Steelers and Eagles over the past decade.

Where is John McMullen's beloved Minnesota? No. 24, with the 19th ranked pro franchise, 28th best collegiate programs and a pretty poor high school circuit (31st).

New Jersey sits number nine with New York camped out at number 16.

Good read.

Two more Penn State players sidelined

Safety Spencer Ridenhour and tailback Austin Scott will not be available to Penn State for the Outback Bowl.

MLBPA trying to save Bonds?

The government's investigation into athlete steroid use appears to have widened with the names of 100 baseball players who tested positive for illegal drugs now in the hands of federal investigators.

The information, which an appeals court granted to authorities Wednesday, could bolster the perjury case against Barry Bonds, who is under investigation for telling a grand jury he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

The players' union may ask for a new hearing before the full 9th Circuit or appeal the panel's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Forsberg shakes away cobwebs

Turns out Peter Forsberg will be in action tonight after all.

Despite telling reporters on Tuesday that he was still feeling ill-effects from his concussion and would be forced to sit out against Florida, he is now slated to play against the Panthers.

That is good news for the Flyers, who are still winless with their captain out of the lineup.

The biggest fight of the year...

...takes place this Saturday and it doesn't involve anyone named De La Hoya. Chuck Liddell defends his UFC light-heavyweight title versus Tito Ortiz in what is expected to the biggest PPV event in years. The current industry projection of 1.2-million buys will be more than any boxing match since Lennox Lewis tangled with Mike Tyson in 2002.

Here's a primer from Dave Meltzer.

Who is the most annoying player in football?

SI polled 361 NFL players and the results are far from surprising.

Court rules Feds can have baseball steroid testing data

A lot of major league players are wary today after a federal appeals court ruled that Government investigators are entitled to the names and urine samples of about 100 players who tested positive for illegal drug use in 2003.

AI turning over a new leaf?

Allen Iverson put forth a stellar performance against Boston last night en route to his first victory with Denver. It prompted one of his fellow Nuggets to say, "That's why he's a great teammate."

A Chance for a Dream

By Jared Trexler

Sports is a microcosm of life.

Celebrations don't come without sacrifice. Chances taken are dreams earned.

They seem like fluffy words striking a blow of improbability to one's soul. Dreams conjure words like lottery, money, fame, luck.

Yet, this column is about different dreams. Not the dreams of chance, but those built upon the foundation of chances.

On Christmas Day, Will Smith's Pursuit of Happyness hit the theaters behind a wave of applause from critics nationwide.

With just cause. It's a real story about real people, not a dramatization supported by reality but built up by the money of Hollywood.

It was a perfect movie for the holiday season because it asked so many subtle, inherent questions of us. Our lives. Our hopes. Our dreams.

As the 2-plus hour chronology of one's life played out on screen, life's most general themes came to the forefront behind a loud, resounding premise.

What are you willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of happiness? What obstacles are you willing to meet head on, what failures are you prepared to overcome in order to achieve one of this country's oldest ideals?

Are you willing to sacrifice the present? Are you prepared to pack up all of your personal belongings and move 300,000 miles away from the only friends and family you've ever known?

In the film's sense, are you willing to sleep in a NYC subway bathroom for weeks, covering your child with a coat -- one that holds your last five dollars and one stick of gum?

All for a dream?

It takes a certain kind of person to answer those questions with an emphatic "Yes." A person unsatisfied with the safe job, the safe house, the safe spouse. An individual who understands the depths one must fall to before the loud and proud climb to the top.

Maybe the last penny in the bank account exemplifies hard work and perseverance rather than monetary negligence.

Athletes ask those same questions everyday. Is it worth it? Is lifting on an off day going to make me that much stronger? Is extra film study going to make me that much smarter? Is how I react to failure going to shape my ability to succeed?

In one word, YES.

Sports legends are the people who missed a three-foot pressure putt before they made one. Threw a costly interception before tossing a game-sealing touchdown.

Some players have instant success before they meet obstacles. Andre Agassi burst on to the tennis scene as a brash, artistic American star behind the slogan, "Image is Everything." He grasped instant success including a Wimbledon title in 1992.

Tiger Woods never lost on the course, until suffering a greater loss off it with the death of his best friend, sports mentor and most importantly father, Earl. He returned to golf by missing his first cut at a major.

Agassi soon dealt with an up-and-down marriage to actress Brooke Shields that threw his priorities and passion out of whack. He eventually responded.

Woods won the British Open and PGA Championship later in the season, finishing with more money and tournament victories than any other player. It was the stuff legends are made of.

Think about those challenges in your life, comparing them to athletes or maybe just friends and family if you wish. Decide which road you want to travel as a New Year beckons.

And enjoy this You Tube soccer presentation detailing the greatness of perseverance in sports. Chances lead to legends.

Why not us?

By Steven Lienert

Two-thousand-six wasn't the best year the Lienert household has seen. And 2007 ain't shapin' up much better.

It would have made matters worse, however, if the Eagles hadn't literally risen from the dead.

Instead, there's something to root for in Philly on New Years' Eve -- and beyond.

Who woulda thunk Jeff Garcia was our savior?

Who woulda thunk Brian Westbrook could not only become a vocal leader, but an every-down back?

Who woulda thunk Brian Dawkins would have discovered Ponce DeLeon's map to the fountain of youth and drug his defense kicking-and-screaming into the postseason?

Who thought that, after the debacle against Tennessee, the Birds had a better chance at the No. 1 pick than to make the postseason? I did -- and I'm about as diehard as it gets.

As I told my family and friends after the Eagles disposed of T.O. and the Cowboys on Christmas night, now is the time to appreciate the possibilities.

The Eagles could have a home game, either against the Giants or Packers. No matter the opponent, both are winnable, especially at the Linc.

The next step would be a rematch in New Orleans. With the injuries to the Saints' defense and the sudden unpredictability of the Eagles' offense, the Birds can (and will) pull out the win. Besides, can the Saints realistically go to the Super Bowl? If they do, will the Earth spin on an opposite axis? Isn't that like saying the Cardinals will play the Browns for the NFL title?

If the Eagles win in New Orleans, they'll go to Chicago for the NFC Championship. Or host Seattle (or, if the gods' smile on us, Dallas), which, in all seriousness, is a realistic possibility.

The Seahawks would be lucky -- very, very lucky -- to upend the Bears, let alone beat Dallas. If they -- or the Boys -- come to Philly, the Eagles will host a lottery for tickets to SB XLI. If not, however, the Eagles will go to Chicago to play the Bears for the NFC crown.

And they'll win. Why? The Eagles are, by far, the most playoff battle-tested team in the NFC. And there ain't no way Rex Grossman can be a Super Bowl quarterback. That would be an embarrassment to Super Bowl quarterbacks everywhere.

The only way the Bears will beat the Eagles in the playoffs right now is if they pump in fog off the shores of Lake Michigan again. Let's face it, the Birds -- not the Bears -- are the team to beat right now in the NFC.

Five weeks ago, after the Titans kicked the Eagles' collective ass at the Linc, I was sure it was over.

Now we, as fans, are living on borrowed -- or resurrected -- time. That makes anything possible -- even for the most skeptical of Eagles' fans.

Late in 2004, former Phillies pitcher Curt Schilling, who was then pitching for the Red Sox, gave out 'Why Not Us?' T-shirts to each of his Boston teammates. They went on to win the World Series, which ended 86 years of suffering for New Englanders everywhere.

Perhaps it's a a mantra the 2006 Eagles should adopt. Because if the Birds advance beyond the NFC title game, they'll be facing a beat-up AFC team that went through at least two of the top five teams in the NFL to get where they are.

Maybe they'll be ripe for the picking. Maybe it's our turn. Maybe Garcia will be our sports' version of Moses. Even if it isn't meant to be, isn't now the time to dream?

Why not us?

Lienert can be reached at

Gerald Ford dead at 93

Gerald Ford, the 38th and only unelected president in the country's history, passed away Tuesday. He was 93.

Ford is best known for facing the unenviable task of picking up the pieces left shattered in America's idealism following the scandal-ridden investigation that tainted Richard Nixon's presidency.

Ford only held the highest office in the land for 895 days. His pardon of Nixon likely cost him his own election and another four years in the Oval Office, but it was applauded years later as an act that began the nation's healing process following Watergate.

In a sports sense, Ford was the glue of Michigan's offensive line during back- to-back football national championships in 1932 and 1933. The Wolverines went undefeated both seasons, and Ford was named the team's Most Valuable Player during his senior season.

Ford eventually chose Yale Law School over NFL offers from the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.

It was a sign of his life's passion.

He was the longest-living president, followed closely by Ronald Reagan, who also passed away at 93.

A family statement did not mention the cause of death. Ford battled pneumonia last January and underwent two heart treatments in August.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Talk about misguided NFL depression

By John Gottlieb

Unbelievable! There's nothing like a bitter Steelers fan trying to tear down the Eagles, who just clinched an improbable playoff berth.

About the tortoise race metaphor or the opinion that there are only two "2006 Pittsburgh Steelers" in the NFC Conference, what do these things even mean?

What, there are only two squads in the NFC that AREN'T playoff teams? The 2006 Steelers aren't making the playoffs, so does this make sense to anyone other than Mr. Trexler?

Are you trying to say that the Eagles don't play defense like the Ravens or have the offensive firepower of the Chargers? Okay, but does that make them any less of a playoff team? It's not breaking news that the AFC is better than the NFC, but I don't think they're going to call off the Super Bowl.

If that's the case the Patriots should've just stayed home instead of playing St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans.

I'm not even an Eagles fan and everyone can tell where Jared's allegiances lie, but we all know that it doesn't matter what the sport, momentum can carry you to a title and nobody is hotter than the Eagles.

Just ask the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, who rode Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Anthony Reyes to the World Series, the 2005-06 Miami Heat, who fought back from two games down to beat the Dallas Mavericks, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who changed the face of a series and a rivalry with a guy named Dave Roberts, or the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning, who reeled off an 11-game winning streak and picked up at least a point in 18 straight games in the last 1 1/2 months of the season before marching to the Stanley Cup.

Then there is the team that Jared raves about, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 7-5 before winning their final four regular-season games. And who did they beat? The Super Bowl champs, who will be sitting home after next week's regular-season finale, beat one playoff team (Chicago 11-5). The others were against Minnesota (9-7), Cleveland (6-10) and Detroit (5-11).

You can make an argument that if Carson Palmer wasn't hurt on the first offensive play of the AFC Wild Card Game or if Nick Harper made a different cut with the ball after Jerome Bettis' fumble in the AFC Divisional Playoff that Cincy or Indy might have been playing for the title.

Now let's take a look at the Eagles: Before their four-game winning streak started the Eagles were 5-6 and had lost their starting quarterback two weeks earlier. Then they go though a stretch where they play three straight road games in December against NFC east opponents...with Jeff Garcia.

Everyone, including myself and Eagles fans all over, thought the season was over when Donovan McNabb went down with a horrible knee injury to the Titans in Week 11, and now they are going to win arguably the best division in football when they beat Atlanta this weekend.

Garcia certainly is no Roethlisberger, who the aforementioned author insists will be one of the greatest signal callers in NFL history, but he doesn't seem to be doing too bad. Remember that Big Ben was just 9-of-23 for 123 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for the worst passer rating by a winning quarterback in Super Bowl history (22.6).

Garcia has done exactly what Philadelphia has needed. He gets the ball to Brian Westbrook, makes some plays with his legs and keep the mistakes to a minimum. He's completing 62 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and TWO interceptions.

And three of the last four games have come against teams that go into Week 17 with a chance at making the playoffs, and almost assuredly two of them will.

The Eagles have a dominant running back, a well-balanced offense and a defense that has improved each week of the season, creating turnovers and making big plays.

If Philadelphia wins the Super Bowl this year it will be exactly like last year's Super Bowl champs. Both teams won with a great running game, a solid defense and two quarterbacks that weren't expected to lead their teams to the promise land.

So Mr. Trexler what do the Eagles have to do to be the "2005 Pittsburgh Steelers" or the "2006 Pittsburgh Steelers" for that matter?

Sounds like someone is a little bitter that after this week's loss in Cincinnati, all the Steelers have to look forward to is Alan Faneca, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton playing in a meaningless football game in Hawaii.

Calm down, there's always next year for the Steelers.

Calm Down

By Jared Trexler

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, especially on the day after Christmas -- the day after the Philadelphia Eagles put the fate of the NFC East in their own hands with a resounding 23-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Yet, the truth has to come from someone outside the hysteria of fandom. It shall set you free.

The Eagles aren't that good.

In the last four weeks -- a magic carpet ride that started with spewed pessimism, and ended with a thumping of Tony "Hollywood" Romo -- the Eagles have molded into an embodiment of their quarterback.

That quarterback is Jeff Garcia, who despite a three-year magic-in-a-bottle run in San Francisco, has been the definition of mediocre.

Mediocre also defines the Eagles in the trenches. Most importantly, it defines the conference in which they play and the competition in which they faced over the last four weeks.

Carolina? A severe group of underachievers without a running game or a secondary. Washington? A club grooming a young quarterback with average skill players and a coaching staff stuck in the late 1980s. The Giants? A team with serious ego issues, a quarterback will little game toughness and a beat up, beleaguered defensive unit tired of listening to the army general.

And that leaves us with Dallas. Probably one of the most hyped teams in recent memory without a leg to stand on. The running game is average, the quarterback is becoming exposed, the defense already has (thank you Drew Brees).

So, while four wins are four wins, a tortoise sliding past another tortoise won't win you more than a concession race.

Did any football fans see Baltimore this weekend? San Diego IN Seattle despite a below average game from its first-year signal-caller?

I truly believe what I'm about to type. I'm taking off the gloves and not holding anything back.

If the Philadelphia Eagles some how, some way represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLI it will be the biggest travesty in the history of the league.

Worse than the sacrifical lamb -- New England -- against the Monsters of the Midway in Super Bowl XX. Worse than the overachieving San Diego Chargers against Steve Young's 49er machine in Super Bowl XXIX.

There is no Super Bowl particpant that compares to this year's Eagles.

In fact, if the Eagles jumped conferences they'd be staring straight at a top 15 draft pick, destined to pull out seven wins masked in mediocrity.

Yet, never has the opportunity for the poor been so great. Some street dweller, normally restricted to chump change and leftover scraps, will win a conference and join the party as a two-touchdown underdog in Miami for Super Bowl XLI.

There they will talk about Rudy. Joe Namath's New York Jets. We'll watch Jim Valvano running around the court after his North Carolina State Wolfpack shocked Houston for the college basketball national championship.

I'll here the name Ben Curtis. The phrase, "Miracle on Ice."

However, once the game commences, something widely known around the league will become abundantly clear.

The NFC doesn't have a 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, one league beat writer told me Tuesday that the conference only has two "2006 Pittsburgh Steelers."


So calm down Eagle fans.

Your club just isn't that good.

**You can reach Jared Trexler at***

The view from the other side of the turnpike

By John Gottlieb

What kind of magical world do we live in? I was enjoying the remaining moments of my Christmas holiday, being rolled from party to party and getting ready to head back to the working world, when I heard on the radio the reports that the Yankees are having trade talks with the Diamondbacks for...Randy Johnson.


It was just hours earlier that I was enjoying my fart pen, magnet highlighting George W. Bush's last day in office and toilet paper with 43's face on it, but this could be the greatest gift of all. Maybe there really is a Santa Claus.

I decided to move on. I probably heard the report wrong. Let's face it, I've been gorging myself on food for the last two days, getting drunk (literally and figuratively...three straight days off from work will do that to you if you're a sports writer), overcoming the loss of Nenad Krstic and trying to dream up a scenario of how heartbreaking a Jets loss to Miami on Christmas night would be. I wasn't thinking clearly.

How could anybody want a surly left-hander, who had a career-worst 5.00 ERA last season, and coming off back surgery?

Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner and 20 wins shy of 300, is 34-19 in two years with the Yanks, including a 4.37 ERA. He has also struggled in the postseason, going 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three appearances.

I'd been running around all day and just got over an emotional Jets win that should guide them to a first-round playoff loss and thought I would end my day watching Sportscenter. (He truly is Mangenious.)

After the umpteen spots with Sean Salisbury, the ESPN clowns teased me with the Big Unit talk coming up after a commercial break. They suckered me in for a few more minutes, but they took too long.

And while I'm on it lets not forget that Salisbury had a stellar five-year career with Indy, Minnesota and San Diego, completing 55 percent of his passes with 19 TDs and 19 picks. Do we need to have this blowhard, who wasn't even a good backup quarterback, shoved down our throats? What, was John Clayton too busy? Was Michael Irvin looking for another suit that makes you want to puke up your Christmas dinner? Enough with Salisbury! We don't need to see him in six different segments, but I digress.

Sure enough, these reports are not make believe, there are TEAMS that seem to be interested in acquiring a $16 million, 43-year-old pitcher. That's right TEAMS, there is more than just one.

Now I have a flashback to when I'm eight and it's X-Mas eve and I'm in my den with a fire blazing and a mound of wrapped gifts under a spectacular tree. I'm so excited that I don't even sleep in my room. I stay in the den all night long and look at the clock as the time ticks slowly away. Christmas will never get here.

It's not just Arizona, which Johnson guided to a 2001 World Series title against the Yankees, also rumored to be talking to the Bombers are the Padres, Angels, Dodgers and Giants.

All right this must be a salary dump, the Yankees will do what they always do when they make a somebody to go away and succeed on a different team. But no, the Yanks are not going to pay another team off and are talking about getting some legitimate players in return.

I just hope that Brian Cashman pulls this deal off while the egg nog is still flowing before these franchises come to their senses. You can point back to Johnson as the last outlandish move that Cashman made before slowly changing the outlook of foolishly doling out money to overpaid, over-the-hill superstars.

They gave up nothing to get Bobby Abreu, they brought back solid, young arms in the trade for Gary Sheffield, they righted a wrong committed three years ago when Andy Pettitte left New York, and they took a chance on a Japanese pitcher.

Other than that, they have been quiet on the free agent front, even though they have an aging rotation, no starting first baseman or hard-throwing lefty in the bullpen, and they still have A-Rod. Of course this may change if a deal gets consummated and the Yankees go after Barry Zito and/or Roger Clemens.

We know that Arte Moreno is not scared to spend the money for the Angels, but I'm going to eliminate them because that could really come back to bite the Yankees in the postseason.

The D'Backs have a young team and are looking for help to fill the seats despite the fact that they have the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. It was only two years ago that these two teams came together to send the Big Unit to New York and on his first day in the Big Apple he shoved a cameraman. We should've known right there.

They have plenty of good, young pitching, starting with Dustin Nippert, but I don't see a match. It's too much money for Arizona to take back.

But Johnson, who has a full no-trade clause, does live near Phoenix and is owed roughly $40 million in deferred salary from his first stint with Arizona. Maybe the Unit could delay some of those payments to sweeten the deal.

Brad Penny is out there from the Dodgers, but the Yanks would almost certainly want some of Los Angeles' younger players, namely James Loney or Chad Billinglsey,'s not going to happen. If they wouldn't do it for Manny Ramirez, they won't do it for Johnson.

That leaves the Giants, who are desperate to replace the wins coming from the loss of Jason Schmidt, and the Padres, who have opened the purse strings and are committed to being perennial title contenders.

Even though he's had a problem staying healthy, Noah Lowry would be a good start with San Francisco, which needs the most help and may make the strongest push.

However, San Diego seems to be more than happy to deal Scott Linebrink, who's been phenomenal at the back of the bullpen. Here is another team with the right pieces to put a deal together and willing to add money to the payroll.

The D'Backs and Dodgers are ranked near the top in best farm systems so the Yankees will probably make concessions to get a deal done with them, but either way New York fans may still have one more gift to unwrap.

If not, at least I have a fart pen.


Birds are in

After close calls in Washington and New York, Jeff Garcia and the Philadelphia defense made it a clean sweep with a surprisingly easy 23-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday.

And surprise, surprise -- T.O. is spouting off.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Andre's a winner...

And another backhanded shot at selfish A.I.

"When you have a player like Andre Miller getting you the ball in the right spot, it makes playing enjoyable,” said Andre Iguodala.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

My Christmas gift to you -- just in case

“Life is pain. Life is only pain. We are all taught to believe in happy fairy tale endings but there is only blackness. Dark depressing loneliness that eats at your soul.” - The South Park Goth Kid

By John McMullen

From comedy comes clarity.

Despite my advancing age, a number that is gleefully thrown at me all too often by so many of my “friends” at The Phanatic offices , I am a big fan of Trey Parker and Matt Stone -- the creators of South Park.

In fact, I loathe throwing the word “genius” around when discussing sports -- I just don’t feel mastering the cover-2 or the box-and-one should qualify as part of the job description when rating intellect. But, if you can make someone laugh consistently for a decade, like Parker and Stone, you are just below Einstein in my book.

Which brings me to the South Park Goth Kid. Despite living in a sleepy, snowy Colorado town -- I can’t help thinking he is a Philadelphia fan.

It’s not even Christmas and we have given up on our winter sports teams. That’s what happens when they combine to start December with an 0-18 mark.

So -- muck like Ricky Bobby with The Real World -- we are putting all our eggs in one basket. And what a basket it is -- a Christmas day showdown with T.O.‘s Dallas Cowboys in Irving.

Logically, I don’t see why the Birds can’t win. The ‘Boys are a vastly overrated club with an untested quarterback in a downtrodden conference. Meanwhile, the Eagles come in as the hotter team and the quarterback is “Big Game” tested.

But, in the back of my mind I keep hearing that South Park Goth Kid -- “Life is pain. Life is only pain. We are all taught to believe in happy fairy tale endings but there is only blackness. Dark depressing loneliness that eats at your soul.”

So just in case the Eagles ruin your Christmas -- I am offering a public service to all of you.

The funniest Saturday Night Live skit since Will Ferrell was rockin the cowbell.

Comedy can cure anything.

B-Dawk is the Eagles' Clark Kent

So says David Akers.

Locations change but losing stays the same

A.I. loses his Denver debut.

Philadelphia's real like Rocky

Rocky Balboa debuted yesterday so it's time to look at Philly's real life Rocky - Bernard Hopkins.

Friday, December 22, 2006

High School football recruiting update

The Phanatic

The top player in the Delaware Valley, 6-foot-4 Camden Catholic tight end Mike Ragone, is earmarked for Notre Dame. Charlie Weis has already developed two great tight ends in South Bend (Anthony Fasano and John Carlson) so you have to like Ragone’s choice.

The top player on the other side of the river is Coatesville’s Derrick Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end. Morgan will be headed south to suit up for Georgia Tech.

Rutgers and Greg Schiano managed to keep Trenton Central defensive end Keith Newell and Paulsboro linebacker Alex Silvestro in state. But, Burlington Township wide receiver Kashif Moore got away and will be headed to Connecticut.

The top players in the city have also made their college choices. Roman Catholic defensive back Dominique Joseph picked Virginia while Northeast Catholic DB Daryl Robinson is staying home and will attend Temple.

Eagles shouldn't Stall on Donte'

By Michael Rushton

While it's certainly not the time of the season to be pondering new contracts, the Eagles shouldn't wait too long on Donte' Stallworth.

After the departure of you know who, the Eagles were left without an experienced, go-to wide out to help along No. 5.

Philadelphia desperately wanted, and still wants, Reggie Brown to be that guy, but Brown is a second-year player at a position that takes at least three years to get the hang of. So, the Eagles wisely sent Mark Simoneau and a draft pick to the Saints to get Stallworth.

And when healthy, Stallworth has been that guy.

He is averaging 19.3 yards-per-catch and has 674 yards receiving while finding the end zone five times in 10 games. The guy can also make plays. His longest catch this year went for 84 yards and four of his receptions have been longer than 40. He has a knack for getting open.

Three weeks ago against Carolina, he put an exclamation point on his solid season, I believe, with a brilliant one-handed catch along the sidelines from Jeff Garcia that helped the Eagles tie the game late in the second quarter.

The thing that prevents the Eagles re-signing of Stallworth from being a slam dunk is his hamstring, which has caused him to miss four games this season. Remember skeptics, he did appear in all 16 games last year and in 2004.

Stallworth's numbers this season are tough to gage because of his missed time. His average per catch leads his other NFC East counterparts: Santana Moss, Plaxico Burress and he who shall not be named.

In fact, in two fewer games, Stallworth's numbers are about even with Moss.They aren't even close to T.O.'s, but hate him or loath him, the gaudy wide out is one of the best in the game.

So it's when comparing his numbers to Burress that makes re-signing No. 18 a smart move.

Burress has 907 yards receiving – just 233 more than Stallworth – in three more games. He averages over four less yards per catch and has just four more TD receptions despite being New York’s No. 1 red zone target.

And let’s not forget Brown. Do you honestly think he would have eight TD catches and 789 yards through the air if he had Hank Baskett or Greg Lewis lining up on the other side of him every game? Good, because I don't either.

For the last few seasons, offense has always been the Eagles big concern, but the tables have been turned with the Eagles’ now declining defense. Re-signing Stallworth would give Philly enough weapons that it can just concentrate on rebuilding the other side of the ball.

They just can’t let Stallworth slip away.

Disagree or think Michael Rushton’s an idiot? Tell him so at

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Phils trade Conine to Reds

We thought the Jayson Werth signing spelled the end for one outfielder, and it turned out to be Jeff Conine. The 40-year-old Conine was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday for a pair of minor-league prospects.

Those who do not learn...

By Tim McManus

Everything looked bleak the day Donovan went down.

January aspirations crumbled along with the signal-caller's leg. The schedule was too daunting. The rest of the players weren't good enough. All was lost.

Then, something funny happened: Behind a backup quarterback that was considered shaky at best, the Birds ripped off three straight wins to jet right back into the playoff mix.

Now tell me, am I talking about 2002 or 2006? Crazy how history repeats, huh?

There are a ton of similarities between the two seasons, both in the Eagles' performance and the fans' reaction to it.

Left for dead, the Birds used the 'Nobody believes in us but us' cry in both cases to gain footing and inspiration. The level of play rose to a man. Offensive lineman held their blocks for an extra half-second. The skill position players fought just a little bit harder for an extra inch. The defense clamped down.

And the coaches adjusted as well. The play-calling, without the services of McNabb, was simplified and more balanced. It became more of a possession offense rather than hit or miss, allowing the defense to breathe just a little bit easier.

With everything around him clicking, A.J. Feeley went 4-1 in '02. This season, under similar circumstances, Jeff Garcia has posted a 3-1 record and can match Feeley with a victory against the Cowboys this week.

The script is proving to be almost identical, which leads to the question: Why can't the fans and media accurately predict the ending?

The Eagles parlayed Feeley's five-game success into a second-round pick, as a quarterback-starved league overlooked logic in the hopes of striking gold. Feeley subsequently got his chance to be an everyday starter, and struggled mightily.

Today, he serves as the third-stringer for your Philadelphia Eagles.

Garcia, likewise, will get a chance to start somewhere next season, with teams ignoring his seasons in both Detroit and Cleveland in the hopes of also hitting it big. He, too, will fair poorly, and will finish his career as a backup.

During the Feeley era, there was an abundance of fans who cried for him to remain the starter, saying that he is better suited for the offense, throws a better ball etc... These same people choose to forget about his time in Miami, and screamed for Feeley to start in front of Garcia when McNabb went down this season.

Those same people have resurfaced, only now it's to say that Garcia should stay in to guide their Eagles to the promise land. That he's grittier. Is a better fit for the offense, etc...

Did you not learn your lesson the last time around? It's like having a cheat sheet in front of you, and still choosing a different answer.

One more time, class, just to make sure we've got it: Donovan McNabb is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and is mainly responsible for the best stretch of success in Philadelphia Eagles history. When he gets hurt, it is the job of his backup to come in and continue to win games. If they do that, it does not mean that McNabb should lose his job or that his backup is suddenly a world beater.

We have already been through this. The answer is in the archives. Shame on you who do not recognize that.


By Jared Trexler

Words, poetic or otherwise, would not do Joe Paterno justice. He's an honest man. A kind man. A hard-working, family-oriented man. He really didn't have the time to sign two footballs for ANOTHER charity golf tournament.

Then, he realized they were for an intern of Steve Jones, the voice of Penn State football. He realized they were for that Trexler kid.

So, he actually hung up the phone, ran to grab a Sharpie and placed his "Joe Paterno" on a pair of pigskins for an event honoring my deceased uncle.

I've only met him a handful of times. I feel like he's family. But that's a common emotion if you are or were a Penn Stater. Along with an ice cream flavor and a multi-million dollar library, Paterno gave students every Saturday in the fall.

The following is a rehash of my first meeting with Paterno:

As a junior in college, I stepped into the media room on the inside of a concourse at Beaver Stadium. I was there as part of Mike Poorman's sports journalism class. As a side note, Poorman is one of collegiate journalism's finest teachers, a real-world journalist who I owe a lot to in terms of passion and professionalism.

It was Tuesday. It was Joe's turn to speak, which was an event in itself. A legendary football coach within a 10-yard curl route of my pen and paper. I don't remember a lot about what Paterno said that afternoon.

He sighed and laughed. He shot off some one-liners and made references to his Italian heritage. What I do remember is something I'll never forget.

Twelve wide-eyed journalism students standing in the freezing cold outside the media room waiting for Mike to finish talking to a few industry friends. Our fearless leader walked out with Paterno by his side.

I hovered around Joe as he spoke about life, college, priorities and Penn State. I noticed his thick legendary coke bottle glasses. I was in awe of his stature as a grandfather figure, a man leading a university with wisdom and strength.

His dialect was heavy. His hair was gray. He drove a nice car.

But when asked what I'll always remember about that encounter, I never waver.

He, as always, was wearing black running shoes. One was from Nike, the other from adidas.

Penn State's title sponsor would not have been happy.

Maybe he was in a hurry. Maybe he had a senior moment. Maybe Sue Paterno couldn't find the other Swoosh in the coat closest.

Yet, I won't remember that moment for the humor. I'll remember it because I didn't care. I was in the presence of college football's greatest coach.

Happy 80th Birthday Joe.

A Cup of Coffee with Chris

By Jared Trexler

Sitting in a Northeast Philadelphia diner -- which isn't always the smartest idea to start with -- one's mind wanders.

"I just want a few cups of Joe, an order of pancakes to soak up the late night drinks, and some peace and quiet."

In solitude, the mind wanders. It thinks things it doesn't feel. It makes you uncomfortable, apprehensive, self-doubting.

"What am I still doing this for? I'm not a kid anymore. I have a dog. Shit, I have a wife and kid to provide for. My love is understanding, but that doesn't pay bills."

The order, shipped in as quickly as it was shipped out, is tossed in front of appetizing eyes.

"Can I even afford this? Maybe I should have ordered the small stack. Hell, can I afford the coffee? STOP IT. It's only $.69. If you can't afford that, you can't afford these stupid dreams. Stupid dreams. Stupid dreams..."

Each bite is a further reflection into one's soul. Flapjacks are failure's best medicine.

"Best medicine?!? Succeeding would be failure's best medicine. 12 years. I must be crazy. Only Bob Dole chases dreams for 12 years. Hell, he never became President."

The plate is soon empty.

"Figures. I should probably take this empty plate home. Hang it on my wall. Symbol of my career. I played in a Division III Conference that hasn't produced a major-league baseball player in 40 years. At my first professional job, the team went bankrupt after 30 days.

12 years.....Hit .463 in Spring Training. I thought I made that team. I deserved to make that team. I tucked my kid in thinking I made that TEam! I kissed my wife at night thinking I made that TEAm!! Then ESPN wakes me up to the name David Dellucci. I didn't make that TEAM!!!

Calm down. People are staring. I should be over that by now. This isn't Rudy. The Rookie. Invincible. Spielberg isn't sitting to my right. Life isn't a movie."

The check is put on the table. $8.50.

"Think Carlos Ruiz or Rod Barajas pays a diner bill? Hell, they don't come to a diner. Room service at The Sheraton. That's fine, because those two guys will help us win. I'M going to help us win.

I thought I was finally done proving myself. What was I thinking? Life constantly forces your hand."

The waitress looks up as Chris Coste exits. "Goodnight Chris, good luck this season."

Coste just smiles and waves, but he's thinking.

"Thanks Pat. Thanks for staying quiet while I rambled. Another year, another story. Elbow in, head still, and let's roll in 2007."

Who says a diner isn't the pathway to one's soul.

**The following was an interpretation of Coste's career. Jared didn't see Coste at a NE diner. Jared doesn't travel to NE Philly, for good reason. NE Philadelphians can reach him at 610-4...or at***

Larry Brown set to return?

Larry Brown could formally return to the Sixers according to a report by The Associated Press.

"We will certainly continue to talk, but at this point, we are not sure if anything official will come of it," Billy King told The AP on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Brown's agent -- Joe Glass -- indicated Brown could return to Philadelphia shortly.

"However it's going to be characterized, will come out in the next couple of days," Glass said. "I'd much rather have it come out of the Sixers office."

Dawkins named NFC Defensive Player of the Week

-Courtesy of the NFL

Brian Dawkins was all over the field at Giants Stadium
on Sunday as the Eagles defeated New York 36-22 in a
key NFC East showdown. Dawkins, who was named to his
sixth Pro Bowl this week, posted a game-high 12 tackles,
forced two fumbles and had an interception as the Eagles
improved to 8-6 and moved one step closer to a playoff
berth. In the second quarter, Dawkins stopped a New York
drive by forcing a fumble at the Philadelphia 30-yard
line that was recovered by teammate Sean Consideine.
Later in the quarter, Dawkins intercepted a pass at
the Philadelphia 44-yard line. On the ensuing possession,
Eagles running back Brina Westbrook scored on a one-yard
run to put Philadelphia ahead 14-7. In the fourth
quarter, with the Eagles holding on to a 21-16 lead,
Dawkins forced another fumble that was recovered by
cornerback Lito Sheppard to thwart a New York drive.

Iverson says he didn't demand trade

In his first interview since the trade Allen Iverson told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that he never demanded a trade, but he's happy he landed in Denver.

"It's a great feeling," Iverson told Smith. "I'm just glad the whole process is over. I think I'm just put in a situation where I can succeed."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In the end, A.I. is no B-Dawk

By Steven Lienert

Both were drafted within months of each other in 1996.

Both have the heart of champions, even though neither has delivered a title.

Both have taken inferior squads, grabbed them by the scruff of the neck and drug them to win after win after win.

One was the heart of Philadelphia. Now, the other is the heart of Philadelphia.

Because of a blizzard in Denver, Allen Iverson got to spend one more day in his adopted hometown here in Philly's suburbs. Not only will he ultimately be missed, but he will miss 76ers' fans as well.

Iverson was embraced by most of the city soon after he first donned a 76ers uniform. He was the little guy who's heart and desire made up for what he lacked in height. He was Rocky in basketball shorts -- and for Philly, it doesn't get much better than that.

We defended his cornrows and tattoos and looked the other way more than once -- after he pulled a gun on someone in an apartment building in lower Northeast Philly to letting his buddies park his Bentley in a handicapped parking spot.

Yes, A.I. was the best 76er of his generation. But he's a Nugget now, like Steve Carlton was a Minnesota Twin and Jordan was a Washington Wizard. It just won't look right.

Iverson was Philadelphia. But Brian Dawkins, and everything this man stands for, is what Philadelphia looks to now. If A.I. weren't in Philly, Dawkins would have commanded this accolade long ago.

In the twilight of his career, after he has noticeably lost a step, Dawkins has risen to the forefront of the Eagles' resurgence. He single-handedly beat the New York Giants last week.

The man takes losing personally, and I love that. He will always be a lifelong Eagle -- he would never wear a Dallas star on his helmet or put on a Resdkins uniform. He hated having T.O. on the team before it was fashionable. The monster hits he delivered over the years will bring Eagles fans joy for years. He will die an Eagle.

But what I'll always remember first about B-Dawk was his unbridled joy after the Eagles finally won the 2004 NFC Championship. Terry Bradshaw stuck a microphone in his face just as Dawkins lifted the George Halas Trophy over his head. With tears streaming from his eyes, Dawkins let out the loudest Hallelujah the Linc has ever heard.

You could tell how much it meant to him -- for his teammates, for his family, for the fans, for the city and for himself.

Sure, Iverson connected with the fans because of his heart and style, but Dawkins brings substance that Iverson never could. Dawkins isn't pulling a gun on anyone. His friends aren't smoking weed in his car. He isn't going to get arrested.

Dawkins is the Eagles. He is their leader. He will never, ever abandon them.

And for everything he did during his 11-year career, the last thing Iverson did for the Sixers was leave them for dead.

For everything they have in common, Dawkins' character is what makes him different than Allen Iverson.

For that, Dawkins rightfully assumes the mantel as the face of Philadelphia sports.

Steve Lienert can be reached at

Some real feelings starting to come out

Kyle Korver: "I'm not going to say Allen held us back, but when someone has the ball a lot, it is harder to show what you can do."

Maurice Cheeks: "I look forward to having a traditional point guard on the team."


By John McMullen

Much has been made about the mediocrity that pervades the NFL like a stale odor.

To be blunt, pro football stinks nowadays with a few notable exceptions. And, it all starts at the top in the coaching ranks.

Names like Halas, Lombardi, Shula, Noll and Landry are legendary in football circles and deservedly so. Today's mentors -- with the exception of Bill Belichick -- are a pale comparison. A paranoid, pathetic group of copy cats that disdain innovation and original thought, while protecting their playbooks like "Cold War" spies.

Jeff Darlington of The Miami Herald recently wrote about the comical lengths one of these colorless, cookie-cutter coaches went through to protect his so-called "secrets."

"Secrets" that virtually every other coach knows in a league that has become dominated by the cliched "West Coast offense" and "Tampa-2" defense.

The story goes like this. When Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban was an assistant under Jerry Glanville in 1988, Glanville told him to pass out notebooks filled with strategy and terminology. Saban acquiesced even though the first page of the notebook was from the 1973 Atlanta Falcons.

"It was a 15-year-old notebook," Saban told Darlington. "It wasn't even the same as what we were doing at the time because he was afraid somebody would steal it. He was afraid somebody would get it and know our terminology or whatever."

As if anyone would need to steal "terminology" from these dullards.

Of course, in this town we are privy to one of the most paranoid coaches of the modern era, Eagles chief Andy Reid. We also got to see his pathetic offspring, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress, grow before our very eyes.

Reid and his progeny are two of the most notorious when it comes to protecting "state secrets." This, despite lording over two of the most predictable offenses in the NFL.

Both coaches always cover their mouths with their laminated play call sheet to prevent any lip reading, despite the fact that the plays listed would make Joe Paterno look cutting edge. And, both kick the media out of practice after a few minutes of stretching so we don’t report too much.

So, with that in mind, I offer a public service to Reid and his brethren around the league with the hopes of bringing them back from the brink of insanity. No one needs to read lips or watch your practice to know you are calling screen passes or dump-offs in the flat on 3rd-and-20.

Luckily for this city, Reid awoke and finally gave his play calling duties to another member of the flock, Marty Mornhinweg.

Not surprisingly, the Birds have taken off as the rest of the sheep try to catch up.

But I warn you -- don't get too comfortable, it won't take them long.

Flyers make another move

The Flyers acquired forward Mike York from the New York Islanders in exchange for center Randy Robitaille and a fifth round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft on Wednesday.

The Phanatic's take:

Eric Redner: It seems that new general manager Paul Holmgren and Islanders general manager Garth Snow have a connection going on. For the second time in less than a week the two leaders agreed to a swap of players. While Robitaille is a hard worker and was well liked in the city, York brings a little more talent and a little more youth to the team. Don't expect to see many blockbuster trades from this team during the rest of the season, but expect to see some minor deals such as this from clubs that need to fine tune their rosters before the playoffs.

Michael Rushton: Well, it appears that the Flyers are going to try to salvage something. What that is, I'm not sure. Alexei Zhitnik gave the Flyers much needed depth at the blue line while the addition of York is a 28-year-old with more talent than Robitaille. This is the type of move the Flyers will probably make a few more times this year and I'm fine with it. After all, who wouldn't want to see the Flyers back in as an eighth seed and get destroyed -- again -- in the first round. As long they don't give away to many youngsters they have been grooming, a roster overhaul is fine.

Rocky Mountain A.I. - The Aftermath

A.I. is finally gone...traded to the Denver Nuggets, along with Ivan McFarlin, for point guard Andre Miller, the expiring contact of forward Joe Smith and a pair of first-round draft picks.

Here's The Phanatic's take on the deal:

John McMullen - It could have been better but it could have been much worse. When dealing with a general manager like Billy King, you almost have to grade on a curve. The best case scenario in my mind would have been to get a solid contributor, a lottery pick and an expiring deal for Iverson but that's pie in the sky type stuff.

King managed to get two of those things done. Miller is a solid, if unspectacular NBA point guard and Smith's deal will expire at the end of this season. The two first-round picks look good on paper but don't expect much there. Both choices will be late first-round picks and King and the Sixers scouting staff aren't going to uncover the next Tony Parker.

The best deal on the table was from Golden State, which offered Baron Davis, Andris Biedrins and Troy Murphy. That trade wouldn't have offered the Sixers salary cap relief but it would have given the club three solid players to team with the lottery pick that will be coming their way in the offseason.

Jared Trexler: I hate to slightly disagree with my colleague, but the late first-round picks are more valuable in an upcoming draft which may be the deepest in league history. Players available in the low-to-mid 20's could include the high on heart but undersized Tyler Hansbrough from North Carolina, Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker and athletic swingman Acie Law out of Texas A&M. That's prized talent for the late first round.

Miller is a stable fixture, a viable ball handler and perfect point man to surround with young players who love to run the floor. Joe Smith is what he is, an expiring contract here as a four-month rental.

Iverson will be missed. He did great things for this franchise, but it was time to move on. GM Billy King looked for more, but probably waited too long. If Carmelo Anthony wasn't suspended, Denver probably wouldn't have been so desperate and King would probably still be looking for the "perfect" deal.

In the end, the marriage was over. It just took the Sixers longer than necessary to get back in the game.

Michael Rushton: Like McMullen said, this couldn't have been the best offer on the trade, but maybe it was the only one that would actually become reality. Rumors of three and four-team trades sounded as complicated as they probably were, so maybe this was the only trade out there that King understood.

Seriously, the 76ers could have gone two ways. They could have made it a total salary dump, or got a combo of players that would have quickened the rebuilding process when paired with Philly's own upcoming lottery pick. King decided to go down the middle path.

Miller can pass, no doubt. He is averaging over nine assists per game this season, but that number is sure to drop now that he isn't passing to Carmelo Anthony. But he is what Iverson wasn't; a true point guard who only takes about 10 shots a game.

I could care less if Smith every suits up. And by the way, how lucky are Nugget fans. They lose the NBA's leading scorer for 15 games so they go out and replace him with the guy right behind him. Nice.

The two draft picks will be the wild card. They matter less if the 76ers get the No. 1 overall pick, aka, Greg Oden. The other two picks will be mere compliments. And Philly does have one thing going for it. This will be the first draft absent of straight out of high school players. So, no late round gambles on raw talents. Freshman who should come out will, those who fail to adjust at the college level will hopefully stay. Hopefully, there will be some solid battle-test college vets available for the 76ers.

Maybe one of them will be able to shoot.

Tim McManus: The next time a superstar is traded for equal value will be the first. As the Barkley swap taught us, all the role players in the world cannot match the impact that a world-class talent brings.

The only real way to draw a positive from the situation, then, is to at least make sure you put the organization in a position to recover down the road. And to that end, the Sixers fared pretty well.

Andre Miller is a nice player, but the reality is that his contract will be up by the time this club is ready to seriously compete again. Instead the promise lies in the draft picks. Drafting in the NBA is often like shooting blindfolded. Under that premise (and especially with King involved) it's always better to have a few extra rounds to ensure you hit the mark at least once.

The team is healthier cap-wise and in very good position to build a contender via the draft. It is the decisions that are made from here on out, particularly in late June, that will determine whether or not this was a good trade.