Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eagles "Dream Team" and Tim Tebow

No, I'm not suggesting the Eagles trade for Tebow. These are two separate stories that I want to address. Normally I would give it some sort of comedic title (at least by my sense of humour) like, "Eagles prepare to shit on everyone from a great height" or "Eagles looking to soar to heaven... where they see seat with 'reserved for Tim Tebow' sign on it" etc.

But apparently that's not good for business. If you want to haul in the views you have to literally explain in the title what you're talking about and use words that people type into search engines. Boring but necessary it would seem. Ah well, let's get on with it.

So the Eagles "Dream Team" has expanded to include wide receiver Steve Smith. No, not that one. The one that used to play for the Giants. The one who now probably regrets pitching in to the LeSean McCoy/Osi Umenyiora off season spat by asking how many Super Bowl rings the Eagles had. Whoops!

Anyway, I'm now starting to get very interested in the Eagles for the simple reason that this season could have serious implications on the future of the NFL. Yes, the Eagles. See, there are two sides of the free agent debate.

One side believes that you can flash the cash in all directions and essentially buy the Super Bowl. The other side would point at teams like the Redskins in recent years and then laugh for probably a little longer than is actually necessary. The Eagles performance this year could go a long way to helping people take sides in the debate.

I'm fairly certain right now that the Eagles will make the playoffs and do pretty well overall in the regular season. I've seen this happen several times over here in English soccer with teams being bought out by billionaires who then stop at nothing to buy a championship. Even if they fall short of the ultimate goal, the sudden increase in talent level across the board usually has enough of an impact to overcome lesser opposition with ease.

The key will obviously be whether they make it to the big game and if they do, how will they fare?

My guess right now is not well. The reason I say this is because team cohesion is a big factor in teams winning titles, from what I've seen at least. The ability to get a group of players to come together and work for each other can make a big impact on the field. That is always the risk that you assume when you spend highly in free agency; you're bringing guys like Steve Smith into your locker room who just a few weeks ago were bashing your organisation.

Another problem that is common derives from simple numbers. There are only so many spots on the field at the start of the game. You can't start five wide receivers, and two running backs, and two tight ends all at the same time. Well, theoretically you can, but some of those guys are going to have to settle with being offensive linemen.

This creates friction. Lots of friction.

Egos clash as everyone believes that their talents should be highlighted. Just look at the corner situation with Asante Samuel, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. Most are betting that if Samuel is still around in week 1, then Samuel and Asomugha will be starting. How is Rodgers-Cromartie, a talented corner who has seen plenty of action in his career so far, going to take to suddenly being an occasional nickel back?

It'll effect his career no doubt. Starting in Arizona DRC had the chance to show off his skills and build up his potential value for free agency. Now? He's going to spend a lot of time hidden away, either on the bench or covering the number 3 guy. How long before the quite murmurs behind closed doors become an angry rumble on Twitter?

The same applies to guys like receiver Jeremy Maclin. How long before he gets tired of Steve Smith taking his spot? Or maybe its the other way around? Maybe Smith gets annoyed that he used to be considered a top receiver in New York and now he's just an auxillary on the "Dream Team"?

Which brings us to probably the most difficult part of this process for the Eagles. However much Coach Andy Reid tries to play it down, the cat is out of the bag now. The Dream Team moniker is here to stay for 2011-12.

Given how rabid the sports press in Philadelphia has a reputation for being in general, how long before they start piling on the pressure now? And trust me, it wont just take a loss to get them going. Oh no! Teams with as much hype and expectation as the Eagles - and who have spent as much money - are held to a far more critical standard.

Take english soccer team Chelsea F.C. for example. A few years ago now they were bought by Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich, who has spent over a half billion dollars purchasing players from around the world to play for his team (that's before you even start counting the enormous wages paid). As a result, the expectations on Chelsea are ridiculous. Beating a poor to intermediate quality team is not enough. Anything less than a severe thrashing is considered failure, not to mention the "win the title every season" type expectation with regards to the premier league.

This is the world that the Eagles have literally and unintentionally bought into. Forget about the Super Bowl. Forget about the playoffs. Forget about the NFC East divisional crown. The scrutiny of the Eagles begins in week 1 of the regular season at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Anything short of trouncing the Rams (a team that will be very much considered the underdog) will result in backlash and speculation.

The sports pages in Philadelphia will be covered with headlines reading "IS THIS IT?!!" or words to that effect if the Eagles can only scrape a one or two score win. Already people will get nervous about why the Eagles aren't blowing other teams off the field with a shockwave of footballing brilliance. Eventually this will find its way into the locker room and manifest itself in finger pointing.

"We're not winning because you don't throw me the ball enough!"
"If you let me rush the passer more often coach, we'd get way more sacks!"
"We're not running the ball enough coach, you should let me carry it a few more times!"

If things don't go exactly according to the pre-season script, and given the volatility that we're accustomed to from professional sports players and the media who cover them, this has the potential to get real ugly, real quick. I personally expect the Eagles will win maybe 11-12 games, but something tells me that won't be enough to hold back the waves of criticism.

Don't forget, this is a city that ran quarterback Donovan McNabb out of town after he took them to 5 NFC Championship games (four consecutively) and one Super Bowl appearance!

This also leads us nicely to Tim Tebow, as we stick with the theme of high expectations.

Because (I know smartass) the hype around Tebow and his failure to win the starting job in Denver is getting bloody ridiculous. He's a kid. A young player learning the ropes. Alright, he got drafted in the first round. I get that. Yes, the Broncos gave up a lot to get him. I understand. But I don't care if he was drafted number one overall, the fact is he's still young.

This is what the draft is supposed to be about. Your supposed to pick up promising young players who you think have potential, then develop them over time. Look at Joe Montana for example. And no, I'm not saying the two are the same. But just look at Montana with the 49ers. Did he walk in and become number one right away? No he didn't. He was a project. Bill Walsh built him up, encouraged him, worked with him, taught him, developed him.

Eventually yes, he hit the field as the number one guy and barely looked back. Sort of. But the point is, it takes time to acclimate a rookie and bring them up to speed, to teach them the ways of the NFL. Tebow is doing that. He's learning. To expect him to supplant a good quarterback like Kyle Orton right away is stupid. And yeah, I think Orton is a good quarterback who doesn't get enough credit as it is.

So what if Orton is beating Tebow out? You should expect him to. That's why Orton is a starting quarterback in this league, while Alex Smith has to compete for his job every year. All I'm saying is that people need to give Tebow time. He has talent. Anyone that says he can't throw needs to go and check his old Florida tape, as well as his game time from last season.

Does he occasionally make mistakes? Yeah, surprise, surprise, he does. It's called being human. I don't care how often he goes to church and prays, he's still a human being and no amount of hyperbole will change that fact. Now, does Peyton Manning make mistakes? Yep. What about Drew Brees? Yep. Tom Brady? Yep. Philip Rivers? Yep. See where I'm going with this?

Tebow is a victim of his own success in college. Given that he dominated so many games in his career the expectations on him now are to rule the NFL single handed. Which is ridiculous. Is Tim Tebow failing in Denver as many people believe? No, I don't think he is.

I think what's happening is that like Philadelphia, people have annointed him with a title that is based on their own unrealistic assessment of the situation. They've allowed their own agendas, either positive or negative, to cloud the issue and now everyone is caught along for the ride.

Me personally? I think Tebow may see some intermitent action this year - mostly garbage time - depending on how things go. If things go bad offensively then expect people to call for a change, because apparently all you have to do these days is change the quarterback in order to kick start an offense. I think he'll learn from watching Orton and grow mentally as an NFL player. Give it another year or two and I think he could be a good, legitimate starter in the NFL.

Is he ever going to win a Super Bowl? Pff, how about you get your crystal ball out and tell me what teams he's going to play for during his career and what pieces will be around him? Then I'll tell you. Just look at Peyton Manning for example. He's probably the best pure quarterback in the league right now and yet he only has one ring.

All I'll say is that I think eventually Tebow will find a starting job and eventually I expect him to have some success. It's just a matter of the one thing that seemingly no football fan, football writer, coach, general manager or owner seems to possess anymore; patience!

Now if you're looking for a less hyped team that might just be in with a Super Bowl shout, look at New England. I know they're hardly a footballing minnow, but they're going largely under the radar right now and yet Coach Belichick is assembling quite a nice little team up there in Foxborough. You have been warned.

Which reminds me, ahhhhh football is back! Well. Kind of.

Pres-season begins today and as yet it's still unclear how teams are going to go about apportioning time to their players. We may get full games with starters at some point, but most likely it'll be your usual mish mash of starters playing halfs then coming out in favour of the younger/fringe type players.

New England will be entertaining Jacksonville which means we might get our first look at QB Ryan Mallett. I like Mallett and it'll be interesting to see whether many teams are left ruing the chance to pick him up in the draft. For Jacksonville I'm rooting for back up running back Rashad Jennings. C'mon kid, let 'em have it!

The "Dream Team" will get its first showing against Baltimore, something which I'm not entirely sure Andy Reid will be relishing. I'm particularly interested in rookie running back Dion Lewis and linebacker Casey Matthews for the Eagles. For the Ravens it has to be rookie corner Jimmy Smith (one of my favourite corners in the draft) followed by wide receiver Torrey Smith (one of my favourite receivers).

San Diego will play host to Seattle. I'm hoping to see rookie Chargers center Colin Baxter, mainly because I think he's awful and is going to get his quarterback killed. Defensive Linemen Corey Liuget is one to watch though, for good reasons. For Seattle, I like rookie tackle James Carpenter and guard John Moffitt. Moffitt especially so. In the secondary, corner Byron Maxwell has potential in time, and I absolutely love Mark LeGree. I hope he plays because I think he's gonna be great.

Dallas will welcome Denver for their first pre-season game. I literally have no interest in Dallas. None. Not a thing. Denver however throws up a few names. Tim Tebow of course. Rookie Tight end Virgil Green, Offensive Linemen (should be a guard) Orlando Franklin, pass rusher Jeremy Beal (watch out for this guy, might play outside linebacker, maybe defensive end. Should get sacks) and safety Rahim Moore. So just a few then.

Finally, Oakland are at home to Arizona (blurgh!). For Oakland rookie running back Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Denarius Moore and offensive guard Stefen Wisniewski (at least against the pass). For Arizona, all eyes will be on rookie corner Patrick Peterson. I'm interested in seeing him largely because I don't think he's going to be all that good, but we'll see. Other than Peterson, I'm looking at rookie running back Ryan Williams and linebacker Quan Sturdivant.

So that's that for today. I'll probably be back tomorrow depending on my work schedule, but until next time, have a great day.

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