Duce Staley would have been the easier choice

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Duce Staley would have been the easier choice

The right choice isn't always the easy one. Ultimately, we won't know for some time if the Eagles' tabbing Mike Groh for the job of offensive coordinator over Duce Staley was the correct call. But we know they didn't take the easy way out.

Staley has spent 14 seasons with the Eagles as a player and coach. He's been in charge of the Eagles' running backs since 2013 and even interviewed for the head coaching spot after Chip Kelly was fired following the 2015 season. He has the utmost respect of the guys who have played for him and from the organization. His time coaching in Philadelphia has spanned three head coaches (Andy Reid, Kelly, Doug Pederson). That tells you how the folks in the executive offices feel about him. He would have been the easier choice. He juggled egos and the Eagles' crowded backfield skillfully. He smoothly integrated Jay Ajayi into the Birds' system after a midseason trade.

Duce checked a lot of boxes. But Pederson and the Birds chose to go with Groh, who has been with the club for just one season. (They did, according to a league source, reward Staley with a new title: Assistant head coach/running backs.)

The 46-year-old Groh coached the Eagles' wide receivers last year and is credited with helping Nelson Agholor find his game and confidence. Groh has coached in college and the pros for 18 seasons, including a stint as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, Virginia. Perhaps that gave him the edge in Pederson's and the team's eyes. 

Despite Pederson's calling the plays, the job of offensive coordinator is not just a title. Frank Reich played a huge role game-planning and acting as a sounding board. 

Can't imagine Staley is too happy about this development. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to stay or go elsewhere. But if the track record of Pederson and Roseman is any indication, they did a pretty good job putting together the staff that helped them win their first Super Bowl. So they've earned some trust on the hiring end.

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.

Grace period for the Eagles? Let's be realistic here

Grace period for the Eagles? Let's be realistic here

Don't believe the hype. Don't fall into the trap. Don't be one of the ones to get sucked in. What hype? What trap? What suck, you ask? The Eagles' grace period farce that some folks will perpetuate in the upcoming months.

As in, "Hey, whatever happens next year with the Eagles, I'm good since they've won a championship." Hogwash, I say. This is Philadelphia. That's an easy, comfortable stance to take right now in the aftermath of that Mona Lisa of a season the Eagles just completed. And you're not wrong for feeling that way right now. The entire Delaware Valley is riding the high and basking in the afterglow of what the 2017 Birds accomplished. You should allow yourself time to reflect and truly soak this in. Scream from the highest mountain top, beat your chest, put on your favorite Mummers costume, throw on your dog mask and bark for all to hear: "The Philadelphia Eagles are the Super Bowl Champs."

This isn't about February through September. It's about Week 1 of the upcoming season and beyond. We like to think that finally winning that chip will change the mindset. But fast-forward to say, early December next season, and imagine it's Game 13 and the Eagles lose when they should have won. In the process, they turn the ball over three times, Jake Elliott misses a PAT, Pederson doesn't challenge something he should have, whatever, and they lose by one. Eagles fans are going to be fine with it? Instead of your natural, gut reaction, there will be a collective step back to look at the big picture?

Take it a step further, a first-round, home playoff loss to a lesser opponent in January. Season's over. If you think the large majority of Eagles fans are going to be exiting the Linc, holding hands, singing Bob Marley songs and quoting Dr. Phil ...

I'm not saying people are going to be calling for Pederson's head after one loss or booing Carson Wentz after a pick. The city will forever have and cherish that first Super Bowl title. We may even lose some of our Philadelphia sporting paranoia and that is great and needed. And it will certainly take the sting out of some future sports heartaches. I'm just not buying the carryover into a new season in a big moment.

I recall Cole Hamels getting off to a slow start in 2009 and getting booed ... a season after the Phillies won their first World Series in 28 years and Hamels took home both the World Series and NLCS MVP. 

It doesn't mean you're not appreciative or loyal. It's just human nature as a fan to live in the moment.