Philly's misguided hate for Joe Buck

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Philly's misguided hate for Joe Buck

When I started Rob’s Rants back in the summertime, the best way to describe the sports scene in Philadelphia was cautiously optimistic. There were plenty of signs of life for sure.

Rhys Hoskins had burst onto the landscape with six weeks like we’ve never seen.

The Eagles were about to embark on their 2017 campaign and while there was reasonable excitement and hype surrounding Carson Wentz and the Birds, few if any saw an MVP-level start to the season and the team rolling its way into the bye week with the best record in football.

And how about those Sixers? Four straight wins, including five of their last six. Despite a “load management” day off in Utah, Joel Embiid’s minutes restriction has not been an issue. Ben Simmons' start to his NBA career has been otherworldly and home games have a playoff feel.

The Flyers have been inconsistent but their young core, especially the blue line, is filled with studs.

Plus, the Phillies have a new manager that is an equal opportunity tanner. Short of an actual championship, we couldn’t ask for much more in these parts.

So the Rants department of one intent on calling out all that is wrong and unjust in the Philadelphia sports scene and beyond will take full reverse mush credit for all the good that’s happening. At least that’s what we’re telling ourselves. So not a lot of obvious rant material these days. With that preamble out of the way, I wanted to dive into something I’ve never understood — three words: Joe Buck hate.

Let me state from the jump that I am a Joe Buck fan. Always have been. I find him to be well-prepared, smooth, knowledgeable, has great timing, a sense of humor, often self-deprecating, and knows when to lay out (television term for being quiet) and let the analyst speak or let the picture tell the story. Someone may want to share that last point with Tony Romo. But I digress. Buck is the bane of many sports fans. This is not unique to Philadelphia. He catches equal amounts of heat throughout the country but our fine city certainly has spewed its share of venom his way. But why? 

I think what this really boils down to is he is not a local broadcaster. His allegiance does not lie with the home team. And we don’t like that. The NFL on television is a national broadcast as opposed to Merrill Reese and Mike Quick on the radio, which is an Eagles broadcast. Same goes for the three other majors where you get a local broadcast crew most of the time on TV. Buck and his analyst, whether it’s an Eagles game or the Phillies when they were on their playoff run from 2007-11, have to call it down the middle. Yes, you rise to the occasion as he did when Matt Stairs hit that ball deep into the Southern California night in the 2008 NLCS. Or when Wentz makes a ridiculous play. But he has to make the same, excited call when Dak Prescott makes a play or Alex Rodriguez hits a cheapy homerun in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. It’s not his job to hammer an official if the call doesn’t go your way. He’s paid to be critical but fair, not overlook or make excuses because it’s the home team.

We’ve been sentenced to both Dick Stockton and Chris Myers this season calling Eagles games on television. That in and of itself should make folks appreciate what Buck brings to the table. Can he get a little too cute at times? Maybe. Are there some who will always cry nepotism because his dad was the great Jack Buck? Of course. Buck himself cops to having doors opened for him because of his last name. It’s one thing to have the door cracked open for you, it’s another to take it to the highest level as he has with both football and baseball.

Buck’s Twitter bio reads in part: "I love all teams EXCEPT yours."

He gets it. He doesn’t hate your team or city, he’s doing his job. 

So considering the Eagles' great start, we are going to be getting plenty of Fox’s No. 1 team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. Maybe this time around, we’ll listen to Buck with a different ear? Then again, who am I kidding, he hates us.  

Breaking down Eagles' 2018 Pro Bowl chances

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Breaking down Eagles' 2018 Pro Bowl chances

Pro Bowl voting began this past week, and ideally, the Eagles won't have anybody actually playing in the game.
The 2018 Pro Bowl is scheduled for Jan. 28 -- a week before the Super Bowl -- and players from the Super Bowl-bound teams will be headed to Minneapolis that weekend, not Orlando, where the Pro Bowl will be held this year.
But with the Eagles sitting at 8-1 heading into Sunday's game against the Cowboys, there's a good chance they'll have a sizable contingent selected to the annual exhibition.

Let's take an early look at the Eagles' locks, hopefuls and longshots for 2018 Pro Bowl honors.
And remember, once again, the NFL is picking Pro Bowl teams based on conference.
Carson Wentz: Wentz is a lock to make his first Pro Bowl, which would make him the fourth Eagles quarterback in the last 10 years to receive the honor, following Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Nick Foles. No other team has had more than two. Interesting that the Eagles have had only four players make a Pro Bowl team within their first two years since 1990 - Donovan McNabb in 2000, DeSean Jackson in 2009, Nick Foles in 2013 and Cody Parkey in 2014.
Fletcher Cox: The only lock from the defense, which is more of a statement on the brand of team defense the Eagles are playing these days than anything else. This will be Cox's third Pro Bowl, something only five Eagles defensive linemen have ever achieved -- Reggie White (seven), Hugh Douglas (three), William Fuller (three), Charlie Johnson (three) and Floyd Peters (three).
Zach Ertz: It's always tricky for players to get to that first Pro Bowl, but it's hard to imagine Ertz not getting picked. Despite missing the Broncos game, he's been the best tight end in the NFC. He leads all NFC tight ends in catches and yards and is tied for the lead in TDs with Seattle's Jimmy Graham with six. Barring a huge dropoff, Ertz is a lock.
Lane Johnson: Johnson has played at a consistently high level, but a few things are working against him. His two suspensions shouldn't be a factor, but they won't help his chances. Players are branded a certain way, and Johnson has to overcome a league-wide reputation as a guy who's tested positive twice. But if it's based on level of play, he'll go.
Jason Kelce: Kelce probably has a better chance than Johnson, just because he's a already a two-time pick and has that Pro Bowl reputation around the league. He made the team last year despite not having a very good year. Kelce has been exceptional this year and is in the middle of the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Close to a lock.
Brandon Graham: Graham once again has everything but the sacks. He's played very good football, consistently pressured the quarterback, been exceptional against the run, but … it's all about the sacks with defensive ends. He has 5.0, which is a good number after nine games and just 1 1/2 shy of his career-high of 6 1/2 from 2015, but nine NFC defensive ends have more. Have they played better than Graham? Probably not. But he needs to get to double digits to really have a good shot at making his first Pro Bowl.
Malcolm Jenkins: Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl in 2015 and should have made the team last year, but didn't. He's having a great year but doesn't have any interceptions and he's going to probably need at least two or three to get himself in the picture. What he does have going for him is that he's extremely popular among his fellow players. His activism, his strong voice within the NFLPA and his reputation as a guy who's going to fight for player rights will really help. That stuff shouldn't matter but it does.
Brandon Brooks: Brooks is in his seventh year and has never made a Pro Bowl. The longer you play without making one, the harder it is to get picked. Especially at a non-skill position. But he's sure deserving. That whole right side of the O-line is with Kelce, Brooks and Johnson.
Jalen Mills: This is going to come down to interceptions. Mills needs to overcome the fact that he was never a big-name college guy, wasn't a high draft pick and his personality might bug some opposing wide receivers - the ones who vote for CBs. But he's got three interceptions, and right now Detroit's Darius Slay is the only NFC cornerback with more. If he can get to five? He'll be in the mix.
Patrick Robinson: Robinson is in a very similar position as Mills. He doesn't have that league-wide reputation as a top corner, but he's sure played like one. Robinson is now with his fourth team in four years, and he's an eighth-year player who's never been a Pro Bowler, so he needs to overcome that journeyman reputation. But like Mills, he has three interceptions. A couple more gets him in the picture.
Nigel Bradham: Bradham has one sack, no interceptions and no forced fumbles. Without stat numbers, it's tough for outside linebackers to make a Pro Bowl team, no matter how solid they are against the run and in coverage. Bradham is a sixth-year veteran without a Pro Bowl on his resume, and he'll probably need INT and sack numbers to make his first one.
Jake Elliott: Elliott doesn't have the accuracy of some kickers, so his only chance is to keep racking up the 50-yarders. Going into Dallas, he shares the NFL lead with five 50-yarders, including, of course, the game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants. But overall, he's at 85 percent, which sounds high but is actually only sixth-highest among regular NFC kickers. And he's missed three PATs. His only chance is another game-winner or two and a bunch more 50-yarders.
Rodney McLeod: McLeod has a couple interceptions and has played well all year, but it's hard to imagine him making the Pro Bowl and Jenkins not. And it's hard to imagine both safeties getting picked. Like any DB, McLeod can improve his chances with a couple INTs and maybe a pick-six during the voting period. 

Eagles' Ronald Darby defends Buccaneers' Jameis Winston against groping allegations

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Eagles' Ronald Darby defends Buccaneers' Jameis Winston against groping allegations

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby on Sunday morning released a statement defending friend, former Florida State teammate and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston against allegations Winston inappropriately groped an Uber driver during a ride in Arizona in March 2016.

News of the allegations came to light early last week and the NFL is investigating the Uber driver's claims. Darby says he was in the backseat of the car with Winston on the night of the alleged groping.

"I felt the need to come forward and clarify some inaccurate accounts of the evening March 13, 2016 when myself, a friend and Jameis Winston took an Uber ride in Arizona," Darby said in Sunday's statement. "There were three of us in the car, not just one, as has been reported. Myself and Jameis were in the backseat. I am confident that nothing inappropriate in nature happened in the car that evening and Jameis did not have any physical contact with the Uber driver. The accusations are just not true."

Darby and Winston played together at FSU from 2012-2014 and formed a close bond. But it was during that time at FSU that Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, came into the limelight for a variety of wrong reasons.

While redshirting in 2012, he was detained by police for causing property damage with  a BB gun. In April 2014, he was cited for shoplifting crab legs from a supermarket and subsequently suspended from the Seminoles' baseball team. He was suspended for a game against Clemson in September 2014 for shouting an inappropriate phrase in a cafeteria.  

But most notably, Winston was accused of sexually assaulting FSU student Erica Kinsman during an alleged December 2012 incident in his apartment. Winston was never charged by police in Tallahassee, where FSU is located, and the Florida state attorney's office also did not pursue criminal charges.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Darby was in Winston's apartment the night of the alleged sexual assault.

That case turned into a federal lawsuit that was eventually settled in December 2016.