Eagles

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

usa-carson-wentz-ben-simmons-rhys-hoskins-sean-courturier.jpg
USA Today Images

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to reverse course from Rob’s Rants and express what I’m thankful for in Philadelphia sports. Truth be told, with the football team having the best record in the NFL and the basketball team having two dynamic, budding superstars and playoffs in their sights for the first time in a long time, things are pretty good around these parts. So let’s show a little gratitude.

Eagles
Where to start? Before this season, the hope was a playoff appearance. After 10 games, a division title, a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC are all real possibilities. This team is complete, laser-focused, well-coached and talented. Further, they have a second-year quarterback in Carson Wentz whose skill is only matched by his work ethic and football IQ. This city has always loved a tough defense and that’s exactly what they have. They are physical from the deep, defensive line to the surprising cornerbacks. The Saints, Vikings, Rams and Panthers are right there on the Eagles’ tail, so nothing is a given, but I just don’t see this team collapsing. I love that they can beat you in a multitude of ways whether it’s Wentz’s arm, a punishing running attack, a ferocious pass rush, or out-scheming the opposition. We are in for an amazing ride with this group.

Sixers
Ben Simmons has 11 double-doubles in his first 16 games in the NBA. That‘s the most by any player in that span of time in his first season since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. His ability to finish with both hands is remarkable. If you never watched him shoot a jump shot or a free throw, you would have no idea he is left-handed. His size, power, handle and ambidextrousness mask his inability or willingness to pull the trigger from the outside. And by the looks of his stats and what the eyeball tells you, he’s doing just fine. Mr. Meat Pie is averaging 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. Then there’s the big fella. Joel Embiid is a once-in-a-generation talent, who by his own admission is not even in basketball shape yet. His Tinseltown two-step where he throttled both L.A. teams out there may have been the highlight of this short season thus far. But Embiid shows on a nightly basis that if he stays healthy, he’s capable of leading this teams to multiple championships. The Wells Fargo Center is back to the A.I. days of being the place to be for a basketball game. It’s electric.

Flyers
The Flyers' season has been very up and down. But there are certainly things to be thankful for when it comes to the orange and black. The first line of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, centered by Sean Couturier has accounted for 69 points through 20 games. Whether it was Dave Hakstol or Ron Hextall’s call, the decision to move Giroux to the wing and insert Couturier as the top-line centerman was a stroke of genius. Ivan Provorov deserves a plate full of kudos himself for his machine-like play.

Phillies
The Phillies' youthful core of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and soon-to-be Scott Kingery has the makings of a nucleus to be proud of going forward. Aaron Nola showed himself capable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. There’s much work to be done here but the club appears headed in the right direction.

College Hoops
Let’s give college hoops a little love as well. Villanova has dominated the headlines of late and rightfully so but there’s a possibility that at least three of the local teams will be dancing come April.
      
So pass the stuffing and enjoy the gravy, things are looking up in Philadelphia sports.

Carson Wentz injury more proof Philly fan paranoia is real

Carson Wentz injury more proof Philly fan paranoia is real

Woe Is Us.

“The sports gods have something against us.”

“These refs are out to get us.”

“We always go up against the hot goalie.”

“Things are going too well, something bad is going to happen.”

Admit it, if you’re a Philadelphia sports fan, those words to some degree or another have come out of your mouth more than once. True, you could probably apply those paranoid rants to most sports cities. But today, you, the Philadelphia sports fan, have every right to feel like there’s a higher power conspiring against you.

Carson Wentz's injury is not a gut-punch, it’s a haymaker that just connected clean on the jaw and down went the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes. With Wentz under center, the Eagles were capable of beating any team. With Nick Foles, a playoff win or two is surely possible. The Birds have overcome serious injuries this season. Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles were major losses for this team, and to the players' and the coach’s credit, they have been able overcome them.

But with all due respect to those guys, including future Hall of Famer Peters, this is different — 57 years of championship futility went to 58 with 3:53 left in the third quarter last night in Southern California when Wentz's left knee got crunched.

Things were just too perfect. Second year, MVP-front-running quarterback, tough defense, head coach proving all the naysayers wrong, leading his team to the best record in the conference. A bye, home-field advantage, Minnesota here we come. Finally putting an end to the “How many rings do you have?” discussion. Dare to dream. It was all setting up too perfectly ... then boom.

If you grew up here or have lived here long enough, you bare the scars of Philadelphia’s sports past. Whether it’s the Phillies' collapse in 1964, Black Friday, Bernie’s eye, Leon Stickle, the Sixers up 3-1 in 1981, Randall’s knee in 1991, Joe Carter, JVR over Patrick Kane, Ryan Howard’s Achilles ... and that's just to name a few. The list could go on and on and on. The Philadelphia sports fan's paranoia is not unfounded. And here is yet the latest, shining example.

To be blunt, Wentz has brass balls. We didn’t need to see him stay in the game for four additional plays after his knee injury Sunday to know that. He stands in the pocket with defenses bearing down on him like no quarterback I’ve ever seen. His fearlessness is perhaps the greatest attribute of his many. He’ll dip his shoulder and take off out of the pocket like a running back. He’s strong enough to shrug off a would-be sack in the pocket and make an incomprehensible play. But the courage comes with a price and the bill came due. And you know what? It sucks. Only in Philadelphia can you have the irony of winning a wild road game with a backup quarterback against a really good team while clinching the division title ... and yet you’re somehow left feeling deflated.

It’s not easy being green, as Kermit The Frog once said. Truer words have never been spoken.

Eagles thankful Nick Foles reconsidered retiring

usa-nick-foles-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles thankful Nick Foles reconsidered retiring

His year with the Rams was so difficult, so miserable, so unfulfilling, that when the 2015 season ended, Nick Foles thought about giving it all up.

At the tender age of 26.
 
Foles, just two years removed from his historic Pro Bowl season with the Eagles, said in a recent interview that he seriously considered retiring when his season with the Rams ended.
 
"Yes, I sat there and talked with my wife," Foles said. "You go through a lot of emotions. Changing teams, being traded, going there, going through that year, and once I was a free agent, we just sort of sat there and said, 'Hey what do we want to do?'
 
"It was the first time I had been a free agent in my career and it was the first time I had to make a decision because I was drafted and traded. I was leaning toward not playing and stepping back."
 
Foles, drafted in the third round by the Eagles in 2012, was traded to the Rams in March of 2015 along with second- and fourth-round picks for Sam Bradford and a fifth-round pick by new Eagles general manager Chip Kelly.
 
On a team with very little talent — their leading receivers were Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin — Foles went 4-7 in 11 starts before getting benched twice in favor of Case Keenum, who's now quarterbacking the Vikings.
 
When the Rams selected Jared Goff with the first pick in the draft, Foles asked to be released, and he was.
 
"My wife and I kept talking for months, and when I was free I talked with Coach (Andy) Reid for a while and then I took a break," he said.
 
"I went on a camping trip with my brother. I came back and my wife and I kept talking and just prayed about it. We just made the decision to go back and play for Coach Reid."
 
Foles backed up Alex Smith last year with the Chiefs but played well in two midseason appearances — wins over the Colts and Jaguars. He completed 65 percent of his passes with three TDs and no interceptions in those back-to-back wins.
 
"It was the best decision I made going there in that situation," said Foles, who had played for Reid in Philadelphia in 2012.
 
"It wasn't an easy call for me but I was back with someone familiar and I think Coach Reid is one of the best coaches ever. Love the man.
 
"Had a special year with them last year, and I can't say enough about that organization as well as a whole, much like here, which is really awesome."
 
As Foles prepares for his first start in an Eagles uniform in more than three years, here is the rest of our 1-on-1 with Foles from two weeks ago:
 
Roob: What has it been like working with Carson for the first time? It seems like you have a great relationship.
 
Foles: "Yeah we have a really good quarterback room with Carson, me and Nate (Sudfeld). We all get along great, we are all very similar in our values and in our work ethic. Just going to work every day. We get here early and get in the film room early. And you are around each other a lot so if your personalities clash it isn't a good thing but we all get along. Every day is enjoyable and we keep getting better. Carson is a tremendous player as everyone has seen throughout the course of the year in how much his game has developed from Year 1 to Year 2 and it continues to develop week to week, which is exciting to be a part of. It is a great place to work and it is a great quarterback environment."
 
Roob: What are your fondest memories of your first three years here? Obviously, a magical year in 2013, 27 touchdowns and two interceptions is still the greatest ratio in NFL history. You were the Pro Bowl MVP, you had seven touchdowns against the Raiders. What do you remember about that year?
 
Foles: "There are so many special memories. I think the biggest thing was playing in the Linc. When I wasn't a part of the Eagles the last couple of years, I just missed playing in the Linc, just being in that stadium and just being around our fans in a game-time situation, especially in the night and primetime games which are really fun here. The opportunity to be back here, to walk back in the Linc and to be back at the facility is surreal. There are so many great memories. All of the coaches and teammates I had. Some of the coaches I had are still here, which is really cool, and a lot of the strength staff and the personnel in the building. It was like coming back to a family you hadn't seen for several years. I can't say enough good things about the city of Philadelphia, living here, now my wife and I have a daughter and we are in a different part of life than when we were here before, so it has been a really awesome journey."
 
Roob: You talked about that year in St. Louis. What happened with the Rams?
 
Foles: "It didn't go exactly how I wanted it. Obviously, when you go somewhere you want to have a lot of success like you had in the previous spot. A great group of guys and teammates but it just didn't work out but there were still a lot of good wins and we played some good ball. Some didn't go my way but I think through those tough times you have to grind it out and keep working every day to get better. So with that, I moved on and went to Kansas City and got back together with Coach Reid, which was awesome and had a great year with them, got to play in two games and we had a lot of success. Just being around them at that time was a good thing for me at that time in my career."
 
Roob: I know you are the ultimate team guy and you have always been but at the same token you are a competitor and you want to play. How do you balance being the best backup to Carson you can and having that competitive urge to play football?
 
Foles: "I think that it is something deep down in your heart that you know you have the ability to play but at the same time this is why this is the greatest team sport because everyone in this locker room can play. They have played at one level or another, and sometimes you have to take a backseat and help that person to succeed and find joy in that. It has really been awesome to watch Carson grow and have the success in the same uniform that I had success in. When I was coming here, that does cross your mind like how is that going to work with everything but I feel that everything has been smooth and it has been an enjoyable place to come to work and I have a lot of good memories here. Now my memories are watching one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL that will be one of the greatest to play and it has been really cool to be a part of that my second time around here."
 
Roob: Now you are in Year 6, in your mind and in your heart, will you be a starter at some point in your career?
 
Foles: "That's the question, you don't really know. There are times where my wife and I talk about all of this and that does come up. Obviously, I know I can start. It is just taking it one day at a time. I am enjoying this moment right now and I signed a two-year deal and there was a reason for that. I am just going to do everything I can for this organization. We will see what happens at that point because that's how this business works. I would like to start again and do that and continue to play. We will sit down and make those tough decisions as a family and see where it leads us."