Rob's Rants

Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

USA Today Images

Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Seventy-seven days passed between losses for the Eagles. So it’s been a while since the Birds have made an appearance in Rob’s Rants. And while I am a firm believer it’s not panic time, they weren’t going to run the table and that it was a tough spot in the ebb and flow of an NFL season, that doesn’t mean the Eagles are immune to a rant or two. The Sixers will be providing the Birds some company this week after a horrific home loss to a terrible Suns team. And since it 'tis the season, I’ll throw in my top-10 Christmas songs of all-time. 

Sleepwalking in Seattle
Winning in Seattle is never easy. The Seahawks were the more desperate team and played like it. The Eagles took a big step up in class from the competition they faced in the previous weeks and they were not up to the task.

However, what was truly frustrating was not so much the play on the field but the approach by both coach and players.

The Eagles have been a swagger team all season. Doug Pederson set the tone Week 1 against the Redskins with his aggressive play-calling and it had carried over through their nine-game winning streak. Look no further than the numerous end zone celebrations, going for it on fourth down, throwing in a run situation, taking a deep shot or whatever the case may be.

Pederson coached at best tentative and at worst scared against Seattle, and it was completely out of character. But was it the chicken or the egg?

Did Pederson just come up small thinking a conservative, run-heavy approach in the first half would work against a Seattle team that was good against the rush? Not to mention, the Seahawks were without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary. Surely attacking them through the air was the way to go, right?

Pederson twice passed on opportunities to go for it on fourth-and-short in the first half. Very much out of character. But is it possible the head coach decided he needed to play things safe because he felt his team wasn’t prepared? Both the players and Pederson himself admitted the team had not practiced well in the weeks leading up to its game against the Seahawks.

This wasn’t the Bears or 49ers it was facing. Either way, it was inexcusable. Pederson needs to stay true to this team’s personality and the players need to stop sniffing themselves. The hope is this loss will serve as a wake-up call and clean up either scenario. 

We may be only 23 games into the season, but the 2017-18 Sixers are a far cry from the tank-ridden doormats they were the previous four years. They should be a playoff team. They now play to win the games as Herm Edwards once said. In fact, they were 13-9 leading into Monday’s game against the Suns.

So when a loss to any team was no surprise when Tony Wroten was your best player on the floor, those days are gone. Losing at home Monday to a garbage Suns team that entered the game 8-16 and ranked last in points per game allowed is inexcusable. The Sixers are beyond this kind of thing now. And much like the Eagles, the team admitted after the game that it took Phoenix too lightly.

First, who is this group to look past anyone? There is a foundation for a sustained run and the Sixers have two superstars on the roster in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Still, this cast has no right looking past anyone.

The Sixers commit the second-to-most turnovers per game with 17.4 a night. Monday followed that troubling trend, as the Suns scored 22 points on the Sixers' 14 giveaways.

They are not good enough to cut corners and lack preparation, regardless of the opponent. Monday better have served as an alarm clock for this young group.

Top-10 Christmas songs
This is just to pivot off of the Eagles' and Sixers' losses and provide a little holiday cheer as we are less than three weeks away from the big day. Here are my top-10 Christmas songs. I can feel the comments and mentions coming already.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas Time — Band Aid 
2. Happy X-Mas — John Lennon and Yoko Ono
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — Bruce Springsteen    
4. Christmas Song — Nat King Cole
5. Someday At Christmas — Stevie Wonder
6. Father Christmas — The Kinks
7. Christmas In Hollis — Run-DMC 
8. All I Want For Christmas — Mariah Carey
9. Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy — Bing Crosby and David Bowie
10. White Christmas — Bing Crosby

Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

USA Today Images

Rob's Rants: Enough already with Dave Hakstol's coach-speak

Rob’s Rants have been an Eagle-free zone for the past 10 weeks and clearly, that isn’t changing anytime soon. Let’s hope we can keep this run going well beyond Super Bowl Sunday and into the offseason. But there is one Philadelphia team that has not escaped the wrath and it’s not the Sixers or Phillies.

Dave Hakstol
The Flyers have been mired in a serious funk of late. They lost their eighth straight Monday, another heartbreaker at the hands of the Penguins. Their inability to hang on to leads and their lack of scoring contributions from anyone not named Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier or Jakub Voracek is a major issue. Despite good goaltending from Brian Elliott, this team continues to disappoint.

But even more unacceptable than the lack of scoring balance and late-game collapses are the comments from head coach Dave Hakstol. Exhibit A comes after his club blew a two-goal lead at home on Black Friday versus the Islanders.

“You’ve got to evaluate it for what it is," Hakstol said last Friday. "I think in seven of our last 10 we’ve gotten a point. Five of those are shootout or overtime losses.”

I’m not one who believes in flipping tables and calling players out after every loss, no matter how bad the defeat. That act grows old real quick with professionals in 2017. The days of Mike Keenan are gone. However, there is a fine line between setting fire to your dressing room and Hakstol’s postgame rationalizations. Publicly, he is a monotone, work-hard, muck-and-grind, generally-say-nothing type of coach. And that’s fine as long as he can motivate his players. Clearly, that’s not happening. In both losses to the Islanders, the Flyers were caught asleep in the defensive zone in the 3-on-3 overtime. It’s bad enough something like that happens once but the very next game? They are puck-watching while the other team scores the game-winner. That is discipline.   

Taking solace in getting seven points in your last 10 games is not just coachspeak, it’s irresponsible and sends a weak message to the players and the Flyers' devout fan base. Ron Hextall, a very patient man, went out on a limb when he hired Hakstol, who had no previous NHL coaching experience. So it will be interesting to see how much rope Hextall gives Hakstol if this continues. But as the old saying goes: It’s getting late early.  

NFL celebrations
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of touchdown celebrations with the number of times the Eagles have found the end zone this year. And ever since the NFL loosened up the reigns on post-touchdown fun, players and teams have gotten quite creative. Some love it, some hate it. This debate is pretty simple. If your team’s the one celebrating after a score, you love it. If it’s the opposition doing the choreography, you don’t.

Jim Harbaugh
For all the bluster, the Woody Hayes glasses, satellite camps, the bad khakis hiked up to his breasts and the thousand-yard stares, Jim Harbaugh has come up real small at Michigan. They’ve lost to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State this year. All quality teams, but losing to all of them ain’t cutting it. In his three seasons in Ann Arbor, he’s 0-3 vs. Ohio State and 1-7 versus top-10 teams. Maybe lose all the antics and deliver a better offense.      

Young rookie
I’ve noticed several NFL broadcasters, but in particular, Troy Aikman use the term “young rookie.” With the exception of a Brandon Weeden, Chris Weinke or Drew Henson — who came back to football after failed baseball careers — aren’t all rookies young?

Christmas car gift
Christmas and holiday commercials are now in heavy rotation. There is one in particular that has driven me nuts for years. The husband or wife will come downstairs and be escorted outside, only to be presented with a brand new car with a bow on the hood. Maybe it’s me, I didn’t come from money, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s been given an extremely pricey, luxury car for Christmas. Who is this target audience?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.