The700Level

Eagles DC Jim Schwartz's handling of Eric Rowe a monumental blunder

Eagles DC Jim Schwartz's handling of Eric Rowe a monumental blunder

Remember that time Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz thought Leodis McKelvin was a better NFL cornerback than Eric Rowe?

Let's clear something up right away: Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was absolutely correct to trade Rowe to the Patriots for a conditional fourth-round draft pick. It was the right move because Schwartz wasn't going to let the kid see the field. Barring an injury to another player, Rowe wasn't even going to be active on game day. From a GM's point of view, all keeping him on the roster would've accomplished was further diminish his value to a potential suitor.

Where this whole situation gets bungled is when Schwartz determined, seemingly very early into his tenure with the Eagles that began last year, Rowe simply wasn't going to play for him. The club signed McKelvin, signed Ron Brooks, re-signed Nolan Carroll, then drafted Jalen Mills, all no doubt under heavy influence from the defensive coordinator — especially McKelvin and Brooks, who played for Schwartz for one season in Buffalo.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a new coach asking for some of "his" guys, people who know the scheme and bring a certain level of comfort to the equation. The problem is when one of those guys is 31 years old and was never particularly good to begin with, and said coach insists on that person playing a large role, without so much as the appearance of a legitimate competition.

We watched when the Eagles opened OTAs with McKelvin and Brooks as starting cornerbacks, assuming their knowledge of Schwartz's system made them natural choices in April. We watched as Mills, a seventh-round pick, saw his opportunities increase while Rowe lagged behind on the depth chart, figuring they were pushing the second-year player. We watched in training camp as Carroll — finally recovered from an ankle injury — was added to the mix at the top of the depth chart, and still there was nary a sign of Rowe. We even watched undrafted rookie C.J. Smith start an exhibition game, and less than two weeks later, Rowe is on the field for almost the entirety of the preseason finale, typically an audition for players who are about to be released.

So Roseman traded Rowe, a 24-year-old defensive back the Eagles chose 47th overall only 16 months earlier. You already have some idea of how that worked out — Rowe earned a Super Bowl ring with the Patriots, while McKelvin was released on Wednesday — but let's look at the numbers.

According to Pro Football Focus, Rowe ranked seventh out of 109 cornerbacks with 61.9 opponents' passer rating when targeted in coverage (minimum 25 percent of regular season/postseason snaps). McKelvin ranked 97th with a 113.0 opponents' passer rating.

It's not even close. We can talk about the differences in schemes between the two teams, supporting cast, quality of opponents, you name it. We can discuss experience, mentality, locker room presence, whatever.

There is absolutely no situation, no world where McKelvin was a better option than Rowe.

How on earth did Schwartz manage to make such a woefully wrong evaluation? McKelvin wasn't a starter for most of his nine-year NFL career before he joined the Eagles — he was benched and later moved to safety during his final season with the Bills. He's also seven years older and three inches shorter than Rowe, which would seem a distinct advantage in terms of pure physical ability. Honestly, what did Schwartz see that laypeople did not? Because the ugly end result was nothing less than what was predicted.

Rowe appears to be developing into a fine NFL cornerback, McKelvin is likely one more shoddy season away from forced retirement, and the Eagles are left with a mess at the cornerback position. Don't blame this one on Roseman, either. All he did was what Schwartz desired.

If nothing else, the defensive coordinator probably deserves to lose some of his sway in personnel decisions. Signing a one-year stopgap at the expense of a promising, young talent like Rowe might turn out to be a catastrophic setback, and for once, everybody knows exactly where to point the finger.

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

ap-donovan-mitchell-embiid.jpg

Sixers pick up first boring win of the season against Jazz

There was a time as Sixers fans when being 16 games into the season meant it legitimately felt like there was no chance the team would ever win another game of basketball. Now, we're beating teams at home by a lot because we're better than them, moving to multiple games over .500, and -- as of last night -- even breaking even with our overall scoring differential. Yawn. 

The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Utah Jazz last night by a score of 107-86. Joel Embiid had something of an off night (15 points on 7-16 shooting), our shooters couldn't quite get it going (4-15 from deep), but we still won by 21. It wasn't quite a blowout, but it definitely wasn't a nail-biter. It wasn't an upset or a moral loss or a validating triumph. It wasn't anything, really, except a win. 

In it's own way, of course, that makes it the most meaningful W of the season for Philly. It has been a very long time -- maybe since the Doug Collins era -- since the Sixers won a game without it being a referendum on either team. The Sixers simply won because they're a better team with more good players -- especially with the Jazz missing a couple key dudes, though we also beat them in Utah a couple weeks ago without Joel Embiid, so whatever. And the Jazz aren't even the worst team in the league, or really even one of them -- they're just a not-totally-terrible team that the Sixers are still decisively superior to. 

Long have I dreamed of wins like this, to have a game where there was nothing to say in the recap except how there's nothing really to say in the recap. Next time the Sixers pick up another W this casual -- and it probably won't take all that long, either -- I won't even be able to write this column again. I'll probably have to try writing in haiku or cryptogram or something to attempt to make the story interesting. 

And that's fine: After four years of historic losing, we'll trade narratives for Ws any time. You keep it real boring, Sixers.

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

Joel Embiid swatted Donovan Mitchell, drew a tech, and ignited a Philly explosion

We didn't even know if Joel Embiid was going to play just hours before tonight's contest as he was listed as a game-time decision with knee soreness.

Play he did. And he treated the Wells Fargo Center crowd to one of the more energetic moments of the evening. 

The Sixers beat the Jazz in South Philly on Monday night, 107-86, to bounce back from that tough loss on Saturday (see observations).

Embiid was a big part of that. He finished with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a couple of blocks.

It was one block on Donovan Mitchell in particular that had The Center going bonkers.

Watch:

The block, the stare down, the technical foul signal, the crowd pumping ... Embiid provided a perfect moment.

"It was some good theater and the two embraced afterwards. It was fun to watch," Marc Zumoff said after the game.

Mitchell wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

"Just gotta keep my head," Mitchell said. "It's a learning experience, especially in that situation when we're making a comeback."

Whether they were making a comeback or not is debatable. 

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have just let it go."

Brett Brown was OK with the play.

"I'm always mindful of how do we stay disciplined," Brown said. "Jo understands it's risky if you taunt. I want my guys playing with an edge. I want them to feel some level of swagger and feel good about themselves. That was a big play. It certainly got the crowd involved."

As for his part in the incident, Embiid admitted he may have embellished just a bit. The big guy is not that easy to move.

"I flopped and he got a technical for it," Embiid said. "That's basically how it happened. It's all fun. After the game, we shook hands."