The700Level

Respected writer applauds Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol

Respected writer applauds Ron Hextall, Dave Hakstol

Remember those "Fire Hakstol" chants?

They were belted out by some fans at the Wells Fargo Center during the Flyers' ninth straight loss, a miserable 3-1 finish to the Sharks on Nov. 28.

What felt like the real low of this season so far forced general manager Ron Hextall to issue a state of the union address for his hockey club less than an hour after those chants were spouted into the air.

Including that moment, Hextall ever since has firmly defended and endorsed his head coach Dave Hakstol.

Hextall, a man of immense patience and a stay-the-course mentality, was not about to waver because of a group of disgruntled fans.

“If we were playing poorly, I’d be the first to say, ‘We’re playing poorly,’" Hextall said that night. "I would be. We are not playing poorly and to look objectively at our team right now and to say we’re playing poorly, no."

A day later, on NBC Sports Philadelphia's Philly Sports Talk, Hextall made himself especially clear regarding Hakstol's job security.

"He's the guy," Hextall said. "Dave Hakstol is our coach and he's going to remain our coach."

Maybe it wasn't what some fans wanted to hear, but Hextall didn't care.

And one well-respected writer, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, has been impressed with how both Hextall and Hakstol have responded. Here's what Friedman had to write Monday in his 31 Thoughts, a popular read among hockey people:

You’re always curious to learn how a new GM will react to a difficult situation, but I really liked the way both Ron Hextall (and Dave Hakstol) handled the “Fire Hakstol” chants and pressure in Philadelphia.

That organization has a historically short leash for coaches, but Hextall made it clear he wants to change that. He showed up in the dressing room to defend his coach, and, days later, passionately informed the media Hakstol wasn’t going anywhere. (The only thing missing from that burst was Hextall chopping down reporters with a goalie stick.)

Hakstol said he knows what he signed up for. The Flyers don’t admit it, but privately, word is they feel one year away from a true assessment of how good they are. Second, Hextall worked hard to convince Hakstol to leave North Dakota three summers ago, luring him to Pennsylvania with what is believed to be a six-year contract. He’s invested in his coach.

The Flyers fired Peter Laviolette three games into the 2013-14 season. They axed John Stevens 25 games into the 2009-10 campaign. And they got rid of Ken Hitchcock eight games into the 2006-07 slate.

There's definitely a history of short leashes, as Friedman mentioned.

But Hextall is not a guy that gets easily rattled by outside pressures. It probably makes him trust his evaluation and gut even more.

After the losing streak hit 10 games, the Flyers won three straight by sweeping their Western Canada road trip. Now they're back at the Wells Fargo Center for five games in a row, starting Tuesday.

A little more pressure at home sweet home.

h/t to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Tom Dougherty.

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Roots rocked, peak Pederson, and marvelous Merrill

The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

Again, that's really fun to type. And there was so much fun to be had on Sunday when the Birds beat up on the Vikings to win the NFC Championship.

In the spirit of truly having a blast watching yesterday's game and partying on Broad Street after, here's some of the killer content the Eagles shared on their social media. Their social team was as red hot as Nick Foles. Tough to beat good access. This stuff is just fun to relive.

*

Doug Pederson's postgame speech. The look on his face after he says it! Goosebumps.

The Roots! Many fans at home were bummed that the FOX telecast did not show The Roots halftime performance. Thankfully, you can watch it in full below. It ends with a fantastic rendition of the Eagles' fight song.

The Merrill Reese Cam. Needs no description.

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Nick Foles just one more thing Chip Kelly got wrong

Imagine having ever doubted Nick Foles. Well, OK, that puts you in a group with roughly 99 percent of the general public. But imagine having ever traded Foles away, thinking he wasn’t good enough to get the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

There are a select few talent evaluators on the face of this earth who have gone so far as to actually get rid of Foles, and just one man who swapped him for another quarterback. Take a bow, Chip Kelly. Your brief tenure as coach of the Eagles and even briefer stint as personnel czar only continue to look worse with time.

It’s not news Kelly was a failure as an NFL head coach or that his one year as the Eagles’ general manager was disastrous. Fans had to relive one mistake after another as vice president of football operations Howie Roseman spent the last two years undoing the damage, move by move.

Yet, little else was thought of Kelly’s call to send Foles packing, until now. To the contrary, it was one of the few decisions where the disgraced coach appeared justified. It took Foles less than one season to flame out with the Rams and wind up a journeyman backup. Anybody who thought it might be a bad idea at the time had no room to talk.

Now that Foles has done his part to guide the Eagles to a conference championship, it’s time to revisit that decision. And at the time Kelly traded Foles, he had a 14-4 record in his previous 18 starts. He had set an NFL record with a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 (since broken by Tom Brady). He walked off the field with the lead in a wild-card playoff game.

Maybe Foles was a victim of playing behind a patchwork offensive line in 2014 when he turned the ball over 13 times in eight games and suffered a season-ending injury. Maybe he seemed like a flash in the pan with the Rams because there was no talent around him in an offense that finished no better than 21st in the league from 2007 to 2016.

Maybe Foles has been pretty good all along, and Kelly and all the doubters were simply wrong. Actually, that’s a fact.

Not only did Kelly send Foles packing, he dealt him for Sam Bradford, who, ironically, was sitting on the opposite sideline in the NFC Championship Game. Bradford may, in fact, be more talented but was coming off consecutive ACL tears and hadn’t played competitive football in nearly two years. Bradford, who was on the Vikings’ sideline because he got hurt again.

It wasn’t even Foles for Bradford straight-up. Kelly agreed to send second- and fourth-round draft picks in the deal, too, getting only a fifth in return. Like almost all of his moves, this has not aged well.

Kelly traded a potential franchise quarterback, a guy who had won him a lot of games, who looked like he could win in the postseason. A perfectly safe, reliable option, if not exactly oozing greatness — all for a glorified lottery ticket.

Bradford was fine. If he could stay healthy, he would probably prove, like Foles, he never had a shot while playing for those awful Rams teams.

But was Bradford worth the gamble? Opinions were mixed at the time, but that’s because, like Kelly, there were a lot of folks who were ready to give up on Foles. Three years later, it was just one more needless, horrendous decision.

Fortunately, the universe has a way of correcting itself sometimes. Or maybe that’s just Roseman hard at work, the other enormous mistake in Kelly’s NFL tenure that went largely glossed over. Whatever. The Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, with Foles at the helm, and Kelly is back to coaching college football — which is the way it always should’ve been.