The700Level

The700Level's 4th Annual Philly Sports Awards: The KULPYs

The700Level's 4th Annual Philly Sports Awards: The KULPYs

Welcome to the fourth annual KULPY Awards, where we here at The700Level celebrate our own existence by handing out trite, meaningless honors to the sufficiently decorated professional athletes, coaches and executives in Philadelphia sports. That’s The700Level.com – Yep, We’re Still Here™. And as always, The KULPYs are brought to you by our corporate overlords at CSN Philly – proud partner of Phillies baseball!

(Hey, it’s the Phillies who should be embarrassed, not us. No trademark.)

Now that we got our plugs out of the way, we begin with an obligatory, self-congratulatory pat on the back, Barry Horowitz style. I’m not privy to the numbers, but for all I know, we did record traffic in the last year, and the outlook for those of us in the journalism industry has never been brighter! And even if that statement were 100 percent true (it’s not), somebody would probably cry fake news anyway, so why bother getting hung up on the details?

Once again, CSN has neglected to give The KULPYs so much as a brief television segment, not even on The700Level Show – I haven’t been part of this brand for the last decade or anything – but no matter. No TV, no awards banquet, no party in Enrico’s parents’ basement while they’re out of the country on vacation, no problem. The show must go on, and I promise we’ve got a great one this year, so prepare to polish the turd that is Philly sports. We’re handing out some real* coveted** hardware today.

*KULPY trophies are not real.
**Or coveted.

 

Let’s jump straight to an award that shows what The KULPYs are all about: Best Sixers Player Bryan Colangelo Is Solely Responsible for Acquiring. These are strictly players Colangelo nabbed without the aid of Sam Hinkie and The Process. That means no Ben Simmons, the outcome of years of tanking; no Markelle Fultz, obtained by trading assets stockpiled by Hinkie; not even Justin Anderson, acquired in a swap for Nerlens Noel – another Hinkie piece.

With all of that in mind, there are sure to be some real gems among the nominees.

(Nominees: Amir Johnson, J.J. Redick, Sergio Rodriguez, Anzejs Pasecnicks, Tiago Splitter)

Any time Tiago Splitter is on a list of an NBA general manager’s top acquisitions, you know that person is doing a stellar job. Sergio Rodriguez is the only one of these guys who made a significant contribution last season, appearing in 68 games for the Sixers, unfortunately. Granted, Anzejs Pasecnicks was just obtained in a draft-night trade and looks like an intriguing talent – who won’t be on the roster in 2017 because he’s staying overseas, @#$%.

It’s a two-horse race for the award, and naturally the KULPY goes to… Bryan Colangelo! After all, he is the true victor in The Process.

Even the money used to lure Redick and Johnson was a direct result of the favorable salary-cap situation inherited from Hinkie. By the time Colangelo took over the Sixers, he was walking into quite possibly the easiest setup for a new GM in the history of professional sports. “Job description: Oversee an organization loaded with young talent, top draft picks and plenty of cash.” Kind of hard to screw up. Go ahead and give him Fultz – the fact that all Colangelo had to do to sell out the building for this upcoming season was engineer a trade up two spots in the draft goes to show the hard part was already over.

 

We’ll go straight from one rebuilding team to another – they’re not very hard to find around here. We blindfolded some interns at nearby Xfinity Live and set them loose in the sports complex, and a few horrific accidents later, one of them landed on Citizens Bank Park. In honor of the one who made it, this next category is the aptly named Most Likely to Survive the Phillies Rebuild.

(Nominees: Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Matt Klentak, Pete Mackanin, Andres Blanco)

Herrera may be on the steadiest ground, having turned his season around at the plate after a horrific start, but Philly fans are going to get sick of the lack of concentration and hustle before this is all over. Meanwhile, the club is reportedly shopping Franco, who continues to struggle, and Mackanin would be gone already if the club didn’t have the foresight to lock him up with a contract extension in May!

Better hurry up and reveal the winner before one of these guys gets canned. The KULPY goes to… Andres Blanco, in an upset!

Fun fact – Blanco is the second-longest tenured Phillies player, behind only Freddy Galvis. And unlike a lot of the other guys on this team, Blanco chose to be a part of this, opting to re-sign in December. Sure, he’s 33, batting a crisp .151 at the All-Star break and a free agent again at the end of the season. With the end of tanking… sorry, with the end of “rebuilding” nowhere in sight, Blanco probably has just as good a chance as anybody to survive.

Hey, you’ve got to appreciate the man’s loyalty.

 

Seeing as there’s so little to celebrate in the immediate past, let’s take a moment to honor a Philadelphia sports legend. Congratulations to longtime Flyers winger and former general manager Paul Holmgren – this one is for you. It’s The Paul Holmgren Award for Worst Flyers Contract.

Not coincidentally, most of the people up for this award actually have Holmgren to thank for their awful, awful contracts. And to think, the man stepped down three years ago.

(Nominees: Claude Giroux, Andrew MacDonald, Matt Read, Jori Lehtera, Jakub Voracek)

Believe it or not, Read’s contract finally concludes in 2018, so guess we can finally OH MY GOD, MACDONALD STILL HAS THREE YEARS LEFT AT $5 MILLION PER. Meanwhile, current Flyers GM Ron Hextall chose to pay homage to Holmgren with some recent moves, taking on the final two years of Lehtera’s deal at $4.7 million annually, and awarding Voracek $8.25 million per year until 2024. Hey, Voracek will still be off the books before Ilya Bryzgalov, so there’s that.

But the KULPY goes to Claude Giroux, the human embodiment of the cement shoes attached to the Flyers’ Stanley Cup hopes for the foreseeable future.

I would love to be wrong about that, by the way. There was a time when Giroux was legitimately one of the best players in the NHL, and would do cool things like put Sidney Crosby on his ass and score a goal in the same shift. Unfortunately, the last two seasons have not been kind to the Flyers captain, and he simply does not look like the same player. Signed through 2022 at $8.25 million per, with a no-trade clause and turning 30 in January, there’s almost no way this ends well.

 

If every other Philly sports team gets its own award, the Eagles need one, too – Joe Banner insisted. Oddly enough, one NFL team managed to have five semi-prominent quarterbacks on its roster in the last year, so the following KULPY is for Eagles Quarterback of the Year, because there were enough of them to choose from.

(Nominees: Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Nick Foles, Matt McGloin, Carson Wentz)

Fun fact – Bradford and Daniel will cost the Eagles nearly $12 million under the salary cap for 2017. The three guys who are actually on the roster: a little over $8 million. Guess we know who the real winners are here, and it’s not Wentz.

The KULPY goes to… Sam Bradford, who did more for the Eagles in the last year than any of the other guys. Let’s be honest, Wentz is going to be awesome, but he was pretty useless in 2016 when he didn’t have anybody to throw the ball. In the meantime, Bradford netted the Eagles first- and fourth-round draft picks in a trade with the Vikings, which are a lot more useful than leading the team to the same 7-9 record Wentz did.

 

Thank you, Sam, and thank you, readers… for clicking through to Part 2. Still to come: The Ryan Howard Memorial Award for Athlete or Sportsperson Most Inexplicably Still in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Athlete of the Year, and The Competency Award for Philadelphia Sports Executive of the Year. Also, a special In Memoriam video you won’t want to miss!

>> PART 2 <<

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

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Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

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USA Today Images

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles