You can disagree with almost any of these 25 Random Points. Feel free. Dissenting opinions are always welcome around here. In fact, they’re expected and welcome.
But just don’t try to make a case for Strat-O-Matic over APBA. That will simply not be tolerated. When we’re arguing APBA vs. Strat-O-Matic, there simply isn’t room for debate. APBA wins. Period.
Welcome to this week’s edition of 25 Random Points, which covers the usual ground — Josh Hart, Carson Wentz, APBA vs. Strat-O-Matic, the Fruit Bats, Mike McGlynn, Jeff Blake, the Reggie White-Patrick Forte lawsuit, Brandon Boykin and my missing cell phone chargers. And much more.
So dive in! Just don’t give me a hard time about APBA! I’m not messing around here!
1. I’m not sure where the narrative came from that rookie quarterbacks have to be coddled and are rarely ready to play football in their first season. We keep hearing it, but where are those guys? Who are they? It sounds good, but history doesn’t support it. Since 2008, 25 rookie quarterbacks have started at least eight games, and it’s tough to find many who demonstrated any sort of long-term negative affects from the quick starts. Guys like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Derek Carr all started 16 games as rookies and have done OK for themselves. QBs such as Geno Smith, Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbart started most of their rookie years, and they haven’t been very good, but you also can’t make a case they haven’t regressed. They just started out mediocre and stayed there. That seems to be due more to the fact they’re just not very good quarterbacks, rather than that starting as rookies somehow damaged them. Obviously, RGIII is the outlier here. He was magical as a rookie and has gotten progressively worse since. But it’s hard to make a case for him starting before he was ready. He was phenomenal as a rookie but was just mis-handled after that by the Redskins, forced to play when he wasn’t healthy. He also took a beating because of how he plays — 101 sacks and 244 scrambles in his first three years with the 'Skins seemed to take a toll on him, and we won't know if it was a permanent toll until we see him in Cleveland this fall. But did he start before he was ready? I wouldn’t say that. Now, if a quarterback is so far behind that he can’t protect himself behind a bad offensive line? If a quarterback doesn’t know the offense, can’t recognize blitzes or coverages or if his pocket presence is so bad he can’t protect himself, that’s another story. Sit him. But if Carson Wentz comes as advertised – extremely intelligent, quick learner, hard worker — and Sam Bradford struggles? He’s got to play. And he will play. And I think it’ll happen a lot sooner than some people think.
2. Donovan McNabb is often held up as an example of the benefits of a rookie quarterback not playing immediately. Which conveniently ignores the fact McNabb did play immediately. Andy Reid started Doug Pederson the first half of 1999, but McNabb played in a lot of those early games. He threw 11 passes in a Week 2 game against Tampa, 11 more in a Week 3 game in Buffalo and got at least some playing time in five of the Eagles’ first nine games. By the time he became the full-time starter in Week 10, he had played a significant amount of football. Since the Eagles seem intent on duplicating everything about 1999 — with Sam Bradford in the Doug Pederson role, Doug Pederson in the Andy Reid role and Carson Wentz in the Donovan McNabb role — maybe that’s the plan with Wentz as well. I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a series here and a series there as soon as he shows he’s ready to handle it.
3. We haven’t spoken much about the Eagles’ running attack, but it’s hard to imagine they’re really going into the season with this collection of backs. Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood? The oft-injured Mathews has started more than nine games twice in six seasons. Sproles has been electrifying since he got here, but he’s going to be 33 in a couple weeks, and history is not kind to running backs that age. Barner is a 27-year-old former sixth-round pick with 34 career carries. Smallwood is a rookie fifth-round pick. The Eagles have always had star running backs. Every year from 1995 through 2015, they had either Ricky Watters, Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy or DeMarco Murray on the roster. Obviously Murray didn’t pan out here, but the Eagles have always been built around a big-time running back who can run the ball, catch the ball and block. Can Doug Pederson cobble together an authoritative running attack with this group? I don’t see it.
4. The flame from a lighter doesn’t cast a shadow. And I can’t figure out why. It should, right?
5. Phillies? It doesn’t seem like a fluke. That’s the thing that really jumps out at you. This is a fundamentally sound baseball team that throws to the right base, advances the runner, takes the extra base, makes all the plays and routinely gets strong starting pitching. We’re not a dozen games in. We’re right around a quarter of the way through the season, and the Phils are six games over .500. And that’s after an 0-4 start. Since April 9, they’re 22-12, which is nuts. They’re on pace for 94 wins, which is also nuts. Yes, they still lack offensive firepower, but they have been making up for it to an extent with their starting pitching. I think this is more of an 81-win team than a 94-win team, but whatever happens, at least they are making this an interesting summer, which is more than you can say about the last four years and way more than any of us anticipated.
6. I remember Pete Mackanin from playing APBA as a kid. In 1973, he had one of the worst APBA offensive cards in history. He went 9 for 90 that year with 26 strikeouts as a rookie shortstop with the Rangers. That remains the second-fewest hits ever by a non-pitcher with at least 90 at-bats. (Red Sox catcher Ed Connolly was 7 for 100 in 1931). Now, 43 years later, Mackanin sure looks like a very capable manager. He’s likable, he’s a leader, he’s an adept handler of pitchers and along with new GM Matt Klentak, he’s got this thing headed in the right direction a year after the Phils lost 99 games. Hard to believe this time last year the Phillies’ manager was Ryne Sandberg. Things can change fast if you have the right people in charge.
7. APBA was so much better than Strat-o-Matic.
8. The new Fruit Bats record, “Absolute Loser,” is just dazzling. It’s my early favorite for 2016 Album of the Year, and it’s going to take one heck of a masterpiece to knock it out of the top spot.
9. Hard to believe Chip Kelly was head coach of the Eagles five months ago. Seems like another lifetime.
10. Speaking of ol’ Chip, Jordan Matthews had this to say last week when asked the biggest difference between Kelly’s offense and Doug Pederson’s: “In Doug’s offense, I can breathe between plays.”
11. I’m really hoping Josh Hart returns to Villanova. Such a tremendous college basketball player and so much fun to watch. Really embodies the spirit of what Villanova Basketball is. But I am afraid he’s going to leave.
12. Sometimes I find myself asking, “Did Villanova really win the NCAA championship?” It still seems surreal. What an unforgettable run. With an absolutely historic finish. What a tremendous group of kids coached by a total class act. Following that team from Brooklyn to Louisville to Houston might have been the most fun I’ve ever had on the job. I just still can’t believe it really happened and I feel so fortunate I was there to watch it and write about it.
13. There are only eight player still active in the NFL who have played in an Eagles postseason victory: DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans, Mike McGlynn, Quintin Demps, Brent Celek, Jason Avant, Trent Cole and Jon Dorenbos.
14. Ten bands I’m most looking forward to seeing this week at the non-COMM music conference at World Café Live: 1. Car Seat Headrest, 2. Sunflower Bean, 3. The Zombies, 4. Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, 5. Yeasayer, 6. Kevin Morby, 7. The Record Company, 8. Hayes Carll, 9. Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, 10. Oliver John-Rodgers.
15. Somebody asked me my top 10 concerts ever. That’s almost impossible, but here’s what I came up with. If I did it again tomorrow, I might have 10 different bands. Actually, nine. It would be impossible to move GBV out of the top spot:
1) Guided by Voices, The Metro, Chicago, Dec. 31, 2004
2) Yes, Madison Square Garden, Sept. 7, 1978
3) The Rave-Ups, J.C. Dobbs, April 15, 1990
4) REM, Tower Theater, Oct. 17, 1984
5) Uncle Tupelo, Theater of Living Arts, Feb. 24, 1994
6) Muddy Waters, Branch Rickey Fieldhouse, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, Ohio, Feb. 24, 1979
7) The Rainmakers, Chestnut Cabaret, Dec. 16, 1987
8) Genesis, Rockland Community College, Suffern, New York, April 1, 1978
9) Elephant Micah, Boot and Saddle, Dec. 9, 2014
10) Fleetwood Mac, Wells Fargo Center, Sept. 21, 2012
16. It’s so important for Nelson Agholor to play like a first-round pick this year. If he doesn’t make a huge stride in Year 2, this wide receiving crew is really going to be thin. I have no problem giving any receiver, even a first-round pick, his rookie year to get acclimated. But by Year 2, you really want to see him perform like a first-round pick. Look at the Eagles’ receiver corps: I like Jordan Matthews a lot but he’s not a top-20 wide out. Not yet. Josh Huff is going into year three without having shown he can consistently make plays. Rueben Randle could help or he could be another Miles Austin. Agholor is the key piece. On a team sorely lacking offensive weapons, the Eagles desperately need last year’s first-round pick to become one.
17. Somebody asked me on Twitter whether a hot dog is a sandwich. And it occurred to me that nobody would know better than somebody whose name … is both!
18. But despite being both a sandwich (Reuben) and a hot dog (Frank), I honestly have an opinion on this one. I guess no?
19. I thought Brandon Boykin would go to Pittsburgh and be a starter. But he could barely get on the field for most of last year, signed with the Panthers as a free agent and was just released. Boykin played at a Pro Bowl level here in 2013, his six interceptions were second-most in the NFL. I don’t understand what’s happened with him since. He’s 25 and should be in the prime of his career, but it seems like nobody wants him.
20. Conservative estimate is that I’ve lost 63 cell phone chargers in the last five years.
21. My top 10 concerts so far this year: 1. Marah, 2. Wilco, 3. Fruit Bats, 4. Shearwater, 5. Joseph Arthur, 6. They Might Be Giants, 7. Smithereens, 8. Kenn Kweder, 9. Bob Mould, 10. The Feelies.
22. Sam Bradford has the 11th-most starts by a quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 without a postseason appearance. He’s No. 3 among active quarterbacks with 63 starts, trailing only Ryan Fitzpatrick (105) and Ryan Tannehill (64). Here’s a list of the 13 quarterbacks who’ve started at least 60 regular-season games since 1970 without ever taking a snap in the postseason:
139 … Archie Manning
105 … Ryan Fitzpatrick
100 … Jeff Blake
83 … Brian Griese
82 … Kyle Orton
79 … Jason Campbell
79 … David Carr
76 … Joey Harrington
68 … Rick Mirer
64 … Ryan Tannehill
63 … Sam Bradford
61 … Josh Freeman
60 … Dave Brown
23. We were chatting on Twitter the other day about Reggie White’s tumultuous career with the Eagles. One nearly forgotten but fascinating episode in a generally contentious relationship between White and Eagles owner Norman Braman was Reggie’s civil lawsuit against Eagles front office executive Patrick Forte, one of Braman’s top executives, charging Forte with breach of contract and conflict of interest. White alleged that Forte wrote a secret option year into White’s contract — which he thought was due to expire after the 1988 season. Forte then accepted a job with the Eagles after negotiating that contract, which would have paid White just $440,000 in 1989. The lawsuit was settled as part of a new four-year, $6 million contract moments before it was set to be heard in court in Philly. White’s attorney in that suit was John Langel, whose son, Matt, was a star point guard at Penn and is now head coach at Colgate.
24. Because of the way Villanova beat North Carolina, on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater on a feed from Ryan Arcidiacono, it’s easy to forget just how insane Phil Booth’s performance was that night. Booth, averaging 4.9 points in his previous 11 games, shot 6 for 7 from the field, 2 for 2 from three and 6 for 6 from the foul line for a career-high 20 points in just 25 minutes. Booth had made two or fewer baskets in 23 of Villanova’s first 39 games. His 20 points are the fourth-most ever by a player coming off the bench in an NCAA championship game. Truly an astonishing clutch performance by a guy who struggled much of the season.
25. I have one rule on Facebook: If you post about your sick pet, you are outta here.