Casey Feeney

The 5 biggest 180s in recent Philly sports history

The 5 biggest 180s in recent Philly sports history

It's hard to believe that Bryce Harper made his MLB debut this week eight years ago. If we had a time machine and could go back to that time in 2012, it'd be even harder to project that Harper would become a Philly fan favorite. So that got us thinking about five of the top Philly sports perception turnarounds, good and bad, in recent times.

5. Chip Kelly

Say the name Chip Kelly now and Eagles fans will rant about Pro Bowl players released and draft picks wasted. But there was a time when Chip Kelly was the most popular figure in Philly sports. Sports science, smoothies and no-huddle excitement highlighted a first season that resulted in a division title. Unfortunately, Kelly burned too many bridges, along with his boats, and was gone two years later ... to the delight of most Eagles fans.

4. Scott Rolen

From face of the franchise to public enemy No, 1, that's the journey Scott Rolen lived in Philadelphia. After winning the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year, Rolen served as a beacon of hope for Phillies fans in a time with few glimmers of light. But five years later, Rolen eyed a better situation. It's also worth noting that his mild-mannered approach did not mesh well with his fiery manager, Larry Bowa. After his trade to the Cardinals in 2002, Rolen called St. Louis "baseball heaven" and Phillies fans have never stopped informing Rolen that he can go to the opposite place.

3. Doug Pederson

As an Eagles player, Pederson was best known as the guy in Donovan McNabb's way. Eventually, Pederson would resurface as Kelly's replacement as head coach. He had never called plays and had never been a head coach beyond the high school level, so skepticism engulfed Pederson. But the first Super Bowl in franchise history and three straight playoff appearances has a way of changing perspectives. We love ya, Doug.

2. Bryce Harper

Harper burst onto the scene as MLB's answer to LeBron James. A teenager with the promise of Mantle and unprecedented hype. He also represented the greatest threat to the demise of the Phillies' NL East supremacy. Harper hasn't been LeBron but he's been a great player that is on the path to Cooperstown. His ascendence with the Nationals did coincide with the demise of the Utley/Rollins/Howard era. Put all of that together and Harper could count on boos in Philadelphia. That's so 2018. One 13-year contract and $330 million later, Harper is arguably Philly's favorite athlete.

1. Terrell Owens

It's not an understatement to say that Owens was hailed as a savior upon his 2004 arrival in Philadelphia, the much-needed top receiver that would finally push the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. He nearly delivered in Year 1, starring in a Super Bowl loss to the Patriots on a not-fully-healed broken leg and injured ankle. Eagles fans could not have been more smitten.

Then came the driveway workout, the locker room fight with Hugh Douglas and the constant verbal jabs at McNabb. The Eagles had seen enough and released Owens after the 2005 season.

T.O. signed with the Cowboys in 2006, the ultimate sin for Eagles fans. From hero to villain in 24 months.

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2020 NFL Draft: Do you buy these Jalen Hurts theories?

2020 NFL Draft: Do you buy these Jalen Hurts theories?

Perhaps Howie Roseman is just a big fan of the film "Network" and he wanted to get every quarantined Eagles fan to run to their window (or Twitter in this case) and yell, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.”

That explanation makes as much sense as any other possible explanation provided for the decision to select Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round of the NFL Draft. (Insert caveat that this isn’t about Hurts. He's a perfectly good kid who deserves to celebrate a major life accomplishment without having it diminished. Etc., etc.)

So if it wasn’t an homage to a film from 1976, what was the reason for taking Hurts? Let’s look at some of the proposed rationales and play “Buy It Or Don’t Buy It.”

Quarterback Factory: Don’t buy it

There’s one objective in pro sports, winning the championship. Any ulterior motive or interest is a waste of time and resources. So when Roseman suggests he believes the Eagles have been and desire to be a “quarterback factory,” you have to wonder why the organization cares about that.

It’s perhaps easy and unfair to bring this back to the Patriots. But could you ever imagine Bill Belichick saying that he wants his team to be the best at a certain position? Of course not. In the pros, winning is all that matters.

Taysom Hill 2.0: Don't buy it

Within minutes of the Hurts selection, the buzz began to circulate on social media that Doug Pederson could create a package for Hurts similar to how the Saints use former college quarterback Taysom Hill. Pederson later confirmed that the team envisions being creative to get Hurts on the field in the short term.

Yet, it’s worth noting that Hill was an undrafted free agent that forged an NFL path by playing special teams and has yet to be the primary backup for Drew Brees. Perhaps Hurts will play special teams, but that appears unlikely for a quarterback taken in the 2nd round. Howie Roseman intimated last night that this upcoming season will be Nate Sudfeld’s last in Philadelphia. So how often will the Eagles be willing to run gadget plays with Hurts as a runner/receiver when he’s the primary backup?

Lastly on this front, roster spots are not a luxury in the NFL. Especially not for the Eagles. There always has to be a contingency plan for Brandon Brooks. He had to leave a November game last season due to anxiety-related symptoms. Injuries also can mount in a game. The Eagles are very familiar with that concept. Can this particular team really afford a roster spot for five-to-ten offensive snaps?

Challenging Carson: Don't buy it

The notion that it’s a good thing to challenge Carson Wentz with a potentially dynamic back-up has been making the rounds on social media. Hey, it worked when Nick Foles was brought in.

No, it didn’t. When Foles was signed prior to the 2017 season, he was a guy that knew the system that had failed with the Rams before riding the bench for the Chiefs. No one, NO ONE, saw Foles as a player to push Wentz until after he won the Super Bowl as Wentz’s injury replacement.

Last season, Wentz made the playoffs by winning out with Boston Scott and Greg Ward as key offensive pieces. That’s enough of a challenge.

In fairness, Roseman did not claim the Hurts selection was an effort to push Wentz.

Wentz’s injury history: Buy it

The NFL is not about building the most talented team. It’s about having a deep enough team to function in late January and February as the physical toll accumulates. Even the most ardent Wentz supporter has to acknowledge that he’s been unable to finish the last three seasons.

When it’s not your livelihood, it’s a lot easier to have a macro approach and opine that it isn’t wise to use a 2nd round pick on a luxury item like backup quarterback. But when you live it every day and jobs are on the line, it’s a different story.

The Eagles know from experience that you can win a Super Bowl with the right backup quarterback. Roseman and Pederson also lived through the playoff loss to the Seahawks last season as 40-year old Josh McCown limped through a 17-9 loss following the concussion Wentz suffered in the first quarter.

It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where the Eagles envision Hurts being able to save the day in that Seahawks game, winning the next week in Green Bay and allowing Wentz a chance to take on the 49ers in the NFC title game.

Decisions are often the product of your experiences and the Eagles’ experience of late has been to expect Wentz to be unavailable when it matters most.

Does that make the decision the right one? Time will tell.

Personally, I subscribe to the Tom Moore school on quarterbacks. When the former Colts offensive assistant was asked why Peyton Manning takes most, if not all, of the team’s practice reps, he said the team is bleeped without Manning. And the team doesn’t practice bleeped.

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2020 NBA Draft profile: Cassius Stanley is a springy wing with 3-and-D potential

2020 NBA Draft profile: Cassius Stanley is a springy wing with 3-and-D potential

Cassius Stanley

Position: SG/SF
Height: 6-6
Weight: 193
School: Duke

A key member of another top-three nationally-ranked recruiting class, Cassius Stanley lit up the highlight reels in his only season at Duke. But the 20-year old out of Sierra Canyon High School in California only provided modest production and now finds himself as a second-round pick in most projections. 

As the Blue Devils’ third scoring option behind Vernon Carey and Tre Jones, Stanley averaged 12.6 points per game on 47.4 from the field and 36 percent from three in 29 games. Notably, he did not make any of the three All-ACC teams or even honorable mention.

Strengths

Stanley can call himself the best leaper in this year’s draft without much argument. In fact, he bested Zion Williamson’s Duke record for best vertical leap. When measured prior to the season, Stanley recorded a 46.5 vertical jump, an inch and a half better than Williamson’s 45-inch mark. When you best Zion in a jumping contest, that’s saying something. That athleticism manifested itself in a number of remarkable alley-oop finishes and transition dunks over the course of his one season in Durham.

Stanley showed solid, but not special, shooting form, making 36 percent of his three-point field goals and well over 70 percent of his free throws last season. The transition to the NBA three-point line will not be a problem. But it’s worth noting that Stanley saw the majority of his shooting success from open looks created by double teams against Carey. Shooting off the dribble remains a work in progress.

Weaknesses

When it’s not facilitated for him, Stanley struggles to create offense. He committed nearly twice as many turnovers as assists last season (1.9 turnovers to one assist a game). While Carey’s presence created a number of open perimeter looks, it did not help Stanley’s penetration game. As teams sagged on Carey, Stanley saw his driving lanes diminish and he often dribbled himself into trouble around the paint.

The modern NBA values having one elite skill (shooting, defense, etc.) over a lack of weaknesses and Stanley is the inverse of that. Outside of jumping, there’s nothing he currently does beyond the average-to-good range in the NBA. There are not a lot of obvious holes, but not much to excite an NBA team either.

Fit

If Stanley were a standard 19-year old freshman, there’s little doubt he would have returned to Duke for a second season with the hope of improving his stock as arguably the primary scoring option for Mike Krzyzewski. But at age 20 already, Stanley made the leap after one year with the understanding that the NBA values youth over polish in the draft process.

Any team that drafts Stanley would be wise to view him as a developmental project with 3-and-D potential, the type of player you groom to make a difference closer to his third season. The Sixers, however, find themselves in a win-now mode and would be hard pressed to offer Stanley the growth opportunities he will need to be successful in the NBA. 

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