What do you get when you mix together Muddy Waters, the 2018 Eagles' offensive line, Andy Roddick, Sam Smith, the corner of Byberry and Bustleton, Dorial Green-Beckham, Brett Brown, OsoOso, Kyle Lowry, Father John Misty and Jordan Hicks?
I have no idea. But they're all are a part of today's 25 Random Points.
1. Since NFL free agency and the draft, I've been saying 10-6, 10-6, 10-6, so I figured it's time to figure out exactly how the Eagles are going to get to 10-6. Hey, opening day is only 2½ months away, it's time to start thinking about this stuff! I have the Eagles opening up 3-3, then rolling off three straight wins over the Redskins, 49ers and Broncos at the Linc to get to 6-3. After losing three of their next five to fall to 8-6, they finish with home wins over the Raiders and Cowboys to win the NFC East. So I have them going 4-2 in the division, with a sweep over the Redskins and splits against the Cowboys and Giants, and 8-4 in the NFC and then 2-2 against the AFC, with wins over the Broncos and Raiders and losses to the Chiefs and Chargers. I also have them 8-0 at home and 2-6 on the road. Is 8-0 at home possible? Hey, they were 6-2 at home last year, with the losses coming to the Packers and by five points to the Redskins. I feel like the two Redskins' games are going to determine the season. The Eagles have lost five straight to the Redskins, haven't swept them since 2013 and are 1-5 in their last six games at FedEx Field. If they can reverse those trends, and I believe they can, this could be a very successful season.
Week 1, at Redskins - W
Week 2, at Chiefs - L
Week 3, GIANTS - W
Week 4, at Chargers - L
Week 5, CARDS - W
Week 6, at Panthers - L
Week 7, REDSKINS - W
Week 8, 49ERS - W
Week 9, BRONCOS - W
Week 10, Bye Week
Week 11, at Cowboys - L
Week 12, BEARS - W
Week 13, at Seahawks - L
Week 14, at Rams - W
Week 15, at Giants - L
Week 16, RAIDERS -W
Week 17, COWBOYS - W
2. When I was attending Ohio Wesleyan University, a small, obscure college in sleepy Delaware, Ohio, somewhere between Marysville and Bucyrus, I was on the committee that booked and organized all the campus concerts. We had a ridiculous annual budget — I think it was $30,000, which back then was a lot of money. It meant we could book a major national act in the fall and winter and also have enough money leftover to book a well-known local band for an outdoor spring blowout. Somehow, in 1979, we were lucky enough to book blues legend Muddy Waters for our big winter concert at Gray Chapel Hall, a spectacular and intimate hall that was usually reserved for classical concerts. And so it was that on Feb. 24, 1979, the legendary Muddy Waters came to Ohio Wesleyan, fresh off a career resurgence sparked by his appearance in the Last Waltz. James Cotton, no slouch himself, was the opener, and after his brilliant 45-minute set, Cotton gave way to Muddy, who was in his mid-60s at the time but played for 90 electrifying minutes, his set capped by an absolutely riveting "Mannish Boy," his signature song. Muddy was so fired up that night he actually got off his stool and played "Mannish Boy" standing up — his roadies told us it was the only time on the tour he did that. Muddy's band back then featured Pinetop Perkins, perhaps the greatest blues piano player ever.
After Muddy finished, the crowd of about 1,000 went berserk, screaming for an encore. Muddy went "backstage," which was actually a hallway leading to the provost's office, and started to walk upstairs to the make-shift dressing room we had made out of Richard Smith's American History classroom. It was at this point that James Cotton, standing at the bottom of the steps, urged Muddy to come back downstairs for an encore. During most of the tour dates, the guys in Cotton's band had joined Muddy's band for a huge encore with like 15 guys on stage. I remember Cotton's exact words as he heard the crowd roar a few feet away: "Come on, Muddy. They are live all the way! LIVE all the way!" Muddy stopped on the steps and looked at Cotton but didn't seem interested in going out on stage and playing an encore. "I'm done," he bellowed in that booming bass voice that could only belong to Muddy. It was then that Cotton, desperately trying to find a way to lure Waters back down the steps, walked over to a table filled with snacks for the musicians and picked up a bunch of bananas."They got 'nanas, Muddy." Waters stopped and stared and said simply, "'Nanas?" Then he walked down the steps, ate a banana, went back to the stage and played his heart out for six more minutes. A couple years later, Muddy stopped performing for good and a couple years after that, he passed away at the age of 70. But, man, for a couple hours on a cold Saturday night in Central Ohio, he was pure magic. Sometimes I can't even believe that night happened.
3. The NFL analytics and advanced stats website Pro Football Focus released its linebacker coverage rankings recently, and there at the No. 1 spot was Jordan Hicks. According to PFF, quarterbacks had a 53.7 passer rating when throwing at Hicks. Which is remarkable. But not surprising. Hicks has seven interceptions in 24 career games, which is remarkable for a defensive back but insane for a linebacker. Only five active players — all DBs — had more INTs in their first 24 career games than Hicks. No Eagle since should-be Hall of Famer Eric Allen has had more INTs in his first 24 career games, and that was nearly 30 years ago. With three interceptions this coming season, Hicks will have the seventh-most INTs in NFL history by a linebacker in his first three seasons. With four, he'll have the second-most. With five, he'll tie Don Shinnick of the 1950s Baltimore Colts for the most ever. It's been a long time since the Eagles drafted a decent linebacker. Trott, anybody? Hicks is one of the few gifts Chip Kelly left the franchise.
4. Eagles' 2018 offensive line: Lane Johnson at left tackle, Jason Peters at left guard, Isaac Seumalo at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard, Halapoulivaati Vaitai at right tackle.
5. Brett Brown has a career win-loss record of 75-253 for a winning percentage of .229. That's the worst of any of the 151 coaches in NBA history who have coached at least 200 games. The 76ers could go undefeated the next two years, and Brown would still have a career losing record. In fact, if the 76ers went undefeated the next two years and the Golden State Warriors went winless, Steve Kerr would still have a higher career winning percentage than Brown. That said, I'm happy as heck the 76ers stuck with Brown during the grim last few years. The Sixers haven't won games under Brown, but they've ALWAYS played hard, and that speaks volumes about him and the respect he draws from his players. When you open up a season 1-30 and the effort is still there, you've got a special coach. And the league will see that now that he actually has some talented players on his roster.
6. Seriously, the 76ers' mania we're experiencing now is just incredible to watch. It's been so long since this city was excited about our basketball team. It's been 14 years since the 76ers finished a season more than four games over .500. Think about that for a moment. Fourteen years. The last time they finished a season more than four games over .500 was 2003. Their combined record in the 14 seasons since — 2004 through 2017 — is 442-690 (a .390 winning percentage), and only the Timberwolves have been worse during that span. They’ve won ONE playoff series in the last 14 years, and that was when the other team's best player got hurt. This team has youth, it has size, it has speed, it has personality. I don't think 45 wins is unrealistic if Joel Embiid is able to play 60 to 65 games. This city goes bonkers when the 76ers are really good, but it's been a long, long time since that happened. Going to be a fun winter.
7. Why is it that when you tell a waiter at a restaurant you're not quite ready to order and you need maybe two or three more minutes to look at the menu, that's their signal to disappear for the next 6½ hours?
8. The I-95 construction project north of Center City will end up costing close to $1 billion. But I'm afraid it won't address the biggest problem on I-95 in that area, which is the nightly bottleneck that's created when the roadway narrows from five lanes to three lanes at the ramp to Vine Street westbound just before going under the Ben Franklin Bridge, THEN merges with two lanes of heavy traffic entering from Vine Street eastbound. According to a map I found on 95revive.com, that huge problem area is even not part of the construction plan. But if you commute every day on I-95 North, you know it's the biggest problem on that section of highway. It's where 95 slows down every weekday from 3 till 7 p.m. I'm not a highway engineer, but I don't know how you alleviate that bottleneck without pretty much re-building the western access to the Ben Franklin Bridge and somehow move or re-design the massive, 200,000-ton granite anchor on the Philly side that forces the squeeze. Until someone figures that out, don't count on traffic on 95 getting much better … at least between the Washington Street off-ramp and the area north of the Ben Franklin Bridge.
9. Interesting that only nine quarterbacks in NFL history have started 32 games in their first two seasons. And even though the NFL has been using a 16-game schedule since 1978, all but one of those nine are still active — all but Peyton Manning. In Eagles history, Donovan McNabb has the most starts by a QB in his first two seasons with 22 — six as a rookie, 16 in 2000. Davey O'Brien had 19 in 1939 and 1940 and then Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are next with 16 apiece. So Wentz already has the third-most starts by an Eagles quarterback in his first two seasons … despite playing just one season!
10. I don't know what this means, but the Eagles will have a different leading rusher in 2017 for the fourth straight year. Shady in 2015, DeMarco Murray in 2016, Ryan Mathews in 2017 and whomever in 2018. The last time they had a different leading rusher in four straight seasons was 1983 through 1986 — Hubie Oliver, Wilbert Montgomery, Earnest Jackson and Keith Byars.
11. Here's my Shady note of the month: LeSean McCoy has three career seasons with at least 1,000 yards, a 5.0 rushing average and 50 receptions (2010, 2013, 2016). No back in NFL history has had more. In fact, only 13 other running backs have had ONE such season. Only Shady and Marshall Faulk have had three. Tiki Barber and LaDainian Tomlinson had two. And that's it. People don't realize it, but Shady is an all-time great and still in his prime. Look at his season last year — he ran for nearly 1,300 yards with 13 TDs and a 5.4 average along with 50 catches. Do you know many other backs in NFL history have had a single season with 1,200 or more rushing yards, 13 TDs and a 5.4 average? Two. (Faulk in 2000 and Chris Johnson in 2009). Shady averaged 5.4 yards per carry in his eighth NFL season. Do you know how many other backs have had that high an average while rushing for 1,000 yards that late in their career? Two (Barry Sanders and James Brooks). With 1,046 rushing yards and 18 receptions this year, McCoy will reach 10,000 rushing yards and 400 catches. Only 13 backs in NFL history have reached those plateaus, and seven of them are in the Hall of Fame (two aren't eligible yet). And if his career rushing average stays where it is — 4.7 yards per carry — he'll join Barber as one of only two players ever with 10,000 rushing yards, 400 catches and an average of 4.7 or higher. Love him or hate him, I'm telling you, this kid is going to end up in Canton.
12. Sticking with remarkable running backs … how about this on Darren Sproles: His 7,888 career yards from scrimmage are — not surprisingly — most in NFL history by a player 5-foot-6 or shorter. But here's the remarkable thing. Only 10 others 5-foot-6 or shorter have even 1 percent of that. And among those who are 5-foot-6 or less and played in the last 50 years, only Sproles, Lionel James (3,334), Mack Herron (2,087) and Howard Stevens (496) have more than 72 career yards from scrimmage. Heck, Sproles had more than that on one catch from Carson Wentz against the Steelers last year. Nobody in NFL history has ever done what he's done at his size and only a couple other guys are even in the same hemisphere. A truly remarkable, inspirational player.
13. I love the Kyle Lowry story. Grew up in North Philly, went to the since-shuttered Cardinal Dougherty in the Olney section of town, spent two years at Villanova, was a late first-round pick of the Grizzlies in 2006. Lowry's first four NBA seasons, he was a sub and never averaged double-digits. His next three years he became a productive starter, averaging 13.0 points per game. His first seven NBA seasons, Lowry was a fine player, averaging 10.6 points per game (169th-best in the NBA during that seven-year span), shooting 34 percent from 3-point range (59th-best) and averaging 5.0 assists (35th-best in the league). It's what happened next that is important to note. We often try to write the book on players in every sport after a year or two. We assume they are what they will be. We forget that those with character and heart and determination — those like Lowry — are constantly striving to improve. And for Lowry, it all began in year EIGHT. And the last four years, he's averaged 19.7 points per game (22nd-best in the NBA), shot 38 percent from 3 (19th-best) and averaged 6.9 assists per game (10th-best). He's one of only six NBA players to average 19 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds over the last four years. The others are MVPs Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, plus James Harden and Chris Paul!!! Pretty crazy company. Lowry made his first three All-Star teams the last three seasons, and on Saturday — at the age of 31 and headed into his 11th NBA season — he agreed to a three-year, $100 million contract to stay with the Raptors. A class act. A tremendous talent. A wonderful representative of Philly. And proof that athletes can keep improving even a decade into their career.
14. I can't believe how bad Dorial Green-Beckham was.
15. Father John Misty is a self-absorbed, no-talent hack.
16. The Phillies need to go 75-7 the rest of the season to match their record in 2011.
17. My vote for worst intersection in the city goes to Byberry and Bustleton. There are so many things happening beyond just the brutal left turns, overwhelming traffic volume and tractor trailers trying to navigate the narrow lanes. Traffic pulling out from the Sunoco station and trying to get over three lanes to turn left onto Byberry toward Woodhaven. Traffic trying to get into Walgreen's from Byberry westbound, while traffic backs up eastbound, which leads to traffic backing up into the intersection. Cars blocking the center lane on Bustleton south-bound because they're trying to squeeze into the left-turn lane, which is full all the way down to Trevose Road. I don't know. Maybe there's a worse intersection. The Boulevard is awful at Rhawn and Grant and a bunch of other places. Broad and Olney is no bargain. But I don't know if you can top Byberry and Bustleton.
18. I hate fireworks.
19. This is the fourth-straight year the Phillies have had just the one required All-Star. Last time they had two was Dom Brown and Cliff Lee in 2013. Long time ago.
20. In the last few months, I've seen five bands — Sorority Noise, Tigers Jaw, Hippo Campus, the Menzingers and Circa Survive — sell out either the Fillmore or Union Transfer with zero radio airplay. Why doesn't commercial radio play bands that clearly have huge followings instead of playing the same tired songs by the same tired bands day after day, year after year? I'll never get that.
21. This blows my mind: From 1992 through 2003, American tennis players won 25 of a possible 48 Grand Slam singles titles. More than half. That 12-year stretch started when Jim Courier beat Stefan Edberg to win the Australian and ended when Andy Roddick beat Juan Carlos Ferrero to win the U.S. Open. Since then? There have been 54 Grand Slams and Americans have won ZERO men’s singles titles. Heck, no American has even reached a Slam final since Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009. What are the chances that streak ends anytime soon? Minimal. With Wimbledon getting underway Monday, the highest-seeded Americans are No. 14 Jack Sock, and John Isner (20). Steve Johnson (24), Sam Query (26), Ryan Harrison (40) and Donald Young (49) are the only others seeded in the top 60. The next McEnroe? The next Agassi? The next Sampras? Where are those guys?
22. Worst song: "Stay with Me," Sam Smith. Best song: "Stay with Me," Faces.
23. Overrated: Patti Smith. Underrated: Patty Smythe.
24. Every year about this time I think about Jerome Brown. It's been almost exactly 25 years now since Jerome died in Brooksville, Fla., a few months after he turned 27. Hard to believe he'd be 52 now. In just five NFL seasons, Brown had already established himself as one of the greatest defensive tackles in Eagles' history. I've never seen a human being combine his strength and speed. He was a freak of nature. I truly believe he was on track for the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he kept playing at the level he was at his last few NFL seasons. But what I remember most about Jerome wasn't his ability, but his personality. I've just never seen anybody so naturally funny. He was loud, vulgar and hilarious with no filters. Most of the stuff Jerome said and did can't be written here, but I won't ever forget running into him in the lobby of the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Virginia., where the Eagles were staying the night before a Monday night game against the Redskins early in the 1991 season. I was heading through the lobby on my way to the gym, and I just happened to be wearing a Notre Dame T-shirt. To me, it was just a clean T-shirt I happened to have in my bag. But to Jerome, Notre Dame was the enemy. He proceeded to pick me up and slam me repeatedly against a wall face-first, laughing and yelling, "Notre Dame? NOTRE DAME??? Seriously?" Finally, he let go and I crumbled to the floor laughing weakly and pretending I wasn't in pure agony. I turned around and Jerome was walking away, yelling, "I'm just messing wit' you, Roob!"
25. My 25 favorite albums of the first half of 2017:
1. Harmony Woods, "Nothing Special"
2. Matthew Ryan, "Hustle Up, Starlings"
3. Hiccup, "Imaginary Enemies"
4. Jason Isbell, "The Nashville Sound"
5. The Bats, "The Deep Set"
6. Tigers Jaw, "Spin"
7. Night Windows, "Home" (EP)
8. Rips, "Rips"
9. OsoOso, "The Yunahon Mix Tape"
10. Ride, "Weather Diaries"
11. Feelies, "In Between"
12. Dan Auerbach, "Waiting on a Song"
13. Overlake, "Fall" (EP)
14. Rozwell Kid, "Precious Art"
15. Andrew Cohen and Light Coma, "Unreality"
16. Cende, "#1 Hit Single"
17. The Obsessives, "The Obsessives"
18. New Pornographers, "Whiteout Conditions"
19. Hippo Campus, "Landmark"
20. Grandaddy, "Last Place"
21. Will Johnson, "Hatteras Night, a Good Luck Charm"
22. Dominic Angelella, "Goodnight Doggies"
23. HaHa Tonka, "Heart-Shaped Mountain"
24. Kevin Morby, "City Music"
25. Temples, "Volcano"