Archive | November, 2011

Maybe it’s Time for the Eagles and Andy Reid to Part Ways

28 Nov

    By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

            After witnessing Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, I’ve come to the conclusion that Eagles fans have had enough of Andy Reid’s definition of insanity, which means pass, pass and pass on downs and situations in which you should run and not  executing in short yardage situations..

            And there are other maddening things about Reid that fans are upset about that was reflected throughout this game. But it was the bitter end to the Eagles first possession of the second half that basically tells you everything you need to know about the understandable frustration with the Eagles head coach.

            Already trailing 31-13, the Eagles first drive of the second-half ended with yet another failure on short yardage. They failed to pick up one yard in two chances. On a rare carry in the game for LeSean McCoy, he was stopped for no gain on third and one. On fourth and one, the Eagles tried a ridiculous quarterback rollout play that resulted in Vince Young overthrowing the tight end in the endzone.

            That was the end of the game and probably the season for the Eagles. By the way, McCoy had just 10 carries for 31 yards, emphasis on the “just.”

            Then came the chorus of “Fire Andy” from fans as they were heading toward the exits. That frustration came not just from the failure of executing on short yardage or passing when you should run. It comes watching an inexperienced defense being coached by an inexperienced defensive coordinator who was once the offensive line coach.

Eagles fans are also upset with the idea that Reid didn’t think to bolster the linebacker position, something he has never taken seriously during his tenure in Philadelphia. The Eagles have had only really good linebacker during Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia and that was Jeremiah Trotter and they didn’t realize his value until he left the team for Jacksonville after the 2001 season and then came back to the team in 2004.

The Eagles linebackers are just plain awful. They don’t make tackles until after a running back has gashed them for about 10 yards. The secondary, despite having highly-touted cornerbacks like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, can’t cover anybody and are just plain confused. In Sunday’s game against New England, Patriots receivers were so wide open they could have walked into the end zone backward.

While Reid can’t catch the ball for DeSean Jackson, who had two drops in the end zone that could have kept the Eagles in the game, he deserves blame for this 2011 season being a complete disaster and it’s the same thing. He keeps saying he has to put the team in the right position to win.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t put them in the right position to win. If anything, it’s been the exact opposite.

Probably the most irritating thing for Eagles fans is not giving one of the best running  backs in the NFC enough touches in the running game. If you look at the Eagles four wins this season, the common denominator is that when they have given McCoy the ball at least 20 or more times they win the game. 

Why Reid gets away from utilizing McCoy is a mystery wrapped up somewhere between Reid’s stubbornness and his penchant for being too pass happy

In Sunday’s game against the Patriots, there were times when the Eagles showed balanced and they were effective. But there were times in the game when giving the ball to McCoy might have helped the Eagles offense.

On their second drive of the game, the Eagles, leading 7-0, moved from their own 20 to the Patriots 25.  On three straight pass plays, the Eagles got nothing and had to settle for a field goal.  McCoy had been finding his way through the Patriots defense at that point. Late in the first half, the Eagles had first and goal at the five-yard line with 3:37 left in the second quarter and passed the ball three straight times including that terrible drop by Jackson in the end zone.

They settled for another field goal.

            You would think they should have run the ball on at least one play with McCoy inside the five, but this is the kind of play-calling that has characterized the Reid era in Philadelphia and why fans want to run him out of town.

            Granted, you can’t blame it all on Reid and the players like Michael Vick and the Eagles defense have played their role in what has been a terrible season, but maybe it’s time for the Eagles to hear a new voice.

            In 13 years, Reid has an outstanding record in Philadelphia, but it’s not good enough for fans that haven’t seen an NFL championship in over 50 years. His bad qualities—lack of game time management, inability to adjust to game situations, not valuing the linebacker position, and his lack of balance on offense—have worn thin and not bringing home a Super Bowl ring has this pushed this current relationship to a point of no-return.

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Vince Young Still Knows How to Win in the Clutch

23 Nov

Vince Young led the Eagles on a clutch drive in win over the New York Giants. Photo by USA Today

 

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

Coming into last Sunday’s win over the New York Giants, the only images that Eagles fans had of backup quarterback Vince Young were the interception he threw against the Washington Redskins in a brief relief stint for Michael Vick and not knowing where to lineup in another brief outing against the Arizona Cardinals.

Then there was the chorus of fans on the sports-talk radio circuit who thought Young’s appearance in Sunday’s game against the Giants would be the final death knell for a season inches from the grave.

But now they have the image of Young leading the Eagles on an 18-play, eight-minute, 51-second game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s victory. While he struggled at times with three interceptions, Young’s finest hour of the game came on that drive. He converted six third downs including the game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper.

It was a heck of an effort for a guy who hasn’t started a game in over a year and a measure of redemption for a man trying to right the ship in a career marred by his tumultuous time in Tennessee.

“He had a couple of turnovers there, but he came right back and he didn’t flinch,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “That’s the seasoned veteran that he is.”

In what was his last game with the Titans, Young got into an argument with then Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher and then walked out immediately after the game and before the postgame meeting. He reportedly told Fisher, “I’m not running out on my teammates, I’m running out on you.” He also angrily tossed his jersey and shoulder pads into stands.

As petulant and immature an act as that was, it was a reflection of the fact that Fisher never wanted to draft Young as his starting quarterback and never really had his back during his time in Tennessee according to various media reports and those close to that situation.

Young has been defined by his on and off the field issues from refusing to go into a game after being booed to reports of him being suicidal along with an altercation with a fan outside a strip club.

But for all of Young’s dysfunction and for all of those who say he has been a bust as a pro quarterback, he has been a winner even when his immaturity has gotten in the way.

After all, Young has a 31-17 record as a starting quarterback and a guy who led 13 game-winning fourth-quarter drives and has seven come-from-behind wins. As a rookie, he was the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year and he has made two trips to the Pro Bowl.

Most of those wins came during his time in Tennessee when he didn’t have the best receivers in the world and while playing for a coach who didn’t consider him the apple of his eye.

So far, during his brief time in Philadelphia, Young has managed to impress his coaches with his work ethic and maturity.

“He came in without any type of offseason at all and with a little bit shorter camp,” said offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg prior to Sunday’s game. “He has been working hard both on and off the field and in the classroom. (Quarterbacks coach) Doug Pederson has been doing a great job and has great confidence in Vince. I think he’ll play well.”

With the result of Sunday’s game, Morhinweg turned out to be right.

I’ve always believed that the success of an athlete depends on whether or not they’re in a situation where they can develop and grow. The history of sports is littered with stories of athletes moving from a situation where their talents weren’t utilized to a place where they blossomed into superstars.

For example, the first three years of his career with the Buffalo Bills, O.J. Simpson was considered another “Heisman bust”, but then head coach Lou Saban came in and decided that the offense would revolve around Simpson’s rushing ability.

From 1972 to 1976, Simpson became one of the NFL’s most dominant running backs. In 1973, he became the first back to rush for over 2,000 yards.

In baseball, Lou Brock was considered a bust during time with the Chicago Cubs. When he got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964, he became the catalyst of St. Louis’s run to a World Series title that year, was one of the greatest base stealers ever, and is now a Hall-of-Famer.

While Young, barring a career-ending injury to Vick, will probably never get to start for the Eagles on a permanent basis, studying under head coach Andy Reid and his offensive coaching staff as a backup might have been the best thing that ever happened to him in his football career.

But ultimately it’s up Young to maintain that work ethic, stay grounded and keep his head when things get bad no matter where he is next year. He has to be more consistent and efficient as a quarterback.

Hopefully, Young will find the right situation that will help him become an even better quarterback. The guy has been a proven winner in the clutch even in the midst of his troubles in Tennessee. If Young can find a situation in which he can flourish, the sky can be the limit for him.

Another Meadowlands Miracle: The Eagles Defense Closes the Show in Win over the New York Giants

21 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J–After taking much of the blame for blown fourth quarter leads this season, the Eagles defense finally closed the deal on a team that was looking overtake them late.

Thanks to a sack of Eli Manning and a forced fumble by Jason Babin with one-minute, 17 seconds left in the game, the Eagles ( came away with another Meadowlands Miracle with a 17-10 victory in front of a sell-out crowd at MetLife Stadium while keeping their faint playoff hopes alive for one more week. .

On the third play of the Giants final drive of the game, Manning hit wide receiver Victor Cruz for a big 47-yard gain that brought the Giants from their own 32-yard line to the Eagles 21 and in close range for what could have been the game-tying touchdown. But Babin’s forced fumble and sack of Manning on the next play closed the door on the Giants for good. The ball was recovered by Derek Landri at the Eagles 31.

“We really needed that,” Babin said. “We were a little down from the Bears game and the last game (against Arizona) and we really needed come out on Sunday night and show them what we’re all about. We don’t like it when you guys write that stuff and we don’t like to lose in the fourth quarter. The fact of the matter is that we need this to go forward because no one likes to lose and continue to lose and so when you win it gives us an emotional high that we can carry into next week.”

The Eagles carried a 10-3 lead into fourth quarter, but the Giants evened the game with 11:44 remaining on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz, who burned Eagles corner Nnamdi Asomugha the way he did the first time the two teams met back in September.

The Eagles took a 17-10 lead with 2:45 left in the game on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Vince Young to wide receiver Riley Cooper on a slant rout in the back of the end zone. The touchdown capped an 18-play, 8:51 drive.

“We have to put the ball in the end zone and take it play-by-play,” Cooper said. “We were playing small ball, we were running the ball, we were throwing the ball. We didn’t have one bomb or one big play, it was a great drive and it was a long drive.”

After struggling through three interceptions, Young, who hasn’t started an NFL game since last season, methodically drove the Birds down field 80 yard for the go ahead score. He converted six straight third down situations.

For Young, who was playing for the injured Michael Vick, it was the 13th game-winning drive of his career and as erratic as he was in the early-going, he found a way for the Eagles to win, something he has done throughout his collegiate and professional career. He is now 31-17 as a starting quarterback.

“As a quarterback, these types of things are going to happen,” Young said of his shaky start. “But I’ve been preaching and all week saying to our guys we have four quarters. And if I’m going to be preaching and said if I have a mistake, just get ready for the next series and that’s what I did.”

Eagles head coach Andy Reid said Young, who completed 23-of-36 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions,  just needed to get into a rhythm after not starting since last season.

“I thought his timing got better as it went on,” Reid said. “I just thought he kept firing, which is what you have to do. He had a couple of turnovers and he came right back. He didn’t flinch like the seasoned veteran that he is.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles got on the board with a 32-yard field goal by Alex Henery that capped a nine-play, 56-yard drive. The Eagles scored the only touchdown of the half on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Young to former Giants wide receiver Steve Smith to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead.

The touchdown was set up by a 51-yard punt return by DeSean Jackson, who took the ball from the Eagles 35 to the Giants 14-yard line.

“We were feeling red hot right there, DeSean made a big play,” Smith said. “It feels like a cherry on the top of the wind. Me being able to make a big play to help my team.”

The Giants got a 48-yard field goal from Lawerence Tynes to make the score 10-3 at the half.

The Real Rocky: Smokin Joe Frazier Embodied the Gritty Heart and Soul of Philadelphia

11 Nov

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

I know that tourists who come to Philadelphia get a kick out of taking pictures next to the Rocky statue at the Art Museum. After all, the fictional character of Rocky Balboa is supposed to represent the spirit of the city’s rags to riches blue-collar work ethic.

I’ve always thought that it was silly to have a fictional character to represent the city’s toughness when you had the real thing in one “Smokin” Joe Frazier. If anybody embodied heart and soul of this city in the ring, it was Frazier, who died earlier this week of liver cancer. The former heavyweight champion and Olympic gold-medalist was 67.

“The statue in everybody’s mind is Joe Frazier,” said HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant. “That represents a fighter that never let you down with a backward step. He was in the line of (Jack) Dempsey and (Rocky) Marciano who thrilled you with their skill and will.”

Frazier’s epic battles with Muhammad Ali were bigger than any fiction that Sylvester Stallone could ever conjure up on film. Not even the story in Greek mythology of the fight between Achilles and Hector could ever live up to the trilogy of Ali-Frazier.

In the ring, Frazier and Ali made each other great while pushing the boundaries of physical pain. In their first battle in 1971, dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” Frazier’s relentless style of constant forward movement neutralized Ali’s quick left jab and lateral movement and gave Frazier a unanimous decision that included a 15th round knockdown.

“What happened was you had two guys of polar opposite styles and great wills battling and it became a memorable drama we’re still talking about,” Merchant said.

Part III of their trilogy, “The Thrilla in Manila,” was the most brutal of all. Both fighters were pushed to the brink. At one point in the fight, Ali said he considered quitting and that Frazier had pushed him the closest to death that he had ever known.

“Neither was at his best, but both stripped down to who they were inside,” Merchant said. “Even Frazier, who was embittered at Ali, gave full credit to Ali for his dogged toughness.”

The fight was settled when Frazier, who was blind in one eye, could not answer the bell for 14th round. Frazier was beaten, but not vanquished. When he was announced the winner, an exhausted Ali, whom had taken a barrage of punches from Frazier throughout the fight, could barely raise his arms to celebrate his victory.

Frazier held the heavyweight title from 1968 to 1973, losing it to George Foreman in a second-round knockout. Even in getting knocked down six times, Frazier just kept moving forward.

“When the bell rings, he would not back up from King Kong,” Foreman said. “I know, I knocked him down six times. When our fight was over, Joe was on his feet looking for me.”

The buildup of that first Ali-Frazier fight was shrouded in the volatile politics of the Vietnam War protests and racial unrest of the late 1960s, early 1970s. The fight was not only a contrast in styles, but it reflected the nation’s divisions.

“As the big event loomed, people who didn’t like Ali for his political and social views as well as for his unique way of promoting himself as a showman and entertainer, sides were drawn up,” Merchant said. “Through no fault of Joe’s, he came to represent the establishment. That made the fight more than just a fight, it made the fight more than just a fight with social and perhaps even political implications.”

For many in the African American community during that time, Frazier was unfairly cast as an “Uncle Tom” or the white man’s champion against Ali, who refused induction into the U.S. Army based on religious grounds. At the time, there were many white people back then who saw Frazier as All-American foil to Ali, who was considered un-American for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. In reality, Frazier just simply saw himself as a fighter.

Casting Frazier as some sort of sellout was just as wrong as Ali’s cause was absolutely right. What folks didn’t understand through the emotional tone of the politics was that Frazier embodied the Black experience in America just as much as Ali did.

Frazier’ came up from very humble beginnings from Beaufort, SC where his father was sharecropper. Rocky punching on raw meat was based on the real life Frazier once used an old burlap bag that he filled with corncobs, rags, a brick and Spanish moss that grew on trees and hung over a tree, creating a makeshift heavy bag.

“Not only was he a great fighter but also a great man. He lived as he fought with
courage and commitment at a time when African Americans in all spheres of life were
engaged in a struggle for emancipation and respect,” said legendary boxing promoter Don King. “Smokin Joe brought honor, dignity and pride for his people, the American people, and brought the nation together as only sports can do.”

In the midst of folks calling him sort of white man’s champion and his children getting the same treatment from their school mates, it was widely reported that Frazier helped Ali to get his license back and lent him money as he was taking his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s not ‘Uncle Tomery at all, it’s about a brother helping out another brother when he’s down and out. That’s the essence the true essence of being one of the “bruhs’ and Joe Frazier was definitely a true brother.