The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published December 30, 2018
And now on to the third and final chapter in this countdown (countup?). We’ve had some lean years so far this century in Philadelphia sports, but here are the seven best years that our local teams have had to offer, as ranked by our panel of experts (me). A recap so far of the years we’ve already covered, starting with the worst…
- 2015: Chip Kelly and Ryne Sandberg’s failures highlight a miserable year
- 2014: Eagles are stuck in neutral, while the rest of the teams aren’t any better
- 2013: Sam Hinkie begins “the process”, no playoff wins for any Philly teams
- 2006: Flyers clean house, Sixers trade Iverson
- 2011: Phillies’ run of dominance ends in spectacular fashion with playoff loss, Howard injury
- 2012: Andy Reid’s final season with Eagles is a disaster, Phillies start downward trend
- 2007: Phils finally get back to playoffs, entice us with future possibilities
- 2016: Wentz and Pederson have uneven results in their first seasons as Eagles QB/coach
- 2003: Eagles lose NFC title game to Tampa, open Lincoln Financial Field the following fall
- 2001: Sixers reach NBA Finals on the back of MVP Iverson before losing to Lakers
- 2017: Eagles steamroll competition but lose Wentz to injury, setting the stage for drama in the new year
- 2004: T.O. comes aboard to lead Eagles to a tremendous season
And now the top seven years, from #7 to #1…
The Narrative: The Eagles come right out of the gate and win two playoff games, surprisingly advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Nobody gives them a chance against the high-powered St. Louis Rams, but the Eagles hang tough before eventually falling 29-24. They would build on their strong playoff showing by going 12-4 in the 2002 regular season.
Positives: Pat Burrell emerges as a legitimate power hitter for the Phillies, clubbing 37 home runs with 116 RBI. Donovan McNabb’s injury during the 2002 regular season seems ominous, but AJ Feeley picks up the slack and is excellent while McNabb recovers. Jeremy Roenick has an entertaining and productive first season with the Flyers; he seems like a natural fit.
Negatives: The Phillies slip to 80 wins. They also part ways with disgruntled third basemen Scott Rolen at the trade deadline, shipping him to St. Louis. The trade itself is a positive because the guy was a cancer to the team, but what they get in return is horrendous. The Flyers have a typically good regular season but then manage just two goals in a five-game first round playoff loss to Ottawa. The Sixers get bounced in the first round.
The Narrative: After three straight horrible seasons, the Eagles come alive in Year 2 of the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid era. They go 11-5 and go on to win a playoff game. It is a sign of big things to come. The Sixers, firmly entrenched in Allen Iverson’s heyday, also win a playoff round. And the Flyers make a run all the way to the Eastern Conference Final.
Positives: In addition to good showings in the playoffs by the teams mentioned above, the combo of McNabb and Iverson give the town huge star power. Flyers rookie goaltender Brian Boucher also shows immense potential in his first taste of NHL action. The team wins an epic 5-OT thriller against Pittsburgh in the second round to propel them to a win in the series.
Negatives: The Phillies. In Terry Francona’s fourth and final miserable season managing the team, they win just 65 games. The pitching is especially bad, and longtime ace Curt Schilling is traded during the season. On the Flyers end, their loss in the playoffs is especially painful, as it coincides with Scott Stevens’ infamous headshot on Eric Lindros in Game 7. It is probably the most devastating on-ice moment in the history of the franchise. The Big E would not suit up for the Flyers again. Oh, and GM Bob Clarke makes some less than ideal comments about head coach Roger Nielson’s cancer battle and subsequent leave of absence.
The Narrative: The Eagles finally get back to the Super Bowl, winning the NFC title on their fourth try with a victory over the Falcons. The whole 2004 season, the Eagles had run roughshod over the league, but as the calendar turned to the new year, all anyone was wondering was “How are they going to blow it this year”? But they don’t. At least, not until the Super Bowl itself. In an agonizingly close game, the Eagles lose to the Patriots by a field goal. “The Curse of Billy Penn” continues, going strong into its third decade by that point.
Positives: Under new manager Charlie Manuel, the Phillies miss out on the wild card by a single game, but Chase Utley establishes himself as a stud and Ryan Howard wins NL Rookie of the Year honors. Over a decade after being dealt away in the Eric Lindros trade, Peter Forsberg dons a Flyers uniform for the first time following an entire season cancelled by the NHL lockout. When healthy, he is dominant. The Flyers also see a pair of promising rookies debut in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Negatives: The Eagles are victims of a Super Bowl hangover during their 2005 regular season and fall off a cliff, going 6-10. Donovan McNabb gets hurt, giving way to Mike McMahon, who is terrible. Terrell Owens gets booted off the team for his increasingly ridiculous behavior. A middling Sixers team loses in the first round of the playoffs.
The Narrative: Seeking to become repeat champions, the Phillies make their way back to the playoffs and then have an easy time reaching the World Series again. Deadline acquisition/new ace Cliff Lee dazzles in a Game 1 victory at Yankee Stadium, and it seems like the Phillies are going to roll. But only Lee and Chase Utley seem like they have come to play, and the Phillies are beaten by the Yankees in six games. They don’t get any timely hitting, and the bullpen lets them down. Suddenly, the good feelings of 2008 seem a world away.
Positives: The Eagles win a pair of road playoff games before falling to a very good Arizona team in the NFC Championship Game. The surprise run seems to breathe new life into the team, and they make the playoffs again following the 2009 regular season. The Flyers make a big offseason move by bringing in defenseman Chris Pronger. A few months after the World Series disappointment, the Phillies trade for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, although they do trade away Lee on the same day for some reason.
Negatives: Shortly after the baseball season begins, Harry Kalas passes away, leaving a void in the fanbase that had grown up and learned baseball by listening to him. A solid season by the Flyers ends poorly in a first-round playoff loss to the Penguins, who add insult to injury by going on to win the Stanley Cup. Trying to force a decisive Game 7, the Flyers blow a 3-0 lead at home in Game 6. The Sixers finish right at .500 and lose in six games in the first round for what feels like about the 50th season in a row.
The Narrative: After an up-and-down regular season, the Flyers sneak into the playoffs in their final game by beating the Rangers in a shootout. But they don’t stop there. They win in the first round. But then they drop the first three games to Boston to fall into an impossible hole. Yet, in a comeback for the ages, they reel off four straight wins (including a 4-3 win in Game 7 after they trailed 3-0) to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. They win that round, too, and move on to the Stanley Cup Final to face the Blackhawks. But after a hard-fought series, the clock strikes midnight and the Flyers fall short of the Cup when Patrick Kane scores an awful goal in overtime of Game 6 that nobody realizes went in. Typical Flyers stuff, you know. Also, the Flyers had missed out on picking Kane first overall three years earlier when Chicago won the draft lottery over them. Uggggggh.
Positives: The Phillies post the best record in all of baseball with 97 wins. Roy Halladay has a season for the ages, throwing a perfect game during the regular season and then a no-hitter in the playoffs. He appropriately wins the Cy Young.
Negatives: The Eagles lose in Dallas twice before 2010 is ten days old. First, they drop a Week 17 game that costs them the division, then they get smoked the following week in a first-round playoff game. The aggregate score of the two games is 58-14. It doesn’t get much worse. A crappy end to what had been a good season until then. The Phillies, meanwhile, can’t make a third straight World Series appearance, dropping the NLCS to the Giants. I get to see the final game in person. It was terrible. The Sixers are garbage.
The Narrative: Philadelphia has its champion as the Phillies break through to give the city its first title in a quarter of a century thanks to the big bats of Howard and Utley, the playoff heroics of Cole Hamels, and Brad Lidge shutting the door in the 9th inning all season long to solidify an excellent bullpen. The Phils win a tight NL East race during the regular season and then go 11-3 in playoff series wins over the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays en route to immortality. For many fans of the city, it is their first taste of glory.
Positives: Despite an uneven regular season, the Eagles go into Dallas in Week 17 and blitz the Cowboys 44-6 to snatch a wild card spot away from their rivals. The Flyers return to relevance by making a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Budding star Mike Richards and marquis free agent signing Danny Briere lead the way.
Negatives: That Flyers’ playoff run ends at the hands of the Penguins, marking the beginning of a long stretch where the team would take a backseat to Sidney Crosby and its cross-state rivals. The 76ers are sub-.500 but still make the playoffs in the awful Eastern Conference, losing to Detroit in the first round.
The Narrative: In an occurrence you may have heard a bit about by now, the Eagles win the Super Bowl. It is the moment that loyal Birds fans had been waiting generations for, and that WIP’s frequent, flip-flopping callers had been waiting two weeks for. Nick Foles is Super Bowl MVP as he outduels the GOAT Tom Brady, coach Doug Pederson is a genius, and center Jason Kelce achieves deity status with his costume and speech at the parade. It is truly the zenith of being a Philadelphia sports fan, and the goodwill that accompanies it throughout the Delaware Valley could never been ruined, not even in a sports year that prominently features Gabe Kapler.
Positives: Villanova’s men again survive March Madness, winning their second NCAA title in three seasons. The Sixers improve by leaps and bounds as Sam Hinkie’s “process” finally starts to bear fruit. They make the second round of the playoffs. Aaron Nola has a Cy Young-caliber season for the Phillies. The Flyers make a late run to secure a playoff spot.
Negatives: The Flyers can’t keep the puck out of their net in said playoffs, losing in the first round to the Penguins. Shortly into the next season, they fire GM Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol as a state of confusion surrounds the franchise. Brian Colangelo tries to torpedo the 76ers with that whole Twitter fiasco. And it becomes readily apparent that Markelle Fultz is a huge mistake. Also, Gabe Kapler happened.
That wraps it up for this series on PhillySportsComplex, and for our content this year. Much more to come in 2019! Keep reading. Please!
Foles: Yeah, it's about that big.
Published December 26, 2018
Welcome back as we continue with the second part of these rankings. We’ve moved past the worst calendar years that Philadelphia sports have seen this century, but we aren’t at the best ones yet. Here in the middle of the pack, we’ll recount some good times, but a lot more bad ones. Recapping so far, the bottom of the barrel seasons were as follows, beginning with the worst…
- 2015: Chip Kelly and Ryne Sandberg’s failures highlight a miserable year.
- 2014: Eagles are stuck in neutral, while the rest of the teams aren’t any better.
- 2013: Sam Hinkie begins “the process”, no playoff wins for any Philly teams.
- 2006: Flyers clean house, Sixers trade Iverson
- 2011: Phillies’ run of dominance ends with playoff loss, Howard injury
- 2012: Andy Reid’s final season with Eagles is a disaster, Phillies start downward trend
Now, let’s pick up where we left off, with the 13th-best through the 8th-best years that Philly sports have seen this century…
The Narrative: After years of teetering on the precipice of the playoffs, the Phillies finally get there. They stage a furious comeback in the season’s final weeks to overtake the Mets and clinch the NL East title on the last day of the season. It’s their first trip to the playoffs in 14 years. Once they get there, they are quickly swept by Colorado in the first round, but it feels like the dam has finally broken and that big things are in store for the team in the seasons to come.
Positives: Jimmy Rollins, ridiculed for calling the Phillies “the team to beat” in the NL East before the season, backs up his words and wins the NL MVP Award. The Eagles carry the momentum of their tremendous regular season finish into the playoffs by beating the Giants in the first round before losing a tight one in New Orleans the following week.
Negatives: The Flyers put the “finishing touches” on a truly awful season. Like, historically bad. They finish with the worst record in the league by a mile, but then they can’t even win the draft lottery and end up picking second. It will come back to haunt them three years later. The Eagles go 8-8 in the 2007 regular season, although they really weren’t even that good. The Sixers finish well below .500 and can’t draw flies, finishing next to last in the NBA in attendance.
The Narrative: With new coach Doug Pederson and the highly anticipated debut of QB Carson Wentz, the Eagles start a new chapter in their history. But a promising start to the season falls apart late as they endure a 5-game losing streak, finishing at 7-9. It looks like it’s the kind of season that a young team can at least build on, begging the question: Can Pederson/Wentz make the leap and achieve what Reid/McNabb never could?
Positives: Villanova’s men’s basketball team provides a thrill with an NCAA championship. Joel Embiid finally plays his first NBA games, over two years after being drafted. He looks damn good when he can stay in the lineup. The Flyers make an unexpected playoff appearance, but even then it gets tainted when Steve Mason gives up the worst goal in NHL history to basically kill any chance they have against Washington. The Phillies take baby steps and improve to a modest 71 wins.
Negatives: The Sixers challenge for the title of “worst NBA team ever” by finishing a 10-win regular season. Their reward is Ben Simmons with the first overall pick of the draft, but he gets hurt in training camp and misses the entire next season.
The Narrative: After rolling through the 2002 regular season, the Eagles are in prime position to make “the leap” in the playoffs. After a first-round bye, they win their first playoff game. Then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. In the final Eagles game at Veterans Stadium, the Eagles are stunned 27-10, with Tampa going on to win the Super Bowl. Given the circumstances surrounding the game, the immense buildup and the way that the Eagles started fast before crumbling, many point to it as the most devastating loss they’ve ever seen by a Philadelphia team.
Positives: During the 2003 regular season, their first at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles go 12-4 to seemingly set themselves up for a big run to make up for the crushing loss to Tampa. Jim Thome slugs his way into our hearts with a fantastic first season as a Phil, as the team posts an 86-win season in their final year at the Vet. Kevin Millwood of all people throws a no-hitter. The Flyers win an epic 7-game first round playoff series with Toronto that features three multiple overtime games before a 6-1 blowout in the clincher. The Sixers win a round.
Negatives: Nothing else is even in the same league as the loss to Tampa. The Flyers and Sixers do look pretty spent in second round playoff losses, though.
The Narrative: On the backs of league MVP Allen Iverson and Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo, the Sixers go all the way to the NBA Finals. They take Game 1 against the Lakers but are unable to build on it, losing four straight after that. It is an exciting run, but would unfortunately prove to be a “lightning in a bottle” situation for the team. The Eagles follow up their previous campaign with another solid 11-5 year to make the playoffs.
Positives: The Phillies get a lot better under new manager Larry Bowa, improving to 86 wins and sticking around the playoff picture until the final week of the season. Jimmy Rollins has a solid rookie year and looks to be a building block for the club. The team also gets solid production from Scott Rolen and Bobby Abreu. Insane goaltender Roman Cechmanek comes out of nowhere to have an excellent season for the Flyers.
Negatives: Despite a 100-point regular season, the Flyers get bounced meekly in the first round of the playoffs by Buffalo. They also deal with the off-ice saga of Eric Lindros’ holdout. They eventually trade him to the Rangers, and don’t get anything good in return. Phillies’ catcher Mike Lieberthal tears his knee up and misses most of the season. Eagles’ running back Correll Buckhalter suffers the first of his many career-altering injuries.
The Narrative: The Eagles start strong, blowing teams out left and right, as Carson Wentz establishes himself as the front runner for MVP. The Birds carry a 10-2 record into a big game against the Rams when disaster strikes and Wentz injures his knee. He is ruled out for the season. But they win that game, and go on to finish the regular season at 13-3, albeit behind a shaky Nick Foles at QB. As the calendar year ends and Eagles embark on the playoffs, it appears that lousy injury luck (with Wentz and several other important players) has ruined a golden opportunity. Fans are on edge.
Positives: Rhys Hoskins bursts onto the scene for the Phillies and provides hope for the future. The Sixers “improve” to 28 wins.
Negatives: The Flyers struggle through another mundane season and miss the playoffs. Then, early in the next regular season, they lose ten games in a row. The Phillies regress overall and they decide not to let Pete Mackanin return as manager. Enter Gabe Kapler.
The Narrative: A year after the Tampa Bay debacle in the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles fall flat on their face again in a bid to get to the Super Bowl, this time to Carolina. It’s their third straight NFC title game defeat. At this point, a reputation is attached to Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb and company that they’ll never get over the hump. That offseason, the Eagles make a huge splash by bringing in Terrell Owens in an effort to finally push the team where it wants to be. McNabb, T.O. and the rest of the Eagles’ star-studded roster go on to have a fantastic 2004 season.
Positives: St. Joe’s men’s basketball team has an undefeated regular season and enters March Madness as the top seed. A battered but tenacious Flyers team, led by the playoff heroics of captain Keith Primeau, makes it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before finally giving in to the Lightning. Citizens Bank Park opens, and the Phillies stay in the playoff hunt into the season’s final week.
Negatives: Despite that perfect regular season, St. Joe’s only makes it to the Elite 8 in the NCAA tourney. The Sixers are lousy and miss the playoffs. After their surprise run in the playoffs, the Flyers can’t build on it in the next season because there WAS no next season thanks to an NHL lockout.
Iverson and the Sixers came kind of close, but the title drought continued.
Published December 22, 2018
As we speed towards the end of this year, it’s time to look back. Not just on the past 12 months, but much further back. Now 19 years into this century, we can say that we have enough of a sample size to start drawing some conclusions and making comparisons.
The goal of this three-part series is to examine each year in terms of the Philadelphia sports landscape and rank just how good or bad it was for the teams and, by extension and more importantly, the fans.
And remember, we are looking at the CALENDAR YEAR, which makes things kind of weird with regard to NFL playoff games that occur in a different year than the regular season that preceded them. You’ve been warned, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Would this series of articles make more sense next year as we end the decade and have a nice round 20-year sample to deal with? Yes, absolutely. But we’re doing it now, so too bad. Off we go, and we are starting from the bottom…
The Narrative: Entering Year Three of the Reign of Chip Kelly, who now has assumed absolute control over everything, the Eagles are still expected to be a contender. Kelly trades away LeSean McCoy in the spring as he constructs his roster exactly how he wants it. That same day, the Eagles acquire Sam Bradford to be their quarterback, sending Nick Foles to the Rams in the process. The team also makes a surprise move to bring in the NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, prying him away from the Cowboys. Everything blows up in Kelly’s face and the Eagles stink up the joint. With the team 6-9 and about to finish its miserable season, Jeff Lurie tries to restore some sanity to the organization by firing Kelly.
Positives: Cole Hamels throws a no-hitter in his final start as a Phillie before he gets traded. That’s just the kind of year it is; we can’t have anything nice.
Negatives: The Phillies are an unmitigated disaster, losing 99 games to finish with the worst record in baseball. Ryne Sandberg quits mid-season, and the team fires Ruben Amaro Jr. in the season’s final month (which is actually a positive). The team trades Chase Utley. The 76ers finish up an awful regular season by losing 10 straight games, then begin the next regular season with 18 consecutive losses. The team goes 17-69 in the calendar year of 2015. The Flyers don’t even come close to a playoff spot, and they bring in Dave Hakstol as head coach in the offseason.
The Narrative: The Eagles enter Year Two of the Chip Kelly era, and they are an impressive 9-3 as the calendar turns to December. But they lose three straight games and are eliminated from the playoff mix, even with a 9-6 record at that point. They finish 10-6, but miss the playoffs. It is a year of stagnation when much, much more from the team and its coach was expected.
Positives: Michael Carter-Williams wins NBA Rookie of the Year. The Sixers get Joel Embiid in the NBA draft, although that one takes several years to pay off.
Negatives: Way back in January, Year One of Chip Kelly’s reign ends meekly as the Eagles lose at home in the playoffs against New Orleans. In the offseason, they (Chip) cut DeSean Jackson for no good reason. The Sixers stink on the actual hardwood, winning just 19 games. The Flyers rebound from their typical bad start to the season to make the playoffs, but they lose a 7-gamer to the Rangers. The Phillies post the same 73-89 record that they did the previous season as Ryne Sandberg struggles to find his footing as a major league manager.
The Narrative: With the stale voice of Andy Reid gone, the Eagles hire shiny new toy Chip Kelly to lead them to the promised land. The team’s exciting play produces mostly good results, as they win the NFC East by going 10-6.
Positives: The Eagles’ offense is off the charts. Nick Foles has an incredible year in place of an injured Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson has the best season of his career, and LeSean McCoy leads the league in rushing.
Negatives: The Phillies suffer through a disastrous 73-win season. Charlie Manuel loses his job, and (in a move that looked good at the time), the team promotes manager-in-waiting Ryne Sandberg. In a lockout-shortened NHL season, the Flyers never get off the ground, missing the playoffs. The following regular season, coach Peter Laviolette gets canned after just three games. The Sixers also miss the playoffs, and then they hire Sam Hinkie. The tanking begins.
The Narrative: With Donovan McNabb injured (again) and the Eagles looking dead at 5-6, Jeff Garcia leads them on a miraculous run to end the season. The Eagles win five straight games, including a 23-7 win in Dallas on Christmas Day to finish 10-6 and take the NFC East. Brian Westbrook fully emerges as the team’s ultimate weapon on offense.
Positives: Ryan Howard blasts a team record 58 home runs and knocks in 149 runs to go along with a .313 batting average en route to winning NL MVP honors. Aaron Rowand puts his face through a wall to earn eternal street cred in Philly. Cole Hamels debuts. The Phillies fall just short of the playoffs again, but sure look good doing it.
Negatives: The Flyers lose in the first round of the 2006 playoffs despite Peter Forsberg’s best efforts. Then, when the following season starts, they win just one of their first eight games and clean house, firing GM Bob Clarke and head coach Ken Hitchcock to go along with a slew of roster moves. That season would go on to be nothing short of a total trainwreck. New coach Mo Cheeks can’t get the Sixers to the playoffs. The 76ers also part ways with Allen Iverson, trading him to Denver in December.
The Narrative: With a stout rotation following the reacquisition of Cliff Lee, the Phillies are easily the best team in baseball as they win 102 games. But they run into the troublesome Cardinals in the first round, where they are given all they can handle. In the deciding fifth game, Roy Halladay is on the wrong end of a 1-0 pitchers’ duel, and the dream comes to a crushing end when Ryan Howard’s Achilles tendon explodes as he tries to run to first base. The season ends. The Phillies’ run of division titles ends. Howard’s productive years end. A franchise-shattering finish to what looked like it was going to be a championship season.
Positives: The Flyers win their division and come back to beat Buffalo in a 7-game first round playoff series. The Sixers finish at .500 and make the playoffs, which qualifies as a big positive during this time in their history.
Negatives: On the heels of a 10-6 regular season and NFC East crown, the Eagles lose at home to Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs. In the 2011 regular season, they go 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Once the Flyers get into the second round, the wheels fall off and they are swept by Boston. That offseason, the team goes crazy, trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. They get good pieces in return, but the moves are all basically done so that the team can clear cap space in order to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. It would be a mistake of epic proportions. Chris Pronger takes a stick to the eye and never plays again.
The Narrative: Entering his fourteenth season as Eagles head coach, Andy Reid seems tired, his time in town nearing its end. Tragically, his son passes away during Eagles training camp. The team seems to rally around its beleaguered head coach as they start the year 3-1, but the good feelings don’t last. They endure a disastrous 8-game losing streak and finish off the year at 4-12. Reid is fired on New Year’s Eve, and an era of Eagles football is over.
Positives: In a lockout-shortened NBA season, the Sixers make the playoffs and then win a round when the Bulls’ best player gets hurt. They take the Celtics to Game 7 in the second round before they are eliminated. The Flyers score a first round playoff victory over the hated Penguins before falling to New Jersey in the second round.
Negatives: The Phillies’ slide begins. As Ryan Howard misses half the season (a remnant of his season-ending Achilles injury the previous October), the offense packs little punch. Roy Halladay even looks mortal. Hunter Pence, the team’s big trade acquisition just one year before, is flipped at the deadline to the Giants, who go on to win the World Series. The Phillies finish at .500, and their run of five straight division titles/playoff appearances is over.
I'm still seeing S8 in my nightmares.
Welcome back for part two of this piece. Again, those who find themselves on this “dishonor roll” could be here for a number of reasons, most notably poor play or coaching, constant injuries that undermine a team’s success, or really anything that serves as a source of embarrassment for Philadelphia fans. Here’s a quick recap from the other day…
#10 Scott Kingery: Phils rookie looked overmatched all season.
#9 Michal Neuvirth: Flyers goalie never healthy enough to help the team.
#8 Carlos Santana: Curious free agent signing failed to impress in lone season as a Phil.
#7 Andrew MacDonald: Ineffective defenseman kills Flyers on the ice and in the salary cap.
#6 Bryan Colangelo: Disgraced former Sixers GM effectively torpedoed their offseason.
And now, the top (bottom?) five…
5. Odubel Herrera – It’s hard to remember at this point, but the Phillies’…we’ll call him “enigmatic”…outfielder had a pretty excellent start to his 2018 season. And he would actually go on to post career highs in home runs and RBI this year. But that’s where the positives ended. His bonehead plays in the field and overall cluelessness seemed to reach all-time highs, and he also had his usual “lack of hustle” episodes that are easier to stomach when he’s getting on base, stealing bases and scoring runs. But he wasn’t doing those things in 2018, and so he just turned into one big headache. It remains to be seen what his future in Philadelphia is (offseason trade anyone?), but it certainly appears that we saw Odubel’s best in 2016-17 before this past year’s regression. Maybe the production can come back up, but it’s painfully obvious that he’ll always have a screw loose. And that kind of thing only serves as an impediment to a team that’s trying to escape the mediocrity that the Phillies have been mired in while he’s been a part of the team.
4. Mike Groh – Even in a calendar year that featured an improbable Eagles Super Bowl win, I still had to make room on the list for one representative from that organization thanks to the Birds’ disappointing follow-up season. That’s just how Philadelphia sports work. And while many players share responsibility for the team’s current state, I’ll point the finger at Groh, who was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace Frank Reich after he took a head coaching job. This season, under Groh, the offense has taken a huge step back. It starts slow every game, and its big-play ability is a far cry from what it was a year ago. Doug Pederson, of course, also has a hand in this. And the personnel on offense been has impacted by a multitude of injuries as well. But Groh has not shown any talent for making adjustments or establishing any kind of consistency. Nobody is having a career year under Groh. In fact, we don’t even know just how much of an influence he has on the team. Maybe it’s all Doug, and Groh is just there. Who knows? Either way, what good is he?
3. Dave Hakstol – The Flyers gave their suffering fans an early Christmas present this week when they finally dropped the hammer on Hakstol. This comes just mere weeks after firing his boss, GM Ron Hextall. At that point, they made it abundantly clear that Hakstol would be given every opportunity to try to turn things around and retain his job, even after new GM Chuck Fletcher moved into the big chair. But the results since then were just more of the same, with things coming to a head during the team’s recently completed disastrous road trip through Canada. As the team lurches through a forgettable season, you’d have to say that they blundered by hiring Hakstol back in 2015. But we’re just talking about 2018 here, so let’s see…Hakstol and his staff oversaw an abysmal penalty kill and power play, all the while failing to have the team ready to play on what seemed like a nightly basis. The growth of several key young players also stagnated as his message and style wore thin. Three-plus seasons behind the bench may not have seemed like enough of a sample size to get a true read on him, but Hakstol was already the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL at the time of his firing, despite not winning a playoff round in his time as bench boss. The Flyers are now left to pick up the pieces after moving on from a man who was clearly not NHL material. Whoever the next permanent coach of the team is, he has to connect better with his players than Hakstol did. The franchise will be in real trouble if he can’t.
2. Gabe Kapler – What a roller coaster of a season for the Phillies’ rookie skipper. After a horrendous start to his managerial career that saw him remove a cruising Aaron Nola early on opening day for no reason, then bring in a pitcher who hadn’t warmed up later on in that same series, Gabe seemed to get his sea legs under him and settle in. I even remember a time back in June and July when his name was being bandied about for Manager of the Year consideration. He’s learned from his mistakes, people said. Well, maybe he had, but the team just wasn’t very good. And when they started coming back down to earth, Kapler made literally every wrong move possible as they nosedived after the All-Star break. He moved players around the diamond like Monopoly pieces, shifted them incorrectly when he finally did settle on positions for them to play, put together bizarre batting orders, made highly questionable bullpen decisions, and had position players pitch in a game a staggering five times this season as he tried in vain to rest his pitchers while the team was getting its brains bashed in. I personally think that his presence as manager stands as a direct impediment to marquee free agents having the desire to sign on and play for the Phillies. I hope I’m proved wrong. And I hope Kapler really does learn, and that he becomes a good MLB manager. But I’m not very confident.
1. Markelle Fultz – The #1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft could very well be the death of THE PROCESS in Sixerland. He began 2018 on an extended absence from the lineup due to…I don’t even know/care/remember…only to return just in time to collide with Joel Embiid and break Embiid’s face right before the playoffs. Then, during said playoffs, Fultz was stapled to the bench for the final seven games the team played. Things were supposed to be better when 2018-19 started, but now we find ourselves where we are currently, with Fultz being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome. He played just 19 games this year before “going down with an injury”. Is this even really what’s wrong with him, or is it all just made up because of his fragile psychological condition? Is he just not right in the head and/or does he have “the yips”? The truth will probably come out at some point down the road, but as of right now, it all seems like one big joke. Even for an organization as dishonest and incompetent when it comes to handling injuries as the 76ers, Fultz represents a new low. At this point in time, it looks like there is no way that he will ever fulfill the promise of a #1 pick. The Sixers blew it big-time, they’re suffering for it, and so are the fans. It’s never boring in Philadelphia. Hardly ever good, but not boring.
I think it's safe to say that if it wasn't for that Super Bowl win, we'd all be jumping off a bridge by now.
This guy. Oy. But does he have enough to be #1?
There will be a couple “year-end lists” on this site (we like lists) as we careen towards the end of 2018, so let’s now take a closer look at some people that stood out this year. And by “stood out”, I don’t mean in a good way.
Whether they played lousy or coached lousy, served as a source of embarrassment because of their constant injuries or simply made a boob of themselves, these are the ten people that I believe encompass the worst of 2018 in Philadelphia sports.
Thanks to the good vibes surrounding a Super Bowl victory, there wasn’t as much vitriol to draw on this year as compared to the way it normally would be in a typical Philadelphia sports year. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to go easy on certain people. So let’s dish out the year-end disdain…
10. Scott Kingery – The Phillies’ much-ballyhooed prospect signed a six-year contract (plus three option years) in March, BEFORE he ever took the field in an MLB game. The team was clearly expecting big things, and they took a calculated risk to lock him up long-term before he cost them an arm and a leg down the road. It’s a move that very well may pay off down the road. But Kingery’s first season, to put it mildly, did not go as planned. He finished with a WAR (wins above replacement, but you already knew that) of -1.4, which was easily the worst on a team that was riddled with holes. In 147 games played, he finished with a measly 8 home runs and 35 RBI, a far cry from the potential he had shown in the minors in 2017. To be fair, the Phillies did shift him away from his natural second base position for most of the season, basically expecting him to learn how to play shortstop in the majors on the fly. That kind of thing is never conducive to success for a young player. But Kingery did show some brief flashes, and hopes are still high enough within the team and fanbase that he can become a building block despite his struggles so far. In 2018, though, he was undeniably poor.
9. Michal Neuvirth – Somebody had to take the fall and represent the Flyers’ goaltending as a group, so it might as well be this guy. And the thing is, he has actually had pretty good results when he’s played this calendar year. But therein lies the problem…Neuvirth is perhaps the most injury prone athlete we’ve seen in this town for years. And this is a guy who just turned 30 years old back in March. Staying healthy enough to help your team win games is a key part of athletic endeavors, and Neuvirth comes up woefully short in that area. We suspected it all along, but in 2018 especially, he proved himself incapable of helping the Flyers because he simply can’t stay on the ice. He also got bombed for 7 goals in a game in the playoffs last spring with the Flyers facing elimination, so that was a terrible end to the season. He’s followed that up this season by playing in just two games so far (again, injuries), during which he’s allowed 9 goals in 4 periods played. The rest of the Flyers’ sucky goaltending crew deserves to be here too, but if I have to choose just one person to be emblematic of their collective failure, it’s Neuvirth.
8. Carlos Santana – What if I told you that a player hit .249 and averaged 24 home runs and 81 RBI in his first seven full MLB seasons, at which point said player went to a new team and hit .229 there with 24 home runs and 86 RBI? You’d say he’s pretty consistent and that the new team got what they expected, right? If so, then why all the hate for Carlos Santana, the Phillies’ now dearly departed (traded, not dead) first baseman? First, as usual, it’s about money. Santana got a 3-year, $60 million deal from the team, so expectations were immediately established. Never mind that the guy was 31 years old and clearly wasn’t going to turn into something he wasn’t already. Fans were also baffled about why the Phillies felt the need to go out and sign a first baseman when it appeared that they were already set at that position for years to come with Rhys Hoskins. Well, in a fatal misstep by the Phils, they figured they could hide Hoskins in the outfield and that he would be at least a competent fielder. He wasn’t, and the Phillies effectively got weaker at two positions by signing Santana. And this is saying nothing of the fact that Santana seemed more content to keep the bat on his shoulder and take walks than to actually swing it and drive in runs like a middle-of-the-order hitter should be doing. All in all, it was just a poor fit from the start, and both parties will be better off now that he’s gone.
7. Andrew MacDonald – It’s not just the Flyers’ goaltending that deserves to get hammered for the team’s playoff flameout last season and horrid start to the current campaign. Once again, there is a lot of blame to pass around, but if one player can be selected to represent the Flyers’ defensemen, it has to be MacDonald. As we all know, he has been an albatross for years, a slow and ineffective defender that doesn’t bring much to the table when he’s playing while simultaneously carrying an awful contract that even dearly departed GM Ron Hextall (fired, not dead) could rid the team of. He seems to drag down whatever other defenseman he’s paired with, and he’s routinely seen standing by himself not tying anyone up whenever the other team scores. That’s a big generalization, but I really do feel like I see it every game. Other Flyers blueliners like Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov seem to have taken a step back this season for some unknown reason, and that is certainly not helping the team’s performance as it slogs through a forgettable year. But a boat anchor like MacDonald offers no hope for the present or future, and he’s STILL under contract for another season after this one. UGGGGGGGGGGH.
6. Bryan Colangelo – Boy, this was really stupid. Just as THE PROCESS seemed to finally be working, the Sixers’ collar-popping GM found himself embroiled in a Twitter scandal where accounts linked to him were found to be posting internal information and making less than flattering comments about some players. The organization itself came off looking foolish during this time period as well, as they dragged their feet on the “investigation” into things and seemed completely at a loss about what to do. Finally, after nine days of this garbage (which felt like about six months), Colangelo resigned his post. In the process, he threw his wife under the bus for posting the information without his knowledge, claiming innocence of any actual wrongdoing himself. Good luck in divorce court, Bryan. To top it all off, this was right as the 76ers were entering their most important offseason in years, one that could help them take the final step from “up and coming team” to “legitimate contender” if the right draft and free agency moves were made. Instead, Colangelo screwed that all up and the team crapped the bed over the summer as it struck out on LeBron and others. Getting Jimmy Butler earlier this season has definitely helped right the ship, but Colangelo steered it into some unnecessary troubled waters with his senselessness and ignorance.
Does this photo feature two entries from our list? Read on.
Published December 10, 2018
Welcome to the one-year anniversary of the day that Carson Wentz blew out his knee. It was a moment that may have indelibly altered the course of his career. And that’s certainly not a good thing.
You know the story: The Eagles were steamrolling teams and carried a 10-2 record into LA to face the Rams one year ago today, when MVP candidate Wentz went down with an injury that we later found out would cause him to miss the rest of the season. We thought the Eagles were doomed, but the team rallied behind Nick Foles and went on to an improbable Super Bowl win.
It was amazing, although everyone did feel that something was missing with Wentz removed from the equation. No bother, though. He’d come back and pick up things right where he left them, nabbing a Super Bowl or two of his own during his burgeoning Hall of Fame career.
Well, what now?
The statistics are there, no question. In fact, Wentz could even end up with the highest passing yardage total for a season in Eagles history this year despite missing the first two games. He needs 843 yards in three games to do it.
You’re pretty happy with him if he’s your fantasy quarterback, as his numbers in some respects are even better than they were last season when we were all extolling his virtues.
But this is real life, and the guy is just not good enough right now.
Let’s be fair about a couple things. First, there is no way that Wentz is completely over the catastrophic injury he suffered last year. The strength in his knee is not back to 100%, and the human condition dictates that self-awareness of such a thing will naturally make us more tentative about that. Our minds can’t help but face a psychological hurdle as we attempt to push our body to its absolute limit with the realization that one slight misstep could put us back to square one when it comes to re-injury.
Second, any kind of bashing about him not being a “big game quarterback” at this point, three years into his NFL career, probably falls somewhere between “premature overreaction” and “dead wrong assessment” on the panic scale.
But, you know what, I’m still going to do it.
On Sunday, in what was undoubtedly the biggest game of his NFL career so far, Carson Wentz lost. The numbers look good on the surface: 22/32 for 228 yards and 3 TD with zero interceptions. But that doesn’t tell the real story. The offense, Wentz’s offense, simply could not sustain drives, which in turn wore the team’s already thin defense down to a nub by the end of the day.
Wentz “led” the Eagles to a five punts and a fumble (his own) in the Eagles’ first six possessions on Sunday. They are lucky they weren’t blown out of the building. Finally, he was only able to get things going when the defense created a turnover and gave him the ball two yards from the endzone. Their offense hummed from that point on, but the continuously poor starts every week have to be pinned at least in part on Wentz.
No question, the Eagles are suffering from the departures by key members of their coaching staff after last season. And one can only hope that this will be addressed and the necessary adjustments made this coming offseason in order to give Wentz whatever support he needs.
Still, none of that mattered on Sunday. He had a chance to make a statement, and he didn’t. He fell short and lost in a big spot, and so the Eagles’ season is for all intents and purposes done. They still have a shot at a wild card spot (somewhere in the 14% range), but this season is going nowhere. There is plenty of blame to be spread around, but Wentz must be held accountable for a good deal of it.
When you complete just ten passes to your wide receivers on the day, when your offense only holds the ball for 22:32 of regulation, and when you convert just one of your nine third down opportunities on the day, you just haven’t done your job.
And don’t give me the “he’s still not totally healthy, give him a break” excuse. If Wentz is going to struggle for most of the game against a Cowboys team that’s hardly a juggernaut, ultimately coming up short in a must-win situation, then maybe he shouldn’t be on the field right now. If he’s playing, he’s completely fair game.
In the end, maybe this is just a “shake off the rust” season, and Wentz will come back with a vengeance fully healthy in 2019. Let’s hope so. But let’s also keep in mind that he will be entering year #4 of his NFL career with no playoff experience. I know, I know; last year’s injury wasn’t his fault and he was robbed of a deserved playoff appearance.
Nevertheless, if he can get the Eagles back to the postseason next year, he will already be 27 years old when he takes his first ever NFL playoff snap. That is super old for a guy just getting to play on that stage for the first time. Really puts a damper on those Hall of Fame aspirations we all have, eh?
Still, unforeseen injuries aside, Wentz SHOULD have a long career ahead of him with multiple Super Bowl shots if the Eagles surround him with the right supporting staff, both players and coaches. So let’s not sour on him yet, despite my harsh tone. We just might want to just temper our expectations about what the guy can do.
He’s no Dak Prescott, after all.
See you in 2019.
Published December 8, 2018
Well, the Phillies did it! Yesterday they made the big announcement.
No, they didn’t sign Bryce Harper. They unveiled a new primary logo. Just like you were asking for.
Anyway, you’ve seen it by now. Looks nice, but not a huge deal. The Phillies changed the logo that I’ve been looking at for ¾ of my life, but I couldn’t even see the difference at first glance without having the old one to look at for context. The now-outdated logo had the baseball “diamond” in the background, but I always kind of thought it was a diagram of the playing field at the Vet, with its cookie-cutter dimensions and all (330’ down the lines, 371’ to the alleys, 408’ to center). Burned into my brain!
So now we’ve got just the Liberty Bell hanging behind the “Phillies” text, albeit it in a different color. It’s not something drastic like the Flyers tweaking their half-century old logo or the Eagles going to another shade of green, causing the oldheads out there to throw a fit about how they should have never changed.
In the end, we won’t even notice much of a difference since this will have little to no effect on the way that the actual players look on the field. The text on the jerseys will be the same, and the “P” on the hat will still be there. With that in mind, I looked into it, and I’ve found some ideas that Phillies brass kicked around regarding the new logo but ultimately decided against…
- In place of the Liberty Bell, use a bottle of coconut oil.
- Next to the logo, include an image of Ruben Amaro Jr. holding a lit match.
- Replace the 2 “L”s in “Phillies” with artistic representations of snapped Ryan Howard Achilles tendons.
- Below “Phillies”, in smaller font, add “Ryne Sandberg-free since 2015”.
- Those outdated stars dotting the “I”s? Use the outline of Chris Wheeler’s hairpiece instead.
- Put Gritty in it for some reason. He’s everywhere now.
- Have the text say “Mets” just so stupid New York fans’ brains would explode.
- The bell’s clapper dangling at the bottom? Put a jockstrap on it.
- Have a glob of whiz and fried onions sitting atop "Phillies" and slowly oozing down.
- Replace Liberty Bell background with a flaming machete (submitted by Ugueth Urbina).
- Insert a small photo of Lenny Dykstra snorting the crack in the bell.
- Just make the logo a bleeding, unconscious Scott Rolen. Merch sales would go through the roof.
- Instead of “PHILLIES”, just have it read “HARPERS”.
- Set the whole thing against a backdrop of empty Citizens Bank Park seats, as an acknowledgment of the near future if they don’t sign Harper and/or Machado.
How do we keep getting all of these exclusive scoops? Miracles never cease at PhillySportsComplex.
Published December 3, 2018
The Eagles and Redskins will renew their long-standing rivalry tonight on Monday Night Football. This will mark the seventh time this century that the teams have met on MNF, with the Eagles having won the last four such contests and holding a 5-1 edge overall.
You have to go way back to 2007 to find the last time that the ‘Skins beat the Birds on a Monday, with that being a Week 2 matchup won 20-12 by Washington. It was statistically as even of a game as you can possibly get, with the difference being the Redskins finding the endzone twice while the Eagles had to settle for four David Akers field goals. It was a showing that would be ultimately typical of that Eagles season, which went on to end at 8-8.
But since then, all of the Eagles’ Monday night showdowns with Washington have seemed to serve as springboard games in seasons that ended up going much better than that ill-fated 2007 campaign. Here’s a look back on those encounters, and what they told us about those Eagle teams…
Oct. 26, 2009: Eagles 27, Redskins 17
It wasn’t a particularly convincing win on the Eagles’ part, but there was one big standout: DeSean Jackson. This served as his national coming-out party, as the second-year receiver ran for a 67-yard touchdown on the game’s opening drive and then later added a 57-yard touchdown catch for good measure. He only touched the ball three times on offense on the night, but he managed to lead the team in rushing and receiving. He’d go on to his first Pro Bowl that season, his first 1000-yard season in the NFL, and a career-high nine touchdown grabs. Most importantly, it was a playoff season for the Birds.
Nov. 15, 2010: Eagles 59, Redskins 28
This is the game that turned Michael Vick’s solid, comeback season into a spectacular, MVP-caliber one. In his best game of the year, Vick threw for 333 yards and four touchdowns as the Eagles built a commanding 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. It also came at the expense of Donovan McNabb, who was in his first year as Washington QB. McNabb had come in to Philadelphia and won earlier in the year the first time he faced his old club, so this served as a satisfying “FU” revenge game against #5.
Sept. 9, 2013: Eagles 33, Redskins 27
It was the first game of the Chip Kelly era, and excitement was at a fever pitch as the Eagles traveled to DC to open their season on MNF. Things started horribly, as the Birds’ first possession of the game ended in a defensive TD for the Redskins. But the Eagles dusted themselves off right after that, rattling off the next 33 points to turn the game into a one-sided affair. At least, it was a runaway until the Redskins scored the last three touchdowns to turn it into a nail-biter. But it was overall a successful debut for Chip despite the warning signs that came later on. A microcosm of his eventual tenure as head coach? Looking back years later, it sure seemed like it.
Oct. 23, 2017: Eagles 34, Redskins 24
Washington came in at 3-2 and was looking to avenge a Week 1 loss to the Eagles, who certainly seemed like the class of the NFC East at that point with a record of 5-1. And the Redskins actually looked like they were making a statement, leading 10-3 late in the first half, when the Eagles struck for two scores before the break. The Eagles scored again on the first possession of the third quarter, and that was effectively the ballgame. It was the last time on the season that anyone in the division came even marginally close to the Eagles, as they laughed their way to an easy NFC East win. Less than four months after this game, they were hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Meanwhile, Redskins fans are still watching grainy footage of John Riggins.
So, for those of you who believe in trends and/or like to grasp at straws, this Monday collision with the ‘Skins could have good implications for the Eagles. In each of the last four seasons that the Eagles have made the playoffs, they have played and beaten Washington on Monday Night Football.
Maybe that’s a huge coincidence. Or maybe there’s something more to this rivalry than we give it credit for. Perhaps facing these guys on this stage somehow gives the Eagles the juice they need. Either way, we’ll take it. Go Birds!
Wentz covered by four Skins