Posted on: January 17, 2011 12:34 pm

A fired assistant coach is not always a scapegoat

This past summer I had planned on writing a blog about the Milt Thompson firing.  Lethargy got the best of me, but the recent firing of Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott has rekindled that flame.  In both situations there was a strong sentiment that these firings were wrong.  In the case of Milt Thompson the fans and 610 WIP radio personalities seemed to be in unanimous agreement that Thompson was being used as a "scapegoat."  The feelings I have heard expressed concerning the firing of McDermott are more mixed, but the bulk of the opposition sites the same "scapegoat" argument.  A scapegoat is defined as someone who is punished for the errors of others.  My goal is to convince those touting this scapegoat argument that at the very least, they must admit that these assistant coach's statuses of "scapegoat" is unknown.

If there is a scapegoat, there must exist the person or people who truly committed the error(s).  The Phillies faithful who were appalled at Thompson's firing were unified in their belief that the blame should be laid on the players.  Seems reasonable right?  If the Phillies batters aren't hitting well then it's the players fault since they swing the bats.  As with any real life situation, sometimes the truth lies just a millimeter beneath the surface, safely out of view from 99% of the public.  What is this hidden truth?  The hidden truth is the interaction between the hitting coach and the players and how it correlates to success or failure in the games.  In the case, it is quite reasonable for the general public not to understand this player/coach relationship.  Now, realizing their ignorance, they must admit at the very least it is not possible for us, the fans, "the public" to truly know if Milt Thompson was the scapegoat or the real culprit.  A secondary argument will follow.  The argument goes that the years of the Phillies great hitting success were during the time Milt Thompson was the hitting coach.  But, I could make the same argument for the players.  This again forces us to conclude that Milt Thompson's scapegoat status is unknown.  Ultimately any argument which puts 100% of blame for a team's performance on players implicitly gives 0% of the blame to the coaches.  If this was true then it would seem reasonable to just get rid of coaches since they are eating up millions of dollars of salary and serving absolutely no purpose.  You "scapegaoters" aren't suggesting that are you??

The recent scapegoat argument used by fans opposed to the firing of Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott again names the players as the actual offenders.  This version of the argument has another layer, naming Andy Reid as the ultimate malefactor for bringing in this crop of defensive duds.  In this case, blaming the players is somewhat more plausible.  The Eagles defensive players are young and unproven.  There really doesn't exist a single superstar on the defensive side of the ball, save possibly Trent Cole.  But, just like the Milt Thompson situation, the accuracy of this argument at best rests on ignorance.  We the public are not privy to the decision making process the Eagles use in bringing in defensive players.  Although Andy Reid is the GM it is reasonable to suggest Reid is bringing in the defensive players that his defensive coordinator chooses.  Almost the entire draft were defensive players this past year, McDermott was certainly in "the war room."  In his second full year as coordinator this defense has gone through a lot of changes and these were supposed to be Sean McDermott's guys.  He described Ernie Sims as a "shark" when they brought him on board.  Maybe those who purport McDermott's scapegoat status are right and Reid never took his council on player decisions, brought in a crop of terrible players dooming McDermott to failure.  But, we have to admit that it is quite possible, even probable that McDermott himself was largely responsible for the group of players he had to work with this past season.  If McDermott wasn't responsible, then replacing him with someone who is strong enough to exert their influence on defensive personnel decisions is still a reasonable move, not simply one to deflect criticism.  Either way, painting McDermott as a scapegoat appears to be at best a guess.

All I want to do with this article is cast doubt on the idea that these assistant coaches were fired to serve as scapegoats to protect someone else.  It is possible, but please now admit that you cannot actually know with certainty.  Touting something as fact when it is known to be in doubt makes you sound like a foolish blow-hard.  Logic, that dark art understood by so few and properly wielded by even fewer, can serve you well my fellow Philadelphia sports fans.  It is the magic tool that allows us to both dislike Andy Reid or Donovan Mcnabb or Mike Vick or David Akers or Andre Igoudala or Raul Ibanez or Jayson Werth or Allen Iverson or etc., etc., ad infinitum and not have it cloud other opinions that are unrelated. 
Now if Andy would just call some damn running plays!!!??!!
Posted on: April 5, 2010 11:04 pm

Real history of Donovan Mcnabb and Eagles fans.

I think the media has rewritten history with regards to the relationship between the majority of Eagles fans and Donovan McNabb.  The media uses the fact that 30 or so people went to the draft and booed his pick as evidence that Eagles fans never liked him from the beginning.  They will then show a couple clips of people booing at an Eagles game while they talk about T.O. and his benching and Rush Limbaugh.  I have seen this exact 2 or 3 minutes of T.V. countless times by now.  This is an inaccurate portrayal.  

What follows is the history of Mcnabb's tenure with the Eagles as I remember it.  I also include some comments about what I felt were the majority of the fan's feelings at the time.  

Although a large group of Eagles fans wanted them to draft Ricky Williams in 1999, by the time the season rolled around everyone wanted to see Donovan play in his rookie year.  All the talk was about whether they should they let him play right away or should they let him learn and watch from the sidelines for a while.  That is not the thoughts of people who hate Mcnabb.  Everyone was excited and was dying to see him play.  He beat the division rival Washington Redskins in his first start.  The Redskins won the NFC East that year. 

The following year Mcnabb led the Eagles to the playoffs and a Wild Card round victory.  If you remember back that far, a playoff victory was HUGE!  We loved him for it.  They lost to the Giants in the next round, but people were still feeling really good.  We had made serious strides since the last season.

The next year when Mcnabb lead the Eagles all the way to the NFC Championship game, losing to the Rams, EVERYONE loved him.  The team had far exceeded expectations and almost beat the Rams, with Mcnabb clearly the leader.  Remember at that point, no one knew about Tom Brady and the Rams were the Goliath, "Greatest Show on Turf."  

The love for Mcnabb, Reid and the Eagles was at an all-time high when Duce Staley ran the ball into the end zone early in the 1st quarter in the Championship game against Tampa Bay the following year.  Mcnabb's interception that was returned by Ronde Barber for a touchdown, essentially ending the game, was the first real blemish on Mcnabb's reputation in Philadelphia.  The Eagles were HEAVY favorites in that game for many reasons.  We've all been over it a thousand times, no need to get into the details of that painful moment here.  NOTE:  This is at the end of Mcnabb's 4th season and the first real chink in his reputation.  Although I can say with some confidence, that most Eagles fans were still very much in his corner at this point.

Fast forward to next year's playoffs.  "4 and 26!"  Can you honestly say that the bulk of Eagles fans were against Mcnabb at that time???  The NFC Championship the following week was supposed to be our redemption, finally getting the Eagles to the promised land.  Again, playing at home, favorites over the Panthers.  Mcnabb goes 10-22 100 yards and 3 INT's.  But, if you recall, Mcnabb was hurt on a cheap shot early in the game and never really recovered.  So even after all that, he still had lots and lots of supporters, but the number of detractors were starting to grow.  If from nothing else, from the shear pain of watching the Eagles lose to an underdog and have another team celebrating on our home field.

Ahhhh, the 2004 season.  Adding "the Freak" and T.O. in the offseason, we were back in high spirits.  This time Mcnabb leads the Eagles all the way to the Super bowl.  Mcnabb throws 3 TD's, but also 3 INT's, including one on the final drive when a field goal would have sent the game to over time.  I would say that this really was the turning point.  

The following season had the T.O. drama, talk of Mcnabb throwing up in the huddle and just being too tired to run the hurry up offense.  Mcnabb had his sports hernia injury which eventually ended his season in week 10.  The Eagles ended the year 6-10, being swept by the entire NFC East.    In 2006 Mcnabb had his ACL tear.  Garcia filled in for him and led the Eagles to a NFC East Championship and a playoff win.  At this point, the durability of Mcnabb really became questioned by a large portion of fans along with his apparent inability to "win the big game."

In the 2007 draft the Eagles selected Kevin Kolb.  This was a MAJOR shock to almost every Eagles fan.  The 2007 season saw Mcnabb miss 2 more games to injury and the Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

2008 was the year of the infamous benching of Donovan Mcnabb for Kevin Kolb.  Kolb came into the buzz saw that was the Ravens' defense and did not play well.  After a very slow start, Mcnabb and the Eagles turned the season around culminating in a return to the NFC Championship game and another loss.  Mcnabb's statistics in this game were quite good, but after the defense surrendered the lead, the offense stalled with Mcnabb throwing 4 incomplete passes, several of them off target.

2009, Mcnabb finally had the "weapons" that fans have been clamoring for for years.  Mcnabb leads the Eagles to the playoffs, but the regular season ends with the Eagles getting mauled by the Cowboys and the Eagles suffer the same fate in the first round of the playoffs.  The 2009 season was probably the only season in Mcnabb's tenure where the defense was really suspect.  The Eagles trade Mcnabb after the season to the Redskins and announce Kevin Kolb as the starter.  The end of an era.

There is my take on the history of Mcnabb with the Eagles.  I'm sure you could argue about it's accuracy here and there (and please comment on that below), but you have to admit that it is MUCH closer to what really happened than the garbage story we are forced to watch over and over on ESPN and the NFL Network.  

One reason I wanted to write this is because I think that many Eagles fans have started to believe the phony history foisted on us by the media.  We are starting to believe that we really did always dislike Mcnabb and always wanted him out of Philadelphia.   I think if you read through this short history I wrote, you will remember how that is false.  The truth is far more complicated as real life always is.  If I could think of one consistent outcry from the Eagles fans EVERY off season, it was for the Eagles to get a legitimate WR for Mcnabb to throw the ball to!  Does this sound like a group of people that disliked the QB?   

I think there was a gradual building of love for Mcnabb and a piece by piece destruction of that relationship between he and the fans of Philadelphia.  And the truth is that there are still many fans that did not want to see Mcnabb traded and think that we are doomed to an era of mediocrity, now that Mcnabb is gone. 

I firmly believe, if Kevin Kolb wasn't on the team most fans would want the Eagles to have given Mcnabb a contract extension.  It was the Eagles organization that drafted Kolb, that benched Mcnabb and that ultimately traded Mcnabb.  Us Eagles fans just sit and watch...and hope.
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