Let's face it, my fellow Eagle Fans... it's time to hit the road for a while. Kind of like this.
There are seven weeks left in the NFL regular season, and another 11 playoff games after that, and the number of meaningful games that our laundry will play in that time is, well, zero. I also really don't have any great hope for 2013, since the roster is older and we'll be looking at what should be the transition stage of a long-overdue tear down.
So who are the teams that Eagle Fans (who aren't just ready to move to full-time Sixers viewing, or obsessing over what talent Ruben Amaro might buy) should be rooting for now? I have some suggestions.
First off, some ground rules.
1) No division rivals. For obvious reasons. It's bad enough that the current era of unwatchable football is making us look elsewhere to care about a real team. Let's not compound the misery by making the people we hate the most happy.
2) History matters. You might admire the Patriots and know people in that fandom, but that does not wash away the Spygate team's crimes against the only Super Bowl we're likely to be totally invested in during our lifetime. Nor does a love of gumbo or football in a dry heat (New Orleans and Arizona) wash away past playoff beatdowns. I'm not going to feel too kindly towards the Bucs or Panthers for a while, either. Sigh.
3) Character matters. Prior to the Reid Era, being an Eagle Fan meant loving the defense and tolerating the offense. During the Reid Era, it's been more about getting comfortable with too much passing, and personnel over scheme. So all things being equal, and this also goes to weather and fan base, I'm going with stuff that's close to what we know. Or, well, want to know.
4) No lateral moves. We need to be (clearly) trading up. Though frankly, I'm not sure it's possible to trade down right now. Otherwise, what's the point?
5) Money trumps temporary laundry. Feel free to root for your fantasy teams or parley bets over these guys, and if you want to root for wins during the Dead Time of Eagle Football, I'm not going to fault you for it. I rooted for Brad Goebel and Bobby Hoying and Doug Pederson and Multiple Detmers; I'll root for Nick Foles and Trent Edwards and whatever shell-shocked practice squadder finishes out this year, too. This isn't a matter of virtue; it's just a lifelong habit that I can't really shake. Though God knows, I'm going to try.
So here are your finalists. Feel free to add yours in the comments.
* * * * *
Advantages: I can't tell you how refreshing it will be to root for a team that does not beat themselves. The defense is solid, they run the ball a ton, they have a competent QB who is also something of a game manager, and there is no real history here that will make you resent them. Root for the Texans, and you'll root for a team that has athletes on defense, a tolerable scheme, the ability to grind out the clock late (with the star RB actually getting enough touches! I may get the vapors here) and a fan base that you've probably never, ever, met. You also get to crow at Cowboy Fan that you are rooting for the best team in the state. Quintin Demps is here and playing well. Oh, and unless they choke up like mad for the rest of the year, they are going to the playoffs and will hold a decent seed.
Disadvantages: You are getting away from Andy Reid and going to Gary Kubiak? That's not necessarily a trade up. The QB/WR combo of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson is scary in its fragility. Hell, even the TE (Owen Daniels) is fairly brittle. There's a very real chance that if you are throwing in with the Texans now, you are buying high, and will just see your investment shrink over time as Andrew Luck makes the Colts a Peyton II moment. Buyer beware.
Summation: I'm sure that I'd have a real attachment to this team if I lived there. But if I lived there, I think I'd punch myself a lot. Meh.
4) Green Bay
Advantages: Best stadium in the NFL. Best QB in the NFL. Residual fondness from many of us for getting the late great Reggie White a ring, and for providing pain and suffering to good Cowboy teams. Packer Fan is pretty adorable, really, and one of the few fan bases that makes Eagle Fan feel good about their food choices. Despite decades of being in the same league, the rivalry here is pretty neutral, with only the Rodgers' playoff win counting as recent pain. They've won several championships in your lifetime, are almost always in contention, and will likely play a team you hate in the playoffs. I've also got a raging mancrush on WR Randall Cobb, who is basically DeSean Jackson without the ego. Intriguing, no?
Disadvantages: This defense might be as bad as the one you are getting away from. If Rodgers gets hurt, this team probably isn't much better than what you are watching. The running game is fairly weak as well, and there's a general sense that they are doing it this year with smoke and mirrors; you also have the bad juju of the worst officiating screw job of the modern era. Having a half dozen players appear in television ads is also really not appealing (Donovan McNabb for Chunky Soup still makes me buy Progresso instead), and when they lose, they usually lose big and bad.
Summation: I've always had a bit of a fondness for them, if for no other reason than they are publicly owned and disprove the idea that we can't have NFL teams all over the place. But I understand how my fondness for them might just be that I've been riding Rodgers and Cobb in my fantasy league this year. Let's move on.
Advantages: The only close NFL franchise that does not have a massive amount of regional distaste and divisional dislike. RB Ray Rice is one of the five best players in the NFL, and played his Indentured Servant Ball in the general area (Rutgers) as well. The defense has been spectacular and opportunistic, and they've provided a fairly dramatic amount of pain to the Patriots over the years. WR Torrey Smith shook off a family tragedy to play the game of his life, S Ed Reed is one of the best to ever play the position, and they've got an edge to them. Finally, thanks to the theft of the team from Cleveland, there's no real history here for Eagle Fan to resent, and you probably were rooting for them when they prevented the Kerry Collins Giants from winning a Super Bowl. (Yes, the Kerry Collins Giants once were in the Super Bowl. I know, my mind blanked it out as well.) Brandon Ayanbadejo's recent political stance might also have some appeal for you.
Disadvantages: You are, in some not so very small way, complicit in the existence of Tony Siragusa, and the continued estate of the Art Model Family. The howling about officiating is even worse than what Eagle Fan has been historically capable of. QB Joe Flacco is going to drive you nuts with his inconsistency, and in all likelihood, this is a team in decline, rather than ascent.
Summation: Stylistically a good match for Eagle Fan, and there's a lot to like here; had you just decided to go with them when they moved here, you'd have a ring. But I'm not sure you'd be any happier, due to the presence of...
Advantages: They have these players called linebackers? And they do this thing called tackling? Trust me, you're going to love them. The offense is fairly familiar with what you are used to from the Eagles, but when QB Ben Roethlisberger runs around, good things happen much more often than disasters. Young players work on special teams before they are thrown into the starting lineup, and when the team has success in the running game, they do something really exciting -- they keep running it. They don't generally beat themselves, waste timeouts, or give up tickets to Road Fan. Oh, and they also travel well. Finally, Pittsburgh is now a pretty great city, with lots of good restaurants, college trim and stuff to see; it's not the old pollution pot of yore. Ownership is quality, too. Finally, they have S Troy Polamalu, who's basically as close as you get right now to Saint Brian Dawkins.
Disadvantages: Well, Roethlisberger is still a pretty awful human being, and the idea of rooting for a team from Pittsburgh is just going to be anathema to those of you who like hockey. (What's hockey? A North American sport that no longer exists thanks to the team owners. Moving on.) The defense is creakingly old, Polamalu can't stay healthy, and Roethlisberger has taken so many big hits over the years, it's hard to see how many more years he can do this. Finally, Steeler Fan, especially the ones that go on the road, aren't always cuddly. You might have personal reasons to stay away.
Summation: Probably your best choice of AFC teams to root for, geographic problems notwithstanding. But maybe not your best choice to make, especially since there's still the number one choice on the board...
1) San Francisco
Advantages: A defense; oh, my, what a defense. They run the ball and don't make any apologies about it. They play on grass, and mud, and slop, in a stadium that's kind of got a Vet Stadium feel about it, in that it's old, horrible, and visiting teams don't like to go there. Historically, very little direct conflict with the Eagles, since they've been good when the Eagles have been bad, and vice versa. If you are still enraptured with running QBs due to the Vick Era, Colin Kaepernick might be the best in the league at that right now. You probably haven't run into their fans in a very long time, since they spent a decade in a fallow state. They'll likely play a team in the playoffs that you really hate, and the play calling is sane. TE Vernon Davis is like a very rich man's Brent Celek, and if you still pine for the old days in Philly, you get to root for David Akers. Finally, the division is feisty with a plethora of nasty defenses, and everyone seems to be on the upswing. It really does feel a lot like Old School NFC East. (And if you are like me, you can just pretend they are the USFL Philadelphia Stars. OK, that's really just me.)
Disadvantages: They've got something of a paper tiger feel to them, and today's tie might give you bad memories of Donovan McNabb in Cincy. The fan base grew up with the Montana / Young Era, which means they are hopelessly spoiled and will never be happy with the offense ever again. From a feel perspective, we've got much more in common with Oakland than the side of the Bay with money. Randy Moss is still here, and so is Brandon Jacobs, but neither really matters all that much. Oh, and some of you baseball people will hate on them for the Giants. But that's more jealousy than anything else.
Finally, keep in mind that if you throw in with these guys, you are in with a team that blew a home game in last year's NFC Championship to the hated Giants, mostly because they failed on special teams and had terrible WRs. Why, it's just like the glory days of the Reid Era!
Summation: I'm not entirely sure about Alex Smith -- neither is Niner Fan, really -- but the defense and running game still makes them a very solid choice for Eagle Fans looking for a new temporary home for the next few years. And just like the Eagles, your new team isn't very likely to win a Super Bowl, either. So... go Niners!
Monday, November 12, 2012
Let's face it, my fellow Eagle Fans... it's time to hit the road for a while. Kind of like this.