Last week, the first official victory of the NFL season was registered, and a team didn’t achieve it. Instead, the league went to 1-0 by settling the potentially crippling concussion lawsuit brought by former players.
Instead of coughing up $2 billion, as was originally sought by the plaintiffs, the NFL will pay out $765 million, hardly cab fare but certainly not an onerous amount for a league with annual revenues in the $9 bil range. More importantly, the league did not have to make public the records of its meetings and discussions regarding concussions, which one would imagine went something like this:
Independent Doctor: “The long-term effects of concussions can lead to early-onset dementia and other serious cognitive deficiencies.”
Fat Cat Owner: “That’s too bad. Now, when do I get to host a Super Bowl?”
Millionaire Commissioner: “So, it’s agreed. We force the TV networks to pay billions for our product. I get a big raise. And keep quiet about the head stuff.”
There’s no guarantee things went down exactly like that, but one can be sure the league was delighted the media didn’t get its hands on records that could have proved the NFL cared little about the initial reports it received regarding the long-term effects of concussions. It will make a high, nine-figure payment but things could have been worse. Far worse.
Now that the NFL has removed that problem, it can get on with the business of trying to find a way to expand the regular season to 18 games, while still creating the illusion that it cares about player safety. Meanwhile, the 32 teams begin play this week, each hoping for a shot at spending early February outside in New Jersey.
The 2013 Eagles will have to settle for their regularly scheduled early-October trip to the swamps, because they aren’t going to get close to a Super Bowl spot. Aren’t going to make the playoffs, either. And until they recast their roster with players who are destined to be NFL standouts, rather than hoping a cool scheme will carry the day, they won’t be a factor in the NFL.
It’s fun to envision all the great things that will happen when a new coach comes to town. Everybody did that when Andy Reid joined up, and good times ensued. But there is no guarantee a change of pace brings big success on the field. By kickoff Monday against Washington, Eagles fans will have had nearly eight months to concoct scenarios in which Chip Kelly leads their heroes from last year’s 4-12 stagnation to prosperity. Each fantasy relies more on Kelly’s popular offensive approach than it does on the players wearing the midnight green uniforms.
And that’s a problem.
There is an extreme lack of talent on this year’s team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And if NFL history has proven anything, it is that teams can’t fake their way into the playoffs. They have to play sound football and feature reliable performers that deliver almost every week. The Eagles lack those types of players, and fans can’t be too optimistic that the combination of Kelly—who has a total of eight months experience in NFL personnel accumulation—and Howie Roseman, who helped preside over the roster’s descent into the league’s bottom third, can make the moves necessary to boost its overall ability.
But that’s a matter for the future. As for 2013, fans would be wise to figure on six or seven wins. That’s an upgrade from 2012, to be sure, but hardly an indication that the franchise is on the road to Super Bowl contention. The offense, while ultra-modern, will rely too heavily on Michael Vick, whose propensity to make bad decisions and overall fragility do not add up to big success.
Meanwhile, the defense is as vulnerable as perhaps any in the NFL, thanks in part to an off-season filled with underwhelming additions and a draft unlikely to yield any major contributors on that side of the ball. It may be fun to watch 35-31 shootouts for a while, but too much of that will become quite tedious. And that’s assuming the offense can get 31 a game. Unfortunately, we know the defense is capable of surrendering five TDs every week.
The fun of a new coach is the anticipation of what might occur. Monday, we will stop dealing in hypotheticals and confront the reality of a franchise that is short on talent and likely to find itself amid the NFL’s logjam of mediocrity. It’s unlikely to be a particularly pretty show. Of course, Andy Reid’s first season was a 5-11 debacle, and the next five featured playoff appearances. That might happen under Kelly, but some big personnel changes will be necessary first. For 2013, enjoy the offensive show but don’t expect ultimate satisfaction.
The final verdict: 7-9. And that might be a bit optimistic.
YOUR TURN: So, what do you think about the 2013 Eagles? Is it More of the Same or a Big Turnaround. Weigh in below, and your comment could be featured in next week’s column.
• Monday night’s big hit notwithstanding, if the Phillies do nothing more during the off-season than commit to preventing Jimmy Rollins from getting the number of plate appearances he needs to have his contract vest for the 2015 season, they will have been successful. Rollins’ horrific July (.245/.283/.309) and August (.190/.280/.276) prove that his skills are atrophying before our eyes. Worse, he isn’t hustling and has adopted a me-first attitude with a stated goal of reaching the top of many franchise career statistical lists. That’s not the type of player the team needs as it begins the long process of rebuilding.
• Temple’s loss to Notre Dame wasn’t surprising, but the Owls demonstrated toughness in not backing down on the road against the Domers and appear to have some solid players on both sides of the ball. A more accurate representation of what this team can do comes Saturday when Houston visits the Owls. If Temple can control the potent Cougars and finish drives on offense, it should win and begin its AAC life on a good note.
• Congratulations to Diana Nyad, who Monday became the first person to make the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West without benefit of a shark cage. It is not up to us to weigh in on the wisdom of such an achievement; rather, we are to marvel at her accomplishment, which required equal parts talent, determination and courage. If Nyad is looking for her next challenge, she should attempt to swim the length of the Schuylkill.