Why I Love Football

I was listening to the Steve Czaban show this morning, and he read an email from a listener entitled “Eight Months of Darkness”, referring to the upcoming end of the 2013 NFL season. (The Czabe show is unquestionably the best sports talk show around today. No sucking up to athletes or diving into the normal easy troupes of most sports radio shows, but the voice of a true fan talking sports with his crew.) Anyhoo, the letter and conversation struck a cord with me. I am a die hard Eagles and NFL fan. No other sport comes even close to my love of NFL Football.  The conversation really got me thinking, why do I love football so? Why doesn’t any other sport stir the passions in me that the NFL does?

The first thing I thought of, when thinking about football, wasn’t LeSean McCoy or Chip Kelly or Donovan McNabb, but my buddies Johnny, Mike, Pat, the Albinson brothers and too many other good friends to list. I love the communal aspect of the sport. I love how for six years I had season tickets with those guys, and would see them every week in the fall. Nothing brings guys together like NFL Sundays. Even since I’ve moved 500+ miles away from them, during the football season I talk to them more than any other time of year. Even in the offseason, if there’s a buddy I haven’t talked to in months, I can call him up (ok, email him) and start talking about the Birds, and it’s like I just saw him. The bonding over football is a brotherhood that we all understand.

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I used to be a baseball fan. After the ’94 strike, I lost my interest. Baseball is a sport that’s too slow, with a season that’s too long and is burden with the inequity of wealth. College football is just getting into the playoff business, so I will watch that, but they’ve got a ways to go. The NBA is too top heavy of a league to get into unless you live in Miami, LA, Chicago or Texas. College basketball has been destroyed by players leaving too quickly, so it’s impossible to ever invest in a player who’s going to the pros the following year. And hockey is hockey. (Sorry to my Flyers Faithful, but you either get hockey or you don’t. I don’t.) The NFL, for all its faults and foibles, is as close as we have to the perfect sport. Sixteen game over 17 weeks. Your team only plays once a week, so there is time to both prepare for the upcoming match up and dissect the previous weeks action. Websites to read, interviews to take in and social media debates to be had about every nuance about the game. With every year, fans are becoming smarter and smarter, so the debates become more informed and rich, Everyone has an opinion, and (almost) all are worth debating.

Much to Mrs. Couch’s dismay, I can (and do) watch every NFL game available during the week. I don’t care if it’s Tennessee vs. Cleveland on a Thursday night, I’ll be in front of my HD TV devouring the game. The greatness of this league is that anything can happen during any game and you don’t want to miss it. Spectacular catches, record breaking runs or fantastic finishes are possible at any time. This league has made almost every game have a special feeling that something you’ve never before seen can happen at any time. The NFL is also the only sport with true parity. Going into every season, you feel like your team has a chance. For close to a decade, there’s been a 50% turnover in playoff teams from year to year. No other sport can even come close to that. This year the Chiefs and Eagles were at the top of the draft, but managed to have magnificent seasons and make the playoffs. (We won’t talk about what happened in the playoffs.) Week 17 of the NFL season had close to half the teams with an opportunity to make the playoffs or better their position. The San Diego Chargers needed four games to break their way to get into the playoffs, and they made it and almost upset the Broncos in the second round. The last couple of weeks of this NFL season had a sensational pre-playoff feel to it, that I don’t remember experiencing. Teams who thought their playoff ticket were already punched slid out of the picture, and teams whose season seemed over snuck into the playoffs.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include fantasy football here. I am admitted fantasy addict, listening to at least one podcast a day, and reading too many websites a day to get a leg up. Fantasy has a two prong impact on the love of football. First, it makes every game important to you and has expanded everyone’s knowledge of players league wide. Secondly, it increases your personal community of football. It gives you and your friends another reason to talk and bond over football. It allows you to become competitive with your friends and gives you a feeling of ownership of your own team and players. The impact of fantasy football on the NFL over the 2000’s can not be understated. There are numerous other reasons that the NFL has exploded into the monster it has become over the last decade. Blogs, HDTV, social media, ESPN, NFL Network, the Redzone Channel and Sunday ticket, just to name a few. The access and information has helped the NFL grow to unbelievable heights. Even when they do stupid things, London games, penalizing hitting out of the game and possible schedule expansion, I still watch.

It all comes down to my football community.The guys I used to tailgate with outside the Linc, my fanatical brother-in-law that I watch every game with, and my young boys who don’t understand the game yet, but love the Eagles and know the Cowboys suck. I love this game, I’m going to inhale the last three of the season, and I look forward to my boys becoming more involved and interested in football, so it’s something that we can talk about 30 years from now, even if we live thousand miles away. I love NFL football, and only see my love increasing in the future.

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2013 Eagles: A Faith Odyssey

Philadelphia Eagles Introduce Chip KellySo here we are, days from the start of the NFL season, and our Philadelphia Eagles have a brand new head coach for the first time this millennia. I had always been a staunch Andy Reid supporter, and will never forget the incredible run he had at the beginning of the decade, but it was definitely time to shake things up. And shake them the Birds did, with the biggest head coaching signing of the year, Chip Kelly. It’s hard to even remember the pre-Reid era, but when you do and remember the Ray Rhodes and Kotite years, it’s easy to take what Andy did for granted. But Chip Kelly was a great college head coach, who’s bringing a new philosophy to Philadelphia. College head coaches always make a smooth transition to the NFL, right?

Honestly, I’ve been having Eagles fans and other NFL fans asking me all year, how do you think Kelly’s going to do as the Eagles coach? My answer: I have no idea, but at least it will be interesting. The lack of heart, passion or ingenuity from our Birds the last couple years has been embarrassing.  It reached the point the last two seasons that the Eagles didn’t seem to care if they won, so I didn’t either. I am excited to watch Kelly’s fast paced offense this year and a coaching staff that will be able to get the plays on in time, for a change. The offense is going to be scoring a ton of points this year, but they are going to need to with our defense. Now whether or not Vick can play 16 games is another huge question mark.

Most Philadelphia fans and the football world in general, would be shocked to see Vick play a full season. So what do we think? Ten games over/under? That’s about where I would put the number. If Matt Barkley isn’t the starting quarterback for the last game of the season, that would be surprising. I like Foles and think he has potential, but when a new coach comes in and drafts a QB he’s familiar with, it smells that guy is our future. The biggest piece of the puzzle to figuring out who’s going to be quarterbacking during the season is going to be determined by the record. If the Birds go down in flames, and burn out quickly, expect to see Barkley early. If the Birds are in the mix for a playoff spot, which is entirely possible with the NFC East, we may not see him this year. (I think we’ll see him.)

Speaking of the NFC East, do you have any idea who’s going to be good? It’s going to be another one of those years where the division beats up on each other and three or all four teams have eight or nine wins going into the final week. Straightcluster Fudge. Is RGIII going to return to the superstar he was last year? Can he carry the Redskins? And does he plays a little too much like Vick to play 16 games? What about the stupid Cowboys? Their schedule in December is brutal (@CHI, GB, @WAS, PHI), so they are set up for their usual Romo swoon. The Giants? I honestly don’t know anything about them because ESPN and NFLN only talk about the other New York team. (Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit there.) Eli will be competent as he always is and they’ve lost their backup running back to injury, Nicks is already hobbled, and they lost that loud mouth Osi Umenyiora to Atlanta. The NFC East is without a doubt the biggest toss up division in the league this season.

After watching three preseason games this season, I couldn’t name the Eagles starting secondary. Can you? Okay, I cheated and looked them up. It did not make me feel any better. There is not one player back there that fills me with any confidence. With the front seven switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, you know there will be some growing pains there. So basically the Eagles season comes down to this; they are going to play a lot of 41-38 games. And as I said earlier, it won’t be boring.

The Andy Reid era had some really great times, but it crashed hard and ugly. We are all ready for something new and different, and with Chip Kelly, we will definitely get that. It’s going to be nice to have our Sundays back as Eagles fans. As much as the Rhodes era seems like a foggy memory, the good Andy era seems almost as hazy. For the first time in a couple years, I’m excited to see this Eagles team play on a week in and out basis, and that’s something I know that I had lost, and feel like other Eagles fans have lost too.

Let’s go Birds!!!!!!!

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Maclin’s ACL – The Official Start of Eagles Training Camp

Maclin Magic

Maclin Magic

We all know where we were when we heard the news this weekend. Jeremy Maclin went down during training camp, with no one touching him. Any savvy football fan knows there is nothing worse than a football player getting injured without being touched. We already knew before the official word came down, Maclin had torn his ACL and was done for the season.

It wouldn’t be an Eagles offseason without a major participator going down with a season ending injury. Last year it was Jason Peters and who can forget Stewart Bradley at Eagles fight night a few years ago (back when we thought he would be good.) And we always seems to be holding our breath whenever Vick or McNabb had the ball during the preseason.

Maclin appeared ready to become a top level NFL wide receiver under Chip Kelly. They seem liked a match that went together like sunbutter and jelly (I have a son who’s allergic to peanuts, so it’s sunbutter in the Couch House.) However, as bad as losing Maclin is; receiver/tight end appears to be one of the deepest positions on the team this year. The injury won’t be devastating as Peters’ injury last year.

The Eagles have plenty of internal options. I have always been a big Avant supporter, even after his hands were less than stellar at the end of last year. Damaris Johnson has a major opportunity to step up here, and could finish the season as the number three, two or wouldn’t even surprise me to see him as the Eagles number one receiver. There’s no reason for the Eagles go outside the organization, since they seem set with their top three wide receivers, but they also have a plethora of players including Riley Cooper, Arrelious Benn out of Tampa, rookie Russel Shepard as well as tight ends Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and James Casey.

(Totally irrelevant note:  It’s been awhile since I’ve written, and I’m apparently trying to find as many ways as possible to spell “receiver” in this post. God bless spell check.) 

Maclin’s attitude post injury has been very positive, and I think we Eagles fan should follow his lead. He is a major loss to the team, but it is one that the team can recover from. It should still be an exciting year for the Eagles, with Chip Kelly having just one less toy to play with.

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Get Excited About This Eagles Season

Get fired up!

Training camp officially opened for the Eagles 2012 campaign over the weekend. The season starts in less than seven weeks. That’s always enough to get me excited about the Birds and football. But this year there’s something more. I’m extra excited about this year’s season. I’m one of the more grounded Eagles fan’s out there, so I don’t believe that every year is “our year” or that we’re never going to win anything with Andy; but there’s enough planets aligning this season to make it a special one.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Michael Vick has never had a full off-season as the Eagles starting quarterback with Andy Reid? It’s hard to believe, but true. The year Vick became the starter and blew the doors off the league, Kevin Kolb was actually the starter at the beginning of the season. (Stupid Arizona!) Last off-season, Vick and Reid were unable to work with each other in the off-season because of the damn lockout. As much as some fans question Reid’s ability to coach or play call or clock manage, they cannot question his ability to coach up quarterbacks. We all know the resume, A.J. Feeley, Kolb and McNabb. With a full off-season to teach Vick the intricacies of his system, Vick will become a more dangerous weapon. Vick has also commented numerous times on his desire to take fewer risks and stay healthy for the full season. If he can accomplish that, then he can become literally unstoppable.

Last year, in the truncated off-season, the Eagles went all Dan Snyder and decided to buy every player whose name they recognized. They even brought in that piece of crap Vince Young. This year they did the opposite. They locked up key veterans Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson to long-term contracts. Turning a locker room full of new guys  to a team of players who are familiar with each other and happy to be there. Like it or not, DeSean Jackson’s contract was obviously affecting him towards the end of the season last year. Now with a new one, we should see a rebirth of the player that we fell in love with back in his rookie season. LeSean is getting paid as he should, as one of the top running backs in the league. Normally that’s when most of running backs self destruct (see: Johnson, Chris or Alexander, Shaun) but LeSean is only 24 years old. That’s a big difference. (And a bit depressing to me personally. When did all these players get so young?)

For the first time since Jeremiah Trotter was in his prime, I’m genuinely excited about the Eagles linebackers’ corps. Trading for DeMeco Ryans was the steal of the off-season. We don’t watch a lot of Texans games, but he is the kind of leader that the Eagles needed in the middle of the defense since Dawkins left. Mychal Kendricks, taken in the second round, is going to break the Eagles second round linebacker curse and will start at strong side backer. Most scouts had him as the number two 4-3 linebacker out of the draft. This kid can flat-out hit and knows the game. He’s going to be a fan favorite quickly. Brian Rolle, who showed flashes last year, will battle with Jamar Chaney for the weakside linebacker. With the veteran leadership of Ryans in the middle, it should help lift the play of all the linebackers instead of the mess of rookies and second year players they started last year.

Finally Joe Banner is gone. Actually, Banner was good and underappreciated at his job. But man, did he creep me out.

This season is going to be special. I don’t dare to utter any proclamations, because while I may not be a religious man, but I don’t dare tempt the football gods. I also don’t have blind faith. I still know that Juan Castillo is still coaching the defense. I know that Jason Peters is gone. I know that our safeties are a mess. But this is the magical time of year when ever team is 0-0 and we all have a chance, so why not accentuate the positive. (I know, it’s Philly. Boo!) There are plenty of reasons for hope and excitement. Do not forget that the Eagles won their last four games last season. Do not forget that Andy Reid has led us to multiple NFC East Championships and five NFC Championship games. He’s still there, and now he has had a full off-season with his guys to prepare for this season. So let’s sit back and prepare for excellence. Let’s go Birds!!!

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Super Bowl XLVI Printable Block Pool

Since this is one of the biggest hits I get all year, here’s a Printable Super Bowl XLVI Block Pool for the degenerates among us.

Super Bowl XLVI Block Pool (PDF)

Numbers (PDF) Yes, I’m sure that there are those out there that need numbers printed for you.

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Worst. Eagles Win. Ever.

The Eagles played flawlessly on all sides of the ball yesterday against the Jets. Michael Vick looked like the quarterback he was last year. LeSean McCoy played like the league’s best running back, as he has all year. DeSean Jackson played like a guy who cared. The defensive line fired on all cylinders and spent the whole game in Sanchez’s face. They won the turnover battle and returned an interception for a touchdown. Even the special teams performed well.

As the Eagles manhandled the Jets and ran up the score, I just started to get angry. Where the hell has this team been all season? This was the “Dream Team” we’ve been waiting to show up all year. (Yes, I’m so pissed; I went with the stupid “DT” reference.) Besides the Dallas game, the Eagles haven’t showed anything like this all season.

Source: AP Photo/Matt Slocum

With the Stupid Giants losing yesterday, the Eagles slim playoff hopes are still alive on life support. (We need the Giants to lose to the Jets next weekend and then beat the Cowboys in week 17, plus the Eagles to win out and then we win the NFC East.) But I’m not allowing the Eagles to suck me back in. They’ve disappointed me too many times this year to let it happen again. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

The Eagles just blew it this year. If the team that played yesterday showed up a month ago, or even just once against the Falcons, 49ers or Cardinals, we’d be in the driver’s seat for the playoffs right now. And that is the most frustrating thing about yesterday’s win. We have finally seen what this Eagles team is capable of. With only three weeks left in the season.

What was different about yesterday than most of the season? It’s not like the Jets are push overs, they’re currently a playoff team in the AFC. Is Vick healthier? Did the cornerbacks finally decide to cover? Did someone go around and put stickum on all the receivers’ gloves so they wouldn’t turnover the ball?  Is Juan Castillo finally figuring it out? (FYI…two more games like this, and I bet he’s back next year along with Reid.)

You can call me a typical Philly fan who’s never satisfied, and just looking for something to complain about, but after this debacle of a season; how can you be happy about seeing this team finally performing at a high level? Why couldn’t they have figured this out in November when there was still time to make a run? Yes, it would be nice to win out, but it’s going to be too little too late. Arrgghhhh!

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C’mon Eagles Fans: Playoffs?!?!?

Watching the Eagles play the Dolphins game yesterday, you would have thought the Eagles were only a game out of the playoffs. Chris Myers kept talking about the Eagles playoff chances. I think we all need to ask Jim Mora what he thinks about the Eagles playoff chances.

I don’t consider myself the usual doom and gloom Philly fan, but c’mon people, there is no chance that the Eagles are making the playoffs. Yes, they looked decent yesterday, but have they done that for more than two games in a row all season? They would have to win three games more in a row, just to have a sniff of the playoffs. And then we would still need the Stupid Cowboys and Stupid Giants to lose some games for us to have a chance.

Check out the playoff scenarios here.

Source: AP

Let’s just temper down our expectations, and try and enjoy the last few weeks of football. If you get your hopes up about the Eagles again, you’re just begging for disappointment. They’ve done this to us all year. I’m telling you this for your own good.

Here’s a real question for you to ponder, if the Eagles by some miracle go 3-0 or 2-1 through the rest of the season, does Reid give Castillo another shot? (Please no!) Or if the Birds crap the bed and go 0-3, is it time for Reid to go? Ray Didinger said it was time for Reid and the Eagles to move on, during his WIP show on Saturday. If Didinger has given up on you Andy, you’re in a lot of trouble.

Couch Change (other football thoughts from the weekend):

  • Outside of the Eagles winning, is there anything more fun than watching the Cowboys blow it? Dallas Sucks! Ha Ha
  • I never believed that Tebow would be a good NFL quarterback, but what he has done this season has been unbelievable. It’s such a fun story to watch that I’ve actually started rooting for the Broncos. I’m also considering going back to church again. (Not really.)
  • Tebow 2011 = Vick 2010. Once defensive coordinators get an off-season to study film on him, he’s going to be in a lot of trouble next year. He’s a fun story, but he’s not going to be a long term success. (Bring on the Tebow Defenders!)
  • If the Eagles finish with a top 10 pick in the draft, do they consider drafting a quarterback? Vick only has one more “real” year left on his contract. The coaching situation is going make a big impact.
  • This column is why I love Ray Didinger, and Philadelphia Eagles fans. (A must read.)
  • All the hours and months of studying fantasy football down the drain in about 11 hours. Lost all three of my fantasy league playoffs yesterday. I know you were curious.
  • Do you want a good reason to watch the abysmal Monday Night Football game tonight between the Rams and Seahawks? Imagine how much money you would pay to watch that game in May. We’ve only got a few weeks in the season.
  • Who was that offensive coordinator who was yelling at Tom Brady? Who does he think he is?
  • Proof that the NFL cares more about the networks and sponsors that the fans: They DID NOT flex the Patriots – Broncos games to Sunday night next week. Everyone in the country wants to see Brady vs. Tebow. We’re all tired of watching the Ravens and Chargers.
  • Greg Jennings injury during the Packers game has to give them pause about going for 19-0. They know the most important thing is the Super Bowl. They may start resting players now.
  • Even though I told everyone to give up on the Eagles making the playoffs, I still have a glimmer of hope inside me too. It’s part of what makes us Philly Fans the best.
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