Ruinous season spelling the end for Reid


Ruinous season spelling the end for Reid

You can feel it when it starts, the winding down. Ive seen it with Eagles coaches starting with Jerry Williams in the 70s through Dick Vermeil, Buddy Ryan, Ray Rhodes and the rest.

You know when time is running out.

The details may differ slightly, but the mood surrounding the situation is much the same. The organizational footing, once firm and sure becomes unsteady. Things that were never questioned before suddenly are questioned. Confidence gives way to doubt. Locker room voices drop and words ring hollow.

Thats where we are with Andy Reid after Sundays youve-got-to-be-kidding 21-17 loss to Arizona. For the fifth time this year, the Eagles blew a fourth-quarter lead and this time it was to a woeful opponent playing with a backup quarterback.

For the second time in seven days, the Eagles were outplayed, outhit and out-coached in their own stadium in a game the players themselves characterized as a must win. A team that last week was called out for being soft proved once again the label fits. Accused of being sloppy and dumb, the Eagles were both on Sunday, turning the ball over twice and committing 11 penalties.

There is plenty of blame to go around but most of it has to be placed at the feet of Andy Reid. He built the team and hired the coaches. He put the pieces in place and mapped the strategy and it has gone terribly wrong.

At 3-6, the Eagles are a punch line around the NFL. Even the national media, which once lavished praise on Reid and the Eagles management, is mocking the Dream Team. Those sneers from the networks will cut deeply at the Nova Care Complex where perception has always mattered greatly.

The Eagles' fall from grace has been swift and stunning. Consider that last Dec. 19 when they rallied to defeat the New York Giants, 38-31, on DeSean Jacksons last-second punt return they were 10-3 and alone atop the NFC East. Mike Vick was in the discussion for MVP. They were riding a wave that many felt would take them to the Super Bowl.

Since then, they are 3-9, counting the playoff loss to Green Bay, and they have lost seven of eight games at home. Jackson is now in the doghouse for missing meetings and an overall lack of interest. Vick is turning the ball over in the red zone more than any quarterback in football. They are tied for last place in the division and, worst of all, they are irrelevant.

We are entering the most compelling part of the season and the Eagles are in a ditch with all the other losers. They dont matter. Oh, a few reporters will come by to do a CSI-type story about what went wrong, but thats hardly what the front office expected when it invested millions into building this roster.

How bad are the Eagles? In their last eight home games, they have lost to quarterbacks Joe Webb (Minnesota), Stephen McGee (Dallas) and John Skelton (Arizona) in addition to Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Alex Smith and Jay Cutler. On Sunday, Skelton passed for more yards in the fourth quarter (166) than Vick did in the entire game (128). Skelton threw as many touchdown passes (three) as Vick has thrown in his last four games.

Watching the game unfold, it was impossible to understand what Reid and his staff were thinking. On a day when Reid deactivated Jackson for disciplinary reasons (which I agree with, by the way) and Jeremy Maclin was playing hurt, Reid and Marty Mornhinweg did not do the common sense thing and lean on their best player, LeSean McCoy (see story).

McCoy came into the game as the NFLs leading rusher and midway through the third quarter, he had 80 yards on 12 carries. It wasnt nearly enough considering the alternative was Vick, who was having a terrible day, throwing to a lot of backup receivers. McCoy was averaging almost seven yards a carry. I mean, this isnt hard to understand. Give the ball to McCoy.

Yet Reid and Mornhinweg went from not giving the ball to McCoy enough to not giving it to him at all. After McCoy ripped off a 29-yard run with 4:46 left in the third quarter, he did not touch the ball again until eight minutes into the fourth quarter. Almost 13 full minutes passed without McCoy getting the ball. He had one carry over the final 20 plays as the Eagles coughed up another game. Its unforgivable, really.

There also was the muddled defensive scheme that took Nnamdi Asomugha off Larry Fitzgerald and went to zone coverage with everyone from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Asante Samuel to rookies Brian Rolle and Jaiquawn Jarrett all trying -- and failing -- to cover Arizonas only real weapon. To have Jarrett, who was making his first start at safety, alone on Fitzgerald late in the game is the kind of X and O buffoonery that would get you expelled from a high school coaching clinic -- yet thats what the Eagles did.

When coaches show such poor judgment, it erodes respect. Players lose confidence in the calls coming in from the sideline. It affects their ability to execute because they arent sure about their assignment. If players line up thinking This isnt gonna work, chances are it wont. Thats what I see in these Eagles.

There is a cumulative effect to all this and what I saw Sunday was a fan base that has grown numb. The people turned out in the usual numbers but only because it is part of their Sunday ritual. They were there in body, but not in spirit.

It is easy to understand. The team has played so poorly at home that they havent given the fans a real reason to get excited. The only time they were excited this season was after the Dallas game and Jason Avant promptly told them to shut up and go away (but make sure you stop by the Pro Shop and buy another sweat shirt on your way out).

After so many years of coming up short with this regime, the fans have grown tired.
There was the usual crowd at the WIP pregame broadcast location, but there was no energy or excitement. It wasnt until Randall Cunningham came to the tent that the fans responded. They swarmed the former quarterback for autographs and said how much they loved those Buddy Ryan teams.

It struck me that so many fans still view the Buddy Ball era as the good old days, even though those teams never won anything. The fans feel more connected to those teams than to the Reid teams with all its division titles and postseason appearances. When it is easier to sell the past than the present, thats a worry for ownership.

Seven games remain in this season and weve seen Reid rescue lost seasons before. If he does it again maybe he will rescue himself. But this time it just feels different. Judging by the look on Andy Reids face, I think he feels it, too.

E-mail Ray Didinger at

Josh Hart returning to Villanova for senior season


Josh Hart returning to Villanova for senior season

Villanova’s chances at repeating as national champions just got much better.

Josh Hart is returning for his senior season.

The Wildcats’ leading scorer from last season’s title-winning team tweeted this Tuesday night:

Shortly after, Villanova officially announced the news.

Hart was in the midst of going through the NBA draft process, attending the combine in Chicago and working out for teams. By not hiring an agent, he was able to test the waters without jeopardizing his final year of college eligibility. Hart had until Wednesday to make a decision, which is coming back to the defending champs.

“I enjoyed the process and learned a lot,” Hart said in a statement released by the school. “It was definitely worthwhile. I look forward to graduating next year and coming back to play with my teammates.”

As a junior, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. He put up 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Villanova’s 95-51 Final Four win over Oklahoma, before following it up with 12 points and eight rebounds in the NCAA Tournament title game in which the Wildcats thrillingly won at the buzzer, 77-74, on a Kris Jenkins three-pointer.

Hart and Jenkins, the team’s two leading scorers, return along with key pieces Jalen Brunson (9.6 ppg), Phil Booth (7.0 ppg), Mikal Bridges (6.4 ppg) and Darryl Reynolds (4.5 rpg).

“Josh Hart did a great job in this process,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “I’m really proud of the way that he showed himself. I am really happy for him that he is returning to play with his classmates and that he will graduate on time.” 

Instant Replay: Tigers 3, Phillies 1


Instant Replay: Tigers 3, Phillies 1


DETROIT – What figures to be the Phillies’ most challenging road trip so far is not off to a good start.
The Phillies lost for the second time in as many nights to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday. Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander manhandled the Phillies in leading his team to a 3-1 victory.
The Phillies were held to just three hits in the first eight innings. They rallied for a run on two hits and a sacrifice fly by Tommy Joseph after Verlander had exited in the ninth.
The Phils have lost four out of their last five games and are 25-21 on the season.
After a slow start, the Tigers have come alive. They have won eight of their last nine.
The series ends Wednesday afternoon. The Phillies open a three-game series against Chicago Cubs on Friday. They have the best record in the majors.
Starting pitching report
Jeremy Hellickson delivered a very solid start of seven innings and three runs, but received no run support. He walked just one and struck out seven.
Hellickson has allowed just five earned runs over 20 innings in his last three starts. He has walked just three batters and struck out 20 over that span.
Verlander gave up just two singles and a double over eight shutout innings. He walked two and struck out 10.
Verlander’s 108th and final pitch of the game was a 97 mph fastball past Odubel Herrera.
Bullpen report
Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez survived a shaky ninth for the save. He squandered his team’s shutout bid by allowing the Phillies’ only run.
The save was Francisco’s 400th. He is the sixth pitcher in big-league history to reach that milestone.
At the plate
Ryan Howard entered the night hitting .083 (4 for 48) in the month of May. Three of those hits were homers and the other was a double. Howard had not had a single since April 29, a span of 19 games. He ended the singles drought with a base hit against Verlander in the second inning.
Howard popped out, struck out and grounded out in his next three at-bats as his average actually climbed to .159.
Howard batted fifth and Joseph hit fourth. Joseph, who had a homer and a double in Monday night’s game, stung the ball right at the shortstop and leftfielder, respectively, in his first two at-bats before singling in his third at-bat. He lined a sacrifice fly to left for the Phils’ only run in the ninth.
Freddy Galvis doubled twice for the Phils.
Miguel Cabrera, who had two homers and a double on Monday night, continued to scorch the Phils. He doubled home a run in the first inning and plated another with a groundout in the sixth. Victor Martinez, who drove in the go-ahead run Monday night, drove in the Tigers’ third run with a single in the sixth.
In the field
Catcher Carlos Ruiz threw out two runners trying to steal second.
Third baseman Maikel Franco unsuccessfully tried to backhand a bounding ball from J.D. Martinez in the sixth inning. If Franco makes the play, he probably starts an around-the-horn double play. Instead, it got by him, was generously scored a double and led to the Tigers’ second run of the game.
Minor matters
Cody Asche, rehabbing from an oblique strain with the Double A Reading club, hit a two-run home run Tuesday night.
Up next
The series concludes Wednesday afternoon. Aaron Nola (3-3, 2.85) starts for the Phillies against Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 6.23).

NFL Notes: Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles awarded Super Bowls


NFL Notes: Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles awarded Super Bowls

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If you spend billions of dollars to build it, they will come.

Three times over.

The NFL awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, three cities that made significant financial investments in new stadiums or recently upgraded an existing one. Atlanta will host the game in 2019, followed by Miami (2020) and Los Angeles (2021), it was announced Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

"I think if they find guys like me that are willing to do it, I think they want to show them that it is worthwhile," Rams owner Stan Kroenke said.

Atlanta will host its third Super Bowl, but the first at its new $1.4 billion stadium which opens in 2017. The previous two were at the Georgia Dome.

Miami will have its record-setting 11th Super Bowl following a $450 million stadium renovation.

Los Angeles, which gets the relocated Rams this season, has not had a Super Bowl in the area since 1993 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The game will be played at the new $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, California, which opens in 2019.

Tampa Bay and New Orleans were also in the running to host a Super Bowl (see full story).

Steelers: Bell believes Bengals targeted him
PITTSBURGH -- Le'Veon Bell considers the first injury of his NFL career -- a sprained foot in a preseason game three years ago -- a freak accident.

The last two? Not so much.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back took the field with his teammates Tuesday for the first time since tearing the MCL in his right knee last November against Cincinnati. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict twisted Bell awkwardly as the two tumbled out of bounds just a few yards away from where Bell's 2014 season ended after taking a shot to the same knee from Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson.

Burfict celebrated openly as Bell writhed in pain, a memory that lingers even after Burfict reached out on social media in March to express support as Bell worked his way through rehab.

"Obviously it looked like they were happy about it," Bell said. "I'll take the liberty of just thinking everybody plays just football to love the game. But people aren't out here playing like that. People are playing to take people out. Obviously I know that now" (see full story).

Cardinals: Fitzgerald not thinking beyond this season
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Larry Fitzgerald has been an Arizona Cardinal all 12 of his NFL seasons, breaking every franchise receiving record along the way.

Now, he enters the final year of a two-year, $22 million contract, and he said Tuesday that he doesn't even think about whether he will play football beyond this season, with the Cardinals or anyone else.

"We're just in OTAs right now, man," he said. "We've got training camp and minicamp and the regular season. We've got a long ways to go before that's even a point of discussion. So I'm enjoying this. I'm trying to make it the best year yet."

Fitzgerald will turn 33 before next season begins. And last season proved he remains one of the most prolific receivers in the NFL.

"I think Larry has a lot of tread left on the tire," Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "Obviously he's in the last year of his deal. That's out of my pay scale. But obviously I think he's still got juice in the system" (see full story).