Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

Time for the Eagles to Start Over?

There is plenty of noise coming from the "Fire Andy Reid" camp, and their numbers are climbing. This is Philadelphia, and Reid is rapidly closing in on his 13th season without producing a Super Bowl championship, so it's safe to chalk this up as the natural course of things. Even Reid's most vocal supporters have to see the writing on the wall, particularly as this season spirals out of control.

Criticism of Reid has been building for years, and it's reached a point where it's hard to imagine him surviving a 5-11 or 6-10 finish. The blame ultimately falls on the head coach, and the public outcry would be unbearable.

Barring some kind of incredible turnaround, your wish should soon be granted.

But what surprises me is where the accountability seems to stop. It extends to his staff, especially Juan Castillo, who was thrust into a no-win situation after his promotion from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. It moves up the chain of command to Howie Roseman, who became the organization's head talent evaluator after two years in the personnel department. Heck, it goes all the way to the top, right to Joe Banner and Jeffrey Lurie, despite the fact that all the owner did was open his pockets so the team could sign every available Pro Bowler this off-season.

That's it? Fire Andy Reid, and Castillo along with him, and this operation is fixed. Kick Howie the accountant out of personnel, and finally, put Banner and Lurie on the first train out of town, and we the fans can start counting the Lombardi Trophies.

It sounds all well and good... but what about these players? You know, the guys who have been bumbling about the field, committing stupid penalty after stupid penalty, turning the ball over repeatedly, dropping perfect passes like this is a game of hot potato, and taking every opportunity to run their mouths in the media or all over their Twitter accounts -- shouldn't we fire most of them, too?

And it's not just the Vince Youngs and Steve Smiths, extraneous parts the Eagles could rid themselves of in a heartbeat without thinking twice. Nor is it simply the Kurt Colemans or Brian Rolles, developing players pressed into action basically because the team couldn't come up with any better alternatives.

It's DeSean Jackson. It's Jeremy Maclin. It's Nnamdi Asomugha. It's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It's Michael friggin Vick. It's many of the very players who are supposed to be the core of this team -- they are supposed to be STARS.

What you really need to be asking yourself is whether or not this franchise needs to almost completely rebuild.

The time has come to start sorting out who needs to stay and who should go, because it might not be as easy as dumping Reid. A new head coach may not be able to turn this thing around. Bill Cowher isn't going to be the coach who gets the most out of Vick. Jon Gruden isn't going restore this defense and its personnel back to the days of Jim Johnson. Which coaching candidate has the patience to teach big-boy NFL players the pop-warner fundamentals of catching and securing a football?

Andy Reid's days are probably numbered. At this point, that's not too difficult to come to terms with. But then the front office better draft a quarterback this April. No coach in the NFL has gotten more out of quarterbacks from Vick to Donovan McNabb, and A.J. Feeley to Kevin Kolb over the past decade, so there is no reason to believe Vick's growth, which is already stunted in the first place, will continue under a new coach, new system, and new philosophies. The Eagles should start grooming his successor for 2013, when the front office can at least entertain the notion of getting out from under Vick's enormous contract.

They better slap the franchise tag on DeSean at this season's conclusion, and begin shopping him around for extra picks in this year's draft. They better trade Asante Samuel for real this time, because there are lots and lots of pieces that need replacing. They better stop messing around with Jim Washburn's Wide Nines defensive front, unless they are going to miraculously come up with some linebackers who can shed blocks. They shouldn't be in too big of a rush to offer extensions to Maclin or DRC, either.

That may be only the tip of the iceberg. Very few things are working here.

What is working is LeSean McCoy, one of the best running backs in the league. What is making progress is Howard Mudd's offensive line that's opening huge holes for Shady, anchored by one of the best left tackles in football in Jason Peters. But sadly, somehow, that's all. A small number of individuals have consistently performed. A handful have shown promise, and maybe just need to be given a chance, or utilized in the right scheme.

Any way you look at it though, a new coach is going to want his guys. The Eagles might find themselves dumping young or quality players who wind up going on to have perfectly fine pro football careers, simply because they don't fit in the new system and new philosophies.

If you think Reid should go -- and honestly, who doesn't right now? -- realize that it might come at the cost of starting over. Obviously it's not impossible to find a head coach who can walk in and doesn't have to make drastic changes, such as installing a 3-4 defense that wouldn't fit the personnel, or drafting a quarterback in the first round when there are other options already on the roster.

But if you believe that can happen here, you are placing too much of the blame on Andy Reid, and only fooling yourself that this team has great players who are merely poorly coached. We were wrong about the level of talent inside that locker room. Make no mistake, these 53 players stink, with few exceptions -- and the Eagles, with or without Reid, are further than they've been from competing for a championship in a long, long time.

NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

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NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the rest of the San Jose Sharks gathered around the Campbell Bowl for a celebratory picture after winning the Western Conference final.

In that moment, all those past playoff disappointments and collapses were forgotten. It will take four more wins to put to rest those questions about if they had the fortitude to win it all.

Captain Joe Pavelski scored an early goal, Joel Ward added two more and the Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history by beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.

"It's a pretty cool feeling," Thornton said. "Obviously it's our first time. It was pretty neat to get this done at home. The fans here have waited so long, 25 years. We've waited 18 years or so. So it's a great feeling."

Joonas Donskoi also scored, Logan Couture had an empty-netter and Martin Jones made 24 saves as a Sharks team notorious for postseason letdowns will play for the championship that has eluded Thornton and Marleau since they entered the league as the top two picks in 1997.

Thornton assisted on Pavelski's goal less than four minutes into the game to set the tone and Marleau had two assists in the third period that set off chants of "We Want The Cup! We Want The Cup!"

"We're just enjoying the ride right now," Marleau said. "We've had some really good teams over the years."

Despite making the playoffs 16 times in 18 seasons and winning the second-most games in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Sharks have been known for their soul-crushing playoff disappointments.

They won just three games in three previous trips to the conference final, were knocked out twice in four seasons by a No. 8 seed and most notably blew a 3-0 series lead to lose in the first round to Los Angeles in 2014.

The impact of that loss lasted for a while as San Jose missed the playoffs entirely last season. But led by first-year coach Peter DeBoer and bolstered by some key acquisitions by general manager Doug Wilson, the Sharks recovered this year and are now only four wins from a championship.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final will be Monday night. The Sharks will either host Tampa Bay or visit Pittsburgh, depending on which team wins Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

"It's a great moment for those guys who have put in a lot of work but we still have another series to go," Couture said. "We still have four more wins to try to get. It's another step. This is the third one now. We're ready for that next challenge."

With the loss, the Blues' postseason woes continue as the franchise still seeks its first championship and first trip to the Cup final since 1970. Coach Ken Hitchcock's second goalie change of the series did not work as Brian Elliott allowed four goals on 26 shots in his return to the net.

Vladimir Tarasenko, a 40-goal scorer in the regular season, got his first points of the series when he scored twice in the third period but it was too late for the Blues, who still trailed 4-2.

"It stings right now," captain David Backes said. "Six more wins and we're having parades on Market Street. Right now ... not enough."

This was the first time in San Jose's history that the team played with a trip to the Stanley Cup final on the line. The atmosphere in the Shark Tank reflected the high stakes with the fans at a frenzy during pregame introductions and the "Let's Go Sharks!" chants starting soon after the puck dropped.

The Sharks fed off that energy and were buzzing early as Hitchcock predicted before the game. St. Louis nearly silenced the crowd when Alexander Steen got a chance in the slot early in the period but Jones robbed him with a glove save.

That led to a breakaway for Thornton, who missed the net on his chance. But Pavelski recovered the puck behind the net and before Elliott knew what was happening, Pavelski tucked the puck in on a wraparound for his NHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs.

San Jose added to the lead early in the second when Ward tipped a point shot from Brent Burns past Elliott to make it 2-0.

Ward's second goal and another by Donskoi in the third period removed any drama and allowed the fans to celebrate and the Blues to ponder their missed opportunity.

"They're hurting right now," Hitchcock said. "We're all hurting. "You don't want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block."

Notes
Marleau played his 165th career playoff game, the most ever for someone who never played in the finals. Thornton is next on the list with 150 games, followed by Curtis Joseph with 133. ... The only franchise that has played longer than San Jose without going to a Cup final is Arizona, which began NHL play as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979-80.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

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NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Back home, the Cavaliers were not hospitable.

They rudely roughed up the Raptors again.

LeBron James scored 23 points then sat the fourth quarter, Kevin Love scored 25, and Cleveland unleashed tenacious defense on Toronto to regain control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-78 rout of the Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

On their court in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans following two straight losses in Canada, the Cavs opened a 34-point lead in the first half and never slowed while taking a 3-2 series lead.

They can clinch their second straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.

"We ought to be able to transfer that on Friday," James said. "Playing in that beast of an arena that we're going to we got to be composed, we got to be tough and we got to be sharp."

The Raptors, who came in with momentum and confidence after winning Games 3 and 4, left Quicken Loans Arena shaken and one loss from having their deepest playoff run stopped.

"They kicked our butts, bottom line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's been all three ballgames."

James had eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter with the Cavs up 37. He spent the fourth quarter resting on the bench while Cleveland's reserves finished the romp.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and he, James and Love outscored the Raptors 43-34 in the first half. Cleveland has won its three games in the series by a combined 88 points.

"They are a different team here," Casey said. "We came in here with a chance to do something special and we didn't get it done. They pushed us around and took what they wanted."

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 13 for the Raptors, who were overwhelmed from the start. Bismack Biyombo had just four rebounds after getting 40 the past two games. The only positive for Toronto was center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned after missing eight straight games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 18 minutes.

Playing defense as if every possession was the game's last, Cleveland held Toronto to 34 points in the opening half while building a 31-point halftime lead -- the largest in conference finals history. Since their expansion arrival in 1993, the Raptors had never been down by 30 before in any game -- regular or postseason -- at halftime but they have rarely seen a defense like this either.

The Cavs were all over the court, swarming and stifling DeRozan and Lowry, who combined for 67 points in Game 4.

A courtside doctor might have stopped this one in the first half.

Love found his shooting touch after it went missing during the lost weekend in Toronto, where he went just 5 of 23 and was benched for the fourth quarter of Game 4. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, a confidence-boosting performance that should temporarily quiet his critics.

"Kevin Love being Kevin Love," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He had two bad shooting games and we made a big deal out of it. Nothing he does amazes me. We gotta keep him aggressive all the time."

The Cavs made a point of getting Love the ball right away and he responded by making all four field goal attempts, dropping a 3 late in the first quarter that pushed the Cavs to a 37-19 lead.

"He was just locked in," James said. "We saw that and just wanted to keep giving him the ball. The easiest one he had tonight, he missed."

Cleveland's onslaught continued in the second quarter, and when James got free for an easy two-handed dunk, Cavs fans could relax and begin making TV viewing plans for Friday.

These looked more like the Cavaliers who opened the postseason with 10 straight wins, obliterated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2 and given a chance to beat whomever survived in the West.

Center of attention
Valanciunas hadn't played since May 7. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter when the Raptors were still close.

Tip-ins
Raptors: Dropped to 2-7 on the road in this postseason. ... Played a game every other day since April 29, going 7-7. . Biyombo and Valanciunas are the only teammates with at least 120 rebounds this postseason.

Cavaliers: Trumped their 31-point win in Game 1, which was the previous most lopsided playoff victory in team history. ... James played in his 191st career postseason game, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for 12th place on the all-time list. ... James (1,320) is tied with Kobe Bryant (1,320) for the second-most free throws in postseason history. Michael Jordan made 1,463. ... Improved to 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

Up next
Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto.

Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

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Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford singled in Matt Duffy with two outs in the 10th inning, and the surging San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 Wednesday for their 13th win in 14 games.

Duffy singled off Brad Hand (1-2) with one out, pinch-hitter Hunter Pence popped out, Duffy advanced on a wild pitch and Crawford hit a 1-2 offering over center fielder Jon Jay as Duffy scored standing up.

Crawford also singled and scored after some alert baserunning in the second inning. Duffy and Denard Span drove in runs for the NL West-leading Giants.

San Francisco completed a three-game sweep, extended its winning streak to five and improved to 9-0 against the Padres this season. The Giants' two walkoff wins in the series were against Hand (see full recap).

Arrieta moves to 9-0 in Cubs' win over Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs (see full recap).

Bradley extends hit streak to 29 in BoSox victory
BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his major league-best hitting streak to 29 games, Xander Bogaerts homered to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Travis Shaw had three RBIs and Boston moved to a season-best 12 games over .500. The Red Sox have scored eight or more runs 10 times in their last 14 home games.

Steven Wright (4-4) had another solid outing, giving up three runs, two earned. He has now given up three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts.

Chad Bettis (4-3) held the Red Sox scoreless through three innings but was responsible for seven runs over the next two innings before getting pulled.

The Rockies have lost six of their last seven -- all on the road (see full recap).