Wheres the Love for Brian Billick?

Wheres the Love for Brian Billick?





You can hardly mention the Eagles or open up a local sports
section these days without the name Jon Gruden popping up somewhere. The
reverend Bill Cowher would instantly climb to the top of any head coaching wish
list if he could ever quit being so indecisive about his willingness to get
back on the sidelines. Heck, Lovie Smith is a popular choice, and his teams
only made the playoffs three out of nine years – and he doesn’t even have a

Yet for whatever reason, Brian Billick enters the
conversation, and many fans act like he’s not even in the same league as these
other coaches. We are talking about a Super Bowl-winning head coach here. Why
so much mystique surrounding Gruden and Cowher, but so little enthusiasm for

Are they not all members of the same club, especially
considering their three championships came just six years apart? The answer
obviously is yes, and the circumstances under which Billick won his are
arguably the most impressive.

For starters, he got it done in his second season as a head
coach. It took Cowher 14 years to win the big one, and Gruden was already on to
his second team – a ready-made contender he inherited from Tony Dungy by the
way. Billick also did something that is almost unthinkable in this era, winning
not only without a franchise quarterback, but without so much as competent quarterback
play at all as long as we’re being blunt thanks in large part to their
legendary defense.

Though that probably works as the biggest indictment of
Billick as well.

He arrived in Baltimore with a reputation for offense having
previously served as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. The Vikings had
just set a then-NFL record for points scored in a season with a 35-year-old
Randall Cunningham under center.

That success did not follow Billick to the Ravens, at least
in part because he didn’t have a pair of Hall-of-Fame-caliber wide receivers in
Cris Carter and Randy Moss. The biggest reason however was the franchise’s
failure to develop a quarterback, jumping from Tony Banks to Dilfer, then
signing Elvis Grbac the same offseason they won the Super Bowl, followed one
year later by Chris Redman, before finally wasting a first-round pick on Kyle
Boller next April.

Not surprisingly, Billick couldn’t continue winning hardware
with slop at the most important position on the field. The one year the Ravens
finally did land a quality passer that managed to stay healthy – Steve McNair
in 2006 – they went 13-3 and earned a first-round bye in the tournament.

The obvious drawback is Billick has demonstrated little
ability to develop a quarterback at the pro level – though Gruden’s QB at Tampa
Bay was Brad Johnson, who got his start with Minnesota. Anybody can see how
that might be worrisome to anybody hopeful the Eagles can groom Nick Foles to
lead the franchise for the foreseeable future.

But what have Gruden or Cowher done that is so much better?
Is it because of their personalities? In Gruden’s case, is it his ties to the
Eagles in the past? What is it exactly that sets them apart? Because in terms of rings
on fingers, neither of them has one-upped Billick yet.

There’s something to be said for bringing in one of the
bright young minds from around the league, but as far as retreads go, Billick
is every bit as qualified as those other broadcasters. Somehow if he were to get hired as the next head coach of the Eagles however, I get the feeling the general public would not be nearly as satisfied.

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Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Gunn's Bullet Points: Flags could fly in secondary for Eagles-Cowboys

Some notes and keys ahead of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game:

• Since throwing for 301 yards against Pittsburgh in Week 3, Carson Wentz's aerial numbers have declined — 238 yards in Detroit, 179 in Washington and 138 vs. Minnesota.

• Even though he missed two games with an injury, I still can't understand how Zach Ertz has been targeted only 16 times in four games this season.

• Dallas WR Cole Beasley is arguably the best slot receiver in the game right now. Last November against the Eagles, he had nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. With the Eagles' best slot cornerback, Ron Brooks, out for the year with a ruptured quad tendon, Malcolm Jenkins will have his hands full trying to keep up with Beasley in the slot.

• Eagles and Cowboys defensive backs beware: Jerome Boger's crew is officiating this game. This season, Boger's crew has called 36 penalties for defensive pass interference, illegal contact or defensive holding.

• The Eagles' 20 sacks ties them for third-most in the league. Dallas has allowed just nine, second-fewest in the NFL.

• Does Doug Pederson still have faith in RB Ryan Mathews late in games? Mathews has fumbled with less than five minutes left in two of the last three games. The head coach says he has not lost faith in Mathews, and Mathews says he'll stop fighting for more yards late in games. Time will tell.

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

After 2 fumbles, Mathews says he must fight urge to fight for more yards

Doug Pederson said this week he’s so concerned about Ryan Mathews’ late-game fumbling problem that he’ll consider using a different running back in crucial late-game situations (see story).

If Mathews is concerned about it, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t worry about stuff like that,” he said at his locker on Thursday. “Worrying about stuff like that just causes more stress.

“I can’t control any of that. The only thing I can control is trying to give him 100 percent every time I touch the ball and trying to get better.”

Mathews likely cost the Eagles a win over the Lions with his late fumble in Detroit three weeks ago. Last week, he lost another fumble in the final minutes of the Eagles’ win over the Vikings.

He’s the first back with two fumbles in the final five minutes of two games in the same season since Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants in 2010.

He has single-handedly accounted for two of the three fumbles by NFL running backs in the last five minutes of games this year.

Pederson on Wednesday said, “By no means am I down on Ryan,” but also said he would consider using Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles in late-game situations moving forward.

Mathews is averaging 3.9 yards per carry on a team-high 11 carries per game.

He said Thursday he has to learn not to fight for extra yards when the situation calls mainly for ball protection.

“You can’t fight for more yards, you’ve just got to go down,” he said. “Don’t put the ball on the ground.

“There’s no secret cure or anything like that. You’ve just got to get what you can get and get down. You can’t really fight for more yards like that.”

Mathews said it’s difficult for him to ramp down his natural aggressiveness in situations that call for him to be more conservative and protect the ball instead of trying to fight for extra yards.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I’m not the one to really shy away from not going down on first contact. But situations like that, you’ve just got to be more aware.”

Sproles (4.6 average on 31 carries), Smallwood (4.1 average on 28 carries) and Kenjon Barner (5.8 average on 16 carries) all have higher rushing averages than Mathews.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he’s not concerned about Mathews and said his confidence in the 29-year-old former Pro Bowler hasn’t waned.

“I love our guys,” Reich said. “I wouldn't trade our guys for anybody. We use a word around here a lot, and I know sometimes it gets thrown around, but it's family.

“You know, not every family's perfect, and we all make mistakes, but when we put guys out on the field (we’re confident in them). I can't play like that. I can't coach like that. You've got to have confidence.

“Now with coaches, it’s a business and coaches make decisions based on things. And when those decisions get made, they get made. But when a guy is in the game, we have to play with confidence and we have to coach with confidence and I don't see any other way to do it.”