Broken Twigs: Culture changing and the FGSB Mailbag

Broken Twigs: Culture changing and the FGSB Mailbag

Paul Holmgren will not be fired this year so get used to it.

Ala-kazam! You’re welcome.

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Mike Sielski’s not wrong, he’s just an asshole.

Or to put more specifically, being an asshole about this.

Far be it from me to defend poor MISTER Snider or Paul Holmgren or any of the Flyers brass that has come but not gone over the past two decades, but it’s easy (and lazy) to attack a franchise that hasn’t won a championship in almost 40 years because, well, they haven’t won a championship in almost 40 years.

I agree with the sentiment of his Inquirer column – maybe it is time the Flyers change things up in the front office, maybe they get some new (possibly young) faces in there. But simply telling people they need broad sweeping change when something doesn’t seem to be working is like shooting fish in a barrel. And the thing is, Snider’s actually right in a certain sense, and the case of the Blackhawks doesn’t make him wrong. Just like every other team the Flyers have a 3.33% chance of winning the Stanley Cup at the onset of every season. Every spring the media in 29 NHL towns analyze what went wrong, why their team came up short, and what could be done to avoid the same failure next season. Rooting for a sports team has worse odds than your average scratch ticket. In the end almost everyone is going to lose.

So you haven’t reached the top of the pile in 38 years, ever thought about changing everything!?! Duh, dude. Duh. It’s funny to me that the media can be on both sides of this argument. The only entity that rivals the organization itself in identifying Flyers culture is the local media. Actually, they may have done more. Who has been perpetrating the idea of The Broad Street Bullies for the past 4 decades? Who has been feeding its readers this identity for 40 years? Who asks every single draftee if they think they fit into this idea that is Flyers hockey (whatever that is)? This whole time while the Flyers have been the production and distribution in this arrangement the Philadelphia media has been the marketing department. For a member of that same entity to come back and decry the monster it created without acknowledging its role in said creation seems naïve at best, and cowardly at worst.

Asking the chairman of a company if he needs to change the Flyers culture is akin to asking the President if we need to change the American culture after a school shooting. Like, how do you even answer that/what are you even talking about? You deserve to get spanked. Thanks for the insightful question. Let’s change the culture to a Stanley Cup winning one. That will be better for everyone.

It’s true that many Flyers executives formerly played for the organization, but since retiring each one of these individuals has taken a different path to get where they are today. And they continue to do so. Each coach, GM or scout makes decisions based on what he thinks is best for the team, finding some common ground between his own personal opinion and input from people he trusts. Holmgren made different decisions than Clarke would have. Hextall will make different decisions than Holmgren. Edmonton GM and former Flyer Craig McTavish would make different decisions than both of them.

Now if Sielski’s question and ensuing article are a call for just Ed Snider to distance himself from the operations of the team I think there could be some merit to that. But I don’t see the need to have only people who never played for the Flyers in the front office. Former Flyer or former Haliburton VP of Operations, doesn’t matter me to me. How each person performs in that role is what matters.

You have questions, I have answers. FlyersMailBagGo!

Question from myself…to myself: How did it feel when the coach got fired 4 days after you wrote a post for which the headlines was “Peter Laviolette will not be fired this year so get used to it.”
It’s not my fault. It’s the internet. What’s supposed to happen is that I write that headline and that post and then it gets buried in the annals of the internet and everyone forgets about it and Laviollette gets fired and no one cares that I was wrong. That’s how it generally goes. I’m going to bring you back behind the blogger’s curtain and tell you a secret – the internet is full of shit and a lot of it is the same exact thing posted on different sites by different people. So my writing prep generally goes like this – what is everyone in the mainstream media writing about ok I’m going to write the opposite because why not. You have to differentiate you’re product, son!

@DownGoesOskars - Which current flyer do you think would best be suited for a successful career in graphic design?
I’m wondering what angle you’re approaching this from…who is the most creative Flyer or who is the best at doing what they’re told (burn!). I actually wondered if there was a little internet café in the Flyers new locker room when I was reading about how great it was. Jay Rosehill, who has somehow made himself the voice of the Flyers and one of the only things we all talk about, said that it was the kind of place that made you want to come in early and leave late. For some reason I immediately pictured some kiosk/cubicle computer room where guys come in and surf the web. But then I figured they all just use their phones, and finally that these guys don’t really read anything online unless you count the word “Brazzers.” Aint’ nobody got time for computers when you could be working on your snap shot.

@Jmager_22 - how long until Berube punches a player to prove a point?
For some reason I think Berube is a quite/big stick kind of guy who knows that the threat of him coming down on you is way worse than the reality, at least in his post-enforcer days. As a coach you can really only scream at these young millionaires once or twice a year. What you need to do is bench, or even better scratch, a high profile player because then you’re messing with his livelihood and that will get everyone’s attention. All that being said, Berube’s definitely slapped Steve Hartnell in the back of the head.

@lonis119 - Which Flyer will be the first filmed singing Don't Stop til you get Enough after a win, if they do win again?
If we’re going just based on their propensity to be caught on camera than it’s Zac Rinaldo. When he was talking to Jay Rosehill (there he is again!) on the bench on Tuesday I was paralyzed with fear. That look. I thought he was going to come right out of the TV ad dry hump me to death. If I was Berube I’d actually talk to him about that. Not that I care who he’s banging in the crowd, but during the game you focus on the freaking game. Only. Not just when you’re on the ice. Stop talking about boning chicks while you’re on the bench unless you’re up by 5 goals and your coach wasn’t fired the day before.

@treblaw - which Flyer would make a solid, if unspectacular, NBA shooting guard?
I feel like Mark Streit might be able to stroke the occasional three. He might actually be better suited at the point, but I can’t even picture any other Flyers dribbling a basketball. Streit would be best suited to the Harlem Globe-Trotters style of play, but I don’t think he’d be on board with cashing in the NHL lifestyle to ride around on a sleeper bus, eventually arriving in Louisville just to pants a referee and steal the ball from him.

@DirectingTitan - What is the official Craig Berube stance on spanking as a means of instilling discipline?
Well he brought it up so apparently it’s a tool he’s familiar with. Man is that going to be awkward after a blowout loss to the Blue Jackets. Berube in the middle of the locker room spanking Matt Read, staring right in Claude Giroux’s eyes.

Look what I found. Some of you probably weren’t even born yet.

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews experienced something new on Sunday. Something he hoped he’d never have to experience. 

He was relegated to spectator.  

After never missing a game dating back to little league – through high school, college, and into his third season in the NFL – a right ankle injury kept him out of Sunday’s 32-14 loss in Cincinnati. 

“It’s definitely not fun,” Matthews said. “But it’s one of those things where I try not to dwell on it or be like ‘woe is me.’ There’s people going through way worse things in America than me missing a football game.”

The Eagles certainly could have used Matthews on Sunday. But they should get him back this weekend when the Birds host Washington for a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Linc. Along with Ryan Mathews and Dorial Green-Beckham, Matthews is listed as questionable. 

But he seems confident he’ll be good to go. 

“I think one game is definitely going to be enough for me,” Matthews said. “I’m definitely going to try to get back out there Sunday.” 

On Friday, during his first media availability in two weeks, Matthews said he chose to find the positives in his absence from Sunday’s game. Namely that Paul Turner and Trey Burton got some extra reps. 

Burton had five catches for 53 yards and Turner, in just his second NFL game, had six catches for 80 yards. 

“I try to see the positives,” Matthews said. “I liked seeing what PT was able to go out there and do. I was happy for him and his first live-game action, being able to go out there and make plays. I was also proud of Trey. His role got to expand with me being out and I think he played extremely well. He got to show what he can do and show how he can help this team. We just have to continue to utilize him moving forward. There’s always a positive in it. 

“We might not see it now, in a loss, but just think, some of those guys are going to be weapons for us in the future. And we saw they can go out and perform well without me in there, so I think it’s going to end up being a positive. But I definitely can’t wait to get back out there.”

Earlier in the week, head coach Doug Pederson said that even with Matthews’ returning, the team would still try to get Turner involved. Since the team sees Turner primarily as a slot receiver, that means Matthews could see time outside this weekend. There’s an even better chance when taking Green-Beckham’s injury into account. 

Before the season, Pederson talked a lot about wanting to play Matthews both inside and outside, but this season, Matthews has been in the slot for 74 percent of his snaps. Forty-four of his 57 catches have come from the slot too. 

On the play where Matthews hurt his ankle against the Packers, he was actually lined up outside and caught a back-shoulder throw from Wentz. 

“I was actually joking with Carson,” Matthews said, “I was like ‘bro, the reason I got hurt was because our back shoulder was better than Jordy [Nelson] and Aaron [Rodgers’]. So it didn’t mesh well with the universe. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way on Monday night for everybody to see, so the football gods took my ankle. So it’s all good. … That’s a joke.”

Matthews, despite being in his third season, is clearly one of the Eagles’ leaders on offense, especially in a very young receivers room. He’s looking forward to playing Washington after he thinks they were the first team that “actually came out and beat” them earlier in the year. 

With four games left in the regular season, the Eagles’ playoff chances are extremely slim. But Matthews thinks it’s important for the team to finish strong, especially with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. 

With Wentz, Matthews thinks the Eagles have already taken the first step toward building something special. 

“He’s the guy,” Matthews said. “He looks like the guy, he walks like the guy, he talks like it. And he goes out there and plays like it. It’s more we have to continue to ride around him and coach Pederson and be positive and go out there and produce.”

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles (5-7) vs. Redskins (6-5-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. on Fox
Redskins favored by 2; over/under 47

When the Eagles went into FedEx Field in Week 6, they had an opportunity to leave 4-1 and in great position in the NFC East. Instead, what ensued was a stretch of three divisional losses in four weeks by a combined 18 points.

Two months later, the Eagles are out of the race at 5-7 while the 6-5-1 Redskins are still battling for an NFC wild-card spot. The 'Skins would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today — they currently hold the seventh spot in the NFC, behind the Bucs (7-5) but ahead of the Vikings and Packers (6-6).

This is obviously a crucial game for Washington, but the Eagles are just as desperate after losing by 11, 14 and 18 points the last three weeks. Don't underestimate the role desperation and a few weeks of embarrassment can have on a team's ability to bounce back. It was partly why I cautioned in these scouting reports the last two weeks not to count out either Green Bay or Cincinnati, teams that had more talent and stability than a few weeks of midseason losses indicated.

Cousins and Reed
The next time the Eagles limit Kirk Cousins will be the first time. In four games against them, he's completed 63 percent of his passes, averaged 336 yards, thrown 10 TDs and two interceptions and rushed for another score. Washington has averaged 31 points and won three of the four contests.

The Eagles' margin of error on defense is extremely small in this game. To win, they'll need a better effort against a Redskins' ground game that gashed them for 230 yards last time, they'll need to generate consistent pressure on Cousins and they'll need Jordan Reed to not be himself.

Reed, the NFC's most dangerous tight end, is questionable with a Grade 3 AC joint separation suffered on Thanksgiving. Reed was a warrior on Turkey Day, leaving the game in the second quarter, standing on the sideline in a sling, probably receiving a little (ahem) help at halftime, and then dominating in the second half in Dallas. Reed finished that game with 12 catches for 95 yards and two TDs, but was hurt badly enough to miss last week's game.

The Eagles were fortunate to avoid Reed in the season's earlier matchup. Fortunate because he destroyed them last December, catching nine passes for 129 yards and two TDs in a 14-point win. Washington uses its tight ends more than any offense in the league, and Reed is a mismatch even for an Eagles team that has allowed the fewest catches (31) and receiving yards (327) to tight ends. 

With Reed out in October, backup Vernon Davis burned the Eagles for two catches, 50 yards and a TD. But it sounds like Reed will play Sunday after telling reporters that his range of motion is back.

The issue in stopping Washington is the Eagles just don't have enough defensive backs to defend everything. It's why they need Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to get consistent pressure and keep Cousins out of a rhythm. They haven't been able to do that. They had no sacks in Washington in Week 6 and have failed to sack Cousins in two of the last three meetings.

Without forcing Cousins to get off his spot and get the ball out quickly, the Eagles' secondary hasn't shown anything to inspire confidence they can stop DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, Reed and Davis at the same time.

To make matters worse, this is the first week Washington's All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams, is back from a four-game substance abuse suspension. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has allowed just three sacks in his last eight games against the Eagles.

Which Wentz will show?
Last week was Carson Wentz's worst game as an NFL quarterback. He missed wide-open throws, threw three interceptions and could have thrown more and barely exceeded 300 yards despite throwing the ball 60 times. 

He didn't look like the guy we saw the first four games of the season, and quite frankly he hasn't looked like a top-20 QB since October. 

The lack of weapons and occasionally poor protection are major reasons why, but Wentz isn't void of blame — he's simply missed some makeable throws.

Against Washington back on Oct. 16, Wentz was just 11 of 22 for 179 yards as the Eagles lost the time of possession battle. The best days belonged to Ryan Mathews (9 carries, 60 yards) and Jordan Matthews (three catches, 75 yards). Both are questionable heading into this one. 

Wentz didn't throw a single pass at Josh Norman in the first meeting. At times, Norman has followed the opposing team's top receiver, but don't expect him to do so this Sunday. Norman has lined up on the left side 64 percent of the time this season and in the slot just nine percent. 

Slot matchup
Matthews has run 73 percent of his routes from the slot and should draw third-round pick Kendall Fuller. As long as Matthews is sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury, this should be a good matchup for the Eagles. 

Fuller has been beaten repeatedly this season, allowing 42 catches (on 53 targets) for 542 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks have a 123.9 rating against him, third-worst among all slot corners. (Malcolm Jenkins is actually worst in this category with a 137.9 QB rating allowed in the slot.)

Fuller has also struggled to wrap receivers up after the catch, allowing an NFL-high 213 yards after the catch. Picking up yards after a reception is something the Eagles have struggled to do all year.

Run game
The Eagles were shutting running backs down until they played the Redskins in October. Since-demoted RB Matt Jones rushed for 135 yards, current starter Rob Kelley rushed for 59, and both had a run of 45-plus yards.

Cox, Barwin and LB Nigel Bradham had awful games that afternoon against the run. It also didn't help that the Eagles were credited with 12 missed tackles. 

Run-stuffer Bennie Logan left that game early with a groin injury and missed the next three weeks. Since returning, however, Logan hasn't been himself, struggling to rush the passer and stop the run.

The Kerrigan factor
The Eagles always have trouble containing Redskins pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who had three sacks in the first meeting. 

Kerrigan has been a force in 2016 with 44 QB hurries, which is three more than Kahlil Mack and second-most among outside linebackers to Von Miller.

Kerrigan has nine sacks in 11 career games against the Eagles, and Washington is 5-1 when he has at least one against them.

Prediction
Close game, better performance from Wentz and an awakening in the run game, but not enough defensive talent to shut down what Washington will try to do deep with Jackson and Crowder, over the middle with Reed and short with Garcon.

Redskins 31, Eagles 27