2010 Eagles Met, If Not Exceeded Expectations

2010 Eagles Met, If Not Exceeded Expectations

The negative reactions are understandable and natural. Once again the Eagles will not be crowned world champions, and until they finally cast off the proverbial monkey, there will always exist a void inside many fans. Another season has concluded with disappointment.

As the initial gloom subsides, and we begin to put a wrap on the season that was, it's time to acknowledge this outcome was not even remotely surprising. Nobody predicted the Eagles would go all the way. Most people thought they would miss the playoffs and finish below .500.

This team was incomplete, and everybody knew it. Why such outrage after they came up short?

Play the blame game if it makes you feel better. Question why Michael Vick was targeting Riley Cooper when it mattered most. Point your finger at the receivers who dropped the ball. Shake your head as Winston Justice regresses right before our very eyes. Ponder how the front office can fix a defense that was historically bad in the red zone, and not great anywhere else. Ask how David Akers, in the midst of one of his best seasons, blows two makeable field goals. Criticize Andy Reid for, among other things, being Andy Reid.

Then breathe.

The Green Bay Packers are a better team. They entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, and the Philadelphia Eagles did not. Neither club wound up anyplace we didn't assume they would five months ago.

In professional sports, it's nearly impossible to compete for a championship every season. Somewhere along the way, barring flawless scouting and/or unlimited resources, every franchise inevitably must go through a period of transition. Sometimes it can take years, with one or more complete overhauls of the roster, coaching staff, and front office.

That's the traditional definition of rebuilding, which was supposedly happening here this season. The Eagles jettisoned the majority of their aging veterans, most notably the starting quarterback, and filled out their roster with a league high 13 draft picks. Even if the organization didn't outwardly say it, the moves marked a purposeful shift in direction.

Yet despite the notion they were "rebuilding," the Eagles still won 10 games and went to the playoffs. They matched the loftiest of goals set by prognosticators, and squashed the popular opinion they were not contenders.

Given the circumstances, that sounds like a successful season.

Obviously it's not successful in terms of winning the ultimate prize. If you're of the mindset that is the only way the campaign can be described as successful, I can't help you.

By any realistic standard, the Eagles had a quality season. They beat some long odds to go as far as they did. Between the youth movement, changes under center, and a bevy of injuries, most NFL teams would have crumbled.

The Eagles won the division like that, which suggests good things are still to come.

Yes, they have holes, or in some cases just tough questions. Right at the top of the list is what to do with their quarterbacks. They have needs along the offensive line and throughout the defense. Several key players are free agents, such as Stewart Bradley, Quintin Mikell, and David Akers. Marty Mornhinweg could be named the head coach in Cleveland, and Sean McDermott's performance will come under increased scrutiny.

Those holes and questions were always going to be there at the end of the season though, because they already existed when it began. Nothing suddenly changed on Sunday. The Eagles needed a right corner whether they advanced or not. They were going to draft some offensive linemen either way. There are difficult personnel decisions during any off-season. These issues surely did not catch anybody off guard.

They were just as imperfect in a loss as they were before the game, and before the season began. A deep playoff run was always a longshot.

Now the Eagles have another off-season to address those needs, and complete the sweeping changes that actually have been in progress for years. They'll use free agency and the draft to fortify those positions, like they would after any other season. Plus, a promising collection of young talent and prospects will have another year under their belts, returning in 2011 much stronger, healthier, and wiser.

Until then, while it may be hard to shake the fact that you're dissatisfied with this finish, it deserves to be put in proper perspective. Nobody on the coaching staff deserves to lose their jobs over this effort. By not only avoiding a total collapse, and instead taking back the NFC East and earning a home playoff game in the process, the Eagles put next season's opponents on notice. With the right moves, and a little luck, the Eagles can take a step forward from this and perhaps rejoin the rank of the elite.

If there is a next season.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- Police say New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment.

Sr. Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement that officers were called early Saturday morning and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway. He was taken to a hospital where he died.

Black says a person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his door kicked open. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was a Los Angeles native and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, Dejean-Jones started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."