Steve Spagnuolo Coming Back to Eagles?

Steve Spagnuolo Coming Back to Eagles?

Andy Reid appears to have saved his job in Philadelphia, if it was ever truly on the line, and a recent surge on the defensive side of the ball had fans wondering whether Juan Castillo had done the same. For much of the season, Castillo appeared primed to be the fall guy whether Reid stayed or not. Now, according to one report, Castillo may indeed be out, with the Eagles bringing a familiar face back into the organization.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Steve Spagnuolo will be fired by the St. Louis Rams, replaced by current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Spags has a soft landing in place though, if this report has any validity. Per Acee's sources, it is "all but certain" that Spagnuolo will be named the Eagles defensive coordinator. That's a lot of possibilities that need to become realities in order for everything to shake out as described... But it's not farfetched to think Spagnuolo would be on the Eagles' short list if he's available and Castillo is shown the door.

Spagnuolo was a popular position coach for the Eagles from 1999-2006, when he led the linebackers and defensive backs under Jim Johnson. He then had an excellent but brief stay as defensive coordinator of the Giants, who went on beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. Most Eagles fans probably remember not knowing who to root for in that one, but Spags being the architect of the winning defense softened the blow some.

Spagnuolo was a hot commodity when hired to be the head coach of the Rams in 2009, but things ultimately didn't go well for him in St. Louis, and it appears all but certain he'll coach his final game for them against the 49ers this weekend. He has one year left on his contract with the Rams.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has some sobering notes on how historically bad the Rams' 2-13 season has been—and not just on the offensive side of the ball. After a 1-15 first season in StL, Spags coached the Rams to a very respectable 7-9 mark last year. However, even before the 2011 season began, you could see that the team faced a brutal schedule, and injuries to Sam Bradford and even backup AJ Feeley made a winning season even less likely.

For the Eagles, it's a timeline that appears to have been off by one year. Had Spagnuolo's Rams run ended in 2010, he might have been the perfect fit for a Philly team that was making headlines by targeting top talent once the league's hiatus ended. There were initially very few voices of dissent about the players they brought in, but Castillo was seen as a likely Reid mistake from day one, having never coached in a defensive capacity at the NFL level. It took his unit a long time to gel, but it lately has (albeit against some lesser quarterbacks).

Many Eagles fans won't lay all the blame at Castillo's feet, either. He had a lockout-shortened off-season, some questionable personnel, and an offense with a penchant for giving short fields due to turnovers. Castillo's failures will be seen as an extension of Reid's.

If the report is true and Spagnuolo is hired, the announcement will be far more popular than when we found out the offensive line coach was taking over the defense, with assistants already firmly in place. Many questions will still need to be answered if Spagnuolo does indeed come back to Philly, including what he'll do about the personnel he may inherit in his coaches and players.

We'll take a closer look as to what a Spagnuolo return could mean once it's closer to official. Again, this is just a preliminary report with unnamed sources, and Spagnuolo is still set to coach a game for the Rams while Castillo is at the defensive helm for the Eagles at least through the week. While it's certainly possible the Birds would want him back, what's surprising here is that anyone with certain knowledge of such a plan would have let it get to a reporter. The Eagles don't usually operate that way, and it'd be disrespectful to Castillo, whom they've highly regarded for years. We'll see how it plays out.

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Photo by Scott Rovak-US Presswire

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

Steve Mason rediscovers himself in New York just before Flyers return

It had been a while since Steve Mason saw himself.

Walking into the Barclays Center on Sunday, the Flyers’ goalie was 0-6-2 with a 4.03 goals-against average and .844 save percentage over his last 10 appearances (see more recent Flyers numbers and stats).

A far cry from how Mason truly sees himself in net.

But heading into Wednesday’s rivalry clash with the Rangers, Mason will have something to build on, something he couldn’t say since Dec. 21 — the last time he had earned a victory. He’s fresh off his first win in over a month, a gigantic one for Mason considering all the key moments on Sunday the Flyers hope invigorate his confidence.

Without numerous clutch stops from their goalie, the Flyers don’t come back from two goals down to beat the Islanders, 3-2, in overtime. Mason made four saves  — three on four-time All-Star John Tavares — in just over a minute of a third-period power play. The Flyers ended up having to kill two New York man advantages in the final 10 minutes of regulation in order to force overtime.

The extra session is when Mason was just as good, if not better, stoning Tavares on a breakaway attempt that had game-winner written all over it. Mason made four saves in overtime after 13 in the third period.

“I was happy with the way that, personally, this game went for myself,” Mason said Sunday. “It’s been a tough stretch and this is more the type of game that I expect of myself. In recent games, the team was lacking the big saves and tonight it shows what kind of difference it can make.”

It was a massive performance heading into a massive three-game stretch against the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes.

“Mase made some huge saves for us,” Simmonds said. “It allowed us to get back in that game.

“It’s not just Mase [with the] ups and downs. Everyone in here has been kind of fighting it and squeezing sticks pretty tight. That one felt good and I think Mase led the charge for sure.”

Mason understands just one game doesn’t turn around a season.

“It’s nice to feel good after a game,” Mason said. “At the same time, whether you’re winning or losing, you have to have a short mindset and get ready for the next one.”

That brings the Flyers to Madison Square Garden Wednesday to face the Rangers, who they’ve lost five straight games to dating back to last season. Mason hasn’t had much luck against New York this season, allowing seven goals in two losses with an .860 save percentage. However, in 2015-16, Mason put up a 1.74 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in five games against the Rangers.

“That’s going to be a tough game going into MSG,” Mason said Tuesday (see story).

The good thing: Mason was in New York two days ago, remembering what he can be.

Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

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Manute Bol's 7-foot, 17-year-old son dominates in HS season debut

Bol Bol, the 17-year-old son of the late Manute Bol, is a top high school basketball prospect with offers from schools like Arizona, Kansas and Creighton. This highlight tape should give you an idea why.
 
Bol, whose father played in the NBA for parts of 12 seasons, including 215 games for the Sixers, now attends the famed Mater Dei High School in California and played in his first game of the season this past weekend. Listed as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 recruiting class by Scout, Bol started his season off with a big 21-point, 10-rebound effort.
 
Take a look at the highlight tape from the 6-foot-11 Bol and expect to see him carry on his father’s legacy on the court at a major NCAA college basketball program soon.