Wheres the Love for Brian Billick?

Wheres the Love for Brian Billick?

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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
ring!

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
Billick?

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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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.