Thursday, August 27, 2009
By John McMullen
Philadelphia, PA (The Phan) - Obviously the big story involving the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night had nothing to do with football.
Sure, the self-inflicted soap opera that is Michael Vick was scheduled to make his Eagles debut in a preseason affair with Jack Del Rio's Jacksonville Jaguars but it was the circus off field that enveloped Philadelphia.
First, Vick had to jet down to Virginia to take care of a little bankruptcy thing before retuning to the City of Brotherly Love for the actual game. Then we all waited with bated breath to see which advocacy groups would scream the loudest when the Action Cam was in sight.
J. Wyatt Mediawhore (Mondesire), the head of the Philadelphia NAACP who is most famous for his Donovan McNabb isn't playing "black" enough column a few years ago, promised to bring his band of merry men for a "massive demonstration" to offset the animal rights folk that surely had Vick in their cross hairs.
Mondesire arrived about an hour before game time with about a dozen people so now we know the definition of "massive."
I've been around long enough to know advocacy groups, whether they lean left or right, are ruled by ideology, not common sense. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of individuals who join these things with the right intentions but the are quickly overrun by the groupthink mentality, usually based in a rather selfish ends justify the means objective.
Take Mondesire. His explanation for wanting to "help" Vick was as self-serving as it gets.
"We believe Michael Vick has served his time, paid his debt to society and deserves a second chance and the animal rights groups want to hold him hostage for the rest of his life," Mondesire said earlier in the week. "We think that's patently unfair. It denies Michael Vick's basic civil rights, denies him his ability to make a living."
Hmmm... don't deny Vick's civil rights but deny the First Amendment rights of the people who truly have a problem with what he did. Makes perfect sense.
I'm not a big fan of litmus tests but let's play Congress and give Mondesire one. Imagine a famous Caucasian quarterback (or McNabb) was found guilty of the same heinous things Vick did. The animal rights people surely would still be out in force. Mondesire? Well, we all know what NAACP stands for.
This isn't a black or white issue but Mondesire is quick to trot out the "R" word (racism) as often as possible on his bully pulpit, a powerful accusation that I'm sure usually works for him. In fact, Mondesire brought up a "one-sided dialogue" on talk radio, presumably his chat with Mike Missanelli, that was "tinged with racism."
Still, I can't figure out why defend someone that has stained your own culture and you clearly didn't take the time to vet?
To make matters worse for Mondesire, understand Vick has already received his "second chance," rendering his original point moot. Meanwhile, where is he when a less famous African-American is truly being denied a second chance?
I would guess looking for the next camera or microphone that will give him 15 more minutes of fame.
Before the animal rights people rise up and cheer, I'm taking aim at you too. Sure, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals threw a competing tailgate party away from the Linc but most of the other groups have already thrown in the towel with dollar signs in their eyes.
The Eagles offered to open the checkbook earlier in the week when they hosted a discussion with a number of animal rights groups. Tom Hickey Sr., the founder of the Pennsylvania advocacy group DogPAC, presented the Eagles with 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the team to spend the equivalent of Vick's salary -- $1.6 million -- to establish a rehabilitation and training
center for dogs.
Eagles senior vice president Pamela Browner-Crawley told reporters after the meeting that "financial support is on the table." After all, if Ted Dibiase taught us anything -- everyone has their price.
"We can make use of the power and influence of the Eagles to make a positive difference," Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, wrote on the agency's Web site. "We can challenge them to make good on their promise to help us end dogfighting and maybe even more."
Nothing like a great rationalization.
On the field, Vick's debut was anti-climatic. It almost had to be. As we reported earlier in the day, he did in fact take his first snap as an Eagle on the second play of the game, throwing a little shuttle pass to LeSean McCoy. There were no audible boos whatsoever...just cheers.
Another black eye for Philly.
It wasn't a surprise. About a dozen "independent" Vick protesters did show and had to endure insults from Eagles fans driving to the game
"I never envisioned myself coming out in a Philadelphia Eagles uniform," Vick said. "So it was kind of surreal feeling coming out of the tunnel. I see Eagles on these big guys' jerseys, and I kind of pinched myself to remind myself that it was real. It was something that I'd been waiting for for a long time. Regardless whether it was the preseason or the regular season, it's been a long journey for me, and I just want to do it right this time around."
I couldn't help but think of Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, the 1998 American war film set during the invasion of Normandy in World War II. In the film, Hanks as Captain John H. Miller and several of his men search for paratrooper James Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last surviving brother of three fallen servicemen.
A general discovers that the Ryan's mother will receive all three death notices on the same day. He learns that the fourth son is missing in action somewhere in Normandy and orders that Miller and his men find Ryan and get him home. Miller and his men do their job, some of them laying down their own lives in the process. In fact, Ryan is with Miller as he dies, hearing his last words,
"James... earn this. Earn it."
Michael Vick hasn't "earned" anything but the Eagles, their fans and Mondesire have given him everything.
* A very sloppy game with the Eagles coming out on top, 33-32, thanks to a 34-yard David Akers field goal with 15 seconds left.
*Vick played a total of five plays in the first quarter.
"Good to see Michael get back and get a few snaps in the offense," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "We're just trying to get his feet wet and get him used to the speed of the game. We'll continue to work with him. We'll evaluate the film and talk to him and see how he feels and go from there."
His shovel pass to McCoy went for five yards. He came in again for the second play of the second series, running to his left out of the shotgun and gaining a yard. Later in the same drive, Vick completed his first pass, a 13-yarder to Hank Baskett. He also lined up in the slot with Donovan McNabb as QB. Vick finished the half 4-for-4 for 19 yards and didn't play again. Who said he's not accurate?
"I'm only about 70 percent (physically), so now I'm just going off my natural ability," Vick said. "Once I get in tip-top shape, the sky's the limit. I just want to use my abilities to help this team win."
"We were just showing different looks in a situation where other teams now have to prepare for it," McNabb said of Vick's performance. "There’s a lot more [that goes] into it but we didn't want to show it tonight. Offensively, when we get back to our fundamental offense, that’s where we have to be consistent and be able to execute."
*Here was the Eagles M*A*S*H unit for the game: CB Sheldon Brown, RB Brian Westbrook, FB Leonard Weaver, LB Charleston Hughes, LB Tracy White, LB Stewart Bradley, OL Shawn Andrews, OG Todd Herremans, TE Tony Curtis, TE Cornelius Ingram, DE Darren Howard and LB Omar Gaither didn't suit up. Westbrook was originally scheduled to play.
*Andy Reid announced after the game that Herremans will have surgery to repair a stress fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot on Friday. Herremans will miss “obviously a couple of games,” according to Reid. “We’ll see how it goes after the surgery with what the doctor says,” Reid added. Herreman's injury was initially diagnosed as a stress reaction.
*Rookie defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, a Temple product, was back at the Linc starting in place of the inactive Rob Meier for the Jags.
*Jags starting QB David Garrard suffered a neck stinger in the first quarter but did return.
*Anyone who thinks McCoy is ready to step in for Westbrook is a lot more unstable than Shawn Andrews. McCoy dropped a tough lateral pass from Donovan McNabb and failed to jump on the ball, resulting in a 92-yard fumble return TD by Brian Iwuh for Jacksonville.
"It felt really good,"Iwuh said. "That is an awareness play that we are always practicing and we always practice scooping and scoring, not just scooping it up."
*A bad first half ended on a high-note when McNabb set an Akers field goal by hitting Jason Avant on a beautiful seam pass. Avant had five catches for 92 yards in the first half.
*Ex-Eagle Sean Considine started at strong safety for the Jags and broke up a possible TD by batting the ball away from Brent Celek late in the first half. Two plays later, Mr. Kendra Wilkinson dropped a sure TD pass from McNabb on a fade. Meanwhile, Tra' Thomas started at left tackle for Jacksonville. I know Jason Peters is younger and has a better rep but I would still feel a hell of a lot more comfortable with Tra' guarding my blindside.
*McNabb played deep into the third quarter and finished 21-of-36 for 244 yards with a TD and an interception. Kevin Kolb took over from there and was called for an intentional grounding in the end zone on his first play. Anyone who thinks Vick won't be the No. 2 QB on this team is fooling themselves. If Andy Reid were being truthful with himself, Kolb would be No. 4 behind A.J. Feeley.
"I think overall we have a lot of things to work on," McNabb said. "There were a couple of mistakes that were in the game that really shouldn't have happened. It was a collective effort, and I think, for all of us, we have to be able to clean that up and get things together when the time comes, because Carolina is right around the corner."
*Rookie CB Macho Harris went down with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return.
*The Eagles had a chance to win it when DE Brian Smith picked off a deflected pass in Jacksonville territory but Kolb led the Birds to negative-3 yards in four plays and the team was forced to settle for a third Akers field goal to make it 32-30.
*Kolb rebounded on the final drive when Reid went more conservative and set up Akers' game-winner. Rookie tight end Eugene Bright had a pair of catches on the drive, while Eldra Buckley got the team into field goal position on a screen pass.
*Rookie LB Moise Fokou, who was moved to the middle to compete with Joe Mays, was very active against the Jags reserves. Meanwhile, Mays didn't standout again. It would be nice if Fokou, who led the Birds with six tackles, got a few more reps with big boys.
"We took a step," safety Quintin Mikell said of the defense. "Obviously, we're still not there. We've got some things, as I said, that we need to get better at. We're taking strides. We're taking steps in the right direction and we'll go from there."
*Last year's HBO Hard Knocks star, WR Danny Amendola, is buried on the Birds depth chart.
* Feeley and recently signed LB Curtis Gatewood were the only Eagles in uniform that did not play.
*Our roster predictions:
QB (3) - McNabb, Vick, Kolb -- Feeley is a better player than Kolb but Eagles don't want to admit the mistake.
RB/FB (5) - Westbrook (if healthy), McCoy, Eldra Buckley, Leonard Weaver, Kyle Eckel -- Lorenzo Booker hits the unemployment line.
WR (6) - DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown if he is not traded to the Jets.
TE (3) - Brent Celek, Matt Schobel and I guess veteran Tony Curtis or someone that currently inhabits another roster. Very, very thin here.
OL (9) - Jamaal Jackson, Todd Herremans, Stacy Andrews, Shawn Andrews (if he is not in the straight jacket), Jason Peters, Nick Cole, Max-Jean Gilles, Mike McGlynn and yes Winston Justice.
Specialists (3) - Sav Rocca, David Akers, Jon Dorenbos
DL (9) - Trent Cole, Victor Abiamiri, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley, Juqua Parker, Trevor Laws, Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Brian Smith
LB (6) - Chris Gocong, Akeem Jordan, Joe Mays, Omar Gaither, Moise Fokou, Tank Daniels (awful unit)
DB (9) - Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Mikell, Quintin Demps, Joselio Hanson, Ellis Hobbs, Sean Jones, Jack Ikegwunou, Macho Harris.
-You can reach John McMullen at firstname.lastname@example.org