Davis hire haunting Birds
Chip Kelly has made one major mistake since taking the Eagles' head-coaching job. His decision to hire Billy Davis as defensive coordinator was puzzling when the coach made it eight months ago, and it looks downright insane today.
It isn't bad enough that Peyton Manning totally undressed Davis and his putrid defense in a 52-20 humiliation in Denver on Sunday. No, what really shook the soul of the Eagles fan was the feeling of utter helplessness every time the Broncos' offense stalked onto the field. The Birds were, literally and figuratively, defenseless.
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With 10 days to prepare, Davis decided not to allow Manning to beat him deep, so he left wide open the short passing game to a quarterback who may be the best ever at that style of offense. The result was 18 first downs in the third quarter alone — a total 11 NFL teams didn't achieve in their entire games Sunday.
Even more appalling were some of the position changes Davis chose to make. Do you believe he used cornerback Brandon Boykin — all of 185 pounds — at outside linebacker for a large chunk of the first half? Or that he moved Cedric Thornton from defensive end to nose tackle and Trent Cole from linebacker back to defensive end? Yes, he did.
That these changes were spectacularly ineffective requires no in-depth analysis. The Broncos amassed 473 yards, had a third-down conversion rate of 62 percent and scored more points against the Eagles than any opponent had achieved in 41 years. Fans were wearing bell-bottoms the last time an Eagles defense performed that horribly. Peyton Manning wasn't even born yet.
It is hardly a secret that former coach Andy Reid left a bare cupboard on defense, but Kelly only amplified the problem when he picked a twice-failed defensive coordinator with no record of success anywhere to mastermind the unit. How did Kelly end up with Davis? Apparently, Davis did very well in the job interview. Unfortunately, it is the last time Davis has done very well.
Kelly will never blame anyone more than himself, but most revealing about his comments after one of the worst losses of his career was his emphasis on better production from the offense. Mike Vick somehow coaxed 450 net yards out of a sputtering unit, and Kelly wasn't impressed. The coach said Vick had to match Manning score for score, point for point.
The truth is, Chip Kelly is going to have to make some radical changes if he really wants his 1-3 team to improve. He's going to need to dump wide receiver Riley Cooper from the starting lineup, along with safety Nate Allen and tight end Brent Celek. He's going to have to replace most of his linebacking corps, his secondary, a couple of his defensive linemen and kicker Alex Henery.
Above all, Kelly is going to have to address his biggest blunder so far — the hiring of Billy Davis.
Good riddance, Rich Dubee
Something wonderful happened Monday after the torture of a 73-89 season had finally ended for the Phillies. Justice was served. Rich Dubee was sent packing, given the boot, put out of his misery. Hallelujah.
Technically, Dubee wasn't fired as pitching coach since his contract had run out, but the result is the same. He will no longer be a part of the Phillies' organization. His sour demeanor and smug stubbornness will no longer drag down a team whose pitching never reached its true potential.
Always a gentleman, president Dave Montgomery thanked Dubee for his nine years in the organization but said "we believe it is time for change." Actually, it was time for change a long time ago — before Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels suffered ghastly seasons back-to-back, and before Jonathan Papelbon's effectiveness diminished dramatically.
Dubee always walked around the clubhouse with an air of entitlement, but he did little to develop the young talent on the staff and failed repeatedly to maximize the work of arguably the best group of starters in baseball over the past few years. Meanwhile, he handled most questions with disdain and impatience.
During an interview with manager Ryne Sandberg on my WIP radio show last week, I asked him how he felt about the assistants he had inherited from former skipper Charlie Manuel, and his answer was revealing. He said "some of them" were effective coaches, and he had every intention to keep those assistants on his staff.
Well, now we know how Sandberg felt about Rich Dubee. It's already safe to say the new manager is a much better judge of pitching coaches than the old one.
Prepare for a long winter, sports fans
This is provided as a public-service announcement for all of the fans of Philadelphia's winter pro teams: If ever you were going to take a long break from the Sixers and Flyers, this is the year to do it. They didn't make the playoffs last year, and they will fail even more spectacularly this year. That's not a prediction; it's a guarantee.
How can I be so sure? Well, we already know the Sixers are trying to lose this season to position themselves better for a top draft pick. When new GM Sam Hinkie's stats-first approach will chart the way to a new beginning remains to be seen. What doesn't remain to be seen are any Sixers games this season. This once-proud team will draw record-low crowds.
The Flyers are actually a much sadder story because they care, and somehow they still believe they have a chance to do something special this season. Eternal optimist chairman Ed Snider continues to do things precisely the same way after 38 years without a Stanley Cup and somehow expects a different result.
After a dreadful season last year, the Flyers have the same inept GM, Paul Holmgren, the same floundering coach, Peter Laviolette, and most of the same injury-prone underachievers. Their offense is putrid. Their defense is spotty. Their goaltending is uninspired, even with Ilya Bryzgalov's welcome departure. This is one of the worst teams in Snider's half-century of owning the Flyers.
So, how should the loyal fans of these two franchises handle the cold, brutal months ahead? I hear Cyprus is beautiful this time of year.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Andy Reid won his fourth straight game as Kansas City coach on Sunday — welcome news for his legion of fans. Many of them let me know how unfair they felt my column was last week. What I consider unfair is the dreadful roster Reid left behind, the way he treated Brian Dawkins and David Akers, and the fact that so many people still can't see the truth about this man.
» O.J. Simpson was caught smuggling oatmeal cookies out of the cafeteria in a Nevada prison last week. As a guard pulled more than a dozen cookies out of Simpson's lumpy shirt, a bunch of crooks, drug dealers and sex offenders mocked the greatest running back in NFL history. Wow.
» Roy Halladay loves Philadelphia, but not enough to explain exactly what medical condition he has that makes him sweat profusely. All he will say is that it is diet-related. Sorry, if you really respect the fans, you will offer a better explanation than that.
» Bravo to Atlanta catcher Brian McCann for not allowing Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez to cross the plate when the outfielder styled his way around the bases after a home run. Major League Baseball got it right, too, by suspending Gomez for his classless act and offering no sanctions against McCann.
» GQ Magazine last week ranked the Phillies as one of the worst franchises in sports history. Meanwhile, Philadelphia ranked GQ Magazine as a second-rate men's fashion publication with no clue about sports.