There aren't many second chances in NFL
In three disastrous hours Sunday, Nick Foles did far more harm to his NFL career than he did to the immediate fate of the Eagles. Everyone knows the Birds are not going anywhere this season. And now we all have reason to wonder the same thing about Foles and his future in the game.
Yes, it happened that fast. The young quarterback went from the upper statistical ranks — No. 2 behind Peyton Manning, no less — to a pale imitation of Kevin Kolb or (gasp) Bobby Hoying. Foles was indecisive, woefully inaccurate when he did release the ball, laughable when he tried to run and utterly inept throughout.
By the time Foles was ordered off the field with concussion symptoms (after a ridiculous decision to absorb a punishing sack near the sideline) everything had changed in the world order of the Eagles. Quarterback controversy? Over. How long before MiKE Vick is ready to return? The sooner, the better.
The only thing more challenging than watching that dreadful 17-3 loss to Dallas is trying to explain what happened to Foles. Chip Kelly said his quarterback was "off," but the coach wouldn't venture much more than that. Foles himself was unable to speak because of the injury. Jason Avant said Foles was trying too hard to be perfect.
OK, if they won't say it, I will. Foles was intimidated by the pressure of facing the evil Cowboys, in front of a win-starved home crowd, with the very real prospect of securing a starting job in the NFL. That's right. He choked. Is there any other logical explanation for someone with such pinpoint accuracy suddenly losing his ability to throw straight?
After the way Foles performed on Sunday, even our most basic impressions seem flawed beyond recognition now. If you've been reading this column regularly, you already know what a big supporter I have been of him. Now, I am as dazed and confused as Foles was after that sack.
In the long history of the Eagles, it's hard to imagine any quarterback doing more damage to his future in a single game than Foles did against the Cowboys on Sunday. The list of indignities was staggering. Foles missed a wide-open Brent Celek early in the game; overthrew DeSean Jackson on what promised to be a big play down the right sideline; and — his most stunning failure —misfired a certain touchdown pass to Avant that raised a divot in the turf as it rolled off the receiver's sure hands.
There was actually a peculiar sense of relief when Foles was ruled out of the game with concussion symptoms shortly after the errant pass, even though it meant no real chance for a comeback behind rookie QB Matt Barkley. We all needed mercy at that point, and no one more than Foles himself.
What happens now with the Eagles quarterbacks? It's still too early to say. But after a devastating afternoon, somehow it is already getting late for Nick Foles.
Giroux not worthy of 'C' right now
Claude Giroux wears the "C" on his Flyers jersey, but it is a lie. During this 1-7 start, Giroux has been helpless on the ice and clueless off it. He may as well be captain of the Titanic.
And last week brought a new low for a young player who, less than two years ago, former coach Peter Laviolette called "the best player in the world." Since then, Giroux languished through a mediocre 2011-12 season, and has been downright awful so far this year.
Not only has he contributed only three points (and a minus-5), but he has also failed spectacularly as a leader. Last week, after a 3-2 loss to Vancouver, he said, "If anybody knows anything about hockey, they'll know we played a good game tonight." His new coach, Craig Berube, disagreed. Basically, Berube said the team stopped fighting in the third period. Does Berube know hockey? Does Giroux? Which is it?
Even worse, before facing Pittsburgh two days later, Giroux declared that the Flyers would "bring the fans back on our side" with a valiant effort that night. Instead, they sleepwalked through the second period and lost, 4-1. The loss secured for the Flyers the worst record in the NHL, and raised new questions about Giroux's effectiveness as a captain.
The bottom line is, great players emerge when times are toughest. They raise their own game and that of their teammates. Giroux is doing precisely the opposite. He is hurting the Flyers on the ice with his aimless play, and off the ice with his idiotic comments.
The best player in the world? So far this season, Claude Giroux has actually been one of the worst.
Do we really know our sports figures?
A generation ago, Irving Fryar and Don Tollefson were important people in the Philadelphia sports community. Fryar was a star receiver on the Eagles, and Tollefson was a popular sportscaster. They were respected and admired. Not anymore.
In a series of bombshell announcements, Fryar was indicted for mortgage fraud, and Tollefson became the subject of a police investigation into an elaborate ticket scam. Of course, both men are innocent until proven guilty, but their cases have already provided an interesting insight into the relationship between sports figures and their doting fans.
Fryar, who was my co-host for two years on a TV show in the 1990s, always had a Jekyll-Hyde personality. He has been both a religious leader in the community and a deeply troubled soul. Tollefson left broadcasting more than once to dedicate his life to charitable causes — or so his story went. Now no one can be sure what was real with them, and what may have been part of their con.
What I can say for sure is this: When fans take you into their lives, they do so with a faith that cannot be compromised. That player on the field or face on the TV (or voice on the radio, for that matter) becomes a member of the family. If a sports figure uses that kinship for his illegal gain, it is the worst kind of betrayal.
At this point, the Fryar and Tollefson cases should provide a cautionary tale for every fan. Just because you love a player or a broadcaster — or anyone in sports, really — don't think you know who he really is. That familiar face may be smiling back at you for all the wrong reasons.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Mike Vick's season isn't going so well on the field, but he has become a genuine role model off it. Not only did he handle the Riley Cooper racial mess deftly a few months ago, but his management of the now-dead quarterback controversy has also been exemplary. Mike Vick, class act? It may actually be true now.
» In a fan poll last week, someone actually finished below Ruben Amaro Jr. in popularity on the Phillies. Eighty-one percent said they wanted closer Jonathan Papelbon to go, one-percent more than the GM. Moral of the story: If you're no longer a great pitcher, it might be a good idea not to act like a jerk.
» Allen Iverson will retire at the Sixers' home opener on Oct. 30. Hold on a minute. He hasn't retired yet? A man whose last game in the NBA was three years ago is milking one more bow out of the team's depleted fan base? No, thanks.
» Thrilling news out of Cleveland. Andrew Bynum is "close" to practicing for the first time after two seasons away from the game. Bynum is also "close" to receiving another $6 million check for doing nothing. Best guess: As soon as he gets the money, he stops playing.
» Those beards on the Boston Red Sox sure are attractive, aren't they? When the World Series is over, do these bums shave, or do they join ZZ Top?