BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
People are often blinded by the comfort of familiarity. This is why Philadelphia Eagles fans have chosen to regurgitate that the starting quarterback for the Birds this upcoming season will be either Michael Vick or Nick Foles. This sentiment is shared mainly because this is all fans have seen.
Well ladies and gentlemen please take a moment to meet Mr. Dennis Dixon.
Aside from the occasional Matt Barkley reference, most fans have blindly followed the notion it will be Vick or Foles under center this season. The mere mention of Dixon is met with sheer and utter disbelief.
The faith in the former Oregon Duck is substantiated by first and foremost the lack of qualified quarterbacks currently in front of him on the depth chart. All will agree that neither Foles nor Vick have distinguished themselves as bona fide starting quarterbacks in this league over the last two seasons.
There are a plethora of reasons, or excuses depending on where you sit on the fence, why both quarterbacks have struggled. The lack of skilled opposition combined with a skill set built for Chip Kelly’s offense and you should be at the least a bit intrigued.
Dixon has also been coached by some of the best quarterback minds in the NFL. The Eagles quarterback has had the privilege of learning from Super Bowl winning and participating coaches and players. That journey began with his time in Pittsburgh backing up Ben Roethlisberger to his one season in Baltimore with Joe Flacco.
Drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round, one can fully understand the immediate request for drug testing when stating Dixon should win the Eagles starting job. Alas, it is not where he was drafted but by whom he was drafted.
While in Pittsburgh, the former Steeler’s quarterback coach was 17-year NFL veteran Ken Anderson, and his offensive coordinator was none other the quarterback’s guru Bruce Arians. Yes, the very same Bruce Arians who coached the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs and specifically helped Andrew Luck have one of the greatest rookie campaigns in NFL history.
Arians also was Peyton Manning’s quarterbacks coach during his first two seasons in the NFL.
Manning set five rookie quarterback records and Luck set seven rookie quarterback records under Arians’ tutelage.
Now no one is comparing Dixon to Manning or Luck, those examples illustrate just how brilliant of a quarterback mind Arians has. Dixon spent four years being taught by the coach and learning behind two time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger.
Dixon, in just limited playing, was able to gain the coach’s confidence. Despite Arians being extremely stringent in his time with Dixon and the coach remained adamant that the young quarterback execute from the pocket.
As a restricted free agent the quarterback languished in free agency before accepting a position on the Baltimore Ravens’practice squad. For some, landing on the practice squad could mean death to their NFL career, except for those who find opportunity in hard work.
It was on the practice squad where Dixon would eventually work with then Ravens quarterback’s coach and now Raven’s offensive coordinator, Jim Caldwell. Ravens’ current signal caller Joe Flacco improved dramatically under Caldwell.
However, it was Caldwell’s ten seasons working with the Indianapolis Colts, six of those seasons he was Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach that is his claim to fame.
Caldwell would coach Manning to his first league MVP award (the quarterback would win three MVPs in all under Caldwell), to a then single season record for touchdown passes (49), and to Manning’s sole Super Bowl title.
Again no one is comparing Dixon to Manning, rather illustrating how being coached by Caldwell for a year will have a tremendous effect on Dixon. In Baltimore, Dixon would also show his competitive valor, in lobbying to play the role of Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III and San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Dixon had success at playing both roles, and Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees gushed at how effective the quarterback was at playing RG3. Dixon stated that the style of play was second nature to him, because it was the same offense he ran while playing at the University of Oregon.
Yes the Ravens did lose to the Redskins in overtime, nevertheless Baltimore did defeat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, but for Dixon the preparation was yet another opportunity to learn his craft. Now in Philadelphia the one time Heisman hopeful and projected first round pick has a chance to put those lessons to task.
It is not farfetched to believe the fundamentals taught by Arians and Caldwell will be on display early and often by Dixon in training camp and more importantly in the preseason games. Just as Dixon is familiar with Kelly, the new Eagles’ coach is equally as familiar Dixon, and as previously stated there is always comfort with familiarity.
Furthermore, the Birds are not equipped with a formidable starting quarterback. So why is it so difficult to fathom Dixon has just as good a chance as Vick and Foles to become the Birds starter? Why do people scoff when Dixon’s name is mentioned? If anything there should be an idealistic approach to the notion.
Considering Dixon’s chief competition for starting the quarterback position consists of one qb who in 11 seasons has won more than 10 games once, there should be little resistance the idea.
An athlete who is familiar with a system, who has experienced success in that system, who is confident in his skill set, and believes they have an opportunity in front of them is usually successful. This will be no different.
When Coach Kelly opens up camp he will be demanding four quarterbacks execute a system that will be foreign to three of them. Meanwhile, fans will be hoping those three quarterbacks find a comfort level Dixon will already have.
There is a thin line between the unknown and the incomprehensible. Dennis Dixon has learned how to play the position of quarterback from two of the best playing the position and two of the best coaching the position. So it should not be incomprehensible that he will be the starting quarterback come week one, solely because he is unknown.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The recent words uttered by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper has given everyone an indication of just how far the Eagles are from being formidable once again.
The NFL is unlike any other professional league. It is the one sport where players practice more than they play. It is the one sport where the bulk of your time is spent preparing rather than executing.
This is why it is paramount that a roster be comprised of individuals who possess almost linear focus. A group that, regardless of what has transpired remains steadfast and fixated on the task at hand.
In the NFL, unlike other professional leagues, wayward thinkers can not only cost you the game, but in some cases, it can cost a player his career. Each cog must move and think in unison, with putting the team first at all times.
This ordeal surrounding Cooper is just another example of a player elevating himself over the team. What the wide receiver said was despicable, but it is his selfish mindset that we should truly detest.
Every NFL player is fully aware that they represent the league and their prospective teams when they step outside, so they are expected to act accordingly. Every action has a reaction, and in most cases the reaction will include press conferences, players forced to release statements, and players being asked not about the game, but about different players’ actions.
It is now apparent that the Eagles are and were infested with, players who are only NFL players on Sunday. From former Eagles' conerback Nnamdi Asomugha eating in his car, to the “interesting” mind if Jason Babin, it should have been no surprise that these Birds faltered so tragically last season.
It appears these “me first”players are still present and ready to be accounted for on this current Eagles roster, and has rudely awaken us all to the fact that our Birds are more than just a quarterback away from competing for titles.
Grown men do not accidently say things. They are quite aware of what leaves their lips, and have made a conscious effort to accept the actions that ensue.
Cooper knew what he was saying and who he was saying it to. He didn’t care. Those who doubt that can ponder on this; the Kenny Chesney concert where Riley spoke his mind was on June 8th, a full 53 days later, an apology was given.
The wide receiver was not thinking of the horrid position he put his brothers in when he shared his viewpoints. Nor did he care about how it made the franchise look, as the Eagles attempt to return from NFL purgatory.
No one truly knows what lies in the heart of Cooper, and to be fair no one should care. The only thing that should matter is does he and the other men on this current roster think team first at all times.
Based on those actions the question has arisen, does Head Coach Chip Kelly have the foundation necessary to build a winner?
The answer thus far is no.
Consistency builds character; the Birds need to be consistent in cultivating a character conducive to a winning football teams.
Coaches have to be consistent in ridding a team of “me first” personalities. We should all remember Camden, New Jersey native George Hegamin. The former Dallas Cowboy was a prized free agent signing who left the team upon finding out he was being demoted to second team.
The guard returned at the request of his agent, pushed a slide and two weeks later was pushed out the door. Hegamin was part of an Eagles team that had gone 3 – 13 the season before, and was part of the problem not the solution. The new Head Coach of the Birds then was an unproven leader, who in his first season led the Eagles to a 5 – 11 record.
Kelly must follow suit and release Cooper.
Truth is the internet is littered with people who are not African-Americans uttering the very same word. The difference is they do not suit up for our beloved Birds, so quite frankly we do not care.
Far be it from any of us to judge Riley on anything other than how his actions affect the football team.
However, the foundation of team first players was being formed. A group of players who would survive bitter contract disputes (Jeremiah Trotter), devastating injuries (Donovan McNabb, Damon Moore, and Duce Staley), and gut wrenching losses.
The Eagles consistently put the team first in those days, thus building the character necessary to compete at a high level.
In San Francisco, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh continues to win football games with a roster comprised of players that many deemed untalented. The very same roster that two coaches prior to him failed at leading, is now winning because of a team first mentality.
Yet Harbaugh’s lessons were tested at the most critical of times. During Super Bowl week 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver decided to void away from the principles that led his club to the ultimate contest.
The 49ers would go on to lose Super Bowl XLVII 34 -31, and while many will point to occurrences on the field it is not a coincidence that such actions always precede losses.
Today, we are being told the Cooper’s comments should be forgiven and we must move on, but if he remains on this team what are we moving on to. Furthermore, what message does it send to the other players on this team who are now forced to speak to reporters, as well as, other players around the league regarding something non-football related?
Everyday a new challenge emerges, and in the NFL players must trust the man next to them to do what they have been taught and prepared to do. The slightest deviation from those lessons can be the difference between winning and losing.
It is imperative that a strong foundation be laid when building a winning team. A foundation made of players who a coach can rely on to do what he has been instructed to do, regardless of the adversity standing before him.
Riley Cooper has told us all who he really is, and there is no reason why we should not listen. Cooper’s actions deviated from what his brothers on the team have been prepared and taught to do, this should leave little doubt to who the receiver is and will be when needed the most.
Cooper’s release is not just necessary, but should be a foregone conclusion if this team is to ever build a true championship contender.