For as long as I’ve been an Eagle fan, I’ve learned to accept that all sports reporters and national media outside of the Philadelphia area are going to stereotype us. Cliche, sadly, is just a fact of life.
I know, for example, that no matter how Eagle fans behave at games or in public, ESPN analysts will always describe us as “dumb, violent hooligans.” They’ll make some joke about the jail at Veteran’s Stadium and someone, inevitably, will say: “Well, come on. You’re talking about the people who threw snowballs at Santa Claus”. Forget that the Black Hole is quite possibly the most dangerous stadium in all of sports, or that the tragic, unspeakable assault that left San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow in a coma happened in L.A., not Philly. Never once will you see a report calling California football fans “dumb, violent hooligans.” That honor, apparently, belongs to us alone.
Another of the stereotypes that seems to persist regardless of accuracy is that the Eagles, on offense, are awful in the red zone. This one has been around for more than a decade. As recently as last season, nearly every sportscaster that called an Eagle game bemoaned our “trouble inside the 20.” This, of course, has now persisted into the offseason, as the dozens of reports linking the Birds to Plaxico Burress have all mentioned, at one point or another, our need for a “big, productive red zone target.” As usual, I disagree.
This time, however, I have facts on my side. According to stat tracking site TeamRankings.com, the 2010 Eagles were not, in fact, terrible inside the 20. We were comfortably average.
Based on scores per red zone appearance, the Eagles ranked 15th out of 32 teams, scoring 52.5% of the time. This average also factors in our week 17 matchup with the Cowboys, where our second- and third-stringers suited up against the Dallas starters and posted a miserable 33.3% red zone scoring average. Sure, 52% leaves room for improvement, but it is nowhere near dire. And it is not, as many analysts and bloggers seem to think, our primary concern heading into this offseason.
Our offensive line, on the other hand, bled like a sieve in the final weeks of the regular season and nearly killed Michael Vick in our playoff loss to the Packers. Our defense, especially our right corner spot, cost us more close games and nearly lost us two or three more than any sort of “red zone troubles” in 2010. Both of these issues, in addition to some question marks at linebacker and injuries on the defensive line, were far and away the major concerns for the Birds heading into this offseason, as the front office’s draft strategy pretty clearly proved.
Any talk about spending millions of dollars on a 6’5″ receiver so we can shore up our “red zone troubles” is ludicrous and completely out of touch with the 2010/11 squad. Between Shady, Vick, Maclin, DJax, Celek and the Weaver/Schmitt combo the 2011 Birds will have more than enough weapons to cross the goal line from 19 yards out. It may have been an issue a year ago, or three years ago, or ten years ago, but as of right now it’s a complete non-issue. Let’s take that five or six million we’d end up spending on Burress and add it to our bid for Nnamdi. Then all the out-of-town critics and reporters could talk about all the “dumb, violent hooligans” who showed up in Indiana polis. For the Superbowl.