Examining the East: Three teams going to the playoffs

On Saturday I eliminated four teams from the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race. Today, I find three playoff teams and eliminate one more squad.

Playoff team No. 1: Flyers – This choice is not about hometown favoritism, it’s all about numbers.

The Flyers are by far the most talented of the eight teams vying for the final three playoff spots. They are the only team that has a positive goal differential with a plus-11. No one else is even close. The team is about to engage on a critical stretch as it heads west for three games followed by a home-and-home series with New Jersey. The team appear completely over a horrible December stretch that dropped it to the second-to-last place in the East. Ray Emery, while not lighting it up, has been consistent since his return from injury and Jeff Carter has regained his scoring touch.

There is simply too much talent for this team not to be in the playoffs.

Playoff team No. 2: Boston – Of all the borderline teams no one has a better chance of being carried in by goaltender play than the Bruins. When Tim Thomas gets hot, he gets scorching hot. The only question is if Thomas will even be between the pipes when the season ends. While Thomas has played well (2.50 goals against, 34 games), little known Tuukka Rask has been even better (2,13 goals against, 23 games). Either way the Bruins are solid on the backline, keeping them in contention despite an offense that has scored just 11 goals during a seven-game losing streak.

The Bruins are the coldest of the teams fighting for a playoff spot, but like the Flyers did, I think they will bounce out of it in time to play in the postseason.

Playoff team No. 3: Atlanta – Unlike the Bruins, the Thrashers will be going to the playoffs on the strength of its offense. Atlanta averages 2.98 goals per game, which leads all of the borderline playoff teams and is 6th in the NHL. The problem with Atlanta has been its defense, which is 26th in the NHL.

A key stretch will be a five-game home stand starting on March 12th. While Atlanta has played well at home (12-9-4), this will not be easy time. The Thrashers will face the Rangers, Flames, Senators, Sabres and Flyers.

It won’t be easy and it may come down to the last day of the season, but Atlanta should sneak into the playoffs, grabbing the eighth seed in the East.

Elimination No. 5: New York Rangers – The next two weeks will go a long way in determining if the Rangers will be competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup and that’s not a good thing for New York. The team is currently playing at its worst, losers of five straight and eight out of 10. Up next on the schedule is Colorado, Los Angeles, Washington, New Jersey, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Unless they turn their play around the Rangers will spend the final two months of the season playing catch-up.

One of the best things going for the team right now is its penalty kill, which is the fifth best in the NHL. Much of that has to do with the play of Henrik Lundqvist, who has kept New York afloat with a 2.40 gga.

In the end, not even Ludqvist will keep this inconsistent squad from making the playoffs.

So there you have it - a jumbled Eastern Conference playoff race made simple.

Did I get it right? Time will tell.

In the meantime, who do you think will grab the last three spots?



Examining the East: Four teams that won’t make the playoffs

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Eight teams, three spots.
On Thursday I spoke of the jumbled mess that is the bottom half of the Eastern Conference standings. As it stands now there are only two teams that look out of the playoff chase: Toronto (45 points) and Carolina (43) points. There are also five teams that seem to be a lock to make the postseason baring a major New York Mets-style collapse: Washington (78 points), New Jersey (72 points), Buffalo (71 points), Pittsburgh (67 points) and Ottawa (64 points).
What is left is eight teams separated by just two points, fighting for the final three playoff spots. There is still between 27 and 29 games to be played for these teams so things will certainly shake themselves out over the next few weeks. In part one of a tw- part series, I will examine the four teams least likely to contend for the final three playoff spots in the East.

Note: This is being published before Saturday’s games have been concluded.

Elimination No. 1 – New York Islanders: Is it hard to call a division opponent a “feel-good” story? The Islanders have been bottom dwellers for the better part of a decade but are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Once a given win on the Flyers schedule the Islanders have proven tough to beat this season and are currently 23-23-8. At time of publication the team was trailing the Flyers 2-1 in a game that could help our hurt their place in the standings.

Because they have struggled for so long, I want to root for this team to sneak in a grab a playoff spot but the evidence isn’t there. They still lack consistent scoring and their April schedule is brutal.

They close the season with just one easy game (Carolina) in their last six and their final three gamess come against Pittsburgh (twice) and New Jersey.

Elimination No. 2 – Montreal: The Canadians have the most games played (55) of all of the contenders, giving them less games to gain points down the stretch, but that isn’t why they will be on the outside.

The offense for the Habs, just isn’t consistent enough. They have the 28th ranked offense in the NHL. They have scored three-or-more goals just three times over their past 12 games. The team does have a chance if they stay in contention until the final week, as Montreal closes with the Islanders, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs.

I just think it will be too late by then.

Elimination No. 3 – Florida: By eliminating the Panthers I am going against the old adage great goaltending can take a team far into the playoffs. In this case, I don’t think the stellar play of Thomas Volkan can even get the team into the postseason. Volken has done an amazing job keeping his team in the race, posting a 2.37 goals-against average.

The problem with this team is that it has not shown an ability to get hot for long stretches. The Panthers have not had a winning streak longer than three games this year, while they have lost four straight twice, and five straight another. The teams that sneak in the playoffs will be the ones that catch fire down the stretch. I don’t see that ability in the Panthers.

Elimination No. 4 – Tampa Bay: Quite honestly I don’t understand how the team has stayed in it to this point. They have by far the worst goals for/goals against total among the playoff competitors with a -23. The second worst is the Rangers with a -12. By contrast the Flyers are a +10 in that department. Even more remarkable is that only three players on the Tampa Bay roster have a plus rating. Even Martin St. Louis, who has a team-high 57 points, is a -4.

Those stats will catch up with this team sooner, than later.

That leaves us with the Flyers, Rangers, Bruins and Thrashers as the final teams fighting for the three open playoff spots.

On Sunday I will examine which three will be have the best shot of punching their ticket to the postseason.



Tom Brookshier dies

The Philadelphia Eagles lost one of their own Friday night when Tom Brookshier passed away. A defensive back for the Eagles for seven seasons, and later a CBS broadcaster, Brookshier was 78.

The following is a release from espn.com.

 

PHILADELPHIA — Former Philadelphia Eagles star Tom Brookshier has died at 78.

The Eagles said he had cancer and died Friday night.

Brookshier was an All-Pro defensive back who played on the Eagles’ 1960 championship team. He had 20 interceptions in seven seasons with the team, earning All-Pro honors in 1959 and 1960.

After he retired, Brookshier announced NFL games for CBS. He teamed with Pat Summerall to form CBS’ top telecast team.

He is one of seven Eagles to have his number retired.

“Tom Brookshier is one of all-time greats, both for what he did on the field and for the kind of man he was off the field,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid said in a team statement. “I will always remember him for his booming and bright personality. He had an uncanny love for life, a love for his family and a love for the game of football, especially for the Philadelphia Eagles. He bled green and I will always cherish our conversations and the relationship that we fostered throughout my tenure in Philadelphia.”



Flyers part of jumbled Eastern Conference

The Flyers have no one else to blame but themselves. Picked as preseason favorites to contend for the Stanley Cup, the Flyers will first have to spend the final half of their season simply chasing a playoff spot.
Any spot.
The Flyers blew a 3-1 third-period lead Thursday night, falling to the Thrashers, 4-3, and dropping to 7th in the Eastern Conference Standings.
Philadelphia is currently 12 points out of fourth place in the East meaning any realistic chance of the team securing home ice advantage for even the first round is highly unlikely. Their place in the standings also indicates that they will be in a dogfight with no less than eight teams for the final three playoff spots in the East.
Bellow are the ridiculously-tight standings.

6: Ottowa – 56 points

7: Philadelphia – 55 points

7: Florida – 55 points

7: NY Rangers – 55 points

7: Montreal – 55 points

11: Boston – 54 points

11: Tampa – 54 points

11 – NY Islanders – 54 points

With so many teams fighting for so few spots, it’s anybody’s game right now. In a two-part series starting on Saturday, Phillysportsblogs will attempt to handicap these eight teams.

Will the Flyers be in or out?

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Steve Coates gets ‘punked’

Anyone who watches Flyers games knows the personality of announcer Steve Coates. He has been with the Flyers since 1982 and has done Coatsey’s Corner since 1999. He is a man with great hockey knowledge, and a big sense of humor.

Thursday night, the joke was on him.

A couple weeks ago Coates (who does commentary down on the ice) suffered a minor injury when a stick came up and clipped him on the forehead. There was a little blood shed, but Coates, as all hockey men should do, stayed in and finished the game.

Tonight, when Coates appeared during the first period of the Flyers game against the Thrashers, he was looking a little different. He was wearing a helmet

Coates was clearly not happy about it but said he had been told that the NHL had new rules for ice level reporters to keep them from any injuries. He said the helmet was too big, too hot, and kept him from seeing things properly. Jim Jackson and Keith Jones played their roles perfectly, picking on him every chance he got.

Just before the start of the second period it was revealed to Coates that he had been “punked” and it was all a big joke.

The announcers, including Coates had a good laugh as the joke had been perfectly executed.

Unfortunately the fun stopped there.

The Flyers blew a 3-1 third-period lead, falling to the Thrashers, 4-3, and dropping to 7th in the Eastern Conference Standings.



Yankees Call Boras’ Bluff

Shortly after the World Series, Scott Boras – the agent who represents free-agent Johnny Damon, told the Yankees that his client should be given the same treatment dollars-wise that they would do for Derek Jeter because it was Damon who made Jeter so great the past few years.   Sure, Scott.  Tell me more.

Boras told Yankees GM Brian Cashman that he didn’t see his client signing for less than $13 million per year.  Cashman’s response after continuing to negotiate, was simply that the Yankees were budgeted for $200 million this year and couldn’t afford Damon.  That came out on Tuesday and by Wednesday the Yankees signed former Giant Randy Winn for one year at about $2 million.  Your move, Scotty boy.  

It does make you wonder when some of these guys are going to get it.  For the second straight year Boras severly misjudged the Free Agent market and to tell you the truth it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  The problem is someone else, in this case Damon, will pay the price.   Some reports indicated that the Yankees had offered Damon a two-year deal worth $14 million, but Damon wanted at least $10 million per year.  I understand that an athlete has to get what he can while he can still play, and I understand Boras’ job is to get the best contract he can for his player, but with today’s economy nobody is going to cry for Johnny Damon.   Now if he’s lucky Damon might get a one year deal for about $2 with some incentives and maybe a mutual option for 2011.

Where could Damon land? That’s anyone’s guess.  If he goes to an NL team, like the Braves or Reds then he has to play LF and his range has diminished and he never could really throw all that well.  There is rumored interest in the AL with the likes of Toronto, Detroit and Tampa Bay where he could DH.   At this point only time will tell but one thing is for sure – he won’t be a Yankee.



Time to upgrade late night sports talk

In his three seasons with the Eagles Garry “G” Cobb made his presence felt on the Eagles defensive line. Teamed with Reggie White, Seth Joyner and Jerome Brown, Cobb was a productive player on the field.

I wish I could say the same about his radio career.

As a member of 610 WIP, Cobb brings his insights to the late night listeners. Cobb doesn’t lack in experience - he was a CBS sports anchor for eight years, runs his own web site gcobb.com and is a columnist for the Philadelphia Bulleton.

What he lacks is range.

When it comes to talking about the Eagles, few on the station do it better than Cobb. As a former player he knows the ins and outs of the game and provides quality insight.

When it comes to the Flyers, he gives you nothing.

The Sixers? A little.

The Phillies? Well, he does his best.

On Wednesday night Cobb made a big error though. Every disk jockey will make a mistake here and there, mixing up a fact or two, and that’s to be expected. No one is perfect.

However Cobb’s error showed a clear lack of knowledge about a sport he is paid to talk about.

While talking about what the Phillies need to do to win the World Series next year, Cobb turned the focus to Cole Hamels and eventually Brad Lidge. The point being made was a good one. Cobb said that the their ability to return to their 2008 form would be critical for Phillies success.

That point is right on target. This was not.

Cobb went on to say that had Lidge not blown those 10 saves the Phillies could have had home-field advantage in the World Series. I waited for the retraction. And then I waited some more. It never came.

This tells me that Cobb truly believes that the team with the better record gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Any true baseball fans knows that home field in the World Series goes to the team form the league that wins the All-Star game. It has been that way for years.

That Cobb doesn’t know that after being a sports anchor for eight years astonishes me. I don’t ask for perfection, I just ask for common sports knowledge.

Is that too much to ask for these days?

 



Rival fan base lashing out at ownership

While the Phillies have locked up their key pieces and brought in the best pitcher in baseball the New York Mets have done little to suggest they will compete this season. The team did acquire Jason Bay and is expecting a healthy return from the likes of Jose Reyes and Johan Santana, but that has done little to ease the nerves of the team’s fan base. The team is short on quality starters, and experience at first base and catcher. Meanwhile Luis Castio is still the starting second baseman.

In the last week fans have seen Ben Sheets, John Garland, Joel Pinero, and Bengie Molina signed away by other teams and now there is little, to nothing left on the market.

Here is a small sample of how Mets fans feel about their organization right now.

“In the final analysis, what the front office has done was cut the budget significantly while saying publicly they will spend what it takes….to just get by. Getting Bay was good, but they have done nothing else but pick up some cheap risk and retreads. Meanwhile our division rivals got stronger. There is no commitment to winning on the part of this ownership. It’s all a ruse.”

“the nats are strasburg and harper away from kicking the mets butt.”

“Why should I pay to see this team play”

“This current ownership and FO would screw up a 1 car funeral. Until they leave and professional management is brought in it will NEVER improve.”

About the ownership: “I wouldn’t trust those idiots to bag a McDonalds order right.”

On the Mets options this season: “1) trade the prospects for the best pitcher they can get
2) throw away this season and play with what they have.”

On the Nats signing Orlando Hudson instead of the Mets: “Awesome!!! You have a player that has wanted to be a Met for the past 2 years now and the Nats make the moves to get him! Yeah.. this team don’t deserve a player like that! The Mets will take the place of the Nats in dead last in the NL East! Way to go Mets! You can thank Omar for his brilliant move on Castillo as to why Hudson is not a Met.”

Season outlook: “This team will be lucky to win 75 games….But you should buy tickets because it is a new Stadium, there will be dedications to some former Mets, Omar/Fred spent 140 Mil, If you don’t go then you are not a “real fan” and the sadistic fans could watch Santana struggle to win 10 games because his team is soooooooo bad!”

It looks like not everyone is excited about Spring Training.



McNabb To Wear Eagles Uniform Again

Once Garrett Hartley’s kick sailed through the uprights on Sunday, sending the Saints to their first ever Super Bowl, Donovan McNabb’s career as an Eagle got extended for at least one more game.

Since the Pro Bowl is being played before the Super Bowl – historically it has always been played after the NFL’s biggest game – players participating in the Super Bowl, namely Saints QB Drew Brees, won’t be suiting up this weekend.  McNabb was named to replace Brees on Monday.  So McNabb gets to join DeSean Jackson and Leonard Weaver on the NFC’s Offense for at least one more game.  Whether Sunday is the last time we’ll see McNabb with an Ealges helmet on again remains to be seen.  We certainly haven’t been for a loss of opinions on the subject, that’s for sure.

As bad as McNabb played against the Cowboys, was it really that much better for Vikings fans to watch their team self destruct in just two plays, getting called for a twelve man in the huddle penalty before Favre’s fateful interception that allowed the NFC Championship Game to go to overtime while Ryan Longwell prepared for what could’ve been the game winning kick? Eagles fans certainly know alot about NFC Championship Game failure, but you have to admit Favre’s last two trips to the game have been just awful, throwing late interceptions that led to his team being eliminated.  Go back to the 2003 divisional playoffs against the Eagles at Lambeau Field and its his last three playoff games.   I really don’t know what’s worse – getting there and watching your Quarterback play stupid, or watching your Quarterback pretty much not show up and lose in the first round. 

Here’s what I do know: McNabb is playing in the Pro Bowl this weekend and it could be the last time he represents the Eagles until the day they sign him to a one day contract so he can retire as a Philadelphia Eagle.



Three becoming the number for the Phillies

For the third time in a week the Phillies locked up one of their starters with a three year deal.

It is being reported that Carlos Ruiz and the team have agreed to an $8.85 million, three-year contract that avoids salary arbitration.

Ruiz joins Joe Balnton and Shane Victorino as members who have joined the three-year club last last few days.

Three has indeed been a magical number for the organization. When the team acquired ace Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays, they singed him to an extension that guaranteed to keep him in town for the next three years. The team then worked quickly to lock up Balnton, Victorino and Ruiz for what they hope will be three more years of success, including this year where they look to make their third trip to the World Series in — you guessed it — three years.

This is great news for Phillies fans as almost all of the starters will be in place until at least 2011 and most until 2012. Given the age of the core there is no reason to expect decline from the majority of the players and improvements are still possible. The one player who has yet to be locked up is Jayson Werth, who could taste the free agent market after the upcoming season. With the payroll already set to pass $140 million and not much coming off the books next season outside of Jamie Moyer’s $7 million it may be difficult to keep Werth, who appears on the verge of stardom.

Baseball is a business and it is impossible to keep all of the pieces together, but Ruben Amaro Jr. has done an excellent job of keeping the large majority of things the same.

Now all that is left is making sure the level of play remains the same.

The signing of Ruiz basically closes the book on the Phillies’ offseason. Last week the team added veteran — and I mean veteran — pitcher Jose Contreras, so the bullpen is pretty much set. I wouldn’t mind seeing another starter added to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, but with the Phils maxed out on funds, anyone they bring in would be a long-shot at best.

With that said it would be hard to grade this offseason anything lower than a B+ with the only flaw being the decision not to roll the dice on keeping Cliff Lee for one more season and giving the team the best rotation in the game.



Coach and reporter refuse to play nice

Scott Hartnell was not the only one delivering blows on Thursday night.
Following the Flyers’ 2-0 win over the Rangers, New York coach John Tortorella

got into it with New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks. As you can see Tortorella was the clear winner of this exchange.

My favorite part of the series comes at the 40 second mark when Tortorell tells Brooks that he probably got beat up at the bus stop a lot. At this point a fellow reporter laughs in the background and Brooks looks back to see who would dare laugh at that thought. Check it out, it’s gold.

  

 

 

I don’t know a lot about Tortorell and I know even less about Brooks. What I do know is that while there should be no place in profession sports for stuff like this, it does make for good entertainment.

Watching this spar between coach and reporter makes me think back to a couple of years ago when 610 radio jockey Howard Eskin got into it with Charlie Manuel. Eskin got into it with the Phils skipper about not showing enough fire in front of his players, to which Manuel responding by saying he could show Eskin that fire in a fight.

Needless to day, the encounters always happen when a team is on hard times. You don’t see coaches and reporters go at it when a team is on a nice winning streak. These are acts of frustration. The coaches aren’t happy and the media isn’t happy.

However, when it comes at the expense of the Rangers, we Philadelphia fans couldn’t be happier.



Owner takes bowling way too far

I have always appreciated rivalries, whether it be in sports or business. Rivalries can be healthy, forcing each competitor to work his butt off to ensure that his counterpart does not gain an upper-hand.
So when I first hear about a local bowling ally owner being investigated for a deed done to a competing bowling ally I had a little chuckle.
Did he let a couple of rats loose in his competitors ally?
Did he fill the finger holes of the bowling balls up with cement?

Maybe he even glued down a few of the pins to drive the bowlers there nuts?

Hey it’s all in the name of good practical joking right?

Not with this whack job.

Steven Henry Smink, the operator of Pike Lanes Family Fun Center in Deerfield, was arrested Tuesday for the conspiracy to burn down Loyle Lanes, destroying Vineland’s only bowling alley. Felix Antonio Manzano (21) and a 17-year-old boy in connection with the Jan. 11 blaze were also arrested.

Talk about sick. What could have possibly gone through Smink’s mind? If he was losing customers to a rival ally, he could have thought about lowering prices, making special deals or updating his equipment. Instead he hired a couple young men to do the unthinkable.

I hope Smink gets the book thrown at him. And while he is in jail he should be banned from any type of activities. He took bowling away from Vineland residents, the system should all recreation away from him.

How did we get to this point? When I think of amateur bowling, I think about Bob Saget making bad impressions while showing clips like this on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

 

 

 

 



Down goes Avery

If you were able to watch Thursday night’s hockey game between the Flyers and Rangers, you saw a one of the best moments of the season.
Ray Emery was great, stopping 24 pucks to record a shutout in his fourth game back from injury – but I’m not talking about him.
James Van Riemsdyke continued his stellar rookie season, scoring his 12th goal to give the Flyers a 1-0 first period lead – but I’m not talking about him.
Mike Richards, who is regaining his scoring touch, scored on a power play with just two seconds left in the second period to give the Flyers some breathing room – but once again I am not talking about him.

I’m talking about Scott Hartnell and the whipping he laid on Rangers’ punk Sean Avery.

Few things in life can bring as much joy as watching a guy who runs his mouth and acts tough get what’s coming to him. Maybe your wedding day? Maybe the birth of your first child?

I’m not sure. What I do know is that I could watch this clip all day long.

 



McNabb on future: ‘Given the opportunity’

I guess Donovan McNabb has had his ears plugged into 610 or 97.5 also.
On Monday McNabb released an update on his uncertain future on his blog saying that “Given the opportunity, I’d like to finish the job.”
Words like ‘given the opportunity’ won’t exactly quell the debate who should be the Eagles quarterback moving forward.
The fact that McNabb released a statement like that should not be a surprise. McNabb loves running his mouth, whether it be to the national media or on his own web site. There’s nothing wrong with that and he will almost certainly join the media ranks when he retires — given his Communications degree from Syracuse.
For anyone who hasn’t followed news on the Eagles’ quarterback lately, McNabb is assured a spot on the Pro Bowl due to the fact that either Brett Favre or Drew Brees will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and thus will be unable to make a Pro Bowl appearance.
By the way, what a stupid move by the NFL. The Pro Bowl was already the most meaningless All-star game among the major sports and the league only made its credibility worse by ensuring that the two best teams will not have representatives in the game.
Way to go Roger!!!!
As for McNabb, if this is his final few months in Philadelphia, he’s sure to make it an entertaining stretch. He or his fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

To read the entire blog visit: donovanmcnabb.yardbarker.com/blog/DonovanMcNabb/Unfinished_Business/1946496



At QB In NFL The Unkown Not Always Bad

As we watch the Vikings, Saints, Jets and Colts play for the right to go to the Super Bowl this weekend we get to ponder what might’ve been and what certainly could be.  Its something Eagles fans have all become accustomed to in the Andy Reid era.  Good, but not good enough.  Even the year we did get over the hump, Terrell Owens feelings got hurt because his quarterback gave a public vote of confidence in his helthy wide receiver corps rather than pine away for the media because his numbe,r one target was hurt.    Now, many of us feel the time to break the cord is at hand and since Andy Reid was handed a three year contract extension the logical thing to do if you want to make a change is to trade McNabb.   Agree or disagree with management’s decision to extend Reid even though his contract had another season left, they obviously feel comfortable with the franchises winningest head coach to be the guy to lead them into the next decade even though there are now three head coaches (Gruden, Cowher and Dungy) with Super Bowl rings all looking for the right opportunity to return to coaching somewhere.

Is the Eagles failure to win a championship all Donovan’s fault? Absolutely not.   He wasn’t the one who didn’t get to Jake Delhomme back in 2003, allowing Jake to throw touchdown passes, and he’s not the guy who fell down on one of them.  He wasn’t on the field in 2002 when Joe Jurevicious rambled down the sideline, and he certainly wasn’t responsible for stopping Marshall Faulk in St.Louis back in 2001.   McNabb has come up short in some big games, but he has still gotten the team to that point.   He had an awful game against the Cowboys, but I lay alot on Reid for not having his team ready to play.   However, if McNabb is traded and Kevin Kolb is granted the starting job – fear not as the Eagles are still a playoff calibur team.  Here are a few other “unknown’s” for lack of a better word who took over and for the most part did a credible job. 

Randall Cunningham – Dubbed “Third And Long” during his first couple seasons as an Eagle, Randall replaced longtime starter Ron Jaworski during the 1986 season, Buddy Ryan’s first as an Eagle.  Jaworski had been the Eagles starter since 1977 and had gotten them to four consecutive playoff appearances and one Super Bowl in 1980 and was the NFL Player Of The Year that season.  “Jaws” was the last starter from the glory days of Dick Vermeil and was showing signs of age despite being the NFL Comeback Player of The Year in 1985 after returning from a broken leg in 1984.   The difference here was that the Eagles were going young and it was time for Cunningham to take over even though looking back maybe Jaworski should’ve been the starter for the remainder of 1986 and even 1987 since Ryan had no interest in the offense or coaching his new Quarterback and perhaps leaving a veteran like Jaworski at the helm would’ve given the Eagles more success.   Cunningham won one playoff game as an Eagle, and it was two years after Ryan was gone.

Steve Young – Drafted by the Buccaneers after a stint in the USFL, Young made his way to San Francisco during their late 1980′s Championship runs backing up the legend, Joe Montana.  After Montana was injured during the 1991 season and unable to go in 1992, Young took over and took the 49ers all the way to the NFC Championship Game.  They lost at home to the eventual champion Cowboys, but Young won a Super Bowl two years later by soundly defeating the San Diego Chargers.

Roger Staubach – When the popular “Dandy” Don Meredith hung up his star after playing with the Cowboys during the 1960′s, the Cowboys were left with two quarterback options: Craig Morton and this Naval Academy Graduate named Roger Staubach, who had won the Heisman Trophy in college.  The Cowboys had drafted Stauback in 1964, but he was unable to join the team until 1969 due to his military committment.  Staubach resigned his commission just in time to join training camp, but Morton was named the starter and continued to start until the beginning of the 1971 season.  Morton had even started the Super Bowl following the 1970 season, a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts.   Staubach assumed the starting job after the Cowboys started the year 4-3 and didn’t lose a game in 10 starts, including a 24-3 win over the Dolphins in the Super Bowl.  Staubach was injured for a good part of the following season, but relieved Morton in the playoffs against the 49ers and brought the Cowboys from behind to win 30-28 and never lost the job again until he retired following the 1979 season.  Staubach would win one more Super Bowl – against the Denver Broncos who were led by his old teammate Craig Morton.

Tom Brady – I don’t think anyone expected this turn of events.  Drew Bledsoe had led the Patriots to the Super Bowl back in 1996 against the Packers and had been the Patriots starter since being drafted in 1993.   Prior to the 2001 season, the Patriots gave Bledsoe a ten-year contract, but Bledsoe would get hurt against the Jets in week two and Brady, a 6th round pick in 2000, was given the job and has been the starter ever since.  Bledsoe relieved Brady and led them to a 24-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and a trip to the Super Bowl, which Brady and the Patriots won, upsetting the favored Rams.  Brady has won two more Super Bowls following the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and quarterbacked the team to the first ever 16-0 season in 2007 despite losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. 

Ben Roethlisberger – He didn’t replace any long-time starter, but Big Ben as he is known in Pittsburgh, did replace a quarterback who did have the Steelers in the playoffs two seasons previously.  Tommy Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart during the 2002 season and led the Steelers to a 10-5-1 record and a playoff berth.  Maddox and the Steelers overcame a 17 point deficit to the Browns in the playoffs, winning 36-33 before falling to the Titans 34-31.  Maddox was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, but after a 6-10 2003 season the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger.   Like Bledsoe, Maddox was injured during a week 2 game and “Big Ben” became the starter and rolled off 14 straight wins and a berth in the AFC Championship Game, losing to the eventual champion Patriots.   Roethlisberger started the 2005 season injured, but came back and rallied the Steelers into the playoffs and a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks.  The Steelers won another Super Bowl following the 2008 season over the Arizona Cardinals.

So there you have it – five cases of teams making the move to an unproven starting quarterback and in four cases that new starter won a Super Bowl, three of them winning multiple Super Bowls.  I’m sure there are other examples – I left off Dan Fouts (he replaced Johnny Unitas in San Diego) and Dan Marino (replaced David Woodley the seaon after the Dolphins lost the Super Bowl to the Redskins) mainly because they didn’t replace longtime starters and also didn’t win a Super Bowl.  The Cunningham example is relevant mainly because its the Eagles, and Jaworski was the starter for almost as long as McNabb.

Fear not, Eagles fans.  The move to Kolb might not be as bad as some might think.  One thing is for sure – you don’t know until you pull the trigger.