“I put the Eagles offense as one of my bottom five. Why did I do it? Not that they are one of the worst five units in the NFL. It’s because, ‘It’s going to be one of the fastest units we’ve ever seen. What are you going to do to stop it? . . . It’s going to be unbelievable.’ How is that working out? Is it just the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?”
– Phil Simms, Oct. 24
Much has been made of Phil Simms’ comments, particularly in light of Nick Foles’ mindboggling performances of late. Columns are springing up all over the Internet calling Simms a fool, pointing to seven touchdown performances, no interceptions, and some of the slowest, most ponderous read option runs ever seen in the history of professional football.
But I’m not going to win this round with stats. I’m much more interested in dissecting the nuances of Simms’ argument. One only has to make it to the third sentence of Simms’ October 24 panning of the Eagles before his argument starts to collapse like a flan in a cupboard. His basic point is the Eagles are overhyped. That may very well have been true at the time. Certainly after the season opener, Philadelphia fans could practically taste the Super Bowl.
People were excited, and they began to dream. And the Eagles were, perhaps, a tad overhyped, so I get the underlying premise of Simms’ frustration. But what is fascinating about his comment is that Simms doesn’t come out and say, “These guys are overhyped. They aren’t actually that good.” He goes wayyyy passed that, stating that the Eagles have one of the five worst offenses in the league because they are overhyped. But for said overhyping, the Eagles offense would be middle of the pack, maybe even better than that. Like, statistically better, as though the overhyping means fewer completed passes or makes players forget how to protect the ball when running up the middle or just fall down for no goddamn reason.
Even by sportscaster standards, that’s odd. Perhaps an example will makes things clearer.
I remember the cupcake fad a couple years ago. Cupcakes don’t really get me excited. I would not wait in line for a cupcake. But D.C. fell madly in love with cupcakes. There were cupcakeries sprouting up left and right; there were lines out the door and around the block; there were even television shows about cupcakes, and the wars they fought (or so my sources tell me). I found it perplexing and, on more than one occasion, I would harass people: “What do you see that I don’t see? What do you taste that I don’t taste?”
Where Simms and I differ, apparently, is that I did not instantly drop cupcakes to the bottom of my dessert power rankings (cupcake is seventh, just below tiramisu, and just above Tasty Cakes® (the chocolate ones, obviously)) because people thought they were tastier than I did. When asked about cupcakes my immediate answer was, “Uh, I… like… cupcakes? I guess? I just don’t get all the hubbub. Please don’t stab me.” My reaction was not, “Can’t stand them. I can actually feel the bile rising in my throat as we talk about them. Do I really need a handcrafted pastry with a tiny seahorse painstakingly drawn on the top in blue frosting? Ugh, all I hear all day is how they are revolutionizing desserts and breakfast.” That would be the reaction of an irrational person. After all, it’s not the cupcakes’ fault that people are blowing them way out of proportion. Which brings me to my next point:
Chip Kelly never said his cupcakes would be unstoppable.
Chip Kelly held exactly zero press conferences where he said, “My cupcakes will be the most unbelievable thing you have ever seen. My cupcakes are going to take the NFL by storm.” Moreover, none of Chip Kelly’s cupcakes said they were going to be incredible. The cupcakes said they were committed to Kelly and believed in Kelly. But the cupcakes made no promises.
What Simms is doing is using the age old ‘some-experts-are-saying’ tactic, which is the strawman sportswriters always erect to set up a phony premise for a story or an opinion. It is the sportswriter equivalent of saying ‘the guys studying the Lost Ark of the Covenant told me so.’ Who?
No one? Is it no one? I think it’s no one. I hear you say top men but I think you mean no one. I don’t actually know who Simms is referring to when he references the Eagles setting the league on fire, and I’m willing to bet I read way more about the Eagles then he does. So Phil, if your gripe is that the Eagles aren’t that good, just come out and say it. But don’t conduct this elaborate ruse, don’t create phantom sports analysts who you can’t actually point a finger at in order to arbitrarily pan the Eagles. Come on. It’s tacky and, besides, how often does anyone outside of Philadelphia have anything good to say about our teams anyway? Just let us enjoy watching our cupcakes while we still think they are awesome.