This past decade of Philly sports was full of ups and downs, as is the standard for this town. On the plus side, the thing that we all waited so long for finally happened. Halle-fuckin-lujah.
The Super Bowl win alone made the 2010’s a successful decade, but the rest of the it was somewhat uninspiring. We had a few other cool moments, but they were almost always followed by heartbreak, which is business as usual for Philadelphia pro sports fans. Villanova obviously had a fantastic 3 year span, but they aren’t THE college basketball team of Philadelphia.
As I always prefer to do, we take the bad news first. Let’s get that out of the way. Let’s start 2020 with some self-torture.
The Juggernaut 2011 Phillies loss to the Cardinals in the Division Series/ Howard Achilles injury
The lack of postseason success of the 2011 Phillies was arguably the greatest disappointment of the 2010’s. After winning the World Series in 2008, the Fightin’ Phils added more star players to an already great team (Cliff Lee in 2009, Roy Halladay in 2010, Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez and a mid-season aquisition of Hunter Pence. The “phour aces” rotation put up historic numbers and the team was on cruise control since Opening Day. By season’s end, the club easily won the NL East for the fifth straight year and matched up against a Cardinals team that made the playoffs thanks to a late surge and a meltdown by the Atlanta Braves, who the Phillies actually eliminated.
The Phils got the lumber out in support of Halladay in Game 1, winning easily. Game 2 appeared to be the same story, as the Phillies took an early lead in support of Cliff Lee. After falling behind, St. Louis pulled star pitcher Chris Carpenter only to have the bullpen stifle the Phillies for the rest of the game, allowing their offense to wake up and take Game 2.
The series then moved to St. Louis tied 1-1. The two teams split in St. Louis, setting up a deciding game 5 featuring Halladay and Carpenter. Both aces were phenomenal, but Carpenter was just a touch better, throwing a complete game shutout for the 1-0 win. The Phillies amassed just three hits and to add insult AND injury, Ryan Howard tore his Achilles on a routine ground ball to short which ended up being the final out of the season.
Howard was a shell of himself post-injury and the Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since. 2011 was also the last year in which the Wild Card team didn’t have to first survive a one-game playoff, which would have given the Phillies a huge advantage. They likely would have only seen Carpenter once had the series taken place in 2012. Everything about this sucks, I’ll leave it at that.
Chip Kelly the GM
After a long tenure with the Eagles, Andy Reid was fired in early 2013 after leading the “dream team” Birds to a 4-12 record. After leading Oregon to the National Championship Game, Chip Kelly was the hottest commodity on the coaching market. Everyone wanted to bring Kelly and his innovative offensive mind to the NFL, and the Eagles-who had both Michael Vick and Nick Foles on their roster-successfully courted Kelly. After a slow start and another injury to Vick, Foles came in and the Birds took flight, finishing 10-6, and winning the NFC East. Foles touchdown to interception ratio was 27:2! The Eagles lost to New Orleans in the Wild Card round, but the future looked bright.
In 2014, Foles broke his collarbone after a 6-2 start. Mark Sanchez player the remainder of the year and went 4-4, but missed the playoffs. The consensus was that the Eagles still had a nice core group to go into the future, including Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, among others.
Chip Kelly had other plans.
In the offseason following the 2014 season, McCoy was traded to Buffalo for LB Kiko Alonso, Maclin was allowed to walk in free agency and Foles was traded to the Rams for Sam Bradford. Kelly’s original hope was to move up in the draft and pick his former Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, but he ultimately had to settle on Bradford after not being able to do a deal with Tennessee.
In order to fill the void left by McCoy, Kelly signed then Cowboys running-back Demarco Murray and brought in Ryan Matthews. The idea was that Murray would make the Eagles backfield one of the most complete of all time; with Murray running downhill, Matthews out of shotgun and Sproles doing Sproles things. It seemed amazing on paper, but things never got going as Kelly confusingly deployed Murray out of the shotgun. Also, who could forget the notorious Desean Jackson release over alleged “gang ties”? Love or hate Jackson giving up such a dynamic player for nothing on a flimsy basis highlights Kelly’s ineptitude.
The end result of Kelly’s wheeling and dealing was an inconsistent team with inconsistent quarterback play and a defense that quickly burned out thanks to Kelly’s “blur offense”, causing them to spend absurd amounts of time on the field. It just seemed as though Kelly took something that wasn’t broken and tried to fix it, which gave fans 0 patience when the team started flailing. Few questioned Kelly’s knowledge of offense, but many criticized him as out of touch with his players. Kelly was fired at the end of the 2015 season and it seemed at the time that there would be a long rebuild ahead, which fortunately was not the case.
Trusting the Process
While the goals of “the process” are finally being realized, the process itself was painful to watch. So painful that I didn’t watch. While we knew there would be better days ahead (when you’re at rock bottom it can’t get worse), the result was historically bad basketball. Simmons and Embiid have largely panned out, but the Sixers have been careless with several assets. Jahlil Okafor wasn’t a great pick while Markelle Fultz and the assets spent to get him constitute one of, if not the worst trades of the decade. .
Prevailing wisdom in the NBA (thanks to Hinkie) has become that you’re better off tanking to get high draft picks. However, while the Sixers and their fans suffered through the process, teams like the Rockets, Raptors, Celtics, and Warriors built championship contenders without tanking, at least to the same extent as the Sixers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ousting of The Godfather of The Process, Sam Hinkie, in favor of Brian Colangelo (who moved up to draft Fultz and traded away Nerlens Noel for a bag of potato chips). The NBA definitely did NOT intervene here, wink wink.
While the future looks bright (keyword: looks), there are still questions. I consider The Process to be a success, but it will only be worth all the suffering if the Sixers hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Patrick Kane’s OT Winner
The 2010’s was a mixed bag for the Broad Street Bullies. There were some very memorable moments for the Flyers, but heartbreak always followed. The 2010 Flyers playoff run was remarkable. On the final day of the regular season, the Flyers played a de-facto play-in game against the Rangers and ultimately won in a shootout.
The Flyers then took down the second seed New Jersey Devils in 5 games to start the playoffs. In round 2, the Flyers fell down 3-0 to the Boston Bruins. An overtime win in game 4 sparked a miraculous comeback in which the Flyers would become the third team in NHL history to win a series after falling behind 3-0. The Flyers then made quick work of the Montreal Canadiens in the East Final, setting up a match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks. The respective home team emerged victorious in each of the first 5 games of the series.
A win for the Flyers in Game 6 would extend the series back to Chicago for a deciding game 7. It was only fitting that this game 6 would require overtime to decide a winner. In the opening moments of overtime, Claude Giroux had a great opportunity to send the series back to Chicago, but could not beat the goalie. Just minutes later, Patrick Kane did his thing, and snuck a seeing-eye puck past Michael Leighton. The announcers, as well as most of the Flyers, were not aware that the puck had gone in the net. Our worst fears were confirmed by replay.
The Flyers have not been able to make it past the second round of the playoffs since.
Time will tell with the Sixers, but the 2018-19 squad could just be the most complete team the Sixers will have during this run. The bench could have been better, but a starting five with four max players seemed tough to beat, and when they were clicking, they were.
After some hiccups in the first round, the Sixers ultimately took care of business and squared off against the Kawhi led Raptors. The Sixers had a solid match-up with Toronto in terms of size and the series turned out to be the hard fought contest it projected to be. However, a sloppy Game 6 performance from the Sixers and a fatigued Embiid forced a Game 7 and…. you know the rest. Kawhi ultimately buried a last second buzzer beater to send the Sixers packing. Toronto would ultimately go on to steamroll Milwaukee then clinch the NBA title over Golden State.
Jimmy Butler has since moved on to Miami (turns out a boat isn’t enough) and the 2019-20 Sixers are currently lacking in shot creation ability. Butler and Simmons may ultimately not have meshed long term but simply knowing that we had Butler, Tobias, Simmons and Embiid together for a run will always sting. It’s not a guarantee that the Sixers would have beaten the Bucks, but I honestly think they would have. It’s another solid match-up that the Sixers unfortunately won’t have much time left to exploit.
With KD set to return for the upcoming Nets next season and the continued growth of Giannis, it’s entirely possible that the easiest road to a Sixers title may have already passed. Again, there’s still time, but the Sixers going down the way they did considering all of this is a tough pill to swallow.
Matt Rhule jumps ship
Temple football underwent an impressive resurgence under Matt Rhule, who took over in 2013. After spending a couple seasons shaping his program, Rhule’s Owls turned in a very impressive 2015 in which the team ultimately finished 10-2 in the regular season. The season’s highlight featured a College Gameday, prime-time shootout against then 9th ranked Notre Dame. Temple would ultimately lose the game but it was a monumental moment for the school’s football program that left many with hope for the future.
Temple lost in the 2015 American Conference Championship Game but went 9-3 in 2016, which was enough to secure a trip back. This time Rhule’s squad emerged victorious over 20th ranked Navy, marking Temple’s first conference championship since 1967.
The future seemed bright and Rhule had given indications he would stay only to jump ship for Baylor, a program in utter disarray. In his third year with Baylor, Rhule just recently lost in the Sugar Bowl to 5th ranked UGA after leading his side to an 11-2 record and a final ranking of 7th. He is currently rumored to be a favorite for both the Giants and Panthers coaching vacancies.
As for Temple, they’ve endured a coaching carousel since Rhule’s departure and while still in a better place than 2015, have been unable to quite reach those heights. The jury is still out on what Rhule can do long term, considering he hasn’t stayed anywhere long enough to be able to tell. That said, we’ll be left wondering what Temple’s program could have been had Rhule stayed put.
Carson Wentz tears ACL, gets robbed of MVP
The only thing that made the 2017 Eagles run tragic was the ACL injury to Carson Wentz. Carson was running away with MVP and had led the Eagles to a first round bye before tearing his ACL against the Rams. While still managing to throw a touchdown with a shredded knee, Carson’s season ultimately came to an end and the rest is history.
To literally add insult to injury, Wentz didn’t win MVP that season despite throwing for 33 touchdowns in 13 games. Brady only finished with 32 while starting 13 games. Because of this snub, we now have to endure the Wentz hate brigade now until he either wins a Super Bowl or MVP. It’s like his remarkable 2017 never happened in the eyes of many and that’s a damn shame.