The Flyers fired coach Peter Laviolette this week because the team missed the NHL playoffs last season and started this season 0-3. But what was really interesting about the dismissal of Laviolette is that it made the Eagles’ Chip Kelly the longest tenured professional coach in Philadelphia and Kelly had been on the job for just a few months, a total of 233 days, before he became the dean.
That says a lot about the uncertainty of the coaching profession, but it says even more about the demise of the Philadelphia sports scene. These things seem to go in cycles, sort of like seven years of feast and seven years of famine, and right now Philly fans are starving.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Philadelphia sports scene was thriving. The Phillies had the best team in baseball, the Eagles and Flyers were a perennial playoff teams and the 76ers were at least occasional postseason participants.
Then, just like that, it was all gone and this past year none of the Philly teams made the playoffs. And as bad as the recent past has been, the future looks even gloomier. None of the four teams appears to be ready to contend for anything in the next couple of years, if then.
We’ve been through this before, most notably in the early and mid-1980s when all of the Philly franchises were championship contenders – the Phillies went to a couple of World Series and won one, the 76ers won just the second NBA championship in their history, the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup finals and the Eagles under coach Dick Vermeil went to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Dry spells followed, but all of those franchises eventually made to the top, or at least near it. Now they’re all bad again, and that leads to the big question: How long will these droughts last?
Well, that depends on the team, but the worst team of the bunch – the 76ers – could be the one that bounces back first.
The Eagles need a couple of solid drafts, mainly on the defensive side of the ball, but they also need a franchise quarterback. Michael Vick isn’t it – he’s aging and injury and turnover prone – and second-year man Nick Foles hasn’t done anything to make you believe he’ll be playing in the Pro Bowl anytime soon. The Eagles are fortunate that the 2014 draft appears to be one of the deepest ever at the quarterback position, although it would be hard to beat 1983, when six QBs were taken in the first round, including future Hall-of-Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. So, as hard as it may be to hear this, the Eagles need to start losing so they have a shot at somebody like Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Aaron Murray of Georgia, Tajh Boyd of Clemson or — dare we say it? – Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
The Phillies need Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine – and if you don’t know what that is, Google it – to return to the past when their core players were in their prime. They need to add another star player or two and they need to add complementary players, but the 2014 Phillies won’t be much better than the 2013 Phillies unless Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins lead the way. Sadly, there is no quick fix for this team and the Phils could be rebuilding for years.
Like the Eagles, the 76ers need to have another horrible season – something that seems to be a certainty — so they have a good shot at a high lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft. They’re fortunate that one or two players can make all the difference in the NBA and they’re fortunate that the next draft is loaded with potential superstars like Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Julius Randle of Kentucky. The Sixers have two first-round picks – the other one was picked up in the trade that sent point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans – and this will be their big chance to turn this franchise around, and maybe their only chance.
The Flyers need to find some stability with their lineup. Every year, general manager Paul Holmgren shuffles his deck and brings in new players and a lack of continuity has hurt this team more than anything else. Holmgren needs to find a core and stick with it instead of making knee-jerk changes every season simply for change’s sake. No Philly team lives in the past like these guys and it’s hard to believe it’s been more than three decades since they won their last Stanley Cup.
None of those scenarios are promising, but even though the 76ers will be the worst team of the four this season, they also have the best chance of turning things around quickly with a lottery pick or two. And the Eagles could also get back to their winning ways if they can draft a franchise quarterback.
So, to counter-phrase the late Al Davis, just lose, baby, because that’s the only chance you have.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.