04.30.17

The Eagles Draft in Review

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:05 pm by Administrator

i’m going to give the Eagles a B+ overall on their 2017 draft. it was their best draft in many years, as they got fair value in every round, took the players that they liked, and didn’t mortgage their future with rash trades in the process. like a lot of eagles nation, i liked the sidney jones pick in round 2 as well as the wide receiver picks in rounds 4 and 5. it’s always a big deal when you find a potential skill-position starter after round 3, and shelten gibson might be that guy.

my main issue with this draft, as i anticipated last week, is that the Eagles once again chose to defer any major investments on the o-line. before the draft started, i outlined my best-case scenario: a trade down in the 1st to give us 4 picks in the first 3 rounds, with a 1st round selection of our future left tackle. for three years in a row, i’ve campaigned for a 1st round selection on the o-line (Humphries in 2015, Stanley in 2016, and now Ramczyk in 2017), and while i’m ultimately happy with the results we got in 2016 by trading up for Wentz, i think we’ve set ourselves up for a tough 3-year stretch.

here’s my 2-fold reasoning: you can’t buy an offensive line in free agency, and you can’t run the ball without a cohesive line. the Eagles believe that after jason peters taps out in 2018, they can move Lane Johnson to left tackle and plug in Vaitai on the right. that means turnover on the line, and it also means a significant drop-off in talent on the right side of the line. assuming brooks maintains his skills and Vaitai works his way into the rotation this year, it’s still a right side that looks like it will be weak in 2018. add to that our below-average platoon at running back, and this looks like a squad that will be compensating for a poor ground game with a high-volume passing attack. that’s a terrific setup for a high-pressure high-risk year number 3 for our franchise QB, who will still be getting his legs under him.

the Eagles can certainly try to draft a tackle high in the draft next year or buy a guy in free agency, but history has proven that this approach rarely works in the short term. turnover and fatigue on the o-line derailed a lot of teams that tried to build on the line this way (i.e. Chargers in 2015), while continuity and depth on the o-line have been the primary reasons for sustained improvement on other teams (i.e. Stephen Jones’s Cowboys over the last three seasons). yes, the Eagles needed to focus on the secondary this year; but they also needed to find their future at left tackle, both for Wentz and for a running game that needs a strong line more than it needs a star running back.

aside from passing on an o-lineman in the first 3 rounds, i was disappointed to see what we lost out on in the 3rd round as a result of the timmy jernigan trade. the run on top-tier corners really ended right before our 99th pick at the end of the 3rd. like i wrote previously, Rasul Douglas could succeed in our system, but he’ll need a lot more attention than a more polished guy like Jourdan Lewis, who might very well have been there for us in the early-mid 3rd. if jernigan proves to be little more than a 1-year rental for depth on the interior line, then people will have to think about the incredible opportunity cost we suffered by moving down in the 3rd.

and lastly, i’m going to say that the donnel pumphrey pick strikes me as a joke. we’re projecting to put a 176 pound speedster behind a line that will struggle to set the edge due to age, poor depth, and limited talent. i’d understand signing pumphrey as an undrafted free agent to be a situational runner in a platoon featuring a big back, behind an o-line that we significantly improved in 2017. but taking him in the 4th with no other major RB signings suggests that we expect this guy to make something out of nothing for us this season, which is unrealistic. in retrospect, declining the jernigan trade and taking a high-upside DT prospect like caleb brantley in the 4th would have been the better way to go. but reading too deep is silly, particularly after the 3rd round, and it’s probably the better part of valor to hope that the little guy (whose spider chart looks positively one-dimensional) finds a way to stay on the field.

in any case, we’re looking at a last place finish in the NFC East and most likely a 7-9 record yet again in 2017, which should put us in a good draft position in 2018. while we don’t have a 2nd rounder next year, we’ve got 3 picks in the 4th and of course our 1st rounder, in a year when a good QB class is going to generate a lot of trade-down opportunities. the future isn’t now, but 2019 isn’t so far away.

04.29.17

Grading the Douglas pick

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:38 pm by Administrator

it’s a bit unusual, but it turns out the Eagles came pretty close to nailing my “1B” scenario over the first two days of the NFL draft. sure, i would have liked to come away with four picks in the top 100 and an offensive tackle to show for it, but i really like the fact that they sat tight and drafted with discipline. i like Barnett’s fit, and i admire the Eagles for doing the right thing with the Sidney Jones pick in the 2nd.

generally speaking, while the 1st round is a coin flip on future starters and 2nd rounders are maybe 20-30% propositions at best, the 3rd round is where teams go hunting for upside. so it’s hardly a given that a late 3rd rounder should develop into a starter, and overthinking any pick after #75 is a geeky exercise (and a waste of time). i’m pretty damn happy when we do well in the 3rd, and in recent years we have. i liked the seumalo pick last year; the jordan hicks pick by chip kelly in 2015 was my favorite pick at the time and may prove to be our best draft value of the decade.

i wanted the Eagles to double-down on a corner in the 3rd, and Douglas was by many accounts the best available at that point in the draft. it sort of gnaws at me that the jernigan trade cost us a shot at a more established prospect like jourdan lewis; 4 corners including lewis and griffin went off the board in the mid-3rd before we took Douglas at pick 99. grading the Douglas pick is quite difficult because it’s tough to rate him as a player (much less understand his value relative to other positional prospects). granted, at pick 99 we would have been fishing for a linebacker, a wide-out, or a tackle, so we didn’t suffer a clear opportunity cost by getting our 2nd corner of the draft there.

Douglas looks great on paper. 6′2″, 209 pounds, strong in the upper body, and with a one-year resume at WVU that boasts an amazing 8 interceptions and game film showing instinct, great hands, and good fundamentals in coverage and tackling. had he run his 40 just 0.04 seconds faster (4.55 as opposed to 4.59) i think he would have been categorized in a different group of DBs and might have been considered not just a top-20 prospect but maybe a top-12 talent.

this raises two questions for me. do the 0.04 seconds really matter that much? and how good are we at predicting cornerback performance based on game tape and measurables anyways?

i did some looking around and was surprised to find that for all the attention paid to football analytics, there isn’t much of what i’d consider evidence-based approaches to position-specific evaluation. i can’t answer either of my two questions not because the data isn’t there but because it hasn’t been analyzed to handle those questions. why is that? are we constrained by the assumption that there’s only so much you can know from what can be observed, measured, and interviewed? well if that’s the case, then why haven’t we defined the degree to which those data can be predictive, down to a tenth of a percentage point? and why haven’t we at least been able to determine what kinds of players at each position are most difficult to predict? my feeling is that it comes down to trade secrets. the NFL execs aren’t going to pay for information that their gurus don’t believe; and the gurus won’t believe what they haven’t seen and experienced for themselves. it’s a person-dependent paradigm, and when you factor in all the things beyond the player’s college performance—scheme fit and personality fit among others—there are just too many reasons to question a systematic and prescriptive approach of any kind.

it’s frustrating to the outsider like me; but it also makes the whole art of player selection that much more intriguing.

so, back to Rasul Douglas.

when i look at the top CBs in the league, i see about a 60% “hit rate” when it came to their pre-draft evaluations. the scouting reports nailed it on some of the guys we would now consider no-brainers: patrick peterson, desmond trufant, marcus peters, darrelle revis, aqib talib, and jason verrett (whom the eagles tragically decided to pass on in 2014 in order to take marcus smith). on the other hand, they got it totally wrong on some other key guys: richard sherman (5th rounder), josh norman (5th rounder), chris harris (undrafted), and malcolm butler (undrafted). nobody saw the potential in these guys. in retrospect, sherman’s game tape was overanalyzed on the plays where he got beaten; norman was discounted for being from a “small school”; and harris didn’t even get a combine visit. every one of these guys was knocked for a physical attribute; sherman and norman in particular were viewed as critically lacking both speed and quickness to viably compete at the NFL level, mostly on account of a few missed plays and a correlating 40 time of 4.6+. harris and butler were too small and written off as “nickel” or “slot” guys.

if there’s one thing that seems obvious to me about these four guys that represent the biggest recent player evaluation mistakes at the cornerback position, it’s the quality of the teams that drafted them. there are guys like patrick peterson and darrelle revis (in his prime) that you can just put out there on an island because they’re that good. seattle, carolina, denver, and new england didn’t do that with sherman, norman, harris, and butler. all four teams had incredible front 7s, and they didn’t need their corners to play lock-down man coverage for thirty minutes a game. they put their DBs in a position where they could play to their strengths and focus on their parts of the field; and as they developed within the system, those guys proved that a cornerback with the right basics can rapidly improve his game even in his mid-late 20s.

since jim johnson left the eagles, i really believe that the main thing the Eagles have lacked is any sense of identity or good culture on the defensive side of the ball. i blame andy reid for that, with that catastrophic defensive “dream team” and everything that has fallen out since that time. and i blame chip kelly for that, who didn’t give a shit about defense. regardless of what the NFL stats may look like on paper, for the past eight years we’ve been a very bad defense at the moments when we most needed to make a stop—and that’s as much on the coaches as it is on the players.

what’s the grade i’m putting on Rasul Douglas? it’s an A if jim schwartz is committed to making it work for his rookie. it’s a D minus if we handle him the same way we’ve handled all the young guys fighting to fit in our defensive backfield in recent history. in Rasul Douglas, i see a guy with requisite speed and physical traits who has terrific ball skills and big-play potential. in my mind, there’s no reason why he can’t develop into a classic press-man guy, provided that he plays within a disciplined system and is given two full seasons to learn his position. we’re not in win-now mode, and it’s not like we have anything better to do in 2017 than to develop Douglas for the future. yes, he’s going to get beaten roundly and repeatedly by the likes of Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant in the NFC East this year. regardless, focus on the basics. beef up the pass rush; control the line of scrimmage; tackle the runner; bracket the downfield threat. let Rasul learn the NFL game, and don’t rip him when he gets burned. i can’t see any obvious reason why RD can’t be an above-average #2 corner on our team by mid-2018—but we have to exhibit the same patience and perspective that we demonstrated yesterday when we took sidney jones in the 2nd round.

04.28.17

Day 2 of the Draft

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:07 pm by Administrator

as I predicted, the Eagles took Derek Barnett in round 1. against my predictions, Roseman stayed put at 14 and was able to get Barnett without sacrificing picks. kudos to the Eagles for waiting it out and getting their guy.

pick #43 in the 2nd round represents interesting possibilities. the list of remaining prospects is both tantalizing and deep at multiple positions down to at least the mid-3rd, and managers focused on value should be looking to accrue picks in this range rather than to move up within it. john schneider for instance gave up his 1st rounder for the Seahawks in order to gather 6 picks in the top 100, and for a guy looking to shore up both the offensive line and some emerging gaps in the secondary, that looks like a great approach right now.

like I’ve noted before, the eagles have important needs at multiple positions, and I’d rate them in priority order as follows: cornerback, offensive line, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, and interior d-line. based on mocks and the depth charts at each position, the best value in the mid-2nd may be at RB—where the brief run on top running backs will end after Cook, Mixon, and Kamara come off the board. interior d-line prospects look solid through the 2nd, but the Eagles are unlikely to double up on d-line over the first 2 rounds. cornerback, though it’s our most pressing need, continues to look good down into the late 3rd. i’d like the Eagles to strongly consider taking sidney jones at pick #43, but from what I can see, they want their bang for the buck right now, and investing in a potentially elite corner at some short-term cost doesn’t look like their mentality.

i’ll continue to say that I just don’t see value for this squad in a 2nd round running back. I’m almost categorically against taking a running back with a top-50 pick, but I’m definitely not enthusiastic about it in this year and for this team. cornerback really should be our focus in the 2nd round, and even if that puts us at the head of a long run on mid-tier corners, I think that there will be no harm in potentially coming away with two starting prospects after our first 3 picks. i can feel the eagles verging toward a running back pick at 43, and all i can say to that is to look at the recent history of late-round RB picks. it’s about the system more than about the guy. we can wait on RB. with the gaps we’re trying to fill on the o-line and in the defensive secondary, our focus in the 2nd cannot be a marginal upgrade at the running back position.

my ideal scenario: we trade back into the mid-late 2nd to pick up an extra 3rd round pick. with the late 2nd rounder, we take sidney jones, and with our two late 3rd rounders we take a second cornerback and the best linebacker prospect available.

04.27.17

the mist that appears for a while

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:16 pm by Administrator

i’ve written recently about how my dad conceived his life purpose. for years, he had a meticulously handwritten chart matching his age against mine over a twenty-five period, noting the milestones of my life that he felt responsible for supporting me through. he first posted it when i was in junior high school, and it noted the years of my expected high school graduation, college graduation, medical school graduation (even though i’d given no indication that i was committed to that path), and residency graduation. his year of eligibility for full retirement was also noted on that cross-walk, along with his expected year of retirement. that, in a nutshell, was how he understood the value and progression of his life.

i will admit that recently i have begun to do the same activity, at least mentally. i was thirty-five when my younger child was born (the same age at which my dad became a father to me), and i have been tempted to view my life and retirement on similar timetables. but right away, i recognize that i can’t and won’t ever put together a life plan that revolves around the milestones of my kids. because the fact of the matter is that i feel primarily responsible for my milestones, not theirs. this isn’t to say that i’m not strongly constrained by a sense of financial obligation to my family; in fact, i often believe that i am unconsciously too fixated on this consideration. but it simply isn’t my primary point of reference, as it was for my father. i believe that this is primarily because i am emotionally healthier than my dad ever was, and i don’t need the accomplishments of my children to validate the importance of my life. ironically, i have to attribute this emotional health and perspective to my dad, who always wanted me to be both self-sufficient and self-aware.

for a long time i have known that doctoring is not my essential calling in life. it has not gotten more enjoyable or more fulfilling to me with time. however, i’ve recognized the benefits of my profession: a secure income, a powerful means of impacting other people, a credibility and stature in many forums. i think i’ve come to the point where i can see myself doctoring for a distinct phase of my life, not simply for the purpose of paying the bills but also growing and developing myself through that work. i believe that there will come a time though when i must come to a point of departure. it need not be dramatic or sudden; but it will have to be significant enough that i recognize i am not simply toeing a line but rather fully committing myself to a different kind of life.

because i’m not a future-focused person, and because i am inherently driven by my emotions to react to what is right in front of me, the idea of defining age-specific milestones for myself is always an awkward proposition. on the one hand, i really wish i could impose that sort of structure on my life, because it would give me clear goals to work toward. on the other hand, this goes against the grain of how i live, perceive my world, and pursue happiness. in the end, i think i do need to lay out some sort of a map, if only to wrestle with it and ultimately off-road my way to a different destination.

all of this being said, i’ve come to the following conclusions about myself.

1. i don’t understand retirement, and when i think about it, i dread it. the fact of the matter is that i derive my personal sense of importance from the dignity of the work i engage in. if i’m not working, i don’t know how to get at that. if i’m doing work that others regard as undignified or unimportant, then i can’t get what i need out of work. put simply, i need to be engaged in something important to society for as long as i live; and if and when that ends for me, my life will end. i don’t believe i can survive retirement.

2. i want a working life of many roles, all derived from my giftings. over the years, my thoughts have revolved principally around politics, religious ministry, radio commentary, and creative writing, in no particular order, and ideally i’d be doing something of all of these well into my twilight years. i recognize that what drives me in this direction isn’t any particular issue, conviction, or stance. i just want to be in the middle of things. i keep praying that God will put me in the middle of what He’s doing. if i have an ambition, that is my ambition.

3. i am easily deterred and frustrated in situations where i lack sufficient structure or support. this is part of the reason that i have been loathe to make a career transition up to this point. i lack the “high challenge” nature and the bullish confidence in myself that would enable me to take on the risks inherent to my personal limitations. understanding this core trait has led me to believe, over the years, that the most important factor in my future career transition will not be the perfect job (on paper) but rather the perfect team—a group of like-minded people that can create a fit for me—or just the right person—an individual with complementary strengths who sees my potential and engages me as a partner.

4. i’m not there yet, but i’m getting close. the person i was ten years ago was overwhelmed by life. i can see it in my writings from back then. my feelings drowned me. i felt like a victim of my circumstances. perspective was not a choice; it was a consignment. i’m not that person anymore. i have a far more specific grasp of who i am and what my strengths and abilities are. i’m actually less cynical in many ways than i once was. and i’m less afraid of failure, particularly financial failure, than i was back when our situation was vastly more insecure.

5. 50 is my horizon. i can’t look beyond age 50; it’s just inconceivable to me. but i feel the reality and importance of 50, which is only 8.5 years ahead. when i look back, eight years feels like nothing. and thus i know that if i want something to happen for me by the age of 50, then the work has to begin now. that doesn’t mean that i need to up-end my life and create a work plan for change by the end of the calendar year. but it does mean that i need to mentally work backwards from what i see as my ideal destination at age 50. there have to be steps that take me to that point. and i have to keep stepping out that process until i see steps that are not only worth taking but necessary to take imminently.

6. as my self-concept evolves, so does my theology. when i was a child, i was fixated on that verse from the book of James: our lives are a mist that appears for a while and then vanishes. for me, this was a stern teaching about the inherent vanity of planning for future achievement and wealth. in some ways, i still believe this to be a correct interpretation of the verse. but everything that i have experienced with God tells me that He expects me to engage Him as a partner in the work of the kingdom. in no way does the parable of the talents tell me that i have full license to maximize my gains as i see fit, as if this would glorify God. but i am increasingly convinced that the one whom God favors is free to plant and to harvest where it pleases him, and God gladly gives that person the authority to open and close doors for others. this is not a democratic kingdom. God has only chosen a few, and it would be sadly disappointing for those few to live out their lives with timidity and fear.

04.26.17

T minus one

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:24 pm by Administrator

though i want a 1st round o-lineman tomorrow, i am fairly certain it’s not going to happen. as to what the eagles will do, there is much in the air, but i have this nagging feeling that we will once again be trading up in the 1st round. it’s roseman’s modus operandi, and it might not be the worst-case scenario for me.

here’s why. like i mentioned before, we have salient needs at multiple positions (OT, RB, WR, CB, LB, and D-line) but our most immediate needs if we want wins in 2017 are at 3 spots in particular: RB, CB, and defensive end. the depth chart at these 3 positions suggests good value down to round 3 at both running back and corner—but a sharp drop-off at defensive end after the top 10 picks (Garrett, Thomas, Barnett) and a similar steep drop-off at the tail end of round 1 (Harris, Charlton, Takk McKinley, and probably Kpassagnon). So while the Eagles could grab their cornerback of the future as late as the end of round 3 (a guy like Shaq Griffin) and a 3-down running back in round 2 (Alvin Kamara or maybe Joe Mixon for his upside), they’re only looking at depth prospects when it comes to pass-rushers by the mid-2nd. defensive ends and quarterbacks always seem to go higher than expected on days 1 and 2, and i don’t think this year will be any exception.

like i’ve said before, i think the eagles want derek barnett. he’s not projected to go top-5, they brought in him for a visit, and jim schwartz surely lusts after his physicality, motor, and technique. if the eagles are purely focused on maximizing wins in 2017-2018, it may be barnett or bust for a squad that defines itself by the pressure of its defensive front.

trading up into the top 10 will likely be a decision roseman only makes if he sees barnett still there on the board after the first 6 or 7 picks. he’ll be loathe to give up a pick in the top 3 rounds, as he really needs all 3 rounds to build the core he wants, but it isn’t inconceivable that he’d be willing to give up his 4th pick this year and next year’s 2nd rounder on top of that. i have a feeling they like barnett that much.

it’s not the way i’d go… but this is eagles football, and it has always starts for us with the pressure on the edge. i could live with barnett, mixon, and a corner like cam sutton or shaquille griffin. we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

04.23.17

the nature of grief

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:18 pm by Administrator

in the aftermath of my loss, i received a very impressive outpouring of support from friends and in-laws. it was very nice hearing from old friends and receiving their sympathy.

i did find though that many of my friends struggled to find the “right” words for me in the midst of my struggle. though their efforts to comfort me were more than sufficient, it was clear that some of my friends felt insufficient to the task. in contrast, the friends of my parents demonstrated no such awkwardness, and though they did not know me, they had a certain vocabulary for the moment that felt both authentic and true.

the difference between my friends and the friends of my parents, i realize, isn’t simply a difference of age, empathy, or personal experience. it is a difference that resides in the degree to which they have thought about and arrived at a conclusion regarding the nature of grief. those who have experienced, studied, and sublimated grief don’t need to say much to speak something truthful about it. it is like talking with someone about a mutual acquaintance; there is a certain familiarity with the person that drives the conversation and brings the subject of that conversation to life.

when i think of grief, i think of one of my favorite paintings in the LACMA called The Listening Room, by Rene Magritte. disturbing, suffocating, and blatantly mundane all at the same time, it is the very picture of what i understand as the monstrosity of bereavement. the metaphor does more for me than simply describe my subjectivity as the bereaved. it gives me a picture of what is happening within; it offers a location for the unplaceable feeling, a boundary for the ever permeating rumination. there is, in the closet of my heart, a thing that was my father and his reach into my life, and that thing feels suddenly overgrown and overwhelming in the specter of his sudden absence. the mystery here is that in fact my father looms no larger now than he did when he was alive. and the terrible truth is that his size and scope will not shrink with time.

i think that we assume (or at least i did) that the key to mitigating grief is to cut it down to size. cry some tears; blow off some steam; take the subtle knife and slice away in deft deliberate strokes, until all that is left is the miniscule core, a remnant that can be pushed into a corner. but the monstrosity in the listening room cannot simply be hewn down or deflated; for years, it has filled that room, and for many more it will continue to be a centerpiece of fixation. the key to gaining space to breathe and room for light is not to push the monstrosity aside. rather, it is to cut through the wall behind, that third space, until life is not simply the room we look upon but all the spaces beyond it, connected by windows and hallways that stretch longer and longer until the heart is no longer closeted but rather housed by a mansion of many rooms.

grief forces us to dig out holes and tunnels where previously there were none; it forces us out of the places we called home and compels us into the lives of others. what seems like escape later becomes discovery, the reinvention of self. in this way, the process of dying forces us to live ever-changing lives. it is the way of the seasons; it is the relentless demand of survival. but it all begins when we look upon the thing we have lost, when we study it from every angle, even in our dreams, and when we realize that there is no conquering this thing. there is only the worn chisel and the small hammer; there is only time, the work on the wall, and the faint sound of a child’s laughter somewhere beyond

04.22.17

Football and the Eagles

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:40 pm by Administrator

a year ago, i contemplated the specter of football-related concussions and came to the conclusion that football was immoral. it was one of my classic reactions—a broad indictment based on a feeling, without any real basis in a consistent value system. in this respect, i’ll grudgingly admit that i have much in common with our president, whose impulsive tendencies so trigger me because they hit disturbingly close to home.

i clamored to change the game by reducing stoppages of play and instituting new helmet technologies. i advocated for an end to peewee football. i reacted the way that i did because i viewed football players as the unwitting and tragic victims of the game. but on further reflection, i’ve recognized that this is not at all a fair characterization of professional football players. to deprive them of the risks and rewards inherent to the deadly physicality of their sport is to impose on them the assertion that longevity outweighs temporal glory. that a whole cohort of our society should be in a position to trade off one for the other has struck me as problematic and reflective of a systematic injustice. but that, in a word, is capitalism. from one angle, it may appear cruel. but from another, it is the inevitable application of the moral principle we define and embrace as personal liberty. the matter is no longer ambiguous to me. i recognize now that football players reap a reward that exists in proportion to the physical toll they endure, and it is not my right to judge that transaction. i will concede that, for some, poverty and obscurity can be the greater of evils.

the NFL draft remains my favorite sports moment of the year, because it is the most complex and impactful activity in american pro sports. for all the decades of analysis and scrutiny that have gone into predicting the future performance of pro athletes, the probability of long-term success with a 1st or 2nd round draft pick has not appreciably improved over time. in particular, the draft selection of a quarterback taken with a top-3 pick continues to be a coin flip proposition at best, and all the wonderlic assessments, player interviews, and tape analyses have not eliminated the possibility of a colossal bust at football’s most important position. jamarcus russell, alex smith, tim couch, robert griffin, and possibly jared goff are recent examples of veritably traumatic misfires with a top 2 pick.

as a long-suffering Eagles fan, i approach the NFL draft as an annual exercise in comprehensive self-appraisal. am i emotionally healthy? have i matured into the man i always wanted to be? have i at last outgrown my childhood preoccupations? for much of the past decade, the late april antics of andy reid, chip kelly, and particularly howie roseman have repeatedly flipped my lid and helped me to understand the enduring nature of my latent adolescence. but i’ll admit too that my irrational hope in a transcendent Philadelphia draft has allowed me to find little moments of diversion during this difficult and intense past week. yes, i continue to believe that the Eagles, despite a decade of incompetence from their front office, may be on the brink of turning it around.

in any case, i offer my early-round draft predictions for the Eagles, and my own take on where the team should focus its attention…

for the past two years, i’ve hoped against hope that the Eagles would use their 1st round picks to rebuild the offensive line. i’ve written ad nauseum about my issues with chip kelly’s total dismissal of needs on the o-line and howie roseman’s hit-or-miss fixation with early-round defensive backs. my pick in round 1 of 2015 would have been dj humphries, who by most accounts has played well enough to earn the starting left tackle job in arizona; and my pick in 2016 (assuming no trade up) would have been ronnie stanley, who had a stellar 2nd half of his rookie season and was graded a top-3 tackle by PFF analytics. we didn’t completely ignore the o-line in 2016; seumalo in the 3rd and vaitai in the late rounds were nominal additions, and the brandon brooks signing was a bonus. but we’ve now gone three years without drafting a legitimate long-term prospect for either tackle position, which is troublesome given jason peters’ imminent decline.

that being said, this may not be the year to launch a stephen jones-style renaissance given the limitations of the tackles coming out in the draft. the hype around this year’s DB class and the philadelphia media’s fixation with our needs in the secondary obviously make a legitimate case for using one of our high picks on a cornerback. but i do continue to worry about our issues on the o-line, and if carson wentz’s development is our future, then our most critical need will continue to be a young, stable line capable of protecting him into the next decade.

there continue to be a lot of reports that the Eagles are considering drafting a running back with one of their top two picks. i’m generally against taking a running back in the first two rounds, given the historical performance of late-round prospects as well as the success of franchises that have chosen to devalue the position. the Eagles front office has largely avoided this sort of mistake in the past, but they have some legitimate reasons to think about pulling the trigger this year. a star RB would take pressure off of Wentz, diversify our West Coast game plan, and offer a more dynamic offense to excite the fan base. on top of that, wendell smallwood is an ordinary running back with below-average vision and little realistic chance of emerging as a special talent over the next two years.

i’d still say that a running back pick in the top 2 rounds represents too much of an opportunity cost, and while mccaffrey and dalvin cook could improve our offensive efficiency in specific situations as early as year one, there’s little reason to believe that a rotational big back from the late rounds (jamaal williams) or from free agency (stevan ridley) couldn’t give us an equally effective committee with smallwood and the ageless darren sproles. yes, running back is a need, but the proper approach for that position is to go fish, even if we struck out in the mid-rounds last year.

other than offensive tackle and running back, there are four other areas of obvious need on this roster, and they are (in no particular order) wide receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker, and cornerback. based on whom the eagles have brought in for team visits, it would appear to me that they’d ideally like to grab a prototypical edge rusher in round 1 and then scoop up a big press-man cover corner in the 2nd. most mocks have the eagles taking gareon conley in the 1st, but his reluctance to tackle raises concerns about his physicality, and i believe that will take him off of jim schwartz’s board (as it would with mine), particularly given the caliber of cornerbacks we expect to see in round 2 (i.e. fabian moreau and chidobe awuzie, who might end up being better than the overhyped combine performer in conley). i think that the eagles hope that derek barnett will fall to them at pick 14 (a 50/50 probability) and will take the best available corner in round 2. if barnett is taken before pick 14, they’ll take either corey davis or john ross in that order (one or the other will be available), giving them the franchise receiver they really haven’t had since mike quick.

i won’t be disappointed with a day 1/2 haul of john ross and fabian moreau, but i think we can do better. the eagles under roseman and kelly have been pathologically fixated on moving up (rather than down) in the draft, continually believing the team to be on the brink of a playoff breakthrough when in fact the team never had enough talent to make a push in the postseason. this would be a terrific year to move down in the 1st, given the depth of prospects at our key positions of need (DT and cornerback) and the quarterback needs of teams that are later in the draft order. a team like the texans or broncos would be willing to trade us their 1st and 2nd round picks in exchange for pick #14 and a late-rounder (a 4th or 5th) in order to snag someone like Mahomes or Kizer. that would give us 4 picks in the top 100, in a year when we have many holes to fill and at best only an outside chance at winning the NFC East. yes, the cowboys, giants, and possibly the redskins will all outperform us this year, which is part of the reason i’ve contended that longer-term investments in the o-line have better value for us than a plug-and-play defensive addition.

in any case, here’s my ideal scenario:

Round 1: Trade back from #14 to #20 with the broncos, surrendering our 4th round pick to gain pick #51 in the 2nd round. With pick #20, we take Ryan Ramczyk (offensive tackle). Philadelphia fans in attendance will boo the pick because they’ll want a difference-maker in the secondary. But Ramczyk will be bookending our offensive line with lane johnson as early as next season, and it’s the quality of our o-line that will determine whether or not we’re contending for the NFC East in 2018.

Round 2: With pick #43, we take Fabian Moreau (cornerback). who knows if he’ll be a lock-down guy in the pros? but i don’t see much separation between him and the rest of the non-Lattimore pack, and like i said before, i’m not a believer in gareon conley. sidney jones would be an even better pick if he’s still there, because 2017 will not be a win-now season.

Round 2: With pick #51, we take the best DT prospect available (McDowell, Brantley, Kpassagnon, or Wormley, in that order). a run-stuffing big man with gap-shooting potential at 3-technique would be my preference, to mitigate the loss of bennie logan and to free up fletcher cox. jernigan and long will not be enough to shore up the d-line, given the kind of pressure schwartz likes out of his 4-3 scheme.

Round 3: With pick #99, we take an inside linebacker (LSU’s Duke Riley or Kendell Beckwith). like most of philadelphia’s fan base, i cannot stand mychal kendricks, whose analytics look vastly better than his game tape particularly when it comes to tracking the runner. we need one more guy with jordan hicks’ tenacity, vision, and toughness. reuben foster at pick #14 should be a serious consideration, but i like the value in round 3, given our more strategic long-term need at offensive tackle.

04.21.17

in no particular order

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:55 pm by Administrator

in no particular order, my thoughts about things…

a few months ago, our family lawyer asked me what i’d like to put in our trust, other than the usual things. i mentioned this blog. i don’t know why this was the only thing that came to mind. i explained that i was paying for the domain, and my blog would disappear if i ever stopped paying for it. my wife interjected and suggested that i transfer my material to a free site that would not disappear if i stopped maintaining it. i tried to explain why that struck me as such a troublesome idea.

but what then am i expecting the heirs of our trust to do with this site once i’m gone? do i expect them to continue paying for it year to year? do i expect them to write their thoughts here as i have done, as if to maintain my legacy? perhaps this blog is the one place where i feel i could exist in some meaningful way, even after the body has departed. but that is ridiculous.

this morning, i watched the first twenty-five minutes of one of my favorite movies—L’Heure d’ete—and it reminded me so much of recent conversations i have had with my dad. he was always very deliberate in defining what things of his should and should not be relevant to me after his death. life insurance, for example, would be relevant. his thoughts about the world, his keepsakes and writings—these things would not be. i spent hours this past week going through all of his notebooks and written reflections, trying to decide what i would keep and what i would toss into the trash. in sentimental moments, i struggled to separate myself from any of it. all the ruminations on grammar, language in general, and his social circle seemed so vital to me, pieces of him i could not relinquish. but on second and third reviews, i realized that i could let go of these things, because in the end they all had very little do with me. his essays, his poetry, his grammar books, his prized possessions—i threw them into a box, and i dumped the box into the trash can. it was not hard to do it.

and so i know now, as i will know someday in the future, that these things i write here are for me, and they have always been just for me. when i’m gone, these words will disappear, as they were meant to.

when my father was my age, he had my life and his planned out. for a long time, there was a handwritten page on the wall of his desk tracking his age against mine, year by year, through all the milestones he expected us to experience. my matriculation to college. my matriculation to medical school. his retirement. the beginning of my career as a doctor. as a forty-six year old man, he bought the house that he intended to die in, and indeed he passed away on his own terms, fully lucid and in his own home. that level of premeditation and deliberation continues to impress me and befuddle me to no end. i continue to wonder at that, that this man could have such a clear and unchanging sense of what he wanted from life, both for himself and for the son that was the very center of his existence.

while i was with my mother in the house i grew up in, i was away from my other life, my normal life. it surprised me how removed i felt from that life. i thought of my children for only a few moments here and there; it was as if they were not real. my job felt vague and utterly tenuous, as if it were already fading with every day of my absence. at one point, i was overcome by an odd anxiety that perhaps there would be nothing left for me when i returned to the place i called home. even now, the life i have returned to here seems strangely fantastical, in neither a good nor bad way. i could walk away from this life, i could walk from this job, and nothing would really be different about me. my dad was utterly rooted in his life while he was alive; i, on the other hand, am just wearing this life for now. i still have not discovered who i am, not in that deep, resonating sense that i somehow continue to anticipate.

i visited his grave on tuesday, and i tried to have a moment of rootedness there, a deep connection to the past and to the present. my mother on the other hand paced anxious circles around the freshly filled patch of earth, put off by the lack of a head stone and unconvinced that the grave site was actually my father’s. i tried to explain to her how improbable it was that there would be a newly dug grave for another person just inches from where we had been sitting three days before, but she continued her relentless search for my father’s grave, wandering down the hillside. it was bizarre and distracting, and as a result, i could only look at the patch of dirt and the flowers there and imagine my father fuming from his coffin within. “I AM RIGHT HERE GODDAMMIT,” he was muttering through clenched teeth. i left him to retrieve my mother, and i decided that the next time i would visit him on my own.

i think about the life that i want my mother to have now. it is something i have thought about for many years. i see her life filled with friends and family and activities. i see her living for twenty more years, discovering a joy she has previously been denied. in some ways, it is a projection of the life i wish i could have for myself. when i am real with myself, i know that my mother will be all right; she’s tougher than most and certainly more resilient than i.

a while ago, i thought that my father’s death would trigger something in me: an impulse to write, a freedom to explore a different kind of life, a liberation from his expectations and his fears. right now, i feel none of those things. ten years ago, i think i would have made some different decisions about my life had my father died then. but in the intervening years, i’ve become what i am, and it’s something that has closed up over the raw feelings and ambitions of my youth. my dad’s death has triggered nothing new. i have no plans; i have no convictions; i have no new resolutions about what is important to me. i am very much the same. i feel so sorry for my father, for what he went through in his life. he experienced the hardships of living through a war, of being betrayed to the North Koreans by his neighbors, of being unloved by his parents, of being insecure as an immigrant to the United States. he wanted to spare me those particular hardships, and he did. he wanted to give me a wonderful life, and i’m grateful for that intention.

at the end of his life, my father came to five principal conclusions about people, which he wrote down on a piece of paper and taped to the wall by his bed. i took a picture of it, because it was his essence. now it will be here, with the rest of my thoughts, a piece of him i will carry with me for a little while.

1. All human relationships are business relationships.
2. Relationships change.
3. People change their minds, and promises are broken.
4. A person’s personality does not change.
5. Once a person betrays you, the same person may betray you again.

i have not come to the same conclusions, but i know the reasons for these.

i do not believe in heaven and hell as they were taught to me, and so i do not know where my father is, and it doesn’t really matter to me anyways. but if there is someone who must judge him, then i have this to say about him: my dad did his best with what he was given, and i thought he did well.

04.16.17

the funeral

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:37 pm by Administrator

after a third straight night of very bad sleep, i woke up yesterday morning, took a 2.5 mile jog in my parents’ neighborhood, drank half a coffee, put on the black suit i brought with me, and drove with my wife to the funeral home. on the way, i jotted a few notes down on a post-it for the eulogy that my dad expected of me. as usual, i was following my natural process for public speaking, which requires emotional grounding before all else. it was a cool, cloudy morning that fit the mood. i tried not to descend into overly sentimental preoccupations.

as i welcomed guests in the foyer of the funeral home, i kept in mind an important insight that i have gleaned from the enneagram over the years. for the 4, it can sometimes be helpful to divert focus from the self onto others. and after 48 hours of almost ceaseless crying and intense introspection, i found it relieving to witness the grieving of others. people arrived in small groups throughout the morning. i didn’t recognize most of them from afar, but i found that i remembered most of my father’s old friends once they began to talk to me. they expressed sympathy for my loss, and in some cases, i remembered to express sympathy to them as well—as it is their loss as much as it is mine. i delivered my eulogy, and though there were two points at which my voice cracked and i felt the possibility of being unable to continue, i got through it. i talked about how my Dad had prepared us assiduously for this day for over fifteen years. i touched his ice-cold hands. i looked upon his face in repose. i moved seamlessly through dozens of memories.

as my dad was lowered into the earth, i thought of my old friend Dan Cho and the experience of studying the dirt walls that lined the inside of his grave; years ago i wrote a poem about how the earth could lay claim to a body but never to a soul.

the magnolia trees were in bloom. someone almost tripped as she walked past me to throw her flower into the grave. my mother reached out to catch her. i thought to myself that my father would not mind the indignity. he has always enjoyed the outrageously undignified moments, as long as they were at the expense of others. i have never known anyone quite like my dad.

he would have found it all quite nice. the grave site is very beautiful, and while it will be enormously difficult to visit it again, it won’t be a bad place to sit down and think for a while. my dad’s not really there, after all.

the moment he died, my dad crested a hill to find himself looking upon a vast sky of many hues, on an unfamiliar planet of inescapable beauty. he found himself suddenly beside a man of similar age, oddly matching his own facial expression—one of bewilderment, wonderment, and defiance all at the same time.

“what is this?” my Dad said (more than asked).

“what?” the other man asked him. “are you disappointed? am i a disappointment to you?”

“that depends,” my father responded, opening his hands as he began to explain. “it really depends on who you are and what you expect of me.”

“you know who i am,” the man said to him. and he pointed his finger at my Dad’s chest, not accusingly but with a bit of a smile on his face. after all, this was not a man inclined to apologize for himself. “so how about i ask you who you are?”

“i don’t need to tell you who i am. i am who i am, just like you are who you are.”

“indeed you are, just as i am,” God said. “but you actually don’t know what that really means.”

Dad started to say something then, and then he tilted his head and tried to put it differently. “ok,” he said at last. “why don’t you just tell me what you know.”

“that’s going to take a long time,” God said. then he sat down, gesturing toward the ground beside Him, which was covered with something like grass but thick and soft like wool. “but as you will see, we have all the time in the world.”

04.14.17

the view

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:46 am by Administrator

in retrospect, what i previously thought of as grieving might better be understood now as bereavement. bereavement is the pronounced loss of something. it implies a distinct cause, and it implies too a destination of sorts—a coming to terms with dispossession. i have experienced bereavement of a kind a few times in my life, and each time there was a certain predictability to the feelings that overcame me. there was a natural wane to them; all i had to do was to see them through.

the grief that i am experiencing now is something i have never felt before. it is not a puddle i am stepping in and out of. it is a fathomless black pool, and when i step in, the water utterly overtakes me. as fast as i fall in, i’m thrashing my way out, frantic for breath. this is no baptism, from which i emerge with grace and profundity. this is drowning.

in this house where my father raised me, i am surreal to myself, a figment of consciousness stretched between two separating worlds. there is the world surging forward, in which i see a pair of my hands exhuming his clothes, his letters, and his books to break through to light and to air and to the spirit that resides in them. and there is the world that my thoughts ever bend toward, where the objects that i tear apart let loose the memories of where they began, in the ideas and the feelings of a man i loved. in one place, i proceed with a fervent energy as if to race away from the other place where my vision bends toward impossibility and longing, the endless contemplation of what was his life.

i understood him intimately, but i did not know him well. there was a life that he shut behind a door, a life of foreboding and fear from his early years, and i feel that he spent most of his life with me throwing his weight against that door to keep it closed. sometimes, he felt the past pushing to become his future; it came out in his nightmares. how many nightmares did he have, through the years? i would run to his bedside, and he would be gasping for air. he would never explain. he would only look at me in those moments when he had a moment to look over his shoulder, and in so many words, he would bark at me to run. run away! he would say. run to the better place! and so he held the door, while i ran in the other direction. i never knew what i was running from, and he never told me what it was. in the end, all i knew was that the running was taking me farther and farther from him.

today, i sat in his armchair. i sat on the edge of his bed. i looked out, down the hallways and out at the rooms. there was so little in his world, there at the end. that’s when i realized that the door he closed is really gone; it will never open again

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