01.31.19

breathing and thinking

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:39 am by Administrator

i’ve noticed over the years that when I’m thinking hard about something (which is often), my body reacts in all kinds of dysfunctional ways. my posture tightens, to the extent that I sometimes find myself maintaining a distinctly uncomfortable position. muscles contract involuntarily particularly around my neck and head, leading occasionally to tension headaches and knots in my back. i often have difficulty sleeping through the night after a day of prolonged, intense thinking; i’ll usually wake up wide awake after about five hours of sleep and find it extraordinarily difficult to fall back asleep.

and here’s another thing i’ve recently noticed when i get lost in intense mental activity, and it’s perhaps the most baffling thing of them all: i stop breathing. sometimes, i even find myself holding my breath.

in the medical literature, they call this “inhibitory breathing”. it turns out that this is a behavioral reflex that’s been previously studied, though there doesn’t seem to be very extensive scholarship around it. inhibitory breathing—defined as low frequency breathing of normal tidal volumes—appears to be unconsciously mediated and associated with chronic stress, acute stress, and prolonged sedentary posture. it strikes me that the classic context for inhibitory breathing is sitting down to take a timed standardized exam.

inhibitory breathing doesn’t invariably lead to hypoxia; the body and brain are naturally wired to deal aggressively with significant hypoxemia or hypercapnia. but inhibitory breathing apparently does raise blood pCO2 just enough to trigger the body’s sympathetic response. one may not feel the surge of adrenaline, but one might experience the physiological effects all the same—peripheral vasoconstriction, impaired digestion, elevated blood pressure. one paper suggested an evolutionary root factor for this physiological response—that when animals sense imminent danger, quieting their breathing could protect them from detection by a predator.

i’ve been trained throughout my life to engage in intense mental activity for prolonged periods of time, and so my self-observed inhibitory breathing strikes me as a habit with developmental origins. mindfulness practices have enabled me to see how varied and even unusual my natural breathing patterns can be, particularly in situations of stress. i’ve even found myself bearing down (the “valsalva” maneuver) in moments of crisis (i.e. the final two minutes of Super Bowl LII). when i practice mindfulness of breathing, i find that my pattern of breathing shifts dramatically—from low frequency shallow breathing to low frequency deep breathing. the impact on my physiology after even 5-10 breaths of this nature is palpable: my posture shifts, my body immediately relaxes, and my blood pressure falls by as many as 10mm systolic.

yogis and mental health counselors have known for decades about the health benefits of controlled, mindful breathing. what impresses me from my recent journey into meditation is that mindful breathing effects not only a physiological shift but also a psychological one as well. when one’s focus shifts to the mundane action of breathing, the mental capacity for intense thought immediately decreases; preoccupations dissipate. when one practices mindful breathing for long enough, the pace of mental activity can slow to the point that present-centered awareness actually becomes possible. in other words, mindful breathing and purposeful thinking are fundamentally opposed, and one counteracts the physiological and psychological effects of the other.

my core spiritual practice is mindfulness of breathing, and i’ve found it useful not only for physical relaxation but also for achieving peace of mind as well. it is amazing to consider the fact that breathing is sufficient for wellness; simply minding one’s breathing is enough to generate a sense of well-being and even happiness

01.24.19

foles for fournette? get that sh*t outta here!

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:13 pm by Administrator

silly season is basically upon us, and some social media rumor mills and a cbs mock draft have the eagles trading nick foles to jacksonville for leonard fournette. while in theory this sort of exchange meets the needs of both teams, it’s impractical, and it’s not going to happen. in fact, the eagles aren’t going to trade nick foles for anything but draft picks, because they can’t afford to take on salary, much less leonard fournette’s $7 million paycheck for 2019.

let’s get real about the basic facts:

1. the eagles are about $20 million over the new NFL salary cap of $185 million.
2. the eagles need a little under $5 million to sign their 2019 draft picks, and they’re also going to need about $23 million on top of wentz’s current $9 million cap hit in order to extend him for the bargain price of $32 million per year. that means we need to cut $48 million off next season’s payroll just to do business as usual.
3. on top of passing on brandon graham, jordan hicks, and ronald darby, that means we will need to get a few key players off the payroll. foles ($20 mil), jernigan ($13 mil), and chris long ($5 mil) account for $38 million that will be off the books almost for certain—unless chris long decides to stay (in which case we should try to keep him). that leaves us $10 million short.
4. we will undoubtedly negotiate nelson agholor down from his $9 million cap hit for next season, and if we can’t get him down to $3 million tops then he’s a cut candidate. we will probably negotiate with both jason peters and rodney mcleod to save $2 million on each of them. all together, i expect roseman can get us below the cap by working with these three guys—but it’s not a sure thing. cutting agholor is not a big deal, but cutting either peters or mcleod will set the team back given our lack of depth at both positions.
5. as you can see, even in the absence of any big free agent signings, we will barely get under the cap in 2019, assuming we lock in wentz after dealing foles (which is the right thing to do). there’s no frickin way that we can take on a bloated contract like fournette’s. so get that sh*t outta here!

the eagles want one thing out of a foles trade: a 2nd round draft pick (ideally two of them) if we can get it. preferably they’ll have his blessing to trade him out of the conference, but like I’ve written previously, i’m not sure the AFC teams have as much to offer him as the new york giants.

i’ll admit that the buzz around a jacksonville deal is worth taking seriously now, as it’s clear that foles would be a good fit for an organization that’s looking to win now and that has an offensive coordinator in defilippo that knows him well. Jacksonville has salary cap issues of their own, as they’re projected to be $10 million over and have to shed salary. if their fate is intertwined with that of the eagles, then this could be an interesting off-season indeed.

after looking at the numbers, here’s what i predict if a philadelphia-jacksonville deal takes shape in the next 2-3 weeks:

1. Jacksonville gets foles on the $20 million option after he opts in, and then they renegotiate to give him a 4-year deal. rightly so, they look at foles as more than a bridge quarterback, and they pay him accordingly: $90 million over 4 years. to get him, they give up this year’s 2nd round pick and next year’s 2nd rounder as well.
2. Jacksonville cuts malik jackson and his $15 mil cap hit (a foregone conclusion) as well as tayshaun gipson and his $10 mil (a strong possibility given ronnie harrison’s potential). after tweaking some other contracts, Jacksonville gets about $30 million off their payroll. the $20 million in cap space gives them room to sign their draft class ($5 mil), extend jalen ramsey for an additional $8 mil annual on top of his current $8 mil cap hit, and still have about $7 mil left for a few 1-year stopgap deals, particularly to address the right side of the o-line.
3. Jacksonville keeps leonard fournette, simply because they can’t afford to weaken their offense (and because no one will trade more than a 4th round pick to get him).
4. David Caldwell looks for a potential wide receiver star in round one. because either aj brown or n’keal harry can be gotten in the teens, caldwell will trade down to recoup the 2nd round pick that he gave up for Foles. i’m predicting miami will move up from pick 13 to get drew lock, allowing the Jags to draft harry and get the best tight end available with miami’s pick in the 2nd round.

i don’t see the Jags drafting a quarterback in rounds one or two if they invest in foles. they desperately need offensive playmakers from this draft, and a star receiver coupled with a dual-threat tight end have to be the top priorities for jacksonville brass if they want to get back to winning in 2019.

i still see the eagles going with the best defensive tackle available at pick 25 (jeffrey simmons by my mock) before shifting their attention in round 2 to a speed receiver (i.e. riley ridley!), an interior o-lineman, and a free safety prospect, in that order.

01.22.19

prayer

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:01 pm by Administrator

you led me to this, to emptiness.

God of my forefathers,
who takes the death out of my life,
who goes before me
and slays my enemy,

I trust you.

in this place where I consider
life and living things cleansed
of myths and cut free from
the entanglements of ideas,

I have few words to pray
and even fewer for adulation.

does it suffice when I say
that I trust you?

when I think of the ones I love
sometimes I am so still,
almost paralyzed by possibility,
that I am unsure of what love is.

so I meditate on this:

the substance of air, alighting
upon the petal of a flower
in the middle of a dark forest
amidst the awareness of great trees,

a thousand interactions and changes
between what is seen and unseen
and yet the appearance
of stillness.

such is my heart and my life
with you.

01.21.19

mock nfl draft #1

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:25 pm by Administrator

this wasn’t supposed to be the pats’ year to return to the super bowl. they lost their best offensive lineman and critical left tackle starter nate solder to free agency. they cut ties with their star cornerback malcolm butler. josh gordon didn’t work out at wide receiver, leaving them with a solid but decidedly unspectacular group of aging wide-outs. gronk was contemplating retirement after the super bowl. 40 year-old brady seemed to be faltering at points during mid-season.

the pats replaced nate solder (who signed with new york for $15 mil a year) for a seeming re-tread in trenton brown ($1.9 mil this year). they replaced malcolm butler with 31 year-old jason mccourty and then moved the 9-year cornerback veteran to safety. they kept together a middling group of defensive linemen and linebackers, which ended the season 29th and 21st in yards allowed in 2017 and ‘18, respectively.

and yet here they are, going back to the big game. players come and go, but the system stays the same. the play on the o-line has been elite for the 2018 pats, their running game has been effective, and their underrated defense has for two seasons in a row been top-10 in points allowed. for nineteen years, bill belichick has been teaching the rest of the league that what defines a player in the NFL isn’t talent but value and what defines a team isn’t the big play but the consistent, disciplined execution of every player’s assignments. one might think that belichick’s philosophy makes every player feel dispensable; but i think that the pats’ history has proven that when a player knows he is ordinary he is capable of building an extraordinary team.

it’s a “good to great” kind of thing, and i think it explains why a lot of teams in the NFL fail to dig their ways out of losing cultures year after year. with some rare exceptions, it’s not whom you draft that turns a franchise around; it’s how you cascade an approach to discipline and growth all the way down to your backup special teams player on the roster bubble that determines whether you have a culture that supports winning or one that dooms you to miss the little things critical to success, time and time again.

it’s no accident perhaps that john heer, two-time baldrige winning CEO of north mississippi health center, consistently uses football as a key point of reference in his approach to driving effective teamwork. “it’s just blocking and tackling,” he said at a sharing day i attended five years ago. “it worked for nick saban, and it works for us.”

MOCK NFL DRAFT #1

1. Cardinals: NICK BOSA
2. 49ers: QUINNEN WILLIAMS
3. Jets: JOSH ALLEN
4. Raiders: CLELLIN FERRELL
5. Broncos (trade up with Tampa): DWAYNE HASKINS
6. Giants: CODY FORD
7. Jaguars: DREW LOCK
8. Lions: RASHAN GARY
9. Bills: JONAH WILLIAMS
10. Bucs: GREG LITTLE
11. Bengals: DEVIN WHITE
12. Packers: JACHAI POLITE
13. Dolphins: DANIEL JONES
14. Falcons: ED OLIVER
15. Redskins: KYLER MURRAY
16. Panthers: DEANDRE BAKER
17. Browns: CHRISTIAN WILKINS
18. Vikings: JAWAAN TAYLOR
19. Titans: BYRON MURPHY
20. Steelers: GREEDY WILLIAMS
21. Seahawks: MONTEZ SWEAT
22. Ravens: N’KEAL HARRY
23. Texans: YODNY CAJUSTE
24. Raiders: DEIONTE THOMPSON
25. Eagles: JEFFREY SIMMONS
26. Colts: AJ BROWN
27. Raiders: MACK WILSON
28. Chargers: DRE’MONT JONES
29. Chiefs: AMANI ORUWARIYE
30. Packers: JOHNATHAN ABRAM
31. Rams: DEXTER LAWRENCE
32. Pats: ZACH ALLEN

Notes:

1. I used position ranks from Walter Football and PFF, positional needs from CBS, about a dozen industry mocks, and some personal game tape review (particularly for wide receiver prospects) to come up with my top 32.
2. At pick #3, mike maccagnan is in a tough spot, as he has to work with a new head coach and a new defensive coordinator (gregg williams) who is shifting the defense to a 4-3 base. i’m not sure if the bigger Clelin Ferrell or the smaller and more versatile Josh Allen is the better fit, but i’m going with Allen given the direction of the league, which is favoring smaller and more athletic linebackers with coverage skills.
3. Mike Mayock is going to have his hands full with know-it-all Jon Gruden, but i think he’s going to bring a “best man available” approach to the 1st round, landing a good haul at defensive end (gary), linebacker (wilson), and safety (thompson)—all guys who could immediately transform the pathetic Raiders’ defense.
4. Tampa will trade down with Denver at the price of Denver’s 1st round pick next year, so that Elway can steal Haskins from david caldwell and the jags. The bucs have quite a bit of new defensive talent to assimilate, but they’re desperately weak on the o-line. they’ll be happy to take either williams or little at pick 10.
5. Dave Gettleman refused to take a QB in ‘18 and will double down on his “strategy” by reaching for a potentially dominant interior o-lineman in cody ford. i think the giants will go all-in for nick foles and put eli out to pasture.
6. in miami, chris grier is a new GM working with a new head coach and a dysfunctional team that needs a dramatically new direction. grier doesn’t want to miss this opportunity to get his starting QB of the future, and pick #13 is the right risk-benefit scenario to take this chance.
7. washington has an unstable front office and a broken qb situation. if they don’t take the best QB available, i’d be shocked. kyler murray is the most controversial potential 1st round prospect. personally, i think mayfield, wilson, and brees have proven that height isn’t a make or break thing for an NFL quarterback.
8. at pick #20, i think the steelers will jump all over greedy williams after the titans take byron murphy the pick before. kevin colbert has a solid offense to work with and a clear gap in the secondary to address, so he’ll take any of the top 3 corner prospects (baker, murphy, wiilliams) if one drops to him.
9. the eagles will not have a shot at montez sweat and will have to decide between the best DE available (zach allen), the best defensive tackle (simmons), or a speedy wide receiver (marquise brown). personally, i’d like howie to at least think about mack wilson here, as the past two drafts have shown just how impactful the right linebacker (i.e. LVE, roquan smith, darius leonard) can be. i think that we’ll take the best overall player in simmons, which will enable us to move on from jernigan and save some money for veteran help at linebacker.
10. if zach allen is available to new england at pick 32 (yes, i’m picking the pats to beat the rams in the SB), then i don’t see them trading out of the 1st round, as tempting as that will be to bargain hunting bill. zach is a cut above the remaining pass rushers, and the pats must find an edge rusher to replace trey flowers, whom the pats will almost certainly not re-sign. no, i don’t see the Pats taking will grier here; belichick has had enough conflict with brady and kraft about brady’s future to know that QB succession is just something the next GM will have to worry about.

01.19.19

my top 5 questions about the eagles

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:59 pm by Administrator

1. to what extent will the impending extension of carson wentz weaken this team?
2. how much more mileage can we get out of our o-line?
3. can the eagles realistically contend for the lombardi in 2019?
4. what’s our most important priority this off-season?
5. what position will we draft in the 1st round of the draft?

the questions have to be answered in this order, because the strategic questions (#4 and #5) have no answer until we have a thorough assessment of the team’s current state.

here are my thoughts:

1. to what extent will the impending extension of carson wentz weaken this team?

i don’t mean to imply that wentz will be a bad investment at $30+ million per year; but obviously his massive contract will represent a massive opportunity cost as soon as it kicks in. the relatively small combined cap hit of our QBs in 2017 was part of the reason that roseman was able to go out and transform the team into a contender, seemingly overnight. we were able to pay alshon jeffery, legarrette blount, and timmy jernigan thanks to that cap cushion, and those three guys were the difference for us down the stretch. wentz’s extension either this year or next will mean that even after we move on from foles we will have to clear a further $30 million in salaries just to keep him and sign the guys we draft. to give you an idea of what that looks like right now, we’d have to cut peters ($10 mil), jernigan ($11 mil), bennett ($7 mil), and long ($5 mil) while passing on any deals for brandon graham, jordan hicks, ronald darby, and darren sproles. basically, we’d have a shell of a defense, with fletcher cox, derek barnett, nigel bradham, and malcolm jenkins being the only headliners of a patchwork squad.

yes, the wentz extension is going to weaken the team. how much it will weaken the team depends on how we draft this year and next and how well we can negotiate with our veteran guys to get more salary off the books. we’d need a draft as transcendent as the colts’ in 2018 or the saints’ in 2017 in order to match the quality of the squad we had during our championship run; and given that we’re picking at 25, this seems unlikely.

2. how much more mileage can we get out of our o-line?

jason peters is 37, and jason kelce is 31 with a lot of tread. vaitai is a decent backup but cannot hold down either tackle position as a starter. brandon brooks may never be the same after this achilles tear. and no one knows where isaac seumalo’s best fit is on this o-line. could he be kelce’s replacement at center?

our o-line, a spectacular group in 2017, was shaky at times in 2018, coming together late in the season by force of wlll and the inspiration of nick foles to assert dominance against the bears in the playoffs. i don’t think we can count on that magic to repeat itself given the age and injury concerns we now face. even if peters comes back for a discounted year and brooks makes a miraculously fast recovery, this o-line is fated to prove that its best years are behind.

there’s no doubt that we’re going to have to draft an o-lineman or two early in this year’s draft. the problem with this approach is that this is a terrible year to be hunting for a left tackle prospect. there are only three guys that profile as legitimate future left tackle starters (jonah williams, jawaan taylor and greg little), and with the possible exception of williams they’re too raw to jump in as first-year starters. the next tier of guys (yodny cajuste and andre dillard) look like backup right tackles or rotators on the interior.

jordan mailata remains the x-factor and a shotgun’s shot in the dark for our left tackle position. at 6′7″ and 350 pounds with quickness, strength, and good hands, he has too much potential to dismiss, but his pre-season game tape showed plenty of mechanical flaws. simply put, he’s still learning the game, and i think he’s still a season or two from regular game action. if we rush his development, he’ll get reinjured, and even worse he’ll probably get wentz destroyed as well.

3. can the eagles realistically contend in 2019?

i think we have to face it. with a very mediocre offense for most of 2018, an aging o-line, and imminent defensive gaps that we’ll be unable to address with wentz’s salary weighing down the books, we will be a lesser version of ourselves come september. i do expect us to take a step back in 2019 even if we’re able to pull off a miracle deal with brandon graham. the cowboys look like the team to beat in the NFC East for at least one more season, which is painfully difficult to accept but a plain truth nonetheless. even if wentz takes a step forward in his confidence and decision-making, i don’t expect us to match the 9 wins that we stumbled upon this season.

that being said, if we can rebuild the o-line over the next two seasons and find a longer-term answer at running back, then we could emerge to be one of the best offenses in the league by the 2021 season. how good our defense will look at that point is beyond my capacity to imagine, but it may very well be a unit with none of the guys that won us the super bowl.

4. what’s our most important priority this off-season?

in light of our need to build for the future, we have a lot of priorities this off-season. we need to get something for foles. we need to clear cap room for wentz. we need to figure out jordan mailata. and we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do at running back.

but there’s no question in my mind that our most important priority is to fix the offensive play-calling. i’m not going to pin this all on mike groh, but collectively the coaching staff and carson wentz face-planted on offense in 2018. while our defense was admittedly porous, schwartz did an admirable job of maximizing the talent that we had, and the statistics prove this. the same cannot be said about our offensive unit, which dramatically regressed and without justification. yes, we needed a receiver with high-end speed and struggled in the absence of one. yes, we needed healthy running backs to take pressure off of wentz. but when it comes down to it, we were frustratingly inefficient until foles took the helm, and this summer we have to figure out why. no single signing is going to fix this problem. if pederson, groh, and wentz don’t fix this quickly in 2019, our most important personnel decision as early as october will be at offensive coordinator.

5. what position will we draft in the 1st round?

i’ve defined our top positional needs over the short-term to be at left tackle, defensive line, and safety. as i stated previously, this is an abysmal draft for teams hungry for a left tackle starter, and at position 25 i think we have to concede that an offensive tackle there will be an incredible reach. jumping to safety, we could consider taking a safety in the 1st, but here too there is probably an opportunity cost. the eagles need a center fielder with top-end speed and coverage skills, and this year’s class of safeties look like strong safety/linebacker hybrids who wouldn’t be great fits for the eagles D.

i’m going to go with my first instincts and assert that the Eagles just have to load up at defensive end in this year’s 1st round. in all likelihood, montez sweat and zach allen will both be there. while neither of these guys will make us forget about brandon graham, they could probably contribute to schwartz’s scheme from day one. if our window for a rebuild realistically is 2-3 seasons, defensive end is a good place to begin.

like his head coach, roseman likes to be aggressive, and if we package picks to move up in the 1st round, the outlook significantly changes—but the positional priority remains the same. a guy like clelin ferrell would be worth giving up one of our 2nd rounders to grab, if the opportunity is there.

01.16.19

what will foles do; and my dream job in the nfl

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:00 pm by Administrator

there’s a lot of chatter about what the eagles and nick foles will work out, and one of my friends asked for my opinion on what will transpire over the next 4 weeks. will the eagles exercise their one-year $20 million option on Foles? will Foles decline the option? will the Eagles then franchise tag him? who will trade for him, and what can the Eagles expect from the trade? it is in my mind maybe the most complex situation howie roseman has recently faced.

let’s start with what we know about nick foles. he’s an unassuming guy. he’s dealt deeply with failure, and this has shaped his relationship with football and with the eagles organization. he’s team-oriented, and he made a decision last year not to force the issue with the eagles about his desire to start, to be traded, or to be rewarded for his incredible contributions during the 2017 season. all of this might lead fans to believe that foles will simply do what is in the best interests of the eagles organization. but that’s silly. once upon a time, the eagles traded nick away to an organization that nearly destroyed his career, and he’s not going to let them do that again. this is a business, and while the eagles have made it clear that carson wentz is their quarterback of the future, nick has also made it clear that he wants to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. so let’s level-set expectations here; nick isn’t out there to do the Eagles special favors. next year, we’re going to be a team that he’s going to want to beat as badly as possible.

if I’m nick foles, given the journey that he’s taken to get here, I have five priorities: 1) i want to join a team has a good offensive system, 2) i want to work for a coach that i know and trust, 3) i want starter money (not necessarily superstar money), 4) i want a good town for my family to settle down in (i.e. not jacksonville or tampa bay), and 5) i want a long-term deal—and by that i mean at least a five-year commitment.

like I’ve written previously, there’s one franchise that fits the bill cleanly, and that’s the New York Giants. if nick feels the same way, then dave gettleman actually holds all the cards in this process. if the Giants and pat shurmur want foles very badly, and if gettleman is able to establish mutual interest with foles early on in the process, then gettleman has no incentive to work with the eagles to get foles. he can simply wait til foles hits free agency—either this year or next—and pay nick the big bucks when he becomes available with no strings attached. if however gettleman can’t be certain of foles’s interest, and if he’s under pressure to make a QB decision early in the off-season, then he might be willing to come to the table with the eagles to make a foles trade happen.

it’s a delicate and political conversation, but i think that howie’s interests are best served 1) if he can define at least a couple destinations that nick is interested in and 2) if he convinces the league that he’s potentially willing to keep foles for another year on the franchise tag. obviously the latter would be a tough sell (though not entirely inconceivable), but the first factor depends entirely on nick and what he wants for his future. this is where Oakland could be a spoiler; if gruden likes foles, he could be our ace—the leverage we need to get it done with new york.

so my prediction, with all these factors considered, is that foles accepts the team option and gets traded to the giants for two second rounders (2019 and 2020). it’s all handled quickly and professionally in february, and nick foles is a Giant by march.

another friend asked me what i’d want to do in the NFL if i could pick my dream job with the league. would i want to get involved in sports writing, general management, or even player scouting. i thought about it briefly and realized a few things.

firstly, i still believe that the NFL game is very tough on the players. it’s a business that thrives on unreasonable violence, and it’s a game that disables the young men who play it. moreover, there’s no requirement or incentive for the league or the teams to support their players over the long term; so when players experience declining play on the field as a result of their injuries, the teams cut ties with them with no further obligations to their players. this is an unethical system—and i can never be a part of that.

neither do i want to be a part of the effort to make the game safer and more sustainable for its players. there are better people involved in that, and I’m not even sure that over the long term there is a solution that will effectively limit the severe physical and psychological damage done to the professionals who play this game. i don’t think football has a solution. i think that football is a symptom of our culture; like legalized gambling and prostitution, football has its very dark side, and there will never be a satisfactory and sanitary way to eliminate that.

perhaps i might have an interest in mentoring and supporting the players. but i’ll have to admit up front that the advice i would give them would be to preserve themselves, at the expense of their performance and the success of their teams. what are their goals, and what do they want out of the game? if they want to make a good living and be well enough to enjoy their money in twenty years, why not aim for guaranteed money on a good second contract and then slack off, feign injury, and retire early?

my passion for the NFL football doesn’t make much sense, the more i think about it. i don’t want to be part of the game. but i haven’t yet found a way to stop caring about it.

01.15.19

more and more eagles thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:59 pm by Administrator

I know that this will be mind-numbingly boring for my five readers (sorry mom) but I’m going to talk more about the eagles, because when I do think (which is a lot less than I used to prior to beginning meditation) I tend to think about my team.

perhaps my last entry didn’t capture how much pain I experienced as a result of the loss on sunday. I don’t think I even realized how much I was hurting until last night. that being said, my experience of football pain is much different nowadays. once upon a time I felt such agony because of disappointed personal expectations. the pain I had yesterday was the pain of saying goodbye to this group of guys, whom I will always remember as a very special group. yeah, a lot of football fans across the country would consider this a silly sentimentality, but i won’t apologize for the fact that Philadelphia’s fans really experienced something quite unique with the eagles of the 2017/2018 seasons. this wasn’t just a group of talented guys that won the city a super bowl; it was a family of players that embraced the team concept, devoted themselves to one another and to the city, and expressed a corporate belief in mutual compassion and systematic justice.

when i think about what brought this extraordinary group of guys together, i have to credit both jeff lurie and howie roseman, who worked hard and spent the money to build this team. i have to credit doug pederson, whom no one—not in Philadelphia or otherwise—believed in as a head coach at the start of the 2016 season. and i have to credit carson wentz as well, whose suffering, resilience, and commitment to the team through multiple injuries and severe adversity inspired this squad to believe in one another. carson may not have played a single playoff game for the eagles, but at his young age he has already proven to be a transcendent leader. there would have been no superman foles had it not been for a confident, persevering, and utterly committed carson in his corner. because i believe that, i can say goodbye to foles with both affection and without regret, knowing that carson is our guy.

howie roseman has to get right to work now, and this will be a very challenging and interesting moment for him. it was one thing to build a championship team. it will be another challenge entirely to sustain success. john schneider couldn’t do it; the precipitous fall of the seahawks, after their gift contracts and utter lack of investment in the offensive line, is now a true cautionary tale for every other GM in the league. howie can’t (and won’t) simply open up the pocketbook to reward the guys who made this Eagles team a transcendent winner. we are relying on him to keep the eagles in contention, and that means he has the difficult job this off-season of cutting ties with some beloved eagles.

a guy that I’m beginning to believe we may not need to cut ties with is brandon graham. up until yesterday’s news, i was fairly certain that we would not be able to afford brandon, who has consistently emphasized his intention to maximize his money. but yesterday, graham suggested a “small” hometown discount would be something he’d be willing to offer in order to stay—and by small, he suggested about $2 million a year. that’s significant given our cap situation, as it could very well be the difference between a $45 million/3 year contract we simply can’t afford and a $38 million contract that has a lot of that paid up front in bonuses to free up cap room next year for a wentz extension.

keeping graham almost certainly means that we would not be able to offer anything long-term to tim jernigan, jordan hicks, or ronald darby. jernigan and darby might be willing to stay on for 1-year deals, but the more i think about it, the more i’m convinced that hicks can and will get that second contract now. inside linebacker isn’t nearly as important to jim schwartz as an elite front four and quality defensive backs, so we’ll probably replace hicks with worrilow and look to add a linebacker in round 4 of the draft.

speaking of the draft, if we can keep graham, i’d rate our needs in the draft in the following order:

1. offensive tackle: whether or not peters wants to come back for a discounted year, we have to find a premium o-lineman in this draft with potential at left tackle. mailata is a gamble right now, and vaitai is not our future on either side. ideally, we want to keep lane johnson on the right side and find a top prospect that could start on the left within a year. i think OT should be our priority at pick 25, and it’s worth trading up in the mid-1st if we can snag jonah williams or jawaan taylor. if we sit at 25, i’m fairly certain we could land either greg little or andre dillard.

2. defensive tackle: mock drafts are projecting as many as 6 defensive ends and 10 interior d-linemen to get drafted in round one, but i think it’s honestly unlikely that half the league is going to go all in on the d-line when team needs are so diverse. when it’s all said and done, i believe that four QBs, four offensive tackles, two offensive guards, a tight end (fant), at least one running back (jackson), two outside linebackers, two safeties, and at least three cornerbacks will go in round one, which means that at most only 13 of those d-line prospects will go in the first. that means that at least 3 top-graded d-linemen will drop into the 2nd, where the eagles can scoop one. if we get a high 2nd round pick out of a foles trade, i can see us devoting that pick to a big man in the middle that can buddy up with cox.

3. safety: we sorely missed rodney McLeod this year, and given our depth chart, i think that safety is a vastly more pressing need for us than cornerback. we can wait til the late 2nd round to get a quality backup here. walter football projects a mini-run on safeties to start in the late 2nd (thornhill, hooker, and adderley), and i think we should be at the front end of that run.

4. center: if we end up having three 2nd rounders from a foles trade, i’d prefer to hold onto all three picks as opposed to leveraging one of them to move up in the 1st. that’s because we do need a successor to jason kelce as early as next season. the late second round is a good spot to get our potential center of the future (i.e. elgton Jenkins), particularly if kelce commits to giving us at least one more season.

01.14.19

appreciation and awareness

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:57 pm by Administrator

yesterday, the Eagles came out swinging and had a stunningly good 1st quarter. then the Saints woke up and played as well as we all knew that they could. it was a hard-fought win for that team, and I’m happy for the fans of New Orleans, who are a committed and passionate fan base for the Saints. I’m proud of my Eagles. down to the last man, they played their hearts out, and they left it all on the field. we overachieved, and in the process we achieved something quite memorable. I’m going to miss this group of guys—Nick Foles and Brandon Graham in particular.

Brandon Brooks and Sheldon Rankins tore ligaments yesterday, and other guys took hard hits in what was a very physical contest. it was a reminder to me that there are real and very severe costs to playing this game. there is a part of me that remains profoundly uncomfortable with the game of football—its patriarchy, its physical costs, and its ethical dilemmas. the game needs to change; we need to protect these young men and their futures. but I don’t know how that change will happen, because the fans and the players alike are committed to this version of the game—a high-stakes, dangerously violent, and morally disturbing game.

a close friend of mine began her prison sentence a couple of months ago, and for the first time yesterday I received a message from her about her life on the inside. reading her message—a very detailed and thoughtful description of her lonely and painful new state of existence—threw me off a bit. I felt emotional, upset, and perhaps even a bit angry as well. I took a few moments to become aware of my own feelings, and from there I grounded myself in the fact that our moments, every one of them, are equally precious and equally human. time passes for my friend in the same way that it passes for us all. the universe avails her a consciousness, a breath, a living reality. I hope that her moments, however constrained, can still be sufficient for her soul.

today, I commit myself to practices of health:

1. to practice nonattachment to view
2. to recognize the unimportance of belief
3. to welcome emptiness
4. to experience inter-being with others through the emptying of my identity

01.11.19

All about the Eagles: the game, the trade, the draft

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:40 pm by Administrator

we’re in uncharted territory here, when it comes to understanding this Eagles team. we were not a good team for most of this season and really have no business being in the divisional round of the playoffs. but here we are, with a secondary full of replacement players, looking for more magic from our backup quarterback, and facing an opponent who destroyed us by 40+ points at the turning point of our season two months ago. and we have a shot at it.

no, I’m not expecting us to beat the Saints. drew brees can dump the ball quick, or he can sit in the pocket and work us downfield. the saints’ D is legitimately strong at all phases of the game. the usual mix of mark ingram, alvin kamara, ted ginn, and michael thomas will hurt us, and I think that the weaknesses of our nickel D will be exposed early on this game. if we have any hope of staying competitive, it will only be because our offense is keeping pace with theirs—a tall order given how well lattimore and apple have been playing in coverage. it feels like a game that we’ll need tate, ertz, and goedert to win for us. if I were a betting man, I’d bet on the over for sure. the Saints will score early and often, and the Eagles will try to match them score for score until the wheels come off. I’m predicting that we lose 38-31; we’ll give up five touchdowns, and four of them will be on the board before half-time.

all this being said, i believe that this is one of those rare situations when a season that doesn’t end in a super bowl victory can still be considered a great success. we overcame innumerable injuries and mediocre play to steal a post-season berth and a ridiculous, legendary, unforgettable win in Chicago. and in the process, we redefined our identity and discovered some good young talent to build around for years to come.

someone we won’t be building around is nick foles. yes, I’ve been campaigning for us to extend him and commit to him for the long term. but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we won’t be choosing him over carson wentz. there will be a trade. and this is how it’s going to go down. in march, we’re going to finalize a deal with New York that will send Nick Foles and his $20 million one-year option to the Giants in return for the Giants’ pick #37 in the 2nd round, pick 102 in the 4th round, and a 2nd round pick in 2020. the Giants will of course renegotiate with Nick to sign him to a four or five year deal that will net him about $22 million a year. he’ll start for the Giants and finish his career there.

it’s obvious that the alternative scenarios are simply unrealistic. there’s no way after everything he went through with Chip Kelly and Jeff Fisher that Nick Foles would willingly agree to a situation in which he has to roll the dice with an unfamiliar coach and a brand-new system. forget about Jacksonville, Miami, and Denver; nick will nix those situations by buying his way out of the option and making it clear that he won’t sign for the long-term if he’s tagged and traded. the Giants have what Nick wants at this phase in his career: a good head coach who knows him well, skill players that are ready to produce, and a town that he and his family will take to gladly. the Eagles may not want to face him twice a year (or would they?), but the fact is that this may be the only situation in which mutual interest is even possible. it’s because of this that the Eagles won’t be able to get a 1st rounder out of this; but pick 37 is adequate compensation in the end, and it’s the right kind of draft for an early 2nd rounder.

I’ve put some thought into our roster situation and the cap, and given what we have to clear under the cap for wentz next year, i don’t think that there’s any way we re-sign brandon graham. that is a sad, sad thing to come to grips with. couple that with the probable losses of chris long, mike bennett, and timmy jernigan, and jim schwartz just won’t have the defensive front that he needs to maintain a competitive defense. we’ll need to devote our top picks to the d-line: pick 25 (after our loss this weekend) will be an edge defender (i.e. montez sweat if we like him) and pick 33 will be an interior d-lineman. next year’s d-line won’t look as intimidating on paper, but if barnett and the sweat bros (josh and montez) show up, then we’ll have what we need—a young, explosive pass-rushing group.

assuming Jason peters is amenable to taking a one-year deal in the $5-6 million ballpark, the single toughest decision we’ll have to make this spring is Jordan hicks. given our cap situation for this year and next, we can’t afford him to give him $8 mil a year for three years; at best, i think we can offer him a one-year “prove it” deal. the thing is that Jordan has already proven it. aside from the injuries, he’s shown that he can be a top ILB in all phases of the game. we can’t afford to lose him; but maybe we just can’t afford him period. it would be a tough loss if we had to let him walk, but it might be the price we have to pay in order to keep wentz for the long term.

cornerback is the position where we are weakest, but ironically i don’t see us addressing the position during this year’s draft. depending on what happens with peters and hicks, we might have some money for a mid-level veteran corner or even ronald darby. here again we’ll need howie roseman to do some magic for us.

I’m thinking way too far ahead.

GO EAGLES

01.07.19

the meaning of church

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:40 pm by Administrator

nineteen months ago, my wife and i started a new chapter in our spiritual lives together. it is interesting now to reflect on this journey and how much it has changed me and my attitude toward the church.

in june of 2017, my wife and i decided to join a small church based on its welcoming and affirming stance toward gays and lesbians, its openly liberal stances on political and social issues, and its commitment to engaging the scripture through a critical, postmodern lens. from the start, the experience blew our minds and enabled us to experience integration of our professional, personal, and religious life experiences. i still recall the very first sermon i heard at the church—a talk delivered by a female schoolteacher about the experience of women in the church and God’s demonstration of feminine divinity. for the first six months of my time at the church, i found myself repeatedly shocked and delighted by both the teachings and the conversations that i experienced there, which enabled me to reinterpret the confining and self-contradicting stories of the Gospel that I’d grown up with in evangelical church settings.

i credit my time in the community for accelerating a personal theological shift that had been a long time in the making. i relinquished my tortuous and overly complex view of human depravity; i stopped wrestling with the inescapably strange doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement; and while i did not adopt a universalist stance outright, i abandoned orthodox views of heaven and hell in the interests of better understanding the practical, socially reforming, and presently redemptive aspects of the Gospel that was preached by Christ. it was a theological shift that enabled me to see the deep intersectionality between Christian practice and mindfulness practice. from there, however, everything changed.

as i entered year two of my engagement with the church community, i found that my attitude toward the church (both the local community and the broader entity implied by the metaphorical body of Christ) began to evolve considerably. as i went deeper and deeper into meditative practices, my sensitivity to conceptual thinking began to sharpen. even the teachings that had previously exposed my underlying misgivings about orthodox Christianity were themselves beginning to strike me as mental exercises designed to foster identities and feelings. as i grew more and more familiar with the recurring themes of the preachings, i found them less and less necessary to examining self and to motivating genuine compassion toward others. i began to seek more practical applications of mindful spirituality in the group setting, as opposed to an ongoing communal deconstruction of traditional theologies.

in brief, nineteen months with this church community have healed me of a long-standing and problematic dependency on an evangelical tradition that i would now describe as prescriptive, provincial, and prejudicial; but the resolution of this dependency has been so thorough that I’m now having a real difficulty maintaining any sense of commitment to the church.

perhaps my dwindling interest in theology and soteriology do not necessarily have to equate to a disengagement from all aspects of the church experience. but word plays, metanarratives, and philosophizing have been such an integral part of “sunday worship” throughout my life and even up to the present time, and it is difficult for me to imagine a church experience that disrupts this approach sufficiently enough to allow for the quiet sharing of space, the emptying of obsession and identity, and a non-thinking mutual awareness—spiritual elements that i now value. there is a part of me that earnestly desires a fruitful and ongoing engagement with spiritual community, if for no other reason than to prevent self-isolation, which i do not view as an enlightened state. but the greater part of me resists the hive mind experiences of communal identification and differentiation, which feed the ego and engender a transient and often false sense of self.

several years ago, the pastor of the previous church i attended shared with me his opinion that most people don’t flock to the church looking for an innovative, out of the box, unorthodox spiritual experience. most people come to the church looking for orthodoxy. as such, churches that aim to deconstruct and reconstruct traditional religion don’t flourish; at most, they gain a transient membership that ultimately either abandons religion or departs the church for one that offers a revitalized experience of orthodox Christianity. it struck me as an odd observation at the time, because churches do seem to innovate and evolve over the generations. but i think I’m beginning to understand his fundamental point: that people do not primarily attend church in order to create a new religion. they go to church because of a conservative tendency—a longing to hold onto something truthful, pure, and rare.

i shared with a friend of mine in the community that perhaps our church needs a theology of covenant in order to be sustainable—if sustainability as a community is part of its aim. as it stands, our church is an excellent support group for ex-evangelicals, as it offers healing to those who have been previously abused or wounded by the church. but support groups only last for as long as their members have active need of them; and even still, you would expect consistent participation to rapidly taper as the participants become well. a growing church must be more than a support group; it must be a community that firmly believes in its mission, a mission that makes it necessary to both its members and the world at large. such a mission requires an assumption of a singular, special, and shared identity. herein lies the great irony: the mission of every church I’ve been a part of has been based on a sense of identity that is exclusive in some way. can a church that is limitlessly inclusive actually win anyone’s commitment?

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