Dear Joe…

Last week the Eagles played the Bears and won.  That was what I expected.  I didn’t expect that we would have to come from behind to win the game though.  The game last week and what I think should have been or could have been done differently is not what this week’s column is about.  No.  It is about something more important than that.  It is about change.

There has been a lot of debate on many of the local sports talk radio shows about change.  Something I find slightly ironic when “Change you can believe in” was the campaign that got our current president elected around this time last year.  Many local media members are campaigning for change in the Eagles.  There have been three different changes that have been most commonly suggested by hosts in order to spawn some phone calls and debate on the air waves.

The first change and most likely to happen at the end of the season, is at quarterback.  Many people believe it is time for the McNabb era to come to an end and usher in the beginning of the Kolb era.

The second change that has been batted around is at head coach.  Supporters of this change feel that Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach has finally ran its course after 11 seasons and it is time to bring in a new head coach.

The third most common and, in my opinion most drastic and irresponsible, change is to get a new head coach and let Kolb become the starting quarterback next year too.  Some people feel like the only way to instill true change is to blow the whole thing up and start over.  Why?  I don’t know.

Thankfully those people are usually in the minority and possess little to none of the mental prowess needed to attain a position of power to instigate wide-sweeping change of that sort.  They are the same people who steal electrical wires before turning off the electricity or peer into gas cans using a cigarette lighter.  In other words…dim, very dim.

All of these types of change may or may not have their merits.  I’m going to address all of those in another column though.  Last week’s game inspired me to demand some change, but a different type of change that I have yet to hear people debate on the air waves, in the local tap room, or at Thanksgiving gatherings.

After witnessing Sheldon Brown’s valiant performance last week on half of a hamstring I decided that it was time to reach out to my boy, the root of all evil himself, the right-hand man of Eagles Chairman/Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Lurie, a one Mr. Joe Banner.  On Monday I wrote the following email to the Eagles president:

Dear Mr. Banner,

I am a very loyal Eagles fan and season ticket holder.  So loyal, that I made the trip to San Diego two weeks ago to root for my favorite team in person.  It has become an annual tradition for me to visit training camp at Lehigh as the team prepares for the start of the pre-season as a result of my devotion to the team.  I hardly complain every year when you tear my heart out of my chest and set it on fire, like Mola Ram in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”  I tell myself that everything will be alright and that we will be back better than ever next year.  What the Eagles have achieved so far this season is quite remarkable when I think about it.

I said that I am loyal, however, if you had told me last May that Shawn Andrews would be placed on the I.R. for the season; that Stewart Bradley would have been lost for the season and put on the I.R. as well; that Stacy Andrews would not play a full-time roll on the offensive line; that Jeremiah Trotter would once again take the field in an Eagle uniform; that Jim Johnson, god rest his soul, would not win his biggest battle of his life; and asked me how many games I thought that the Eagles would win if all of that happens, I would have said “6 or 7…8 at best because I’m an optimist.”  I don’t know if most other fans would be as optimistic as me.  That is why I believe that you and your organization have done a remarkable job this year.

However, I have been very disappointed with you and some of the decisions you have made in the last twelve months.  Namely, the decision to allow Brian Dawkins to test the free agent market by not declaring him the franchise player that I felt he was.  It is completely out of my realm of comprehension as to why you would not want to pay Brian Dawkins $6 million this season, or whatever the franchise tag would have commanded.  If you think I believe any of the elephant excrement you were shoveling around on Howard Eskin’s radio show about how you made a fair offer, but that Denver made an even better offer and Brian accepted their offer before you had a chance to counter; maybe you are not as smart as I thought.  Brian’s leadership alone is worth $4 million.  Actually it is probably priceless, but that is beside the point.

The point is that I think that you have never valued leadership until now.  You had to learn how to value it the hard way.  Why else would you have brought back Trotter?  I can see from section 231 row 27 that he has lost more than a step and is virtually worthless for his ability on the field and in a game.  The only reason I see for you to have made him a member of this franchise once again has to be for what he brings to the team off the field and into the locker room, something that Dawkins had and took with him to Denver and was greatly missed as a result…leadership.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of the value of leadership and what it means to a football team.  I say this in the hope that you don’t squander the opportunity to retain more invaluable leadership this off-season like you did last year with Brian Dawkins.

What leadership?  I’m talking about the type of leadership that has only been displayed by the most select athletes in history.  Leadership that doesn’t just grow on trees, leadership that gives you goose bumps when you think about it; like when Willis Reed  limped onto the court for the Knicks in game seven of the ’70 finals with a torn thigh muscle, nobody has forgotten that moment.  Or, when Ronnie Lott had half of his left pinky amputated so that he could play football, or when Jordan dropped 38 points against the Jazz in game 5 of the ’97 finals while suffering from the flu, or when Kirk Gibson hit the World Series winning home run on two arthritic knees.

I got goose bumps when Sheldon Brown played one of his best games of this season on half of a hamstring and get goose bumps thinking about it now.  He displayed the type of leadership that Reed, Lott, Jordan, and Gibson displayed by going out on the field in a must win game and putting everything on the line for his team.  It was one of the most unselfish things I’ve ever seen an athlete do in the city of Philadelphia, a rarity in the current era of the selfish athlete.

Sheldon Brown possesses the leadership that Staley, Vincent, Trotter, and Dawkins possess that you let go away.  I am asking you, no, begging you not to make the same mistake that you made before and undervalue the leadership that Sheldon Brown has.  It is only fair to redo his contract at the end of the season.  Give him some reward for being unselfish like he was in the Bears game last week.  PLEASE!

I have a feeling that you will read this and give it what I like to call the gas face.  You know, the type of smirk you get on your face when you catch a whiff of the S.B.D. (silent but deadly) that the guy sitting next to you at the bar releases after he just ate five bowls of chili, 50 hot wings, and two triple Whoppers.  Please don’t do that.  Please give this some thought and let me know how you feel.


Sean Dempsey

Shockingly I got a response.  I’m not sure if Mr. Banner personally wrote the email though…

Dear Mr. Dempsey,

You’re right.  I gave you the gas face and have only two words for you…



Joe Banner