Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back in the water

After a few months of ignoring the stock market, because I simply couldn't stand the pain, I waded back in today.

My portfolio bounced back some from the bleak lows (although it's still less than the thrilling highs), so I used it as an opportunity to get out of Pepsi, Marchex, Dow, and Oakley. Then I turned around and bought some Caterpillar, which has taken a beating recently.

The biggest drains on my portfolio, by far, are the evil tech stocks. I just can't bring myself to dump Marvell and Qualcomm, no matter how badly they beat me up.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Finally saw The Departed tonight, and that was one fantastic movie. I won't go into a lot of detail, as I'd mostly repeat what Sherry said, but it was the best movie I've seen in a long time.

The fact that I could even sit through a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio is an endorsement by itself...but the fact that the movie actually made me care about the character is an even stronger one. He's one of those actors, like Orlando Bloom, who I usually wish to be maimed or killed (on screen, of course) in some creative way, regardless of the role they are playing.

Also...Matt Damon with a South Boston accent, can't help but remind of another excellent movie (Hey Carmen, remember me? It's Will.)

I have trouble recalling a movie with Jack Nicholson where he doesn't completely steal the show, but it happens here. DiCaprio and Damon play convincing roles, and the writing gives them plenty of opportunities to shine.

Sherry: I didn't notice the wig, sorry. But I did dig up that Irish music for you.

What's perhaps even more exciting than the movie itself was one of the trailers for 300. I'm more than a little scared by the phrase "inspired by the graphical interpretation of Frank Miller", but I'm willing to accept some overdone artistry if it fairly portrays the amazing bravery of the Greek soliders at the Battle of Thermopylae.

A tiny Greek army, led by an elite force of 300 Spartan hoplites, held a mountain pass against ~150,000 Persians (the exact number is a matter of historical dispute) for three days, killing 20,000 Persians in the process, hoping in vain for the Athenian reinforcements to arrive. On the third day, they were betrayed, and a local man led the Persian Immortals up a little-known mountain pass so they could get behind the Greek defenders and surround them. Realizing the betrayal, the Spartan king Leonidas sent away the tiny army and swore to fight a delaying action with his 300 men so the army could escape. Seven-hundred Thebans chose to stand with the Spartans, and their last stand was legendary.

Surrounded, the Greeks charged into the Persian horde. When their spears broke, they fought with their swords, and when their swords finally broke they are said to have attacked with nails and teeth. With thousands of their comrades dead, and afraid to lose more, the Persain army actually retreated from the exhausted, weaponless Greeks, and killed them with hails of arrows.

Leonidas said "when this battle is over, the world will know that few stood against many." Xerxes, after watching the Greeks shred his troops, reportedly said "I have a numberless army, but few men." I am really psyched to see this historic battle portrayed on the big screen. I'm certain the movie won't live up to my expectations, but I can't wait to see it anyway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Michael Lewis Dilemma

Well, I hope to get back to blogging here shortly, and possibly even blog about non-Eagles topics! But I have to write this all down just to get my own thoughts in order.

I often imagine myself in the shoes of Joe Banner, and make personnel judgements on the Eagles. Earlier in the season, I wrote that the Eagles need to re-sign Michael Lewis, one of only two starters (Donte' Stallworth is the other) who are not under contract for next season.

But I am starting to see now what the Eagles must have been seeing all along. Lewis is struggling, giving up huge pass plays on consecutive weeks. The other NFL teams are noticing, and are designing plays to isolate him in pass coverage. When I think back on last year, it's possible the isolation began even then, as weaknesses in his game have slowly come to light.

Some factors to keep in mind about Michael Lewis:

  • He went to the Pro Bowl in 2004.

  • He's considered one of the best run-support and blitzing strong safeties in the league.

  • He has all the physical tools to be a great safety.

  • By all accounts, he is a hard worker, a high-character guy, and a great teammate.

So what has changed for Lewis since his Pro Bowl year? Has he slowed down? Is he injured? Does he lack confidence?

No...the answer is simple: QB pressure.

In 2004, the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, and part of what fueled that season was a defense that was at the top of the NFL in sacks. Michael Lewis was aggressive, jumping routes, and breaking up passes in addition to his solid run defense and blitzing.

Fast forward to last year, when his pass coverage started to come into question, and you'll see Michael Lewis playing the same way as 2004, while the Eagles defense falls to near the bottom of the NFL in sacks. Now, he jumps those same routes, plays his same aggressive style, but the QB has time to wait for the receiver to make an extra move and simply throws it over Lewis' head.

Sound familiar? It should, because the last two weeks, the two big plays he's given up were carbon copies of that formula. On both the 57-yard pass interference penalty and the TD to Joe Horn, Lewis anticipates the ball being thrown early, but instead the QB is not pressured at all and has time to wait for the WR to make another move. In both cases, Bledsoe and Brees had a full six seconds to wait for the receiver to get open. Although Michael Lewis is technically responsible for both plays, it is hard to imagine a strong safety in the NFL who could cover Terry Glenn or Joe Horn for six seconds. It just doesn't happen.

Lewis is better than his overhyped counterpart in Dallas, Roy Williams. He's better than a lot of strong safeties in this league, who would have fallen victim to both plays...they were perfectly designed, and perfectly executed, while the defense generated no pass rush at all to counteract them.

It is tough to ask a guy to change the way he plays, when the way he plays took him to a Pro Bowl just a couple seasons back. But then again, you can't make excuses for a guy forever. He's now a five-year veteran, and should be smart enough to recognize these situations better. There's a time to be aggressive, and a time where simply reading and reacting is a more prudent play. If he hasn't figured this out in five years, what makes anyone think he'll start to figure it out in year six? What good are all his tools if teams can exploit him for an easy six points every week?

So what do you do as the Eagles? Do you keep him in the starting lineup and sign him to a modest contract, expecting his mental mistakes to grow fewer with experience? Or do you give up on him and start Sean Considine, a promising safety project out of Iowa? This is one of the more interesting personnel dilemmas I can recall for the Eagles. Usually, in my mind at least, these decisions are cut and dried, but I'm undecided on this one.

I'm really pulling for Michael Lewis. It would be much better for the Eagles if he returned to his Pro Bowl form, while Considine waits to take Dawkins' spot in two years. But would I resign him right now? Probably not. I need to see that he can fight through these struggles and learn to play smart. If he does that, his price will go up, but I'm willing to pay for a guy of his talents and character.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What a game!

I'm wearing my Brian Dawkins jersey to work today (over top of my business-casual collared shirt), but here in Philly, this unusual work attire hasn't even received a second look.

Yes, I'm revelling in the Eagles 38-24 victory over T.O. and Cowboys, which included seven sacks of Drew Bledsoe, five Dallas turnovers, and plenty of sideline antics for T.O. Whatever touchdown celebration he had planned for the fans in Philly will have to wait another year, at least.

I'm sure that I'm scarring my children with my profanity-laced outbursts, and then confusing them when they are shortly followed up by barbaric screams of joy, but this was an emotional roller-coaster win for the ages, and I couldn't watch it sitting down. It's always amusing (and sobering, should I ever pause to consider the depths of my madness) when Jenn leads the cowering children into the room, repeating in a soothing voice "It's ok, daddy's not mad at you." No doubt they'll be explaining my state of primitive frenzy to their psychiatrists, many years down the road.

But for now, the Eagles are 4-1, atop the NFC East, and T.O. has another reason to kill himself. The world is a beautiful place.