To say the state of sports in the city of Philadelphia is fragile right now would be quite the understatement. Over the past 20 months or so the Sixers have been the subject of tanking criticisms and the butt of injury jokes. Jahlil Okafor was hurt for about 5 minutes during a Duke game this year and Twitter made somewhere around 479 comments about him being the next sure pick for the Liberty Ballers in the 2015 Draft.
Recently however, criticism has turned toward Philadelphia’s beloved Eagles. Chip Kelly is in charge of player personnel now and has employed 10 players from Oregon. The recent acquisitions of injured commodities Kiko Alonso and Sam Bradford in exchange for LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, who were thought to be franchise cornerstones, have come with angst. Even with the signings of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, Chip’s moves have not come without doubts from fans, and that’s putting it as lightly as I possibly can.
This begs the question – which team is in better shape to win a championship, the Sixers or the Eagles? Let’s compare a few important aspects of a franchise and find out.
Despite being two completely different sports (obviously), this is probably where the two franchises are the most alike. Say what you will about the Sixer and Eagle front offices, but they are both forward-thinking and ahead of their perspective leagues.
The Sixers are tanking, there’s no two ways about that. This is plan that could absolutely implode on itself, but when you talk about forward thinking, the Sixers could be one of the first teams that come to mind in all of sports. They’re at the top of the game in analytics, no player is sure to even stay on the roster and they simply don’t care about winning in the short term. No other NBA team is using this approach today
The Eagles are trusting in a coach to handle not only the play calling duties on Sundays but also to bring in the players he wants through free agency and the draft without any pushback. This is living on the edge in the NFL, and there certainly is risk when you take the mentality of a monarchy rather than a democracy, but when it works out it really works out (See: Belichick, Bill). The Eagles are playing in a “win now” league and, while that mentality is still there, they are giving their head coach a long leash to build exactly what he wants, which is rare in the NFL.
When comparing the two, although they have their similarities, the fact the Eagles have had established success both in the past and with their current coach. The Sixers’ F.O. is still relatively brand new to this and we’re putting a lot of faith in a guy who hasn’t had the reigns before in Sam Hinkie.
In the coaching department we begin with the Sixers’ scrappy, Bostrailian general – Brett Brown. The BU alum and former Australian National Team coach is always upbeat and positive, which is critical for the head coach of a franchise with the long-term plan the Sixers have. Brown has been tasked with developing a lot of young, raw talent and he has completed that task about as well as any fan could hope for. Hollis Thompson is the second-best three point shooter Since February 1 at over 49%. Thomas Robinson is leading the league, thats the NBA, in rebounds per 100 possessions since February 1. Numbers like these go on and on this season in regards to guys like Robert Covington, Jerami Grant and of course Nerlens Noel. The point is those are some development results.
On the other side, Chip Kelly is a fascinating story. Off the field he’s a great quote who will always say what’s on his mind, crack a joke and have fun with the media. What I’m saying is he’s the opposite of Andy Reid. On the field he’s widely considered as a genius who has the attention of most people in the NFL, including that Belichick guy mentioned above. He runs a style of offense unlike any other in the league, and that’s because no one knows how to run it the way he does. Coach Kelly has also won 20 games in his first two seasons, which is something a lot of other coaches wish they could say.
This is about as close to a push as it gets for me. Problem is I don’t like to push and, as unfair as it is, Kelly’s results on the field give him a slight edge here.
Things aren’t looking to good after two categories for our Sixers, but culture is where things start to turn in their favor for me. I’ve heard the idea that the franchise’s approach breeds losing, but I think that argument is lazy and made by people who don’t actually watch the Sixers play. These guys are underdogs almost every night but they still find a way to scratch and claw their way into most games. They are also building something together and from the ground-up. You can dock points for the fact it seems like anyone is tradable at any moment, but the guys who are here like being here and want to play for this team.
The Eagles, on the other hand, are taking an odd approach to building a team. They seem to be playing more fantasy football than reality football, bringing in guys from all over the place to come in and hopefully gel. The problem with buying or trading for your new quarterback, running back, cornerback and linebacker is the lack of allegiance to their new team. There’s a chance these guys are in it more for the money than for each other, which has proven true historically for Dallas, Washington and the Eagles themselves in 2011.
This one is pretty easy for me. I like what the Sixers are building
Speaking of easy ones. To keep it cliché, when you look up “Long-term plan” in the dictionary, a photo of the Sixers logo is next to it. Every move they make at this point is a move toward the future; from the trade of Jrue Holiday for first round picks to the Michael Carter-Williams for a first round pick to owning 19(!) future picks that used to belong to other teams. This team is looking to build through the draft, and everything about that says long-term plan. I’m just excited the franchise is sticking to their guns and the fan base has bought in.
On the opposite side of the coin are the Eagles. This goes back a little bit to my front office point – it looks like the Birds are giving Chip Kelly a lot of room to work and some time to do it, but simply put the NFL is a “win now” league. For every patient Sixers fan there are 5 impatient Eagles fans, and a true long-term plan just wouldn’t work in this town. Building toward the future in the NFL would consist of rookie contracts and veteran signings on the cheap, but the acquisitions of Bradford, Murray, Mathews and Byron Maxwell show the Eagles aren’t interested in that. If this team is going to win, they’re going to win soon.
This Eagles team hasn’t played a game together yet and their championship window is already closing. The Sixers take this one.
The key word here is established, as anything else would just be speculation and fall more under the “long-term plan” category. That’s what makes the case tough for the Sixers. Noel has all the potential to be a star, as he is averaging a double-double since the All-Star break and has become a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. Joel Embiid’s potential is limitless, and he’s certainly an established Twitter star, but he has yet to play a game in the NBA. You’ll notice I just used the word potential twice when talking about the Sixers’ two stars, hence why the argument for established stars is really nonexistent.
Where the Sixers lack is the same place where the Eagles thrive in this case. They’ve actually gotten rid of four stars in the last two years, but have found a way to replace them with more big-time players. Maxwell is a Super Bowl champion and a member of what many consider the best defense of the last 15 years. Murray won the rushing title last year and was considered the biggest free agent on the market. Fletcher Cox may not as flashy because he plays on the D-line, but he is a star when you look at pure talent. These guys have the names and talent that people love.
The possibility of having stars in the future is there for the Sixers, but established stars win in professional sports and the Eagles have plenty of those.
And Your Winner Is…
Even though I have the Eagles taking this matchup 3-2, that score could certainly flip at a moment’s notice if one of the Sixers’ potential stars becomes established.
Here’s the great thing about this argument – not only are the Sixers and Eagles the two most polarizing teams in this city, they’re on the short list as the most interesting teams to follow in all of sports moving forward. No matter the result, being a sports fan in Philadelphia is about to become a lot of fun again.
Is there another category that personifies a franchise being set up for success better than the ones I used? Let me know and we’ll discuss it in the comments.