I swore I wasn't gonna write about the Eagles this week because I didn't see the game on TV. What? Seriously, Papale?!? Well it was with good reason as it was my son Vinny's football banquet for Bishop Eustace … so please cut me some slack!
All week long I've been peppered with questions about the Eagles' kickoff strategy against the Vikings. It came to a head Wednesday morning when I was a guest on Angelo Cataldi's show and the first question out of Angelo's mouth was "Vince, what did you think about those pooch kicks?" (Angelo admitted he reads the Philly.com posts, by the way!)
"Pooch?" Really ... a football term? Not in my dictionary. A pooch is a dog or a hairdo and should never be used as football jargon. Where did the expression ever come from for goodness sake? From my experience as a bomb squad specialist it was never part of our vocabulary when I played. Except for dropping a punt in a certain soft spot, pooching should never be part of a kickoff game plan.
My special teams buddy Denny Franks is in town this week and the other night we were reliving some war stories from our coverage days. We actually have a picture called "The Last Laugh" (which is at the top of this post) hanging on the wall in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. We had our heads thrown back roaring in laughter after I "blew up" a Redskin punt returner and Denny recovered the fumble. We knew what our roles were and nobody played out our part with more passion than Denny and me. Our reward for making plays like that was the coveted WHO'S NUTS tee shirt ... That's right, a tee shirt that was worn with great pride by anybody who played for Dick Vermeil's Eagles.
WHO'S NUTS was a tradition started by the late great Ken Iman, a grizzled 16-year NFL veteran, who was our special teams coach. "Set your hair on fire and cause a wreck," was our mantra and the tee shirt was our prize. Kenny would have scoffed at the idea of pooching anything let alone a kick off. He probably thought it was a way of cooking an egg. We loved Kenny. We played "teams" the way Kenny played … tough. Dennis and I were roommates and the night before each game we would visualize how we would play out that first kickoff. He was the "wedge buster" which was simply being a human bowling ball as he hurtled himself full speed into a thousand-pound mass of four men - the wedge - as I came off the edge to attack the return guy. It was those kinds of collisions that shortened your height a few inches and rung more than few bells in your head. Nope … no pooching on Kenny's Teams!
So, here's our take on pooching … it sends the wrong message if you're the poocher. A positive one to the poochee and a negative one to the kicking team. To Denny and me it screams that you don't have what it takes to take down a dangerous return guy. Period. Kick the damn ball as hard as you can and take your chances. Send the message to the returner by nailing him with a force deserving of a WHO'S NUTS tee shirt. I can tell you from experience there's no greater feeling than separating a ball carrier from the ball with a legal ferocious hit. That's the point you want to make. It's why us bomb squadders play the game. Last Laugh and all that.
Oh, just one one last thing … I want to share a great quote from Coach Vermeil: "Don't overload your mouth with your butt" when talking to the press. Cary Williams ought to adhere to that advice. Losing was good for the team, he said. Is he really serious? That'll make a perfect ESPN "come on man!"
Let's Go Birds and Redskins. Have an Invincible weekend and talk to you next week.