Sunday, January 05, 2014

Cooper's Droop

Not Hanging With Mr. Cooper
It started with Riley Cooper, and it ended with Riley Cooper.

The season started, after all, with Cooper in the news for getting drunk and saying a bunch of stupid racist crap at a concert. It ended with a play Cooper didn't make, which is somehow fitting. And the Eagles player who was most upset with Cooper, cornerback Cary Williams, was off the field for one key play when New Orleans converted a third-and-long against his replacement. It's the ironies that make the narratives, after all, the little links that weave the web of what in hindsight looks like inevitability.

For all intents and purposes, the play that really doomed the Eagles against the Saints didn't take place during that last, relentless New Orleans drive. It happened early in the second half, on a third and long, when a wide-open Cooper turned upfield and started running to daylight before he'd hauled Nick Foles' pass in. He dropped the ball, the Eagles punted, and the Saints drove for a score that put the Eagles in a two-touchdown hole that set the tone for the rest of the game. Had Cooper hauled the pass in, he had a blocker and plenty of daylight ahead of him. Maybe he would have scored, maybe he wouldn't. Maybe the Eagles would have scored on the drive, maybe they wouldn't. But New Orleans would have had a much tougher time punching that score in if Cooper had taken care of business.

There are a lot of disappointed people in Philadelphia right now, largely because they'd gotten on the bandwagon of the team they watched for the last few weeks of the season and not the one that dug itself a hole early on, or the one that went 4-12 last year. That the Eagles even made the playoffs after their start and the year they had last year was a minor miracle; anything else they achieved would have been playing with house money. Next year, the expectations will start in earnest, when the team has a quarterback locked in place and Chip Kelly has a full year of the roster he wants to implement his system and hopefully, Riley Cooper will have learned to keep his hands open and his mouth shut.

Until next year, then. It was fun while it lasted.
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