Thursday, June 30, 2011
Best of NFL: NFC East teams
By Dan Graziano
As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the NFC East:
Best rivalry, Eagles-Giants: Look, the beautiful part of this division is the rivalries -- that every team has such an intense rivalry with every other team in the division. It's what makes it the most intense division in the league and the one that's most fun to discuss and debate on a daily basis. But right now, the best rivalry in the division is Eagles-Giants. The Eagles have managed to win six in a row. The Giants hate it, and willingly admit that it's in their heads. They will open the 2011 season, whenever it does open, determined to stop that streak and beat the team they believe is standing between them and the playoffs. The Eagles will open the season coolly confident that they have the Giants' number. The head-to-head matchups will be the two must-see NFC East games of the year.
The Eagles have smothered the Giants for six straight victories, which has added intrigue to this rivalry.
Best meddling owner, Jerry Jones: No offense, Dan Snyder, but Jerry's been on "Entourage." For pure caricature, there's nobody beating Jones in this category. He's the meddling owner right out of central casting. When a Cowboys game ends and the locker room opens to the media, every reporter covering the team goes first to Jones, who stands in the middle of the room and breaks down the game and the state of the team. It's comical. Jones is a larger-than-life figure who clearly loves the role. And when you remember that the successes of the Jimmy Johnson era occurred under Jones' ownership, it's not as if his meddling has been all bad, either.
Best non-meddling owner, John Mara: I was tempted to give this to Philadelphia's Jeffrey Lurie, who gets less attention than any other owner in the division while letting his football people run the team with great success. But the attention Mara gets is all the right kind of attention. His angry review of the 2009 collapse was measured but stern. His backing of Tom Coughlin after 2010's near miss was appropriately in line with the class and stability for which the organization stands. Mara always strikes the right tone, and he's a worthy successor to the family members who preceded him at the helm of one of the league's signature franchises.
Best training camp venue, Eagles: The bucolic setting offered by the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., is the most training-campy site in the division. It's far more peaceful than the Cowboys' traveling training camp show. It's homier and more comfortable than the more urban campus of the University of Albany, where the Giants train. And it's just plain nicer than the Redskins' training camp site, which is, sadly, the same as their in-season practice facility. Lehigh offers the Eagles an annual chance to escape for a few weeks to a place they can bond as a team and hear themselves think -- everything training camp should be.
Best fan base, Redskins: OK, I wasn't going to go here because there were like 20 other categories to choose from and, really, what's to be gained by picking this one? But I have lived among Eagles fans. I have lived among Giants fans. I have ample experience with a wide variety of people who are passionate about their teams -- Red Sox fans in Boston, Chiefs fans in Kansas City, Red Wings fans in Detroit, to name a few. And I have never, ever, ever encountered a group of people more intensely invested in the fortunes of their favorite team than the fans of the Washington Redskins. It's a tough time to be a Redskins fan right now, but it's easy to see that passion hasn't waned, and will roar back to vocal life as soon as the team turns things around. There haven't been too many things in this blog about which Redskins fans can feel good about lately, so I thought you guys deserved this.