Saturday, March 20, 2010

Off You Go

***

Back in April of 2004 some kid sent me a message on the Eagles Message Board. "What's going on? Who are we going to pick?" Here was my answer:

"Could be Shawn Andrews. He would fit the profile. Big OL. Dominant run blocker. He could be the RG or RT of the future. I have no sources. I just "read the tea leaves" and make my guesses. Again, let's keep this talk between us til Sat. afternoon."

Why the hell I wanted that kept a secret I have no idea. Everyone else was screaming for Steven Jackson. I would have looked kinda smart. Oh well. I also wondered if WR Roy Williams was a potential target. We had just landed TO so that likely would have been overkill, but coming off the 2003 title game loss to Carolina that might not have been a bad thing.

Back to Andrews. He was a dominant RT at Arkansas. He had some weight problems and that made a lot of people wonder if he could play on the edge or if he'd have to move inside to G. No matter what, he was so dominant that you felt like he was worth a pretty high pick. Here was a quick blurb I wrote on him prior to the draft:

Dominant drive blocker. The best I've seen in college football. Pass blocking will be a bit of an adventure, but this guy could be special in the right situation.


We traded up on draft day and took Shawn with the 16th overall pick.  The next weekend was the post-draft mini-camp.  Shawn was the starting RG by the end of that camp.  He had a great spring and summer.  We were all excited by our new stud O-lineman.  He then broke his leg in the season opener with the Giants.  That should have been an omen for us.  Shawn missed the rest of the year.

He returned in 2005 and played pretty well.  He was terrific in 2006 and looked like one of the best Guards in the entire league.  Shawn and the O-line were dominant down the stretch with Garcia at QB and more of an emphasis on the run game.

The summer of 2007 is when the train started to go off the tracks.  Shawn suffered a high ankle sprain.  He then told the media that he feared it could be career threatening.  Everyone wondered what the heck that meant.  Careers rarely end due to an ankle injury.  Shawn later said it was a joke and that he was just having fun with the media.  Uhh, okay.  I don't think any of us were concerned at the time, but in hindsight that is a huge red flag.  Stalin and Chairman Mao would have been proud of the size of that red flag.

The next summer Shawn didn't show for Training Camp.  I was told by a source that Reid was absolutely furious.  He thought Shawn was holding out for more money.  Reid let cooler heads prevail and we found out that Shawn was battling depression.  The Eagles gave him space and were supportive, publicly and in the locker room.  Everyone knew how good Shawn was and wanted to do anything to keep him around.

He was on the field for the first couple of games, but hurt his back against Dallas.  Max Jean-Gilles replaced him.  That was Shawn's last ever game as an Eagle.  And it may be the end of his NFL career.  The Eagles didn't put Shawn on IR immediately.  They kept him part of the roster.  Players on IR are treated differently than guys that are just injured, believe it or not.  Someone still on the roster remains part of the team.  Guys on IR are ghosts of Christmas past or future, but they don't exist in the current time continuum.

The Eagles hoped that keeping Shawn on the roster would keep his spirits up and that it would keep him interactive with his teammates.  Camaraderie on a football team can have a major impact on some guys.  Shawn's back didn't get better.  The Eagles eventually put him on IR.

The 2009 offseason brought about new hope.  Shawn talked a great game.  He was going go move to RT and seemed fired up about being healthy and getting back on the field.  All that positivity ended when Training Camp rolled around and he was once again hurt.  The Eagles didn't hesitate to put him on IR this year.

The Shawn Andrews who was a dominant blocker in 2006 is long since gone.  That guy seemed to enjoy football.  He was very good at it.  Something happened between then and now.  Forget about the back and depression.  There was a personality shift.  Shawn decided that he wanted to be a "star", not just a football player.  That is against the laws of the offensive line universe. 

Linemen are allowed to have some personality.  They are allowed to enjoy occasionally being in the limelight.  Still, they must remember that they are first and foremost football players.  And amongst players they are the ones who do the thankless dirty work.  Most linemen not only know this but they love it.  They wear that as a badge of honor.  Not Shawn.

He was busy on YouTube and Twitter and any other media source that would let him get the word out about what was going on in his world.  He was excited to talk about his rapping career or how loud his neighbors were when they had sex.  Football was just a subject that got mixed in occasionally.  There was no real passion for it.

An offensive linemen who's heart isn't in football is done.  Done.  You have to want to play.  Being part of 50 to 70 car wrecks per game isn't something for people to approach casually.  Being a blocker isn't easy.  It isn't "fun" in the traditional sense of the word.  You need to have a mean streak and a high tolerance for discomfort (pain just doesn't seem like the right word).  Jon Runyan loved being a lineman.  He played with a broken tailbone late in his career.  Sitting down hurt, but he didn't miss a game.  Jon's consecutive games streak meant a lot to him.  That gave him the kind of pride and joy that apparently Shawn got from one of his own YouTube clips.  Shawn is off in his own little world.  As Captain Willard might say of the situation, "He broke from them, and then he broke from himself". 

That is why I'm fine with the Eagles cutting Shawn.  He's not an NFL guy who can't stay healthy (see Jerome McDougle for example).  Shawn is a guy who loves being an NFL celebrity, but not an NFL player.  He's not committed to the game.  In my opinion (and that's all it is), the depression is partially due to the fact that he doesn't like football, but knows he needs it for the money and attention it brings him.

The best thing for Shawn to do is give up on the NFL and go be the quirky guy that he wants to be.  There is nothing wrong with his desires.  It just happens to be torturous to us Eagles fans because Shawn has Hall of Fame football ability.  It does feel at times as if the Football Gods are out to get us.  Why can't we put Nick Cole's personality in Shawn's body?

Letting go of Shawn was the right thing to do.  Keeping him around was a distraction.  Best to send him on his way and focus on players who are committed to playing and helping us win.

***

On Sunday I'll be answering some questions and talking about some possible player moves.
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9 comments:

bthackra said...

I always thought Runyan's comments about Shawn last offseason were interesting. Basically said he lacked the toughness to play.

Do you think the owners meetings this week will be eventful? Spads seems to be alluding to something on PE.com.

If we make a pro personnel move, LB a likely target? Is Derrick Johnson or Jackson in CLE, or another RFA, worth the relatively high (1st-3rd) draft pick?

Pat said...

The cause of chronic back pain can sometimes be psychological problems. If Andrews was indeed battling depression, it sounds likely to me that his back problems were a symptom of his mental issues. For that reason, I don't see him being healthy and back on the field anytime soon. This is all just speculation but he'll never be able to play unless he improves his mental health.

arby said...

There almost seemed like a huge sense of relief in Shawn's comments both last year when he was put on IR and recently when he was cut. It's a sign that his heart isn't in it. I have sympathy for the depression and the back problems - no way he's getting 2 operations on his back if he's 'just' depressed; but I don't have sympathy for his lack of courage. I do have sympathy for young people (athletes and performers) who have to grow up in public - most of us can make our mistakes away from the limelight - but being in the public eye does come with the job description in their case. Some measure up and some just fold under the pressure. A lot of erratic behavior is tolerated as long as you continue to perform well, but if you can't perform, you just become a distraction as Tommy says. By the way, TL, now that Shawn has gone, you can perhaps share your wacky Shawn story.....?

ZackISM said...

Tommy,

(posted here in response to a prior answer)

I understand Chad wasn't brought here to "replace" Curtis - but we brought in 2 WR's and let go of two WR's. It's entirely possible their special teams ability is far better than Curtis' (I'd bet on that), but my point is we are letting go of guys - we don't need to prior to training camp.

You say only Witherspoon had a shot at making the roster - and that could be true - but sometimes competition brings out the best in a player. The Eagles appear to me - to be handing jobs over. Tapp has done nothing to win the LDE job. Jordan has a better case (but you've said yourself he's better suited as a back-up).

I just don't understand the timing. The timing is why I think they are about saving dollars (and it may not be a bad thing if a cap is put in place - just feels like it). We have less depth with these players off the roster than we would with them. We have less talent. Even if all 5 we're cut - the team could said they were beaten out for their job, right now, they are just saying, these players were over paid, I'm not how you see that as a long shot, or sterch. I guess we have differing opiinions (and obviously when it comes to what happens on a football field I'll defer to yours).

If Akeem Jordan tears his ACL prior to September - do you think this squad is better off with Witherspoon? If Tapp's ankle breaks? We've had some major injuries in camp - and often never had the back-ups in place...We had a couple guys we let go that would have provided at the very least a insurnace policy through camp - might have cost a couple million - but they paid Vick - I don't see what the difference is.

Pitmanite said...

i was reading up on what seattle gave up for charlie whitehurst and I am stunned. they swapped 2nd round picks this year, which is huge bc they had the #40 pick and now pick at #60. then they gave up a 3rd rd next year and gave him a sizable contract. this guy is 27 and has never played a game. in the preseason he's got 5 td passes and 7 ints. how is that a better option than giving up their second #1 for donnie? maybe they think a healthy hasselback is not much worse than donnie.

i don't just think shawn is simply depressed. i think he's bipolar. dude does some weird stuff.

Joe said...

I agree with Arby re: Shawn's comments. Juxtapose Shawn's remarks after being released and Bwest's remarks...one player loves the game and is disappointed, one is relieved.

Cliff said...

This week should be pretty interesting around the NFL. If McNabb or Vick were to be traded, this is the week where a deal really gets started.

Myron said...

Cliff: Don't get your hopes up. At this rate, I'm 95% certain that we'll be heading into the 2010 regular season with all three quarterbacks on the roster, and 99% certain that we'll be starting the first 2010 game with both McNabb and Kolb on the depth chart.

Eh. It could be worse. At least now we'll see Donny get at least one more shot at a title. If he can't do it this year, with a more mature WR corps of Maclin, Jackson, and Celek, I don't think he'll ever be able to do it.

Netherman said...

I don't get why people are so upset about cutting people over money. In the end, it is a business...you think just because it is a football team, they should be willing to piss away more money than necessary? Maybe these moves speak more to the uncertainty of the CBA and a potential lock out next year. If it were my business, I would do the same thing. We are not talking about purging the top echelon of talent on the team to save some bucks. I understand backups are valuable and so are roster spots which is why I would rather have younger, hungrier backups like Bell, Baskett, and Tapp (who needs to earn his starting spot) over Westy, Curtis, and Howard. I accept that youth and inexperience lead to mistakes, but the best teams are the ones developing their backups to be starters. Spoon is the only player one could argue and I do think it was a mistake to jettison him. If they replace Spoon with younger Spoon, I am categorically fine with the move.