And now for the semi-ballyhooed Eagles jersey post.
Shame on me for kicking off a discussion of Eagles jersey investment strategy on Monday and then quickly abandoning it. This is obviously a topic that's precious to me and which merits a longer treatment. So away we go.
While we already have a few very solid lists cooking in the comments from Monday's post (see here, here, here, here and here), I'm going to reopen the discussion here. Of course, before we can get to the actual stack-ranked list, it's important to establish some criteria. Here are mine:
- Investment horizons. Unless you're the sort of person who treats himself to a new jersey every season (staring nervously at ground), you'll want to invest in someone whom you can count on for at least two and ideally three years. Thus might one avoid players that are near the end of their contract or for whom the future is a bit uncertain (say, due to a logjam at their position, etc). Essentially, you want to be confident that you can wear the thing for more than just the current season. Mostly this means that you end up thinking like the Birds' front office, and shunning dudes as they near 30.
- Organizational history. Players who were drafted (or even better, not drafted but still made the team as a free agent) by the Eagles should be prized above those who joined the team via trade or free agency. Just because the front office decided to spend money on a player in March doesn't mean that you should too.
- Blue-collar guys. A corollary of the above factor is that appeal is actually inversely proportional to draft position. That is, it's cooler to have the guys who weren't as hyped coming into the league and who had to fight to make a name for themselves (especially in Philly).
- Eagles bona fides. Unless you're making a big bet on a young player, you'd like to have the shirt of someone who's earned the respect of the fan base already. That is, they've made a big play in a division or playoff game.
- Avoiding the blindingly obvious choices. While no one will argue with you for your McNabb or Westbrook shirt, we all know you'll get extra props for wearing the shirt of a guy who hasn't yet earned national attention. As with indie rock bands and goofy internet memes, you want to be able to say you knew all about that guy before they made it big. You know you've succeeded when you wear the shirt outside of Philly and random fans of other teams don't recognize the number (if only because this earns you the right to condescend to them regarding the poor state of their NFL knowledge).
- The kicker jersey. I mean, David Akers seems like a cool guy. He does. But I've never understood the whole thing with the kicker jersey. I'm willing to listen, I am, but I'm not feeling it as a category.
- The Jon Ritchie trap. You have to be careful that you don't end up buying the shirt that seems to be marketed for reasons that don't appear to correlate with their importance to the team and/ or performance on the field.
- The stuff we can't actually argue about. As with everything else, personality and your own tastes obviously matter. So if you don't like guys who are a bit showy or guys who have reputation for playing dirty, well, you're not going to buy certain jerseys. I can't argue with those sorts of preferences.
(Given the criteria above, it would seem that the ideal jersey is that of a young player who seems poised for stardom -- but isn't quite there yet -- and who is likely to sign a lengthy extension with the team. Just thought that was worth acknowledging.)
And with that, my list. Again, this is my stack-ranked list of jerseys to buy today -- essentially, how should you allocate your jersey budget. This list does not include former players, throwbacks or custom jobs (a #6 Howard shirt or a #3 Iverson shirt, for example), nor does it make judgments about which jersey you choose to wear (so while it's always cool to wear your Dawk shirt, I think it's a little early to be investing in a new one -- that will come later). I also don't make distinctions on color (green, white, black).
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I own the following: McNabb (2), Michael Lewis (ouch -- thought I was buying at the right time!), Andre Waters (throwback and best groomsmen gift ever), Trent Cole, DeSean Jackson.
11 (Tie). Mike Patterson/ Brodrick Bunkley. There's a certain amount of respect you get for wearing one of those really high numbers that's typically affixed to the large men who play along the line. Either of these guys would be a very respectable choice, and not just because it indicates that you're a connoisseur of interior line play. Both of these guys were Eagles draft picks who will likely anchor the defense for the next couple years at least. I feel badly about bundling them as a single entity, but I think that might be how they're remembered by fans in 10 years. Still, Patterson is slightly ahead of Bunkley here due to (a) Bunkley's holdout and other screwups during his rookie year and (b) Bunkley's decision to change numbers a few years ago -- jersey buyers do not appreciate number changes.
10. Jason Avant. Man, I really wanted to find a way to rank Avant higher. He's a blue-collar guy, plays tough, never complains, and exorcises the demons of a certain someone who used to wear number 81. The problem is that it's unlikely that he'll ever be more than the fifth option for the offense (at least for the next couple years). Is there someone selling "Avant" patches to mod up old TO shirts on eBay? There should be.
9. Quintin Mikell. Another one that pains me to rank so low (an undrafted special teams guy who's now the spokeman for the defense is tough to top), but contract concerns and age scare me away from his shirt. Also, I've been burned by the strong safety position before. Still, of all the guys on the list, he's the one I'm most bummed to rank so low. Great Eagle; deserves more love in the stands.
8. Brian Westbrook. Blasphemous, I know, but B-West could have slipped even further. Buying a Westbrook jersey is a classy nod to the past and a gesture of respect, but the time to buy the B-West shirt was 2-3 years ago. It's still absolutely an acceptable purchase, but you may be sacrificing a bit of longevity. (Ugh. I feel dirty writing that. If a mysterious accident should befall me on the way to work today, you all now know why.)
7. Jeremy Maclin. Personality-wise, I'm not feeling Maclin yet, and I think he might have some of those "makes it look too easy while being perceived as aloof" problems that certain Philly athletes have struggled with in the past. But the kid can play, he has a cool number in the teens, and he should be catching touchdowns for the next 6-7 years.
6. Asante Samuel. A controversial pick for sure. Samuel scores low on organizational history and/ or blue-collar, but scores high on making big plays in important games. Admittedly, it's tough to overlook the Patriots thing and consider him a real Eagle, but additional interceptions in playoff games have a way of being persuasive. I find it amazing that my second-favorite cornerback on the Eagles makes this list, but Samuel's a choice that will look better and better over the next 2-3 seasons. Every play he makes adds to his Eagles bona fides.
5. LeSean McCoy. In terms of presence, seems to be the anti-Maclin: he's engaging, likes to smile, and says all sorts of polite and humble things. He's also from Pennsylvania, has a cool nickname, and appears to be the heir apparent to Westbrook at tailback (if not the starter already). Was a high draft pick but not too high. I'm a little frightened by the rumor that he wanted to change his number to 25, but McCoy is a very safe bet.
4. Brent Celek. We like fifth-round picks who seem to invite contact and fight for extra yards (and who are also in line to sign an extension). A big performance in the NFC Championship game doesn't hurt either. If I was making this list five months ago, Celek would have struggled to make the cut, but he seems to be on a solid trajectory on the field and with the fans. Is also doing a great job of cultivating a "I'm just a regular guy who's playing hard and trying to help the team and I don't understand all this attention" persona.
3. Donovan McNabb. So what if McNabb isn't guaranteed to be here past next season. This is Donovan McNabb we're talking about. We're actually nearing the part of his career where we all start to feel guilty for not appreciating him enough (if such a thing is even possible at IgglesBlog), as part of the standard "They love you in the beginning, hate you in the middle, love you at the end" progression. Yes, it's a little boring to get the 5 jersey (if you don't own one or, ahem, two already), but this will be the canonical Eagles jersey of the midnight-green era (with apologies to Dawk). Also, it's something of a statement to pick this up now -- it says that you're confident that Big Five still has it, and might be better than ever.
2. Trent Cole. Has been the Eagles' best defensive player for a couple years, and this year appears to be no exception. What's amazing about Cole is that he's relatively unknown outside the NFC East, and thus you appear to be keeping it super-duper-extra real to less committed NFL fans. Cole deserves more love in the stands. Also, 58 looks pretty cool on a jersey.
1. DeSean Jackson. He's the man, now and in the future. The CamelCased One is already the Eagles' most dangerous offensive player (who doesn't play quarterback), and we're not even sure what his ceiling will be. On the field, it's probably vintage Steve Smith. In terms of marketing and popularity, he could be AI in his prime but without the hassles (fingers crossed). By this I mean that I think his size and personality will actually play well with fans -- even as he's making the Pro Bowl, DeSean will be a perpetual underdog. There's something especially charming (especially to kids) about a little guy out there amongst the bigger guys; I bet the young people are excited about Jackson. You should be too.
Guys who were in the discussion but didn't make the list: Stew Bradley (would have been in the top 5, if not higher, if healthy, but the knee is a temporary disqualifier), Sheldon Brown (the coolest Eagle, but just not a good investment for the future), Mike Vick (waaaaaaaaaay too much baggage, also he'll only be here for a year and is our third-string running back), Jeremiah Trotter (fine if you wear your old Trotter shirt, but a purchase feels a bit optimistic), David Akers (as noted, I don't get it), and Kevin Kolb (see here for explanation).