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The Five Biggest Questions in Philly Sports Heading into 2013

Dec 19, 2012, 3:56 PM EDT

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As this awful chapter in Philly sports known as 2012 finally
winds down, we are all about looking ahead these days. As we prepare to embark
on a new year, will our teams rebound and give us something to cheer for in the
months ahead? We examine the tough questions that will still loom large for the
big four after we’ve turned the calendar over.

Who will coach the
Eagles?

We’re about 99.999% certain that Andy Reid will not be
retained in any capacity as soon as this football season mercifully reaches its
conclusion, but just about everything else about the future of the Eagles
franchise is decidedly uncertain. Mainly because which direction they are
headed will likely be heavily influenced by whoever is hired to replace Reid.

Will the next head coach be a rising NFL assistant, a star
in the college ranks, or one of the big-names-turned-TV-analyst who already have
their hardware? Will it be somebody who is offensive-minded or
defensive-minded? Will the incoming coach be hand-picked specifically to work
with quarterback Nick Foles? How much power will the newcomer wield in the
front office? The answers will have a great deal to do with the personality of
this team next season.

It’s almost impossible to predict who the Eagles will wind
up with – how many people saw Reid coming in 1999? Whoever it is, he will be
shaping the team in his image for years to come, but your guess is as good as
ours.

Will there be hockey?

It won’t be long now before we have an answer to this mystery.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t have anything to do with a pact on a new collective
bargaining agreement being imminent. It simply means the NHL is running out of
time.

While there is no official drop-dead date for an NHL season,
both sides would acknowledge that playing in 2013 wouldn’t be worth it after
the lockout hits a certain point. Well gang, the cliff is fast approaching, and
we will be standing on its ledge by sometime in January. When the league played
a 48-game schedule in 1995, the lockout ended on January 11, and the puck
dropped nine days later.

Can they get it done? Both parties would look rather silly
if they do not. A majority of reporters seem to think there is a better than
50-50 chance that the players’ association and the league’s owners will clear
the last few hurdles once everything is on the line – meaning once this an
entire season is about to be flushed down the toilet. However, we’ve been close
during this process before, so I’ll believe a deal can be reached when I see
it.

Will Chase Utley, Ryan
Howard, and Roy Halladay be healthy?

While we are still debating many of the additions the
Phillies have made this offseason – and several they haven’t made as it
pertains to the outfield – don’t lose sight of the fact that this season hinges
on the health of some prominent players who are already in the clubhouse. For
championship dreams to be realized once more, this trio of veterans needs to have
bounce-back years.

As the three go, Howard is probably the safest bet to be at
100% when the season begins in April, being roughly 18 months removed from
rupturing his Achilles tendon. Then again, whether he ever matches the
production expected of somebody earning $25 million remains to be seen. Similar
scenario for Halladay, who turns 36 in May, and regardless of where his
recovery is at, could very well soon realize his Cy Young days are behind him.
Meanwhile, Utley is a complete enigma after missing most of spring training and
the first half of the last two seasons with knee ailments. Any chance he’s
ready to go earlier than June?

Do the three of them have to play at their peak levels to be
valuable? Not necessarily, but we’re fairly confident all three of them at
least need to be on the diamond to give the Phils their best shot at another
title.

How will the Andrew
Bynum saga end?

When Bynum arrived in Philadelphia to intense hype and
fanfare, Sixers owner Josh Harris famously quipped, “Show me where to sign,”
meaning the max contract the center was certain to receive. Now we’re all in
the dark wondering when the big guy is going to make his debut on the hardwood.

Perhaps the worst part is the fact that there is no end to
this drama on the horizon. Bynum more or less promised he will play basketball
this season, so I suppose that’s good news. Even if he is everything Sixers
fans hoped and dreamed though, can the organization feel comfortable committing
a huge, guaranteed contract to player whose knees are this bad?

At this stage, merely getting him on the court won’t solve
many of the front office’s problems. They’re going to have a difficult decision
to make between whether or not they roll with Bynum and hope he can propel them
to a championship before the wheels fall off completely, or they cut their
losses and maybe even try moving him to recoup some small portion of their
investment. Clock’s ticking, and the eccentric personality we’ve been treated
to the past few months isn’t easing many concerns.

How quickly can the
Eagles bounce back?

New coach. New staff. New schemes. Developing quarterback.
Healthy offensive line. Retooled defense. High draft pick. The Eagles figure to
look like an almost completely different team next season, even if a sizeable
portion of the roster could wind up looking the strikingly similar. So is there
any reason to believe they can compete next year?

Yes and no. A lot of that will have to do with the
quarterback position. If the Birds roll with Foles for ‘13 as we presume they
will, his progress is pivotal to any postseason hopes the team might have, be
it next year or down the line. If Philly doesn’t have its quarterback, or the
front office chooses not to select a QB with one of the top picks in the draft,
it could be years before they return to the spotlight as legit contenders.

Then again, there are some quality pieces to work with here –
playmakers on offense, an O-line destined to improve with healthy players, a potentially
dangerous front four on defense, not to mention a couple of quality
linebackers. With the right coach molding a potential franchise quarterback,
the Eagles could be back in the saddle faster than you might think.