He enters Saturday’s birthday game against the Stars tied with Matt Read and Vincent Lecavalier for third in points (14) on the Flyers, one point behind Brayden Schenn and six behind captain Claude Giroux.
Yet, earlier this season, there were many people screaming for Couturier to be traded. In one social media discussion not that long ago, I was a one-man defense team against a pack of prosecutorial jackals, who were figuratively tearing Couturier apart limb from limb. He was declared a bust before reaching his 21st birthday in orange and black.
Nick Foles is 24 years old. Before this season, he had played in seven NFL games.
Before this season, there were many people who thought the Eagles should trade Foles.
Before this season, there were many people who declared that Foles couldn’t function effectively in Chip Kelly’s offense.
A little more than one month ago, after Foles added two more starts to his slim portfolio, many people felt their opinions that Foles was not the quarterback of the future were confirmed. Without a true running threat at quarterback, the read-option portion of Kelly’s offense supposedly wouldn’t work.
As the saying goes, how do you like Foles now?
With Foles at the helm, the Eagles have won four straight games. He had a historic game against the Raiders, tying an NFL record with seven touchdown passes. Foles has thrown 233 consecutive passes without an interception, setting an Eagles record. He has thrown 19 touchdown passes this season without an interception, one touchdown away from the record set by Peyton Manning earlier this season.
We can explore the reasons why Foles has blossomed. The design of Kelly’s offense (which Foles supposedly couldn’t play), talented weapons such as LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson and good old-fashioned hard work all played roles.
But so did patience.
The Eagles didn’t give up on Foles. His teammates didn’t give up on Foles.
None of this success could have happened if the Eagles had traded Foles after his rookie season.
Couturier is unquestionably playing better now than he did during the first portion of the season. He has five goals, including four in his last four games, after not scoring any during the first 19 games of the season. His plus/minus rating, a category in which he led the Flyers even when he wasn’t scoring goals, is a team-leading plus-10.
Even when Couturier wasn’t scoring, he was playing solid defense, often while matched up against the other team’s best center. He killed penalties. He was the Flyers’ leader in face-off percentage until fourth-line center Adam Hall began to excel in that area.
There are a number of factors in Couturier’s improvement. His line, which includes wingers Read and Steve Downie, has been a perfect blend of complementary skills. The so-called third line has been the Flyers’ best line the past two weeks.
Confidence is also a factor. After getting his second goal, Couturier seems to be pressing less when the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone.
But patience also played a role.
The Flyers didn’t listen to the misguided howls of frustrated fans and trade Couturier. Head coach Craig Berube didn’t bench Couturier or reduce his role. He did the opposite, continuing to put Couturier on the ice at the end of those rare games in which the Flyers were ahead in the final minutes.
The Flyers aren’t exactly known for their patience. Ask Peter Laviolette. But their patience with Couturier is paying off. Remember, he’s only 20.
There is such a thing as too much patience. The Phillies seem to have too much patience, waiting for players to suddenly blossom despite their failure to provide many signs that a transformation is likely to take place. They wait for injury-prone players to get healthy and become allergic to the disabled list, even as they age before our eyes.
Patience is in short supply in the sports world. It’s truly a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.
But we need to have patience.
We need bushels of patience for the 76ers. Maybe several years worth of patience.
We need patience with the Eagles. Kelly has led the team to success beyond what most of us expected in his first year as head coach. If the season doesn’t end the way want it to, however, we must remember to temper our disappointment with patience. There are a lot of young players on the roster, including Foles.
It’s difficult for Flyers fans to be patient. But seven of their top 12 forwards are 25 or younger. Couturier and Brayden Schenn, two of the centerpieces for the future, are 20 and 22 years old, respectively.
I know it’s difficult to be patient when the Eagles have won an NFL Championship – even before it was called the Super Bowl – in 53 years.
It’s difficult to be patient when the Flyers haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 38 years.
It’s difficult to be patient when the Sixers haven’t won an NBA title in 30 years.
But, as fans, we have to try to be more patient. Impatience could have cost us Nick Foles before his second season and Sean Couturier before he turned 21.
The old adage is correct.
Patience is a virtue.