Andy Reid loved his players. And they loved him.
Just think about how many ex-Eagles came back to the team. Think about how many guys worked for the team in some capacity. Reid had a terrific relationship with the men who played for him throughout his tenure. The only guys who really bad-mouthed the Eagles were players who had salary gripes.
Wes Welker isn’t with the Patriots anymore, yet he still has his former coach Bill Belichick on his mind.
“When I’m answering questions from the Denver media, I’m not worried about what the Broncos’ people are going to think,” Welker said in a story in Sports Illustrated (via the Boston Globe). “I’m worried about what Belichick will think. Isn’t that crazy?”
Yes, as a matter of fact it is. Hey Wes, don’t worry, Bill is on the other side of the country. You sound like a bullied teenager right now.
How did it get to this point?
Welker, expected to be a main cog in the Broncos’ offense this season, went through a bitter separation from the Patriots this offseason. This is despite putting up record numbers during his six years in New England. But while he was racking up big stats, things weren’t going so great behind the scenes. In fact, Belichick began riding him hard, including tearing him down in front of the team.
“It was just kind of hard,” Welker said. “One of those deals where you have to endure him, put up with him … But he does it to everybody, it’s the way he is.”
Belichick can be a flat out jerk. He’s not worried about feelings. He’s obsessed with results. Reid didn’t have the same cold, rigid way of coaching.
You can argue about which one is better. The Pats have the trophies, but Reid has relationships with players that will last a lifetime. It is easy for us on the outside to scream “We want the damn trophies!”, but there is something to be said for Reid’s way of doing business. Before you go nuts and start yelling at me, I’m saying I understand the mindset, not that I agree with it. Would you rather be Tiger Woods…cold, driven and obsessive to the extreme or would you rather be John Daly, the talented goofball that has a good time all the time (to steal a line from Viv Savage)?
My point here is to talk about how Reid’s coaching style led to some sloppy play over the years. The Eagles didn’t do enough of the little things that it took to win some games. Penalties were an issue at times. Reid was terrible with challenges until the last couple of years. Timeouts were a bit of an adventure. Game management was erratic. We saw the Eagles lose to lesser teams just about every year.
Reid was a smart man and a very successful coach, but he lacked the ability to drive people to perfection.
Chip Kelly is different. We don’t yet know his NFL results, but his college results were outstanding. Oregon didn’t lose to bad teams. They came out focused whether playing Arkansas State, Arizona State or LSU. He wasn’t satisfied with a good offense. He demanded great results and his players delivered.
Kelly came to the Eagles and told Mike Vick he could compete for the QB job. Kelly put DeSean Jackson on the 3rd team in the OTAs to get his attention. Both players were confused by this, since they were Pro Bowl talents with dynamic skills. Kelly didn’t care. He wanted things done his way and both players luckily responded.
Think about the fly-swatter devices. That is so simple, yet it is brilliant. Kelly has done this before, but it works really well with Vick, who has had a lot of passes batted at the line of scrimmage in recent years. Kelly is teaching his QBs good habits. Get your arm angle up. Make more of an over the top throw. If you do that every day in practice, it should carry over to games.
Kelly understands the details of football. He’s also got the kind of personality where he won’t settle for good enough. Kelly will push his players to perfection. He’s got some Belichick to him.
The difference appears to be personality. As in, Kelly has one. His players love him so far. That will start to change in the next week. Kelly will cut a well-liked veteran or two. Kelly will choose some starters, which also means some guys will be relegated to being backups. Once the season beings, Kelly will be critical of the players who don’t perform well. Obviously, that can lead to some tension.
Can Kelly maintain his good standing with the players once he begins making tough decisions? He did at Oregon, but it will be more challenging in the NFL.
I think a big part of this will be winning. The Eagles are 12-22 in their last 34 games dating back to the TNF debacle. You can make that 12-23 if you add in the playoff loss to the Packers. Players like Vick, DJax, Shady, Peters, Herremans, Cole and Celek are all desperate to get back to the winning ways of the past. They’ll do whatever Kelly wants, if it leads to winning games.
Players have bought into Kelly’s ideas and methods. If the team can have some early season success, the players will start to believe whatever Kelly tells them.
Kelly doesn’t just want to win. He wants his team to perform at a high level. And he’s willing to do what it takes to drive them to that level.
Don’t judge Kelly just by whether the Eagles win. Look for a team that does the little things. Are WRs blocking? Are penalties down? Do the players make smart decisions? Does the team have letdown games? Do mistakes get fixed? And so on.
If Kelly can drive the Eagles to do the little things, the team will win big (although maybe not in 2013).