Chip Kelly is trying to get the Eagles to treat every game the same. This is tough because it goes against history and human nature. Ask anyone who has ever played in the NFL and they will tell you the games are different in December than in September. They will also tell you the games go up a notch in January. Playoff football is a whole other animal.
How will the 2013 Eagles handle the pressure of the playoffs? Will they respond well to the big moment?
We can’t tell much from the past couple of seasons. The Eagles were 1-4 in December last year, but that team was awful for most of the year. The 2011 Eagles were 4-1 in December, but they weren’t playing pressure games since the team was 4-7 when that stretch started. You can point out that those were all “must win” games to even get in the playoff hunt, but that’s still different. There isn’t the same kind of pressure when you’ve had a disappointing season.
The 2010 Eagles lost their last couple of regular season games and then the Wild Card game to the Packers. The 2009 Eagles lost the season finale to Dallas and the Wild Card game, a rematch with Dallas. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find an Eagles team that finished well in the regular season and then played well in the postseason. That was a whole different team…McNabb, Westy, Tra, Runyan, Dawk, Disco Stu, and Patt/Bunk.
The 2013 Eagles got a taste of the playoffs on Sunday night when they played the Cowboys. The Eagles got out to a 17-7 lead and looked to be in good shape. Things got shaky after that, but they did come up big down the stretch to win the game. Say what you want about Dallas, but they did play with postseason desperation. That’s the biggest thing. There is no tomorrow. You live and die with that game. That can bring out a different side of players and coaches.
I think the Eagles have handled pressure situations pretty well this year. Coming out of the bye week, the Eagles hosted a tough Cardinals team. The Eagles managed to win that game. The next week the Lions came to town, along with a major snowstorm. The Eagles got down 14-0, but came back to win 34-20. The Bears game wasn’t a pressure situation, but it was interesting to see how the Eagles responded to Dallas last second win from earlier in the day. The Eagles could have mailed that game in, knowing it wouldn’t affect the division race. Instead, they played their best game of the season and destroyed the Bears.
The Eagles have had to deal with tight moments in the 4th quarter. They had the lead in most of these games so we haven’t seen much in the way of comebacks, but the team still had to make key plays to win those games. They have dealt with pressure situations. Let’s make a trip to Cliche City and say the Eagles are…battle tested.
I don’t think you need playoff experience to win in the postseason. You need to play well. You need to deal well with pressure. I don’t know if the Eagles will beat the Saints, but I do think they’ll handle the moment just fine.
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Since more than a few of you are Penn State fans, let’s talk about the Bill O’Brien news. He is going to be the new coach of the Houston Texans.
This is a good and bad thing. O’Brien was a terrific coach. He did an amazing job at Penn State. He kept that program together through some really dark days. He got kids to want to stay there. He got other kids to want to come there. O’Brien did a great job of developing talent. Who realistically thought Matt McGloin would ever play in the NFL, let alone start? How many people saw Zach Zwinak running for almost 2,000 yards in the last 2 years? Did anyone project Allen Robinson to be an elite WR?
It hurts to lose a coach as good as O’Brien. There is absolutely no denying that.
At the same time, it was abundantly clear that O’Brien viewed Penn State as a stop, not a destination. He has mostly a college background, but fell in love with the NFL during his time with the Patriots. No recruiting. No academics. Just football. I bet O’Brien would have left last year if he truly listened to his heart. I’m guessing he decided that jumping ship after just a year wouldn’t have been right.
O’Brien can leave Penn State with a clear head. He is leaving the program better than he found it. I am not mad at O’Brien for leaving. PSU needed him when they hired him. The school was rejected by coach after coach. No one wanted to touch that situation. O’Brien was willing to because he wanted to be a head coach so that it would help him to get to run an NFL team. Both sides needed each other. The situation worked well for 2 years.
Now Penn State needs someone who will view the school as a place to settle. They need stability. Here are my thoughts on some candidates.
* Al Golden – He’s my number one target. Golden built a program at Temple. He has a PSU background so he understands the school and the culture. I don’t know if he’d have any interest in leaving Miami.
* Greg Schiano – I am not Schiano’s biggest fan, but you can’t ignore the fact he build Rutgers into a good program. They were basically irrelevant forever until he got there. It seemed to me that Schiano got arrogant in his final years at Rutgers and that followed him to Tampa, but he got a big piece of humble pie this year. My perception is that he changed a bit when things got so ugly in the middle of the season. If you can get the Schiano who build the Rutgers program, you’ve got a good coach. He also has a PSU background and understands the situation.
* Pete Lembo – He’s coached at Lehigh, Elon and Ball State. Has a career record of 104-48. He’s 43 years old. Lembo does a great job with academics and his teams score plenty of points. I know he’s not a sexy name, but there is something to be said for hiring a guy like him rather than going for a big name. Remember that Bill O’Brien was considered a disappointing hire when he took the job.
* James Franklin – He’s currently the coach at Vanderbilt. Franklin has done an amazing job with that program. He’s a PA native who played at East Stroudsburg. You can argue that Franklin should be the number one target. My only hesitation is that I wonder if he’d view Penn State as a long term destination. He spent one year in the NFL. Would he be tempted by that, or to go to an elite program? I’m really hoping PSU can find someone to stay for a decade.
* Kevin Wilson – This would be an interesting hire. He knows the spread offense and the up-tempo attack as well as anyone. Indiana finished 9th in the nation in total offense this year. They moved the ball on PSU with ease. They did okay vs Ohio State. Wilson is a former OL coach. Think of him as the college version of Andy Reid. Spent a lot of time under Bob Stoops so he’s been part of an elite program.
* Greg Roman – Currently the Niner’s OC. Great offensive mind. Has a terrific background. Was reportedly a finalist for the PSU job a couple of years ago. The only knock on Roman is if he has the personality to lead a team. He might not be the right guy for an NFL team (53 men), but his personality could be just fine for college.
* Mike Munchak – Former PSU star OL is now the coach of the Titans. There is some question about whether they will keep him or let him go. There are rumors that Munchak has put his name into consideration for the PSU job. Would he leave the NFL, where he’s on the hot seat, to go back to his alma mater? Would he be the right guy?
It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out.