Stay or Go?

Posted: December 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 163 Comments »

Chipmania continues.

The media was all over Chip at his afternoon PC with rumors that he had met with or talked to USC. Chip categorically denied them. He said he has no interest in any college job and remains committed to the Eagles.

There are lot of opinions out there about whether he should go or stay, as well as if he will go or stay. Peter King thinks Chip will be sticking around. BGN has the details.

However, I’ll just say that Andy Reid coached in Philadelphia for 14 years. The last six years he won one playoff game. And it wasn’t until after that sixth year when he went whatever he did, 4-12, that Jeff Lurie decided that it’s time for a change.

So if Chip Kelly jumps, he’s going to have to jump on his own because it’s not going to be a case where Jeff Lurie is going to go to him on January 4th and say ‘We want you out.’

In addition, I’ve been told by people in Philadelphia who know that Kelly is absolutely resolute about finishing the job there. Now whether he does get to finish the job there two, three years from now, who knows? But personally my feeling is Kelly is going to be back in 2016 coaching the Eagles.

Actually, Reid won 2 playoffs games in that span, both in 2008. But that’s beside the point. King is focusing on the right person in the equation…Jeff Lurie. We can all have an opinion about what should be done, but Lurie’s is the only one that really matters.

Lurie was loyal to Reid, but that was built up over time. They had a good relationship. I have no idea if Chip is close with Lurie or not. They have spent almost 3 years together, but Chip isn’t known as a big time socializer so who knows.

I do know that Lurie is both smart and patient. He won’t be afraid to make a move if he thinks it is the right thing to do. He also won’t make a move for the sake of change. He went all-in with Chip less than a year ago. Is all that faith gone this quickly?

Jimmy Bama makes a compelling case that Lurie should fire Chip at the end of the year, barring a miracle finish.

Many of the most successful franchises around the league have had the same head coach in place for a long time. The importance of stability at the head coaching level cannot be understated. However, there comes a point when the negative outlook of a franchise dictates that a move is necessary to begin the process over again. I believe the tea leaves say that a continued regression is more likely than a turnaround to some kind of Super Bowl contender.

The only thing keeping the Eagles alive at this juncture in the 2015 season is that the NFC East is woefully incompetent, with the division-leading Redskins at the top with a 5-6 record.

Barring some sort of miraculous turnaround that involves the Eagles playing well down the stretch, winning the division, and playing reasonably well in the playoffs, the Eagles should be looking to part with Kelly after this season.

Go read Jimmy’s piece. He offers a lot of good thoughts and makes a strong argument.

Bill Barnwell, on the other hand, makes a good case for keeping Chip as coach.

Start with Kelly as a coach. He doesn’t exactly have the résumé of a guy about to be forced out of a job. Put the Thanksgiving mess aside for a moment and consider the body of work. The 2015 Eagles are a disappointing 4-7 after Thursday’s blowout, but Kelly is a combined 24-19 (.558), leading a team that had gone 4-12 in 2012 to consecutive 10-win seasons. To contrast, Gus Bradley took over a 2-14 Jaguars team that same offseason and has gone 11-31 (.262) since, and there has been no rent deposit put on a guillotine in Jacksonville. The argument from Kelly doubters is that the man has gone 5-10 in his past 15 games, but that’s a totally arbitrary end point. For reference, Kelly went 11-4 in the 15 games before that stretch, and you can see how much predicative value that 15-game sample had.

What’s even more impressive is thinking about who Kelly’s quarterbacks were during this stretch. He has managed to stay above .500 with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford taking snaps under center. Getting that motley crew of passers to keep their heads above water both speaks to Kelly’s ability to coach up limited quarterbacks and hints at the promise of how his attack could sing with a more accomplished passer at the helm.

Barnwell makes a compelling argument in favor of Kelly.

That’s the craziness of this whole situation. There is no obviously right or wrong answer. Just 2 weeks ago, I’d have thought the question of firing Chip was utter nonsense. Now I’m reading those articles and understanding some of their logic. This is just crazy.

I think the real key here is to let things play out. Kelly is facing a crisis unlike anything he’s ever dealt with. We need to see if he can push the right buttons or if this team is going to fall apart. If the Eagles pull off a miracle finish and go 9-7, Kelly isn’t going anywhere. If the team only wins one more game, that might be enough of a disaster to force Lurie’s hand.

We need to see what happens so we can put the whole season into context.

The past 2 games have really gotten Chip’s attention. I’m interested to see if that leads to any changes, big or little. I’m also curious to see how the team responds to his reaction from Thursday. Maybe it will bring out the best in all involved.

Or maybe this is the beginning of the end.

We’ll know a lot more in 5 weeks.


Impact of Adversity

Posted: November 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 344 Comments »

Chemistry, culture and character. These sound like simple concepts, but they aren’t. They can be incredibly powerful, but also very fragile, as we’re all finding out this year.

Chip has made culture a point of emphasis since taking over the Eagles. He got rid of players who he didn’t think were the right fit, no matter how talented. Kelly signed and drafted players that were high character guys. For two years, this worked well.

2015? Not so much.

Jimmy Bama recently wrote an interesting piece saying that Chip’s culture never really existed.

During those six years, Kelly’s culture initiatives were never really put to the test of losing. Now that it has, we’re seeing how the players have responded, and that response shows that a great culture foundation was never really there in the first place.

I don’t necessarily agree with Jimmy’s conclusion, but his point about culture not being truly tested is really interesting. I had never considered that angle. Chip was 46-7 at Oregon. There were small moments of adversity, but hardly anything overwhelming.

The Eagles started 1-3 back in 2013. They actually lost 3 straight after winning the opener. They were 3-5 at midseason. But that was different. Kelly was a new coach. Slow starts are different in that situation than what the Eagles are going through right now. That team was learning. This team was supposed to be contending.

Jimmy says the culture never existed. I don’t agree with that. I think it changed.


Nick Foles
Jeremy Maclin
Todd Herremans
Brad Smith
Trent Cole

There was more roster turnover than that, but those guys were leaders. Foles had serious limitations as a QB, but he was great in the locker room and on the sideline. He gave credit when things went right. He took the blame when things went wrong. He said all the right things.

Maclin was a high character guy and leader. He was also highly productive, which made him all the more important as a leader and locker room presence.

Herremans was a declining player, but was a leader on the OL.

Smith was a key leader on STs and a good influence on the young WRs.

Cole wasn’t the most vocal leader, but was a great influence on the other players. He was also ultra-competitive on the field and that effort was infectious.

Guys like Evan Mathis, Shady McCoy and Brandon Boykin were very good players. I don’t know that they were necessarily leaders though.

There was a lot of change from 2014 to 2015, despite what Kelly says. The Eagles changed at QB, RB, WR and 2 OL. Kelly added high character guys, but they were still outsiders. Some players can step right in and be a leader. Malcolm Jenkins is that type of player. Bradford and Murray aren’t. Young players like Josh Huff and Nelson Agholor are too busy trying to become reliable players to be leaders. None of the OL has replaced Herremans as a leader.

The defense has plenty of leadership in place. The problem with that group recently is strictly performance. There are some chemistry issues. You can’t have all those new faces in the back seven without having some mistakes. Complicating matters is that the Eagles have had a revolving door at ILB due to injuries.

This is the worst possible situation for Chip Kelly. He has a lot of new faces in the starting lineup. He is replacing key leaders. And the team is struggling on the field. Some key parts of the culture he built up in 2013 and 2014 are gone and no one is filling the void right now.

Part of the problem with this team is the weight of expectations. The team looked great in the summer and the preseason which built up a ton of hype. Byron Maxwell, DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford are dealing with the expectations that costly investments bring. All 3 are getting big money and Bradford cost draft picks as well. That puts a ton of pressure on them.

Clearly this team has not handled pressure well. Those players have not handled pressure well.

All of this is now starting to affect Chip.

I heard that Chip was emotional after Thursday’s loss. That isn’t normal for him. Josh Huff told a good story about Chip being emotional once at Oregon (from an old piece by Sheil Kapadia…now I’m getting emotional).

Asked for his favorite memory of Kelly, Huff recalled a game against Stanford his sophomore year.

“It was halftime and he came in… it was a close battle and he came in and I’ve never seen him so fired up,” Huff said. “He came in, flipped the table over, he was cussing a little bit. It fired the whole team up. Eventually we went out there in the second half and did what we had to do, made plays and came out with a victory.”

Chip knew what buttons to push on that day.

This is a very different situation. We’ll see if emotion can help him get this team straightened out. That’s a card you can only play a few times. I guess Chip is going on the notion that desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Eagles weren’t responding to Chip’s standard mantra of taking things one game at a time. If they don’t respond to an emotional appeal, that may tell us that the team simply isn’t responding to Chip and that it might in fact be time for a change.

The Eagles play at the Patriots next Sunday. The Pats last home loss was the 2014 season finale, where Tom Brady only played part of the game and Gronk didn’t play at all. Before that, you have to go back to December 2012 when the Niners (in their Super Bowl season) beat them. Even if Chip pushes all the right buttons, winning next week isn’t likely. The key will be to see the Eagles play well, something we haven’t come close to seeing in the last 3 weeks.


Character doesn’t guarantee chemistry.

You can assemble a team of college graduates who haven’t been arrested and are active in the community. They can be the greatest guys in the world. That doesn’t mean those players will click.

Chemistry is a funny thing.

You need the right mix of personalities and skill-sets for things to work the right way. The problem is that there is no way to know when a unit or team will have good chemistry. You can make guesses and come up with logical plans, but the proof will be in the pudding.

I’m sure Kelly could explain to you how the 2015 Eagles should have good chemistry. He brought in the right kind of guys. Bradford and Murray were friends from college. Murray played for a division winner last year. So did Maxwell. Kiko Alonso and Walter Thurmond both played for Chip at Oregon so he felt strongly they would fit in well. And on and on.

But the 2015 Eagles do not have good chemistry. Something is off with this team. Can that be fixed at this point? Not likely, but you never know. Teams can change in a hurry. The 2008 Eagles woke up and got going starting on Thanksgiving night and went deep into the playoffs. While that sounds encouraging, most struggling teams stay in their rut.

Change is possible, it just isn’t likely.


After the Giants loss today, the Eagles are just one game out of first place in the NFC East. That’s the positive take on things. Here is the other perspective, as I put it on Twitter.


Free Advice

Posted: November 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 455 Comments »

If Jeff Lurie were to ask my advice on what to do with the Eagles, here are a few things I would tell him.

Let the season play out. The goal is to get the team back on track. That might mean a coaching change. It might mean adding a GM. It might mean changes on the coaching staff. There will be roster turnover (fact of life in the NFL), but you need to know what changes need to be made.

It would be easy to say “Fire Bill Davis!”, but just 2 weeks ago you could argue his unit was carrying the team. Did he become an idiot in 2 weeks? I don’t think so. Still, the results are so incredibly bad that you can’t just brush them aside. That’s why it is critical to see how the defense plays the last 5 games. If they continue to struggle, Davis needs to go. If the defense rights the ship, then you have to really study the 2 blowouts to figure out why things went so horribly wrong.

You need that same mentality when judging the whole team, players and coaches. I am not a fan of firing a coach who is coming off a pair of 10-6 seasons, but if the Eagles finish 4-12 or 5-11, that is one epic collapse from a 4-4 start and Chip might need to go. If the team goes 6-10 or 7-9, style points will be key. You can play reasonably well and lose. You can play poorly and win.

What if Sam Bradford comes back and the Eagles then finish 8-8 or 9-7? That changes the discussion entirely. At this point I would be shocked for this team to get red hot. Then again, I’m shocked they are 4-7 so what the heck do I know? Every time I think I know what is going on with this team, things go in a very different direction.

Let the season play out. Figure out who needs to go and who is worth keeping. Making emotional decisions after a bad loss or during a losing streak doesn’t do anyone any good.

Do a lot of talking. At the end of the season, Lurie will meet with Chip to discuss the state of the team. Lurie isn’t a meddling owner. He lets his football people do their thing. He talks to them every year, but I get the feeling he does more listening than anything else.

This January Lurie needs to talk. A lot. He needs to press Chip for very specific answers about what went wrong and then ideas on how to fix those problems. Lurie needs to be one heck of a devil’s advocate to make sure Chip understands the gravity of his offseason decisions.

If Chip can’t explain his vision and his ideas well enough, that might be a clue that he needs help or shouldn’t be kept around.

Try to get the pulse of the players. Cary Williams didn’t like playing for Chip. Brandon Boykin wasn’t happy with how things went between the two of them. Evan Mathis had a strange end to his time as an Eagle. There are reports that some current players aren’t happy.

Lurie needs to try to find out if this is a legitimate issue or typical player-coach stuff. Jeremiah Trotter hated Andy Reid when he left the team in the 2002 offseason. Donovan McNabb left angry. John Welbourn forced Reid to trade him. Shawn Barber ripped on the Eagles when he played against them while he was a Chief.

There are player-coach issues on every team at every level of football in the world. That’s a fact of life. That said, Chip is an unusual coach and person. If there are problems that go beyond the normal griping about money, touches and/or snaps, then Lurie has to factor that into his thinking.

Check out the landscape. Look around the league. Who are the best teams and why? How close are the Eagles to being one of those teams?

Is the answer as simple as find a stud QB? Maybe. Maybe not. Green Bay is very up and down right now and they have Aaron Rodgers. But having the right QB makes a huge difference. Cam Newton is carrying the Panthers. Jay Cutler is playing well and the Bears are suddenly in the playoff mix.

As Lurie considers a coaching change, think about who is out there. Would you rather have Chip or Josh McDaniels? What about Adam Gase? And so on. If you do replace Chip, you need to have someone better to replace him with.

Is Denver better off since firing John Fox and going with Gary Kubiak? Figure out why the Panthers kept Ron Rivera around and see if any of that thinking applies to the Eagles situation.

Keep the goal in mind. You want to build a great team that can win a Super Bowl. Figure out which coaches and players you think can help you do that. Keep them. Move on from the others.


Nolan Carroll is on IR.

Watkins knows the scheme so bringing him back makes sense. I’m curious to see how the coaches use Eric Rowe, E.J. Biggers and Watkins. I would love to see Rowe get playing time, but the coaches may prefer someone with more experience.


Post Game Rambling

Posted: November 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 191 Comments »

Just some thoughts bouncing around my head tonight.

*  You wonder if the worst thing for the OL is Jason Peters trying to play. The OL played well against Dallas. Then Peters was in and out of practice, but sat out the Miami game. He played part of the Tampa game and then sat late. Peters was in and out of practice this week. He then got hurt in the game and missed the rest. Lane Johnson is shuffling back and forth from RT to LT and back to RT. That’s tough. Dennis Kelly goes from backup to RT to backup to RT.

The best thing for the OL might be to stick with Johnson and Kelly until Peters is fully healthy. The line is best when the players practice together and have stability and chemistry.

*  I feel bad for Nolan Carroll getting hurt, but there is something to be said for forcing Eric Rowe into the lineup. He has played well at times this year and struggled at others. Give him a full week of training and let’s see what he can do. It would be great to have an idea of where he stands as we think about the future. Carroll is a try-hard guy with limited upside. The coaches think Rowe can be very good once he adjusts to the NFL and hones his CB skills.

*  How much does the defense miss Jordan Hicks? DeMeco Ryans has the brain, but not the body anymore. Mychal Kendricks is incredibly gifted, but is too out of control. Kiko Alonso is all over the place. Hicks did a good job of running the defense and making plays. He might have been a rookie, but had the presence of a veteran. The play of the other ILBs is very disappointing.

*  One of the big problems for this defense is tackling. That was an issue early in 2013, but the coaches worked on it over and over and the team tackled fairly from that point on. There are 3 main problems as I see it. First, technical stuff. Players aren’t always taking good angles to the ball. You have to be in proper position to make a tackle. Technique is also a problem. There is too much grabbing and reaching. You need to wrap up with your arms and make a strong, physical tackle.

I think too many players are going for the strip. Byron Maxwell is the worst at this. Secure the tackle, then go for the ball. He is going for the ball too much. The final issue, which has only surfaced the last 2 weeks, is effort. As these games get out of hand, the score affects the players intensity. That’s human nature, but it needs to stop. The players need to show great effort no matter the score.

*  You normally don’t want to overreact to one or two games, but the Eagles have been historically bad the last 2 weeks and that’s what is so crazy.

I mean…wow.

*  At least Dallas lost again. I’m not happy Tony Romo got hurt. You never cheer for injuries. But seeing that team continue to lose is always fun. Are they dealing with football karma for signing Greg Hardy?


Doubling Down on Disaster

Posted: November 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 217 Comments »

Tampa 45, Philadelphia 14

Detroit 45, Philadelphia 14

Wow. This is the worst 2 weeks in a long, long time. The loss to Miami was disappointing and frustrating, but involved more sloppy football than outright bad play.

The last 2 weeks were far worse. The Eagles got dominated. They were out-played, out-coached and anything else you want to throw in there.

The next 5 weeks will determine the future of Chip Kelly and this coaching staff. No one is getting fired 11 games into the season. That doesn’t accomplish anything. After 2 horrible performances in games the Eagles needed to win, Chip’s future becomes highly in doubt.

I have been a big supporter of Chip’s since before he was hired. But games like the last 2 weeks can’t be ignored. I don’t think Chip is done for sure, but I think he’s now on shaky ground. More games like this and he will be out of a job. If the team is either so-so or plays well, Jeff Lurie will have a decision to make. Does he end it or give Chip another year?

Bill Davis and the defense had another bad day. That is 3 weeks in a row with no takeaways. They can’t seem to cover anyone. Davis better get this defense turned around in a hurry or he could be out of a job even if Chip comes back.

Mark Sanchez has confirmed that’s he’s Mark Sanchez and nothing more. It will be good to get Sam Bradford back on the field. That doesn’t mean he’s going to get the Eagles to suddenly play great football, but he is a better QB than Sanchez.

This is a tough time to follow the Eagles. They aren’t fun to watch right now and there is a ton of negativity around the team. And they go play the Patriots in 10 days. What could possibly go wrong there…

The 2015 season has gone from frustrating to full on nightmare.