Chip Kelly Finally Has The Philadelphia Eagles In His Image


In his third season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly finally has his team.

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No more diva malcontents with the word “Sean” in their name.

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No more unsatisfied offensive linemen who are driven solely by inflated paychecks, or defensive backs complaining about how hard practice is.

No more inherited quarterbacks from the previous regime who may or may not thrive solely because of the system in place.

And–the driving factor in all of this–no more deferring to other team executives (as noted by Mark Eckel of earlier this year) to have the final say in personnel decisions.

It also means no more excuses.

To Kelly’s credit, he hasn’t provided any to date. In fact, he’s been refreshingly transparent in his press conferences–especially when comparing him to his predecessor, whose robotic, canned post-game responses would serve a pull-string doll well.

It took very little time for him to revamp the roster this past offseason after being given carte blanche control by owner Jeffrey Lurie during the offseason. It may be hard to recall, lo these past six months or so, but most of those moves were met with curiosity at best and skepticism at worst. For example:

  • Letting a veteran All-Pro receiver coming off his best year (Jeremy Maclin) walk and replacing him with an aging receiver (Miles Austin), riddled by injury and mediocrity for three of his past four seasons.
  • Trading one of the most dynamic running backs in the game (LeSean McCoy) for a mostly unproven linebacker (Kiko Alonso) returning from a devastating knee injury.
  • Adding a second free agent running back (Ryan Mathews) to the mix when touches seemed to already be spread thin.
  • Trading the starting quarterback (Nick Foles) and a high draft pick for a quarterback (Sam Bradford) recovering from two consecutive devastating knee injuries who, at least statistically, underachieved when healthy.
  • Signing a high-priced free agent (Byron Maxwell) with pedestrian stats and another (Walter Thurmond III) coming off a – yup, you guessed it – a season-ending pectoral injury.
  • Letting both starting guards (Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis) walk without drafting or signing replacements.

However, in the span of a summer, the most vocal naysayers have become silenced:

  • Jordan Matthews looks ready to take the next step in his sophomore campaign and top pick Nelson Agholor looks like the real deal.
  • Alonso finally got on the field and has a motor that doesn’t stop.
  • Mathews and the rest of the running back corps seems perfectly content with a platoon role.
  • Bradford was literally perfect the last time he took the field.
  • Maxwell and Thurmond both looked solid, as do the new starting guards, Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner.

To the players’ credit, there seems to be buy-in across the board. Perhaps it’s because part of the former college coach’s requirements include a level of humility, such as starters playing special teams or even proven commodities like DeMarco Murray, DeMeco Ryans and even Austin assuming scaled-down roles.

Plus, most of these guys still have something to prove, whether it be to live up to prior expectations, show they’ve recovered from past health issues or, considering that there are currently 14 undrafted free agents (over 25 percent) on the squad, simply prove they belong here.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any sense of entitlement in this locker room right now.

But after a preseason with very little to complain about–one that that vaulted the Eagles into contention status by many prognosticators–it’s also eliminated the “transition period” alibi for many fans.

Furthermore, it’s meant that Kelly has made his job more challenging than it had to be. Knowing Lurie’s level of patience with Andy Reid, he’d have at least another season or two to figure things out. Holding on to underperforming high picks like Jaylen Watkins or high-profile free agents like Tim Tebow would have been easy and forgivable.

It would also have fallen into the category of a built-in excuse if the proverbial poop hits the fan.

So now the bar is being raised ahead of schedule, (as per this article by Bob Brookover at And although the margin for error and unpredictability is quite high (as I so eloquently discussed in this piece), anything less than a playoff appearance, preferably one with at least one postseason victory, will likely be considered a disappointment now.

For Kelly and his roster–one that now has his fingerprints all over it–they should be perfectly fine with those revised expectations.

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