Eagles-Packers Preseason Beatdown Haiku

For full disclosure, I’m writing this haiku mostly off of live look-ins, tweets, and now re-watching the game on NFL Network after not having access to it last night.

It sure seemed like a fun one to miss, and while all of this comes with the normal disclaimer of ‘it’s only the preseason’ and is admittedly irrelevant if the Eagles don’t start the regular season hot, it would be difficult to script a better three games of preseason football.

All that’s left to do now is watching Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow battle for a job Thursday night and sort through some of the more difficult roster cuts before psychologically preparing for the journey ahead.

Let’s hit the haiku:

All of the touchdowns

Incompletions no such thing

Time for Atlanta?

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Eagles-Ravens Haiku

As you can see from this slightly awkward featured image, my view for the Eagles second preseason game was not nearly as cool as the opener against the Colts six days ago, but the performance was just as good — if not better — overall.

I’m giving away the first line with this sentence, but I’m also tired, so like the pace of Chip’s offense, let’s make this one quick and hit the haiku:

Really fast offense

Barner to the house again

Bradford still alive

The Return of the Eagles Haikus

Every football season brings about something new.

Sometimes, it’s a flash in the pan and quickly goes away. Other times, it has staying power, and the latter is the case here. Beginning last season, we introduced a practice where in addition to some longer and deeper thoughts, every Eagles game would be recapped in the form of a haiku.

Along with seeing live football again for the first time in eight months, one of the most components about today was knowing it would end with a haiku, and there are certainly plenty of options to draw from after the Eagles 36-10 victory in the preseason opener against the Colts.

Some concerns were alleviated. Others — like the quarterback position — remain, and thankfully there are three more games to hopefully see some Sam Bradford and sort out the third-string competition between Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley.

There is time for information gathering. Many people think preseason football is meaningless, and from a big picture standpoint, they’re not totally wrong, but taking that mindset and henceforth dismissing everything as irrelevant inhibits the opportunity to learn valuable information about rookies, new acquisitions, roster battles, and more.

Anyway, that’s a different debate for another day. It’s been 231 days since we wrote a haiku. Let’s hit it:

Rookie draft picks flash

Barner puts on quite a show

Parkey concern? Nah

Countdown to Eagles Football — 41 Days: Is There a Quarterback Competition in Training Camp?

Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first, second, and third parts can be found here, here, and here

The answer to the above question is yes, well, sort of.

The Eagles actually have two quarterback competitions taking place in training camp right now, but neither of them involve Mark Sanchez, a name you would expect to be mentioned in that realm.

Below are the two that we’re looking at here:

Matt Barkley vs. Tim Tebow 

These two will battle it out through the month of August to be the team’s third-string quarterback, but for better or for worse, Chip Kelly may already have his mind made up. Like most things with Kelly, we just don’t know what it is until a formal announcement is made and one of the players is released.

If Kelly is concerned about Sam Bradford and Sanchez suffering injuries that would force him to play a third signal-caller, he likely goes with the safer option in Barkley. If he trusts one of those two to stay heathy, then Tebow potentially has the upper-hand with the option of using him in certain sub-packages and two-point conversion attempts.

This brings us to the second quarterback competition, and the far more important one, because let’s face it, while backup quarterback can arguably be the second most important position on the team, you’re not seeing January if your third-stringer needs to play any significant amount of time.

Sam Bradford vs. Sam Bradford’s Health 

If Bradford makes it through August healthy, and he has survived the first four days, no small task given his injury history, he will enter the regular season as the starting quarterback. Something drastic like throwing three interceptions and struggling mightily to move the offense in a preseason game could prompt Kelly to give a bit more of an extended look at Sanchez, but the idea of an actual quarterback battle has been overblown.

While Kelly tried for as long as possible to insist one existed, it was always difficult to fathom. We mentioned resource allocation and asset management the other day, and that ties in here. Giving up Nick Foles, a future second round draft pick, and taking on a player owed 13 million dollars for him to carry a clipboard just isn’t good business.

Come September 14th in Atlanta, Bradford will be under center taking the first snap of the season from the shotgun formation.

If anything were to stop that from happening, it would be his knee before Sanchez’s arm.

Countdown to Eagles Football — 42 Days: How Long Will Chip Kelly Be the Eagles Coach?

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first and second part can be found here and here. 

This makes me a bit uncomfortable, actually more than a bit uncomfortable, to the point where I almost considered not publishing it and going in a different direction, but at the same time, I felt it was important enough to discuss.

An attempt to answer this question is ultimately grounded in intuition and speculation. People have wildly floated their thoughts on this topic since 1 p.m. on January 16, 2013,  the day Kelly was hired to be the Eagles head coach. It has only become a hotter discussion point since January 2015, when Kelly gained full control of player personnel decisions in addition to his coaching duties.

Whatever number or year someone throws out is ultimately a personal notion, but there are some facts that we can use to evaluate the question holistically and venture an educated guess.

Previous Coaching Stops 

Kelly spent 13 years coaching at his alma mater, the university of New Hampshire, including the final eight as the program’s offensive coordinator. He then stayed at Oregon for six seasons, spending the final four as the Ducks head coach before taking his talents to the NFL.

Contract Length

Kelly’s contract currently runs for three more years through the 2017 season. Two scenarios could obviously change things here. A successful season could potentially net Kelly an early extension, even with a couple years remaining on his original deal. On the opposite spectrum, owner Jeffrey Lurie could fire Kelly at any point in time before the end of the 2017 season, ending the contract early, which leads to the next point.

Lurie’s Track Record with Coaches 

In his two decades as Eagles owner, Lurie has been known to exhibit patience with head coaches. Ray Rhodes held the position for four seasons, and Andy Reid, obviously the stronger example, spent 14 years running the show. Other owners may have pulled the plug on Reid earlier, who did not win a playoff game in his final four seasons between 2009-2012. Many thought Reid should have been fired after the Eagles 2008 Super Bowl dreams came crashing down in the Arizona desert, but Lurie remained loyal to Reid until it became abundantly clear that a change was needed.

Lurie showed the utmost confidence in Kelly last January when he stripped Howie Roseman, who the owner had grown incredibly close with over the years, of personnel duties, handing the head coach more power. While Kelly has theoretically turned up the heat on himself with some controversial roster decisions, it is clear his owner believes in him after back-to-back 10 win seasons.

Most Coaches Who Come from College and Succeed in the NFL Don’t Go Back

Jim Harbaugh is the exception to this headline, heading home to bring his alma mater back to prominence. Other coaches who come from the college game and prove they can cut it in the NFL do not go back. The allure of winning a Super Bowl and proving that one’s system works at the game’s highest level is too attractive to even entertain college offers. Those who crash and burn like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino return. The good ones do not.

The popular notion is that Kelly’s next coaching job will be at a big-time college football program, and that belief seems absolutely ridiculous to me. The much more likely scenario is Kelly coaching another NFL team (with less power than he currently has in Philadelphia should that experiment prove unsuccessful), which brings us to the final two considerations.

The Marcus Mariota Factor 

After a successful start to his head-coaching career in Arizona, Ken Wisenhunt is 20-44 in his last four seasons, including a rough 2-14 season with the Titans in 2014.

Picture the scenario right now. Sam Bradford doesn’t pan out as the franchise quarterback that Kelly believes he can be, and the Eagles end up just on the outside of the NFC playoff picture again. The Titans go 5-11 with Mariota having an inconsistent rookie season, and Tennessee’s brass reaches the conclusion that the right coach, his old coach, is the man to get them on track.

This is not so simple as Kelly would still be under contract with the Eagles. Furthermore, the entire scenario sounds absurd, but the Mariota connection will never fully go away so long as both are in the NFL.

New Hampshire Roots 

Kelly was born and spent much of his life pre-Oregon and Philadelphia days in New Hampshire. What NFL team is closest to New Hampshire?

While this may be the biggest stretch of them all, Kelly is close with and not so secretly admires Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick is 63 years old. While the four-time champion has shown no signs of slowing down, it is reasonable to assume that he won’t coach forever.

If Belichick were to remain with the organization in some sort of consulting role and have influence in naming his replacement, it would not be surprising to see him recommend Kelly to Robert Kraft, and it is certainly fathomable that Kelly would embrace the opportunity to follow the legend.

So What’s the Verdict?

Having evaluated all of these factors, let’s make a prediction.

I might regret this, and it’s dangerous to say when someone is entering Year 3 without a solidified franchise quarterback, but I foresee Kelly with the Eagles for a long time.

Lurie trusts him, and Kelly is as driven as they come, hungry to prove that his innovative system works on the biggest football stage, ruling out the idea that he would voluntarily return to the college game. The only way he ends up back there is if 32 NFL franchises deem him unworthy of a job, and someone who wins 20 games over two seasons with a flawed roster that only had 12 victories over the previous two doesn’t forget how to coach overnight.

Marvin Lewis has lasted 12 seasons in Cincinnati despite never winning a playoff game. Kelly must aim higher than that, but all things considered, I think it’s likely that he is still wearing midnight green come the beginning of a new decade in 2020.

As for 2021? Well, that depends on if Mariota is in a Patriots jersey.

Countdown to Eagles Football — 43 Days: How Did Chip Kelly Do in HIs First Offseason with Full Control of the Roster?

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first part can be found here

Unlike yesterday’s question, the answer to this one is a lot more complicated and significant in terms of determining both the Eagles short and long-term outlook.

When Chip Kelly demanded final say over all roster decisions thus removing Howie Roseman’s title and responsibilities as Genera Manager in early January, he did it with one motivation in mind:

To make personnel decisions that would help take the franchise from good to great. Despite back-to-back 10 win seasons and an NFC East title in 2013, Kelly made the determination that the Eagles were too much of a fringe playoff contender and not close enough to competing for a Super Bowl where a few roster tweaks could get them there. He needed something more.

The merits of Kelly’s estimation can certainly be argued. As a counterpoint to Kelly’s findings, the Eagles beat a Colts team on the road that won 11 games and advanced to the AFC Championship.

They hung with the then defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks on the scoreboard in December before succumbing to a 24-14 defeat but were thoroughly outplayed and beaten up throughout the game.

Perhaps the biggest game in favor of Kelly’s argument was the embarrassing 53-20 mid-November loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field where Kelly’s Eagles were outclassed by a Green Bay team that ended up being minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl over Seattle.

Regardless of how the determination was made, it happened, and Kelly set out to overhaul a roster that will have at least 10 new starters come September 14th in Atlanta.

After three wild trades, some controversial departures, several free-agent acquisitions, thousands of Marcus Mariota rumors and one surprisingly calm draft, how did Kelly do in his first offseason running the show?

On the surface, it appears Kelly made parts of the Eagles better. The addition of Kiko Alonso in the LeSean McCoy trade gives the Eagles their most talented inside linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint in midnight green.

Whether or not DeMarco Murray can come close to repeating a career year in 2014 remains to be seen, but him and Ryan Mathews give the Eagles more running back depth while simultaneously weakening their biggest division rival.

Byron Maxwell is an instant upgrade in the secondary, one that was in desperate need of improvement when facing Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, and DeSean Jackson twice a year.

Rather than overpaying to retain the services of Jeremy Maclin, Kelly elected to go the cheaper route and attempt to replace him with rookie first round draft Nelson Agholor. Had the Eagles overpaid for Maclin, they may have been unable to afford a guy like Maxwell.

All of these moves on paper make sense. On the opposing side of things, Kelly did not do much to upgrade offensive line depth or talent at the safety position, two spots that are glaring question marks as the Eagles head into camp. Any injury to the likes of Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, or Malcolm Jenkins could spell doom for the birds rather quickly.

Then, there’s the biggest move of all. Kelly’s first offseason will largely be defined by the successes or failures of Sam Bradford in his system and Nick Foles in St. Louis. Kelly did not simply elect to swap quarterbacks with him getting the less accomplished one. He also surrendered a 2016 second round draft pick for the oft-injured Bradford who is scheduled to make 13 million dollars this season in the final year of his rookie contract while Foles is scheduled to make less than two million with the Rams.

The previous two sentences underscore the biggest question mark about Kelly as a GM. It is abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the Eagles over the past two seasons that the man can coach, and his ability to identify talent going back to his Oregon days is impressive.

The unknown lies in the asset management component of being a genera manager, something that can often be overlooked but essential in ensuring that the team is set up well for both the present and future.

Would a more experienced GM have been able to execute the Bradford-Foles trade without giving up the extra draft pick, something that maybe could have enticed the Titans more in an offer for Mariota. When Kelly signed Maxwell and Murray, was he bidding against himself in those negotiations and did he need to pay them as much as he did?

When Roseman had heavy influence in the draft, there are stories of Kelly overvaluing certain players like Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Taylor Hart, wanting to select them a round before most other teams would have, and having to be walked back by Roseman, assuring him that they would be available when they picked again.

Maybe veteran GM’s wouldn’t have the guts to do what Kelly is doing, and if Bradford stays healthy and turns into the franchise quarterback that the Rams once hoped he would be, no one will care very much about the lost second round pick.

Still, football players are not acquired in a vacuum. There is an opportunity cost, both present and future, to every decision made, and whether or not Kelly can master the asset and resource allocation part of the job remains to be seen.

As I have stated previously on Twitter and in 10 Things I Think I Think, I don’t believe Kelly’s offseason has the Eagles worse than the 2014 season, but there is a small fear that he rearranged chairs on the Titanic as opposed to strengthening the collective roster.

Ultimately the Eagles are in better shape with Kelly doing everything as opposed to Kelly coaching somewhere else and doing nothing at all. Time will tell whether he is as capable of a general manager as he is a coach.

The first seven months have sure been something

Countdown to Eagles Football — 44 Days: Who is the Face of the Franchise?

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. Most parts will not be as weird as this one. 

The first question that we answer in our series will be the easiest.

It’s also a unique one in that for better or for worse, the Eagles are one of the few teams, hell, maybe the only team in the NFL, where the coach comes to mind more than one particular player. Sam Bradford, should he somehow turn into the franchise quarterback that made him the first overall pick in the draft five years ago could potentially emerge as the answer to this. DeMarco Murray theoretically could as well, but it’s difficult to hand that label to someone who previously suited up for your biggest rival and has yet to play a down for the Eagles.

A case could be made for Connor Barwin, but not many 3-4 linebackers jump to the forefront when you think face of the franchise. When the schedule was released in April, the Eagles went with an image of Zach Ertz, another who could be in the conversation but isn’t there yet.

The past two paragraphs partly underscore the issue of having a somewhat talented roster that lacks a surefire franchise quarterback, but that alone downplays Chip Kelly’s influence and clout, both within the franchise itself and perception around the league.

Since Kelly’s arrival, the Eagles have attempted to rebrand themselves as this innovative franchise that talks, thinks, and acts quicker than its competition.

They are like a startup that has a really cool idea and business model seemingly ready to disrupt the market, but execution needs to go from good to great for that to happen, and whether or not they can do that remains to be seen.

Maybe this is a better analogy.

If Chip Kelly was a metaphorical person, he would be the kid who moved into your neighborhood from across the country when you were entering high school. He is a few years older than you and has his license. He’s promised to take you cool places, so you ride with him.

Your parents don’t think it’s safe, and you even admit he drives way too fast at times, but you’re intrigued. After all, your neighborhood needed a bit of life to it. It’s normally been a pretty good place, and 10 years ago, you put together an awesome team that took on the best neighborhood around. They cheat and no one likes them, but sadly you lost by three points and haven’t gotten close to them since.

Two summers ago when Chip first moved in, you went on an epic road trip. Despite running out of gas towards the end, it was the best summer since 2004. You actually traveled a little further in 2008 with your elementary school friend Andy, but there was something new and special about 2013.

Last year you thought you were gonna do it again, but midway through the trip, your muffler broke and had to be replaced by a less talented and more inconsistent muffler. Your biggest rivals caught you on the final laps and celebrated what was yours the summer before.

Sometimes you think Chip misses the west coast. He talks more than occasionally about an old girlfriend, Marissa Marriot, and you’d do anything to get them back together. Marissa’s off at college at the University of Tennessee, and even though you know Chip misses her dearly, he reminds you to be ‘where your feet are.’

His feet are firmly on the gas pedal, and he’s revving the engine faster than ever before.

‘Chip, Nick was my best friend,’ you say to him as he stops short at a red light. ‘He was a huge reason why the trip two yeas ago was so fun. Why isn’t he allowed to ride with us this year?’

Chip doesn’t really answer, but Sam is awkwardly sitting in the backseat. His crutches take up a lot of room and block part of the rearview mirror. Chip could care less. Rearview mirrors are not a safety tool to Chip. Rather, they’re a symbol of inefficiency, an invitation to concern yourself with those chasing you rather than looking forward to new horizons.

All of a sudden he cuts across three lanes of traffic without signaling once.

‘CHIP WATCH OUT, WHAT THE FUCK?’ you scream as several cars begin honking. ‘My GPS didn’t say we were supposed to go that way. Have you lost your mind?’

‘We gotta go pick up Sam’s friend DeMarco,’ Chip says to you in the most nonchalant way that someone could announce a trip-altering decision.

At this point you put the car in park and demand answers, other drivers still honking, some of them even cursing and demanding that you do not get back on the road.

‘Chip, we never talked about any of this. Let’s pull over, grab a smoothie, chill for a little while, and talk all of this through.’

He will have none of it. ‘That’s an inefficient use of time,’ he says, putting the car back in drive before he even finishes talking.

For a brief few seconds, you get the car back in park again before he reaches for the gear shift.

‘Chip I got an idea. How about we go visit Marissa at Tennessee? We’ll have to pay a lot more in gas and tolls and will have to make great time once we leave, but I think it would be worth it.’

‘Let’s dispel this right now,’ he says with an exasperated look on his face. ‘I think we need to stop talking about Marissa.’

Despite this suggestion, he himself isn’t done, and you know it.

‘Marissa is the greatest girl I have ever been around, but we’re not going to sacrifice this road trip just to see her when we have a ton of other things to do.’

You wait a second to see whether or not he’s finished this time. Chip rarely shows a ton of emotion around you, but this is telling. You know how deep his love for Marissa runs.

‘So we need to stop talking about Marissa but then you go right back to talking about Marissa again?’

‘You being a wise ass?’ he shoots back at you with a look of disgust.

While you process the rhetorical question, Chip starts up the car. You’re off again, 40 miles per hour above the speed limit with Sam and DeMarco sharing old stories about their Oklahoma days in the backseat.

How did we get here? What the fuck is going on?

Chip speeds up more, and you lean back and take a deep breath realizing that the cop you just passed isn’t reacting.

Several hours have now gone by. You begin to spot a few highway signs for Atlanta, confirming that you’re going the right way, at least for the time being.

You’re still occasionally thinking in your head ‘Chip slow the fuck down, you’re going to get us killed,’ but that thought takes a backseat to you screaming ‘FASTER, FASTER,’ as some lesser drivers are clearly overwhelmed and left in the dust.

For better or for worse, you’ve bought in, because you think the destination could be a lot of fun — maybe even super fun.