Tag Archives: NFC East

‘I Love You, But I Don’t Ride With You No More’

Editor’s Note: Every year when the Eagles report for training camp, we publish a column. Sometimes said column discusses actual football matters, but in other instances it may offer a more high level or metaphorical look at the state of the franchise or where my head is at on things. This might be the best — and weirdest — one yet. 

“How the fuck is this happening?”, you say to yourself as your hand bangs once more on the worn-down steering wheel.

You turn the keys again in a last-ditch effort. The engine whimpers softly but still won’t start. “Son of a bitch, am I really gonna have to Uber from San Francisco to Philadelphia? Is that even possible? What driver would accept that?” you mutter in a concerned voice.

What a difference a calendar year makes.

Let’s step back for a second.

This is typically the time of year where your annual road trip begins. You remember — the one where you rode shotgun with Chip in the driver’s seat. The glory days of 2013 where Nick jumped in the car and navigated you through some initial traffic. You were flying, faster than nearly all of the competition. Chip drove with this aura of confidence you hadn’t seen in years. He was out of control and simultaneously in complete control.

There was that magical night in Dallas where the three of you stayed up late celebrating a division title, blasting the fight song while doing laps around Jerry World. Six days later, the trip ended, a little shorter than it should have, but you knew that you were bound for greatness.

2014 was supposed to be even better until your muffler broke halfway through the season. You tried to replace it, but it wasn’t the same. Your rivals caught you down the stretch and celebrated what was yours the year before.

This bothered Chip to no end. He was dead set on making sure it never happened again but went about it completely the wrong way. Last year’s trip never stood much of a chance. There was the early fender-bender in Atlanta. Then a pit stop at home where Chip looked asleep at the wheel.

All the while, you hopped back in the passenger seat of the car every week desperately wanting to believe that it — whatever it was — would click.

Then the crash happened, and holy shit was it a fiery one. It was so bad that Chip had to leave town and moved across the country.

No more road trips speeding by the police. No more no-huddle offenses.

You never really got to say goodbye, and that’s what led you to embark on your own cross-country drive. A chance to get the closure that you desperately need.

It was a lonely journey. It’s different flying solo, but you made it.

‘People weren’t lying. San Francisco looks pretty damn cool,’ you think to yourself as you hit the brakes with a traffic light approaching. Chip was never good with the brakes. You always thought that if he could do away with rear-view mirrors, he would have. They weren’t a safety device to Chip but rather a symbol of inefficiency.

That is, until several other cars have passed you, and there’s no one to stare back at anymore.

‘Damn, the Golden Gate bridge is beautiful,’ you say as you lock the door and make your way over to Chip’s car. Your moment of marvel at the scenery of a different city is quickly interrupted.

“Why are we meeting like this?” Chip says to you, not making eye contact as you make your way into the passenger seat.

He was never the best at impromptu greetings.

You had rehearsed your opening line probably 272 times throughout the drive. There was even that awkward moment where you accidentally said it to a Burger King drive-through employee, and she looked pretty confused when you told her that you were breaking up with her.

You thought you were ready, but it turns out, you’re not so you try making small talk.

“So this is your new car after the crash, huh? How’s Marissa doing at Tennessee? Do you two still text? I know it was impossible, but I told you at the beginning of last year’s trip that we should have gone and saw her. Imagine how different things would be.”

Chip is now irritated. “This is a completely inefficient use of my time. What do you want?” he says now raising his voice.

“I…I…I…I…drove out here to tell you that I’m breaki…”

Chip cuts you off. ‘I was so damn close’ you say in your head. Dammit, Chip.

“I know exactly why you’re here. You’re here because you sense something wrong with how NFL football has been coached for years now. The old-school methods, the slow and plodding offenses. The elongated play calls.”

“Yes but no,” you chime back in. “I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking u…,”

Chip goes to cuts you off again. He was also never good about letting people talk during press conferences.

“You’re here because you believed that I was different. You believed that we could do something great together, and you’re here, you’re here, because you miss me. You never asked for me to be fired. You miss me.”

“Of course I miss you,” you respond. “But that’s not why I’m here.”

You take a deep breath.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m breaking up wit…”

“Sorry, hang on a second,” Chip says as he reaches for his phone.

“Broncos calling asking about Colin,” Chip says to you.

“Okay,” you say back, visibly frustrated now.

“Now where were we?” Chip responds.

You decide you need to take a different approach this time.

“Chip, do you realize what you could have had? You could have had the entire city eating out of the palm of your hand. Everyone wanted to love you, and those who didn’t were fucking stupid. You were going to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls, and you threw all of that away last offseason.”

“I would do it again,” Kelly snaps back. “I was trying to win.”

“And you lost a lot more than just games,” you quip back. “You blew up a good team. A team that won you the NFC East in your first year and gave you much of the clout that you had.

“You guys are ridiculous. You act like I got rid of a bunch of Super Bowl champions.”

This isn’t going quite as well as you had hoped.

“DeSean. LeSean. Jeremy. Nick. Do you realize what those guys meant to this team and this city?”

Chip doesn’t begin talking, so you jump in again.

“They were some of my really good friends. I trusted you with them.”

“Your good friends haven’t won a playoff game since 2008,” Chip says.

Remember that part about not making eye contact when you got in the car? Yeah, that’s no longer a thing. He’s now staring directly through you — pupils locked in a death stare.

This part you were ready for. In fact, you were hoping it would happen so you could use it.

“Your best friend Sam has never played in a playoff game and never will.”

If there was an audience watching as opposed to this being a private conversation, they might respond with an “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH.”

That was the ultimate zinger. You were waiting to throw it for months, and Chip put it up on a tee for you.

He’s now rattled. You’re still not used to Chip being rattled even though you started to see it more and more late last year when you guys would hit bad traffic and Chip’s old tricks couldn’t find the shortcut any longer.

He’s still quiet.

“You fucked me. I believed in you. I stood up for you so many times, and you fucked me. You fucked me.”

You’re in a groove now. It’s time.

“And that’s why I drove here to tell you that I’m breaking up with y…”

“You want a smoothie? San Francisco has really good smoothies. We should get one,” Chip nonchalantly asks.

“No, Chip, I don’t want a fucking smoothie. See, this is the problem. You’ve evidently learned nothing from your mistakes. I was hoping you would, but you don’t listen to anyone. You’re getting in your own way constantly. You could be one of the greatest innovators the NFL has ever seen, and it won’t work if you keep doing this.”

You’ve now stepped out of the car. Darkness has fallen on this summer night in San Francisco. You used to like looking up at the sky on your trips when Chip would speed through the night, dreaming about what you could accomplish.

Nick was always quiet but would nod his head to the music in the backseat. No words needed to be spoken. The mission was clear. What you wouldn’t do to have those days back.

The touchdown passes. The fourth-quarter comebacks. Cranking the music even louder as Chip sped past another driver and left them in a dust while that cop car didn’t move.

You snap out of your moment of nostalgia and lock eyes with Chip once again, as you’re now both standing on opposite sides of the car.

You close your eyes for a second that feels like an eternity. Now you’re ready. Nothing can stop you as they flash open and your lips start to move.

“I’m breaking up with you.”

There it is.

Chip hasn’t reacted yet.

“I’m going back to Philadelphia. Long drive home and camp starts soon. Season will be here before we know it. Good luck, Chip.”

You begin walking back to your car. Chip follows closely behind you. You press your remote to unlock the door, but it doesn’t work. The second time it does, but the extra time let Chip get even closer. He’s not saying anything, but it’s almost as if he knows something you don’t.

You turn the key in the ignition, but nothing happens. Again. Nothing. Again. There’s that whimper, but it quickly fizzles out.

You knew this wouldn’t be easy. After all, the crash last year didn’t impact just Chip. There’s a mess for you to clean up too.

How the tables have turned. Brimming with confidence the minute prior, you’re now the one stressed again, and Chip sees this as his opportunity.

“Why don’t you stay?” he says.

“What are you talking about, Chip?”

“You know. Stay — in San Francisco. Spend the season with me.”

Now you’re really confused. ‘Didn’t I just tell him that I was breaking up with him. I did say that out loud, right?’

“Come on. I know you rooted for Nick in St. Louis last year. Plus, you don’t think you guys are actually gonna be any good without me, right? I left that offense in shambles.”

“Chip, I won’t do that. I grew up an Eagles fan, I’ve always been an Eagles fan, I’ll die an Eagles fan. I’m going back home — whether this car comes back with me or not.”

You pull out your phone. Outside of the sound of a dog barking in the distance, it’s dead silent.

“Uber will be here in seven minutes,” you casually say to Chip.

Your driver’s name is Ben. He’s wearing a Giants hat in his picture but comes with a 4.9 rating. At this point, it’s hard to be picky. Chip was your guy, and it will be difficult to give your heart away to another driver just like that.

Ben’s now two minutes away. Hopefully this will be easy.

You put your phone away for a second to look up at Chip one more time — examining your former hero who you still have feelings for deep down. This is it. This is really goodbye.

You look down at it again and can’t believe what you see. Ben cancelled. He’s picking up another rider.

You figured it was a long shot to make him travel that far but dammit, he looked like a good driver. Now Tom is on the way. Tom is old in his picture — Like old enough to be your great-grandfather old, but he has a 5.0 rating.

You hold the screen up and wave it at Chip. He breaks his nine minute silence.

“Tom, really? Didn’t I used to leave Tom in the dust on our trips together? You’re gonna get in a car with him?”

You don’t have time to answer because Tom cancels too. Still holding the screen towards him, Chip sees another person turn you down and smirks.

Is the third time a charm?

The app feels like it’s taking forever, the requesting screen processing and processing, but no drivers showing up.

‘Stay calm,’ you say to yourself. ‘We’ll figure it out.’

All of a sudden your phone vibrates, but something looks weird. You have a driver on the way. His name is Doug,. He doesn’t even have a rating, but he’s only a minute away.

“You sure you don’t want to cancel this trip and stay?” Chip tries once more.

He’s relentless. Tears begin streaming down your face. There’s still a few seconds left to cancel. You’re not good at saying goodbye even in situations like this.

Car lights flash in the distance. Doug drives a Lincoln Town Car. Talk about a boring car. This 45-hour drive home is going to suck.

At this point, the tears have intensified some as the car inches closer.

“Bye Chip.”

You do a quick check of the license plate and open the door to the backseat without saying anything. The backseat — this is different. Chip’s looking at you as you cry, nearly 3,000 miles from home.

Doug begins driving, and you stare back at Chip and your car for as long as you can, until it’s become physically impossible to tell that anyone or anything was there in the distance if you didn’t know better.

Doug looks like he’s about to say something. ‘Please no. Please don’t try to talk to me right now,’ you beg to yourself.

“Hey man,” he says turning around as he reaches a stoplight and pulls around to extend his hand.

‘Fuck.’

“Pleasure to have you in the car. I’m just so excited to be driving Uber. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the opportunity to have you as my first passenger. It’s just so awesome.”

You wipe a tear from your face and stare back at Doug, hoping he’ll take a hint. He doesn’t.

“You ever have Kansas City BBQ, man? My old boss, Andy — obsessed with it. I was thinking we stop on the way back if you’re up for it. My treat.

You don’t say anything.

“Of course if you’re not into it though, we don’t have to. Maybe it’s good if we don’t. Jeffrey and Howie will probably be upset at me for putting extra miles on the car now that I think about it.”

You’ve had enough.

“Hey man, not to be an asshole, but I just broke up with someone. I’m really not in the mood to talk right now. Just drive the damn car.”

Several hours have gone by where you’ve been asleep. It was never easy to sleep with Chip driving. He always wanted to go faster, but to your best knowledge, Doug hasn’t come close to an accident yet.

You wake up to unfamiliar sights. ‘Did I just see some exit sign for Mount Rushmore?’

“What’s going on?” you ask Doug.

“You didn’t seem too into the BBQ idea, but we gotta pick up another rider in North Dakota.”

“Whatever,” you say back. “I’m going back to sleep.”

Two hours later you’re awoken again as someone else gets in the car. He’s tall with red hair. So tall that you’re not sure how he’s going to sit in the backseat of Doug’s car for that long.

You’re in a little better mood now and if not taking the initiative to start one, at least willing to engage in a conversation.

You take a look at your phone and open up the app to figure out what’s going on.

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 7.14.19 PM

“Hey man, I’m Carson. Where you headed?”

“Philadelphia,” you respond back. One-word isn’t much, but it’s progress.

“No way, me too,” he says. “You an Eagles fan by chance?”

“You could say that. What about you?”

“Well, I think I just became one,” Carson says. “I hear their fans are crazy. Super passionate. Is that true?”

‘Are you sure you’re ready to get into this?’ you ask yourself before answering.

“You bet, but the good ones are also reasonable. We care. There’s people who like to dismiss everything and mock the ones who care, retweeting stupid things on Twitter, acting as if life is meaningless. The good ones though, they’ll get on you, but if you show you want it even more than they do, they’ll also have your back.

“Hey man, that’s awesome,” Carson says. “I can’t wait to see it for myself. You into music by chance? Play any instruments?

“Played the trumpet for a couple years when I was younger. That’s pretty much it though. You? ”

“Lead guitar.”

Your mouth drops slightly, not having expected this. Carson takes your silence as an invitation to continue.

“There was this guy in my old band named Sam. Never played a sold out show in his life, and he thought he was better than me. I know I can beat him though.”

You want to say something back, but your phone buzzes.

“Hey man, you all good?” says Carson. “You seem a little distracted.”

You wait a few seconds to answer Carson, your face buried deep into your screen.

It’s Chip. He texted you. Of course he texted you.

There’s that sensation. Tears traveling through your inner-eyes, but you won’t cry this time.

Your finger shakes as you hit ‘Send.’ There it goes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 2.03.28 PM.png

Doug is cruising. It will get more difficult as he hits rush hour traffic, but things are calm for now. The first highway sign for Philadelphia appears.

“Yeah man, I’m all good,” you say back to Carson. “Let’s fucking go.”

We Turnt AF RN: Eagles-Cowboys Walk-off Haiku

I said five hours ago that whoever won tonight would host a playoff game in January.

While an Eagles loss certainly wouldn’t have resulted in me giving up on the rest of the season, a victory would bury Dallas, unable to recover from 2-6, even with reinforcements in the form of a Pro Bowl quarterback on the way.

Despite two ridiculous pass interference calls late in the contest and some self-inflicted wounds along the way, the Eagles did what they had to do. Their next three opponents are a combined 7-17. It’s a two-team race, and the Giants don’t scare me.

Let’s hit the haiku and enjoy the end of the Cowboys’ season:

Die Greg Hardy Die

Jordan Matthews breathes again

Cowboys coffin closed

10 Things I Think I Think

In the mood to write a little bit after that frustrating opener, and it’s been a month and a half since a 10 Things I Think I Think post.

Let’s hit it below with thoughts on Chip, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Cody Parkey, Billy Davis, beating the Cowboys at home, and more:

  1. Don’t hate Chip’s decision to try the field goal and take the one-point lead. Hate the way it was rushed and wish he would have used a timeout to gather more information. Talk to Dave Fipp about his range pregame, slow things down for a minute and go. Not saying it would have made the difference but with so little time on the clock, Parkey looked rushed and uncomfortable lining up.
  2. As I said, understand the call to kick the field goal, but there’s a weird trend of Chip going against his nature and getting super conservative in those situations. The Arizona game last year comes to mind immediately. This is still a team built on its offense, and it’s odd that the coach for one reason or another isn’t betting on his strengths there.
  3. Still have a ton of confidence in Parkey. My haters will have a field day if I’m wrong, but he was perfect from beyond 50 yards out last season. Way better than Alex Henery ever was or will be.
  4. Let’s talk quarterbacks, shall we? It’s going to be natural to compare Sam Bradford and Nick Foles as the season goes on with Foles winning Round 1. Both quarterbacks had the ball deep in their own territory late in the fourth quarter with their teams trailing. Foles engineered a game-tying touchdown drive and won in overtime because winning is what he does. Bradford threw a game-ending interception and lost, something that he knows a lot about since being in the NFL. People like to overrate quarterback ‘wins,’ pointing to examples such as Vince Young having a winning record as a starter, but unlike pitcher wins in baseball, there is no bullpen and less variables. Barring injury, the same quarterback plays the entire game and has the ball in his hands for nearly half of it. When only 16-games are being played as opposed to 162, the margin for error is slimmer. At some point it doesn’t matter how you win, but simply that you did. Bradford was hot, having only thrown two incompletions in the second half prior to the interception, but the end result was all too familiar. It’s unfair to say that Chip made the wrong decision after 60 minutes of football, but in order to be right, he’ll need two multiple-year trends of Bradford and Foles to reverse with only 15 games for it to happen.
  5. Given Billy Davis credit in the past but the more I watch, the more I get concerned. Not a bad defensive coordinator by any stretch, just not sure he’s a Super Bowl caliber one either.
  6. ‘Soft,’ ‘Overrated,’ ‘Bradley Fletcher,’ ‘Nnamdi.’ Byron Maxwell has been called a lot of mean things over the past day, deservedly so, but I wouldn’t make these conclusions based on one week. Julio Jones is really fucking good. That said, he’s probably lucky the Cowboys won’t have Dez Bryant on Sunday.
  7. Nelson Agholor — Great preseason, underwhelming actual debut. Nothing to worry about but hope the Eagles can get him more involved.
  8. I think Monday is the most I’ve ever seen the Eagles run a sweep play with their backs. Suppose that’s what happens when you don’t invest in guards and need an alternative to the inside zone read.
  9. Fair or not, Sunday is huge not just for this year’s team, but for Chip’s career. At some point, you need to beat the Cowboys at home. Andy Reid was very good about this early in his Eagles tenure. Chip hasn’t done it yet, and if he doesn’t do it this weekend, there will be folks who hope he doesn’t get another chance in 2016.
  10. It’s fun playing in a division where 50 percent of it is eliminated after Week 1. The Redskins and Giants are going nowhere. The Cowboys don’t have arguably the best receiver in the game and struggled on Sunday to beat a poorly coached Giants team. The sky isn’t falling, but it would be nice to see a rain cloud or two go away come 8 p.m. Sunday.

Chip Kelly, Ed Marynowitz, Howie Roseman, and the Symbolism of the Name Marcus in a Quest to Make the Draft Fun Again

I still vividly remember when it happened — when following 16 months of progress, the Eagles made a grave mistake with their greatest opportunity to inject talent onto a roster that had improved significantly over the aforementioned timeframe but still needed much work.

The 2014 NFL Draft was loaded with studs, and even after being slotted with the 22nd pick following an NFC East division title in 2013, the Eagles theoretically sat in a prime position.

One of the most fun things about watching a draft for fans is having that crush on one particular prospect and hoping he’s on the board when your team is on the clock — creating that hope that you somehow get your guy.

The guy who I decided I wanted the Eagles to take in the first round was Marqise Lee. A receiver who had put up monster numbers at USC. He had a few big games against Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams, and it seemed like a perfect match for a team that had a need at the position. As it turns out, the Eagles had other plans at the position, waiting until the second round and selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews. That worked out perfectly fine. What happened a round earlier didn’t.

For a few brief moments though, I thought I was going to get my wish as Roger Goodell made his way to the podium to announce the 26th pick of the draft. With many of their original targets gone, the Eagles had traded back from their original 22nd slot to the 26th pick, allowing the Cleveland Browns to select Johnny Manziel. Manziel likely was the worst pick of the entire first round, a move that will eventually get everyone in the Browns organization who played a part in it fired.

What the Eagles did was not far behind though. Lee was still on the board, and I was convinced he would be the pick. Goodell started reading: “With the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Mar…”

YES! HOLY SHIT! HELL YEAH! ”

“…cus Smith. Linebacker, Louisville.”

What? No.

That was not supposed to happen. I knew a little bit about Marcus Smith. I knew he had a decent number of sacks at Louisville. I also was aware that most media outlets and teams had a second or third round grade on him. The Eagles, who for a few seasons, had preached a ‘best player available’ approach when it came to drafting, had panicked and reached on a player who had no business being a first round pick.

Smith never recorded a single defensive statistic during his rookie season with the team. He was inactive for several games, and the puzzling decision would ultimately set off a power struggle in the Eagles front office months later. It potentially got Tom Gamble fired from his player personnel role and cost Howie Roseman his general manager title.

How did a team that for the most part had made very solid personnel moves for a year and a half drop the ball so badly here? To our best knowledge, this is what happened.

The Eagles went into the draft with six players they were targeting in the first round:

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks

Linebacker C.J. Mosely

Linebacker Anthony Barr

Cornerback Kyle Fuller

Safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

Unfortunately, they gauged the board incorrectly, and when the Saints traded up to take Cooks at 20, and the Packers nabbed Clinton-Dix at 21, none of their targets were left.

“What the hell?” “This is bad.” “Typical Eagles trying to outsmart everyone else. Reminds me of Andy years.”

These were a few texts I got immediately after Smith’s name was called.

“Need to do some more research,” I texted back, hoping that there was some way to explain this.

There wasn’t. This was really bad, especially considering how other NFC East teams improved. The Giants used their first round pick to select the aforementioned Beckham, arguably a once-in-a-generation receiver, who eclipsed 90 receptions, 1300 yards, and double digit touchdowns in his rookie year. The Cowboys, unfortunately, intelligently passed on Manziel, and used their selection on Zack Martin, who also made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while helping the Cowboys to solidify their offensive line as they took the division from the Eagles and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick but used their mid-second round selection on linebacker Trent Murphy, who actually saw the field and contributed in 2014.

‘Who made the Marcus Smith pick?’

It was a question that Eagles fans would ask for the past year, reaching a fever pitch in early January as Kelly fought for full player personnel control. As I have hypothesized back then, I have a tough time believing that pick was Kelly’s. The coach did not speak highly of him during the season, and I find it unlikely he would have kept Smith inactive in a meaningless Week 17 game, if he knew that he would have to defend the pick to Jeffrey Lurie a week later during a power play. That just doesn’t add up.

Kelly, in March, seemed to confirm these thoughts, placing the blame on the now demoted Roseman for the Smith pick and failing to improve the team during the first round of last year’s draft.

Some Smith truthers in an attempt to sound smarter than everyone else and go against mainstream thinking solely for the sake of doing so, have maintained that he was not a reach. I am on record saying that I do not believe he will be on team when the Eagles cut their roster down to 53 players before the season starts. A rookie learning curve is one thing, but when a guy can’t even compete on special teams, that raises a serious red flag.

With Roseman having no say in personnel matters, Ed Marynowitz is now Kelly’s right-hand man in preparing for the draft, and he, at least from my perspective, inspired some confidence the other day when saying the team believes there are 8-10 difference makers in this year’s draft.

That suggests, at least in theory, that Kelly expanded the Eagles board, and knows a repeat of last May cannot happen again if the franchise is to go from good to great.

There is, of course, one who stands above all in that group of 8-10 players. It is no secret that Kelly covets his former Oregon signal-caller. The only question left to answer is whether through this convoluted offseason of quarterback roulette, he can entice some team, be it Tennessee with the second overall pick, or another club to get up high enough in a trade to be reunited with Marcus Mariota.

The feasibility of moving up high enough for the signal-caller is one thing. Whether or not Kelly should do it is another one entirely.

It is a classic debate in the principle of opportunity cost. One could fill an entire economics textbook with some of the scenarios, rumors, and proposed trades, and the semester would still end before the professor had time to teach all of it.

On one hand, with all of the picks and players he would be giving up, Kelly may never have the ammunition to build a good enough team around Mariota to win a Super Bowl. Pushing back on that concern is the classic ‘Yeah but you can’t win without a franchise quarterback,’ and Kelly already decided that the closest thing he had to one in Nick Foles wasn’t good enough to be the chosen one going forward. Why is anyone to believe that Sam Bradford is any different?

There is no shortage of risk in such a move when it comes to resource allocation, but it is difficult to believe the player itself wouldn’t pan out. If Mariota were to fail under the tutelage of his former coach in the NFL, then Kelly certainly isn’t the coach that I and many others believe him to be.

More than likely, both would be successful in a long-distance relationship occasionally texting each other “I miss you. Let’s hang out.” “I miss you too.” “I’m sorry I left like that, but I had to.” “I know. We had some awesome times together that fall back in college.” Nothing wrong with admiring from afar, but maybe just maybe, this real-life story has a fairytale ending in marriage Thursday night.

Last year when Goodell shockingly uttered the name “Marcus Smith,” the joy of the draft was gone. Regardless of what transpired from there, the thought persisted that the Eagles brain trust squandered a major opportunity to get an impact player that could have contributed right away.

A few months later, the fears were confirmed, and they began to pay the price when Smith was inactive for games. A few months after that, they were division champions no more. Gone was Roseman’s job a few weeks later.

The joy was gone, but the hope is that Kelly and Marynowitz, by being more prepared for different scenarios, can restore it in a matter of days.

Perhaps by shocking the NFL world in a much different way this time and having Goodell say the name ‘Marcus’ for a second consecutive year.

An Early Chance to Exorcise Dallas Demons

Reactionary posts to the NFL schedule being released normally aren’t my thing.

There are a bunch of folks feverishly playing win-loss with the schedule not yet even two hours old and meaningful football still nearly five months away. I have always maintained that I don’t go on the record with predictions until the conclusion of the final preseason game. Why do so now when you have even more information at your disposal on Labor Day Weekend?

Despite the opening sentence here and aforementioned paragraph, I thought this would be a good time to emerge and update this blog for the first time since the fateful day in January when Chip Kelly gave several Eagles fans mini heart attacks before winning a power struggle against Howie Roseman.

I’m doing this because I deemed it necessary when I checked my phone at 8 p.m. and my eyes gravitated towards the following:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.20.45 PM

That’s a home opener against Dallas — The first such occurrence since the 2002 season, and the earliest the teams have played since 2008.

From an emotional standpoint, it’s exciting. From a football standpoint, it’s scary. It’s scary because the Eagles have a disturbing recent trend that I don’t believe is addressed nearly enough:

They can’t beat Dallas at home.

Dallas has escaped Lincoln Financial Field with victories in three consecutive seasons. Go back all the way to 2007, and the Eagles have only held serve at home against their arch rivals twice. The average margin of victory in the past three Cowboys victories is 13.3. In other words, it hasn’t been that close.

It set the Cowboys up to win the division back in 2009 and did the same last December, this time keeping the Eagles out of the playoffs altogether. Had the Eagles won on that miserable Sunday night, they would have essentially had the NFC East wrapped up with two weeks to play. Instead, they lost their grip on the division and playoff positioning.

Had the Eagles repeated their Thanksgiving day performance and won a game that many expected them to, who knows what might have happened. Nick Foles might still be the Eagles quarterback — or maybe Mark Sanchez. Kelly, with a playoff team for two straight seasons, may never have felt the need to march into Jeffrey Lurie’s office and demand more power. Maybe LeSean McCoy would still be in midnight green and DeMarco Murray still in Dallas.

No one knows.

What we do know is that the Eagles have struggled on their home turf recently against their biggest competition for the division crown.

Week 2 presents a chance to end a losing streak that spans four seasons, three quarterbacks, and two head coaches. Given the wild offseason that could get even more crazy next Thursday, the football world will be quick to judge how the Eagles look coming out of the gate.

It’s only one game, but it sure is symbolic, and it could determine how much games a few months down the road matter.

Other Random Schedule Thoughts:

  • The Eagles are 6-2 in primetime under Chip Kelly. No qualms about opening on Monday Night in Atlanta.
  • Speaking of one of those two losses, if there’s a random game I want to win, it’s the contest against the Saints at home stemming from the playoff loss in January 2014. A faction of Eagles Twitter who never liked Nick Foles has mockingly labeled it the ‘Foles left the field with a lead’ game. After outplaying Drew Brees and leading a nice fourth quarter comeback to put the Eagles in the lead before a raucous home crowd, Foles and the Eagles offense stood on the sideline while the Saints ended their season on a field-goal at the gun. I sometimes randomly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that game and what could have been for both Foles and the Eagles. There’s a score to settle.
  • If I had to pick an early trap game, it’s potentially Tampa Bay. It’s not that I think they’ll be good, but it’s sandwiched between a couple tough opponents and an easy chance to be looking ahead.
  • Love that there’s a bye before the second Dallas game in early November.
  • Love even more that we’re turning up on Turkey Day again, this time in Detroit.
  • While it didn’t help against Seattle last season following a mini bye after Thanksgiving, a few extra prep days for the Patriots certainly cannot hurt.

Chip Kelly, Power, and the Trend of Increasing Expectations

The two-year anniversary of Chip Kelly’s hiring in Philadelphia is 13 days away.

For an hour or two yesterday afternoon, there was some fear that January 16 could arrive with the innovative Eagles coach elsewhere, fed up with dysfunction in the Eagles front office and friction with now former general manager Howie Roseman.

Thankfully everyone across the Delaware Valley can take a nice, deep breath.

The Eagles in their tweet used the verb “elevated” to describe Roseman’s new role. Perhaps he will get a new coffee machine in his office, a bigger desk, a shiny new nameplate, and a higher salary, but he lost control of the one thing he always aspired to do — Be an NFL GM.

Kelly wrestled it away from him, and as the coach has done so many times in his brief but eventful two years, once again raised expectations for himself and the team he coaches and now runs completely.

More than fast-paced offenses or sport science techniques, quickly raising expectations has been the overarching theme of Kelly’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons.

For as pumped as I was when Kelly was hired, a lot of folks might be surprised to learn that I envisioned a scenario where he might not make the playoffs until Year 3. As I wrote a week ago, Andy Reid left his roster in absolute shambles, and Kelly was tasked with cleaning up a mess on the fly.

I predicted the Eagles would go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2013, a very respectable improvement from 4-12 under a first year coach. I assumed they would improve by another game or two this past season, and then really make their big move in 2015.

The idea that they could immediately go from a 4-12 punching bag to a 10-6 playoff team was farfetched to say the least, and no other 2013 coaching candidate would have been able to do it, including Bruce Arians, who like Kelly has had back-to-back double digit win seasons in Arizona but also only one playoff appearance due to a deep NFC.

It happened though, of course, in another example of Kelly raising the bar faster than even most of his biggest believers could have anticipated.

When he opted for a flawed but experienced Michael Vick over a — at the time — unproven Nick Foles, expectations were immediately raised with the idea that maybe the Eagles could compete in a wide open NFC East.

When Kelly unveiled his offense to a national audience on September 9, 2013 with Vick running it flawlessly en route to a 33-27 win over the defending NFC East champion Redskins, expectations were raised again.

The following week, some reporters who had covered him at Oregon claimed he would take the league by storm and win 11 or 12 games in his first season.

They were a game off, but when Vick inevitably suffered an injury in the fifth game of the season and folks realized that Foles could play, expectations quickly shot up again.

Nothing may have increased expectations more than the division title in Year 1 though. While still a couple rungs below the Seahawks, the Eagles were tossed around as a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate this past summer, and for three months, that looked pretty spot on.

The 23-point Thanksgiving victory in Dallas raised hope even more.

Brief setbacks sometimes followed the raised optimism though. The three game losing streak in 2013 after the opening victory, the back-to-back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants last October that produced a total of three offensive points, and of course, the mini collapse this past December.

All of those slight bumps were quickly countered though, and that is what Kelly did again yesterday.

There is no more ambiguity as to who has final say on certain personnel matters. We thought we knew before, but there is no doubt now.

If the Eagles fleece another team in a trade and acquire a player the caliber of Darren Sproles or Cody Parkey, Kelly gets all the credit. If the Eagles draft another version of Marcus Smith, who cannot play, in the first round, Kelly shoulders the blame.

We know Kelly can coach after consecutive 10-win seasons. We are pretty confident he can evaluate talent based on his four years at Oregon. We will soon find out whether or not he can draft.

During his tenure so far, the Eagles have had one really good draft, which played a large role in their quick turnaround, and one bad draft, which hindered them from making more progress in Year 2.

Let’s hone in on the 2014 draft and the Smith pick for a second. No one knows who had final say on that inexplicable decision, but yesterday’s reshuffling gives me more belief that it was Roseman who made the final call there.

For as much as Kelly wanted to have his best players on the field last Sunday to win, I find it odd that he wouldn’t allow Smith to see the field a little bit if he was planning on walking into Jeffrey Lurie’s office demanding more power against one of the owner’s closest allies and had to hold himself accountable for a first round rookie gone wrong.

More than likely, Roseman, who was decent at his job but also made his share of mistakes, made the pick and Kelly realized it couldn’t happen again if the Eagles were going to take the next step from a good team to a great team.

This April, it is Kelly’s show to run. Time will tell whether or not that is a good thing, but expectations will only grow.

Be it a free agent splash, releasing a productive veteran player, mortgaging future draft picks to move up high enough to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or something else, the momentum will not stop.

Whether he will acknowledge it or not, raising expectations is what Kelly has always done — at New Hampshire as an offensive coordinator, at Oregon as first an offensive coordinator and then a head coach, and at Philadelphia as first a head coach and now in charge of player personnel decisions.

With great power comes great responsibility — and greater expectations.

Go Ahead and Open Up the Mock Drafts Now

The clock has stuck midnight. The fat lady has sung. Insert your preferable cultural reference here.

An Eagles season that had so much promise as recently as 14 days ago is now over.

They will end the season with a better record than at least one of the 12 teams in the playoffs and maybe more, but unlike an exhilarating end to the 2013 season, there will be no January this time around, no NFC East title, no home playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.

A big reason why the Eagles suffered this fate is because aside from the Colts, Cowboys, and maybe the Panthers, they couldn’t beat teams that have qualified for the playoffs often enough.

In some of those contests like the Packers and Seahawks game, they were outclassed. In others like the Cardinals, one or two fluke plays could have easily swung things and made a difference in the season.

Meaningless regular season football really sucks. We thankfully have not had much of it in the past decade, but for the second time in three years, there will be a Week 17 game at the Meadowlands with little to directly play for.

Perhaps in ways the repetitive location is fitting in this instance. It was only two short years ago that a 4-12 team quit on their soon to be ex-head coach Andy Reid in an embarrassing 42-7 loss to the Giants to cap off a lost season.

For all Reid did for this franchise, he left the roster mostly in shambles. There was a running back, a couple wide receivers, and some injured offensive linemen, but depth at any position was hard to come by. The defense was devoid of homegrown talent, and the secondary was (and mostly still is) a complete wasteland.

Between an offensive genius taking the NFL by storm, career years from LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, historically good quarterback play from Nick Foles, a draft class that provided immediate impact in the form of Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Bennie Logan, and an offensive line staying healthy for all 16 games, the Eagles were able to go from 4-12 to a 10-win team that nearly knocked off Drew Brees in the playoffs.

Billy Davis, a defensive coordinator with a spotty track record and much to prove, took a jumbled collection of noodles and ketchup and made a presentable Italian meal out of it.

Everything clicked and were it not for a bad kicker and a fluke return, the Eagles may have well reached the NFC Championship Game in Chip Kelly’s first season.

Many of those aforementioned things did not click this season. Jackson is wearing a different uniform. McCoy, while still very productive, was far from the player who won the rushing title last season. Nick Foles threw more interceptions and got hurt. When Foles was healthy, the offensive line was not as the quarterback would constantly fear pressure playing behind backups and end up retreating and throwing off his back foot immediately after taking a snap.

Outside of Jordan Matthews, this year’s draft produced little impact. Josh Huff provided one of the most electric moments of the season but made a ton of rookie mistakes in the process. First round pick Marcus Smith cannot play. While the jury remains out, there is little indication to think Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart can at the moment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the way to expedite the process in the NFL is to draft well. Years of bad drafting under the Reid regime eventually caught up with the team. In 2012, they started to reverse course some, but too many dysfunctional issues overshadowed a strong rookie class in Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin, Foles, and Bryce Brown. It wasn’t enough to save their jobs, but it was progress.

Kelly and Howie Roseman continued that progress in 2013 but took a big step back this past May by bungling their first round pick in a talent rich draft, fumbling the best chance they had to inject talent onto an improving but still semi-flawed roster.

With a little bit of luck and mostly really solid coaching, the Eagles have gone from a punching bag to a decent team in two years but remain a couple notches below some of the NFL elite who will be playing in January.

Key decisions will be made before May, and some holes will be plugged in free agency. For better or for worse, we will be blogging throughout those periods, but the way to keep building Rome, the way to prevent three consecutive losses in December, will be to nail the May portion of the offseason and prevent a repeat of what took place in 2014.

We are more than five months away, but go ahead, unfortunately. Open up the mock drafts.