Tag Archives: NFL

‘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.”

Advertisements

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

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 — 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.

Chip Kelly, Marcus Mariota, and How the Power of the ‘What If’ Question Could Turn NFL Economics Upside Down

“Let’s dispel that right now. I think that stuff’s crazy. You guys have been going with that stuff all along. I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft. We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that, because we have too many other holes we have to take care of.”

It has been 50 days since Chip Kelly stood behind a podium and delivered the aforementioned quote. On the surface at the time, it was viewed as Kelly bowing out of Marcus Mariota sweepstakes and attempting to pour water on what he viewed as a media-induced fire.

The biggest change between then and now — the morning of the NFL Draft — is also the most obvious change — time.

On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Kelly wasn’t faced with a now-or-never franchise altering decision with the quarterback of his dreams dangling right before his eyes behind a forbidden fence. It’s easy to say something seven weeks before one actually has to decide on something.

None of this is to say Kelly is a liar. Rather, it’s to float the question ‘What’s his definition of mortgaging ‘the future’? And how might his definition deviate from the norm given the anything but normal circumstances?

NFL economics are fascinating in that they are often bound by certain unwritten but understood parameters. If a team hypothetically called the Indianapolis Colts right now and offered their next 25 first round picks for Andrew Luck, the Colts would do it in a heartbeat, but the Colts would never be presented with that scenario because no team would call with that type of proposal.

Head hurt? Yeah, mine too.

Kelly will not call the Tennessee Titans and offer 25 future first round picks for Mariota tomorrow night. I can guarantee that, but to guarantee anything else would be naive and ignorant to the way the Eagles czar operates and the power of human psychology that could be at work before him.

Mariota is Kelly’s Andrew Luck, his can’t-miss prospect. While he has never seriously compared the two young quarterbacks he has mentioned Mariota in the same breath as Peyton Manning, an even higher compliment.

For the past few weeks, I have looked for reasons to rule such an unrealistic reunion out. I got nowhere and instead ending up writing this, unable to dismiss the possibility. Folks who know much more about the inner-workings of the team have sought for the same roadblocks and kept on traveling.

Bargaining power is a valuable and envious asset, and in this particular situation, the Tennessee Titans have all of it right now. Or do they?

Based on Ken Wisenhunt’s coaching career, there is deductive reasoning to believe that the Titans have little interest in the Oregon quarterback. One of the most intense dynamics would be if the Titans in a game of chicken with the Eagles drive up the price so high that Kelly calls their bluff and folds. Would Tennessee actually invest a second overall pick in a quarterback it may not be fully sold on or would they select someone else and leave Mariota on the board where Kelly could jump back in and give up less?

More accurate of a bargaining power statement is to say that the Titans if they play it right have much of it, and Kelly has none.

Decision power, while much riskier of a principle, is even more powerful than bargaining power though. And decision power in this instance could theoretically belong to Kelly. And if decision power in this instance does theoretically belong to Kelly, it may not be a difficult decision at all.

Two words. One question: ‘What if’

It’s a phrase that can dominate our lives. We can ask it optimistically, pensively, and sometimes even regrettably, with the goal of avoiding the third scenario. Oftentimes it’s posed because the goal that follows the ‘what if’ is not attainable. That’s painful. Other times, it’s asked because the ‘what if’ was there for the taking, and one didn’t seize the opportunity. That’s much more painful.

What if Mariota is there to be had and all it takes is one more young player, perhaps one as talented as Fletcher Cox, one more future pick? Would Kelly be able to sleep at night knowing his star pupil, the player he molded into one of the top quarterbacks in college football was available and he didn’t go the distance to get him?

The ‘what if’ question can be all-encompassing. One is resigned to the notion that it will make future tasks more difficult. Avoiding major injuries, identifying underrated talent, and player development skyrocket from highly important to super essential with hardly any margin for error.

With the extra pressure though comes an unconventional way to land a franchise quarterback and turn league norms upside-down while progressing from good to great and legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

But what if it’s not worth it?

What if it is and Kelly never dares to find out?

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.

Stay Alive and Survive: Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Redskins Concludes

I would be lying to you if I said I was fully confident in the outcome of today’s game.

The Eagles have not won in nearly three and a half weeks going back to Thanksgiving. Weaknesses on both sides of the ball (specifically the quarterback and secondary) have been exposed as a rather firm grip on the NFC East slipped away, but there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a 3-11, dysfunctional Washington Redskins team.

In three games going back to Week 1 of the 2013 season, Chip Kelly has owned Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett (so much so that we wrote a post specifically about it), averaging 31.3 points per game.

Earlier in the week, I had some bad flashbacks to a Week 16 game in D.C. in 2008 between these two teams that the Eagles lost 10-3, making their road to the playoffs a bit more difficult then, but that seemed more characteristic of an Andy Reid coached team.

Despite a rough two weeks, the Eagles have been very good against inferior teams under Chip Kelly this season, and that should ideally continue today.

Let’s take a look at five numbers I hope to see that should get the Eagles to 10-5.

  1. Robert Griffin sacked at least five times — Part of the reason the first Eagles-Redskins game was so close is because of the amount of time Kirk Cousins had to throw. Cousins was not sacked once in the three-point Eagles victory, but Griffin has been dropped 28 times in seven contests this season. While this might seem like a lofty stat, the numbers back it up that it is reachable, and should it happen, it will be a long day for the Redskins offense.
  2. Less than 130 combined receiving yards between Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson — While neither of these receivers necessarily pose the matchup problem that Dez Bryant did last week, both had strong games in the Week 3 meeting combining for 16 receptions, 255 yards, and two touchdowns. The Eagles secondary has been heavily scrutinized, and rightfully so, over the past few weeks, but they tend to have a decent game when people least expect it. Against a struggling quarterback in Griffin, now would be a good time for one.
  3. One or fewer turnovers for the Eagles — Turnovers have been a noted issue all season long for this team. The only turnover free game they played was a Monday night beatdown of Carolina in early November. Zero turnovers is a lot to ask for, but in the first Redskins game, the Eagles limited the giveaways to one and will be in decent shape should they repeat that today.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Some might say I have become obsessed with this statistic, but the significance cannot be understated. The Eagles are 5-0 when the Pro Bowl running back averages at least 4.1 yards per carry. They are 4-5 in other games. In the 2013 opener when Chip Kelly unveiled his NFL offense on Monday Night Football, McCoy had one of his best career games with 184 yards on 31 carries. A repeat of that today would be awesome.
  5. Josh Huff with at least 45 receiving yards — It is a shame Huff Daddy has made some of the rookie mistakes that he has because it is easy to tell that he has potential, and had they not occurred, he would likely be stealing snaps from the ineffective Riley Cooper. I am hoping that occurs today some after the rookie showed explosiveness with with a 44-yard reception against Dallas. Rise again, Huff Daddy.

There you have it, folks. We got five, 130, one, four, 45, and hopefully a nice win to move to 10-5, putting some major pressure on the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon.

The Chip Kelly fist pump was born in that magical Week 1 game in 2013, and I could use a repeat of it today as we get ready to cheer for Andrew Luck tomorrow.

Fist Pump GIF