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.