The offseason heading into Matthews’ senior year, Kelly’s players kept showing up in the news for all the wrong reasons. Running back LaMichael James was arrested on domestic violence charges. Place-kicker Rob Beard and defensive end Matt Simms were charged with misdemeanor assault for their involvement in a street fight. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was identified as a suspect in a theft.
Kelly called a team meeting to express his disappointment. That night linebacker Kiko Alonso was cited for driving under the influence.
"He told us the guy was off the team. He was mad," said Matthews. "We were in the team meeting room. He rips us for the offseason -- everyone is getting in trouble, the star quarterback was stealing from a frat, domestic violence charge, a bunch of little stuff -- finally he calls a team meeting, rips us -- get it together -- and then that night [the DUI]. It was bad.
"He couldn't breathe. That was the worst I've seen."
Matthews says Kelly hasn't gotten anywhere near that level through eight games with the Eagles. ["He hasn't really gone off on us," he said.] Instead, Kelly has been very even-keeled despite the early struggles. Matthews noted that where some coaches will respond to losses by getting on the players the following week at practice, Kelly keeps the environment loose and doesn't change his tactics.
"He doesn't stray away from his vision. He has his vision, he has his routines, how he wants things run," said Matthews.
What's his pregame demeanor like?
The former Duck linebacker says there is no Al Pacino "Any Given Sunday" moments with Kelly. His pregame speech is more of a concise statement. The longer, more inspirational talks are reserved for the day before in the hotel. Kelly will find stories from outside the football world that his team can draw on for perspective. An example?
"There was an extreme sports guy, a kayaker I think up in Washington, he wanted to do a freefall off a waterfall," said Matthews. "[Kelly] was talking about leading up to it, talking about his preparation, and he related that to how you prepare heading into a game, really anything in life you have to prepare for. You can't just go in and expect results without preparing."
Kelly showed them the video of the kayaker successfully taking the plummet off the waterfall.
"Funny because the guys on our team when they watch that, they're like, 'That guy is crazy!' But [Chip] talked to him, and he said we're the crazy ones playing football. It's funny how that works."
Curry Stays Put...For Now
Vinny Curry's teammates were giving him a hard time as the trade deadline approached, encouraging him to take a break from social media.
He couldn't help but be curious. His name was being floated. The Eagles were fielding calls. He didn't think he was going anywhere but you never know.
Was there a sigh of relief when 4 p.m. Tuesday came and went?
"Ah, no man. It's not like that at all," said Curry. "I wasn't worried. It would have been what it would have been. When you are young and you just love the game...It's not like I have a set family here or I'm married with kids or anything.
"You hear all that stuff but the only thing I can control is what I can control. If it happened it happened if it didn't I'm still here. I love my teammates and I'm just ready to continue to work hard."
In all honesty, Curry would probably have welcomed a trade earlier this season. He wasn't dressing on game day and didn't want to languish on the bench for another year. His agent came out and said he was open to the idea of moving Curry elsewhere.
And there was some interest. According to one source, the Cowboys, Broncos and Jaguars all inquired.
Curry is not an ideal scheme fit here in Philly. Best suited as a 4-3 end. But he has found success as an interior pass rusher on throwing downs. The Eagles see value there. No offers were sweet enough so they held onto him for now, though more conversations will likely be had in the offseason. Curry obviously likes representing the team he grew up cheering for, but sounds open to whatever might come his way.
"You just want to be a dominant player," he said, "and help a team win football games."
Lane Johnson Vs. Pro Football Focus
Rookie right tackle Lane Johnson has an eye on you, Pro Football Focus, and he is not pleased.
"As far as our o-line grades, I grade well pretty consistently," said Johnson. "Pro Football Focus grades I never grade well. I've had some of my best games the past four games and I still keep having negative grades. I don't know what the logistics are or how they do it, but I got to start doing what Evan [Mathis] does I guess because he beats everybody on that."
Mathis is undoubtedly the darling of PFF, grading out not just as one of the best linemen but one of the best players in all of the NFL. Johnson? Not so much. He has received an overall negative rating in six of eight games. Only once has he gotten a positive grade in pass protection (against New York the first time around).
"Most of the time I stay away from that because if I look at it I get mad because it seems no matter what I do I can't [get a good grade]," he said.
Johnson can take solace in the fact that his coaches are viewing his performances in a more positive light. The Eagles' linemen are graded on a scale of 0-3. Here is how it breaks down:
0 --A total, flat out failure.
1 -- Knowing your assignment and not getting it done.
2 --Knowing your assignment and getting the job done.
3 -- Total domination.
"My assignments are mostly twos. Sometimes if I give up a pressure or something that will be a one, stuff like that and then they'll average it out. Most of the time the grades will be like 1.7, 1.8."
The last four games, there has been an upward swing -- by his coach's count, at least.