1. There are probably certain aspects of the college game that Kelly misses now that he’s 11 games into his NFL career. But recruiting is not one of them.
Kelly was asked about how he, personally, is holding up going into the bye. And he made it clear that he prefers the NFL calendar to the college calendar.
“My schedule, the day the season was over, was a lot worse than my schedule here because you’re planes, trains and automobiles recruiting from Sunday night until Friday afternoon and hustling back and practicing, getting a practice in Friday afternoon, practice Saturday, practice Sunday, get back on a plane and fly around the country chasing down recruits,” he said.
“Maybe a misconception is when you’re a college coach and the last game is done and then the bowl game comes, you don’t have a month off. I would argue my schedule was more hectic from a recruiting standpoint than it was here. So I’m looking forward to being in the office every day and watching tape. That is the fun part of our job.”
Kelly is all football all the time. He likes to design offense, evaluate players, game-plan, watch tape and spend time brainstorming with his staff. Putting on a salesman hat and trying to convince 17- and 18-year-olds to play for him was a necessary part of his job at Oregon, but something he’s happy to leave behind.
2. Davis was asked this week if he feels vindicated. The Eagles’ defensive coordinator came under fire early in the season when that side of the ball looked like it would be a complete disaster.
But he and his unit have rebounded, having limited opponents to 21 points or less in seven straight games.
“I don’t think vindicated is the word I’d use,” Davis said. “Again, I like where we are in our stage. But we are so far from the finish line, so far from being a defense we want to be. It’s a collective effort from the players and coaches. We just want to put our heads down and get better against Arizona than we were against Washington.”
Davis has remained consistent and even-keeled throughout – not just in front of the media, but in front of his players as well. One thing that he has stressed since the day he was hired is that it’s a personnel-driven league. He had previous defensive coordinator stints in Arizona and San Francisco. Davis has often said a lot of defensive coaches employ the same concepts. It’s a matter of who can drill those concepts best into their players and which defenses have the most talent.
I asked him what this season has been like for him personally.
“It’s nice,” he said. “You never really lose confidence in yourself. There’s so many factors. You take any team, any offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, special teams, you can see where is their roster as far as how far along are they in a championship team. Where do you start, what tools are you using? There’s so many different scenarios. I think there’s a lot of great coaches that are struggling right now. Variations throughout the league.”
There is still a talent deficit in certain areas on the defense, but the assistants on that side of the ball deserve credit for individual player improvement from Week 1 until now.
3. One game Eagles fans will have an eye on Sunday is Giants-Cowboys (4:25 p.m.). The question I’ve received from some this week is: Who should we root for?
My answer is: the Giants. New York is 4-6, but hasn’t lost since Oct. 10. If we’re assuming the Eagles need to go 9-7 to win the division, the Giants would have to go 5-1 in their final six for a first-place tie (and that would be a 9-1 run overall). Not an easy task when you consider they still play the Seahawks at home and have road trips to San Diego and Detroit. In other words, I don’t think they’re going to be there in the end.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are 5-5. Three of their losses have been by three points or less. I think people are putting a little bit too much weight into that blowout loss to the Saints a couple weeks ago. The Cowboys can still be prolific through the air and have the second-best special teams in the NFL. Their defense has been a mess, but only seven teams have an easier remaining schedule, per Football Outsiders.
By the way, a wild card spot out of the NFC East is unlikely, but not totally out of the question. Right now, it looks like one spot will come out of the NFC South – the Saints are 9-2, the Panthers 7-3. But outside of division leaders, no other NFC team has more than six wins.
If you’re watching Red Zone this week, the teams you might want to root against are the Lions (6-4, vs. Tampa), the Bears (6-4, at St. Louis), the Packers (5-5, vs. Minnesota), the 49ers (6-4, at Washington) and the Cardinals (6-4, vs. Indianapolis).