Eagles Wake-Up Call: The ‘Compelling’ 2004 Squad

Today, we take a trip down memory lane and remember a team that will either bring a smile to your face or elicit tears from your eyes: the 2004 Eagles.

ESPN.com is doing a series on the five most compelling NFL teams since 2000, and the 2004 Birds, led by Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Westbrook and company came in at No. 3, behind only the 2010 Brett Favre-led Vikings and the 16-0 New England Patriots (2007).

Ashley Fox provides a recap of the 13-3 campaign, which ended in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl:

“When we stepped on the field from OTAs to the first game against the New York Giants, we felt no team could beat us,” Ike Reese said. “We were hunting for the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. That’s who we had to beat. I just remember the level of confidence was at an all-time high for a team coming off three NFC Championship Games. It took us to an almost invincible feeling.”

It’s impossible to discuss that season without mentioning the fallout afterwards. Despite how things turned out with T.O. and the ensuing 6-10 campaign in 2005, Andy Reid told Fox the gamble on Owens was well worth it.

“I like Terrell. All of us could’ve handled it a little different,” Reid said. “I take a little of the blame for that. Everybody I know wants to come after Terrell. I take some of the blame, too. There were things we could’ve done better after the way it worked out. But was it worth it? Yes. I would do it over again. I would. I wish things could’ve worked out better during the Super Bowl. Philadelphia deserved to have a championship there, but it didn’t pan out that way.”

The Eagles had strong leadership on that team, but nobody could seem to find a way to keep McNabb and Owens on the same page for another season.

“If you can somehow keep that team in tact, that offensive staff in tact for another season… you would definitely be the favorites to win the Super Bowl,” Westbrook said last year. “That offense [would have been] the No. 1 offense in the league for a long time, and we would have been so productive.”

Added Dawkins: “What I tried to do was pull guys to the side, away from everybody, and just have conversations with them. ‘What’s going on? What’s the deal? What can I do to help? This is what we need to do to get back on the winning track, and if I can assist in any way, let me know. Even if you don’t let me know, this is what I’m willing to do. This is what we need to do in order for us to get this thing going in the right direction.’

“The thing that you always want to do is get everybody in the room at the same time. That was never able to be done.”

And so, Eagles fans are left to wonder what could have been. But there’s no doubt that “compelling” is a fair way to describe the team that got the franchise closer than any other to the Lombardi Trophy.

WHAT YOU MISSED

What the Oregon sanctions mean for Chip Kelly.

Will Kelly run a physical camp? Players weigh in.

We asked three players a simple question: What do you know about Kelly now that you didn’t know a few months ago? Here are their answers.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers some thoughts on the defense:

The defense won’t be a top unit until the right players are in place. It is possible we could find out we already have those players, but I think that is an extreme longshot. I like this group, but don’t see them turning out to be a great defense. The secondary still needs work and there are front seven questions to be answered.

I’m not enamored with the system we’re running, but it has grown on me. The most important issue for me is that the team did hire the right coaches to teach the scheme. This staff has a lot of 3-4 and hybrid defense experience. If you want to be creative and complex, you must have the right teachers. I think the Eagles accomplished that.

Over on The Philly Post, Richard Rys is not happy that Marvel has teamed up with the Cowboys:

What’s worse, for me as an Eagles fan, is that the one Marvel/NFL tie-in that makes sense for adults who are not virgins is right here in Philadelphia. Future Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins was known for his love of Wolverine, the X-Men member with unbreakable bones and a berserker rage. He kept Wolverine figures in his locker and named his on-field alter ego after the character’s code name, “Weapon X.” Marvel honored Dawkins with a Wolverine-inspired poster after he retired. But they could have made a mint with Weapon X shirts; in fact, one local company has made a very cool Dawkins tee that isn’t anywhere near as corny as the Cowboys line. Forget Hugh Jackman — if B-Dawk says a Canadian with retractable claws is cool, it’s gospel.

COMING UP

Haven’t you learned by now that we always come up with something?

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Just ‘One Of the Guys’

According to the creepy robotic voice booming out of the oversized speakers, it was time for Period 4.

“Period 4. Period 4,” warned the voice, as if it was counting down to detonation. Time to move — and move swiftly — to the next phase of practice. Chip Kelly and Michael Vick fast-walked side-by-side to the other end of the field. As Kelly gave instructions, Vick leaned in and put his arm around his new coach.

In another sequence, Kelly noticed something that Riley Cooper did that needed correcting. Instead of waiting for Cooper to return to the line of scrimmage, Kelly jogged out to meet him and coached him up on the way back. (The two seemed to enjoy some good banter for the rest of that session.) Later, during a wide receiver drill, Kelly demonstrated what he wanted out of DeSean Jackson by running the route himself. Of course he had to demonstrate it; how could anyone hear over Thunderstruck?

The new era is officially upon us — that was evident from the moment we stepped out onto the field Monday. This was far from an Andy Reid production.

Between the music blaring and the reporters lounging on the previously-forbidden concrete bleachers, it almost felt like the crew was cutting  loose while the supervisor was away. Until you remember that there is a new supervisor, and this is all his idea.

Change has swept through the entire building since Kelly took over for Reid. The atmosphere is different. Granted it’s only May, but there is little tension. There are fewer barriers and the hierarchy has been de-emphasized. That goes for the relationship between coach and players as well, according to Jason Kelce.

“With Andy — especially with me coming in later in his career after he had built up such a reputation in Philly among the players in the locker room — there was an aura around him where you never wanted to be yourself around him. You always had to have this front up,” Kelce told 97.5 The Fanatic Tuesday. “You always had to be, ‘Yes sir.’ You had to be on your P’s and Q’s. He was a hard man to kind of talk to and be loose around.

“It was always an uptight conversation whenever I had one with him. Whereas Chip is a lot more — at least at this point — one of the guys. He’s still the head coach and you still have great respect for him, but he converses with everybody, he strikes up conversations. He’s much more of a loose guy to be around than Andy was, that’s for sure.”

Maybe, but it’s important to remember that Reid’s approach served him well overall. He was the steward during one of the most successful stretches in franchise history. He established order and developed a winning culture doing things his way.

Kelly’s methods are decidedly different. And while in the honeymoon phase, different wins.

There is no telling how his approach will ultimately translate to the NFL. All we know for sure is that this era will be unlike anything we’ve seen over the last 14 years.

WHAT YOU MISSED

LeSean McCoy‘s publicist calls the allegations against the running back “unequivocally false.”

Wide receivers in Kelly’s offense will have option routes. Sheil explains.

Jason Kelce says his knee is “not 100 percent by any means.” 

Felix Jones talks about being an Eagle.

Kapadia provides some depth chart notes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jason Cole had a lengthy one-on-one with Michael Vick. There is a lot in there. One thing we learn is that Kelly doesn’t want his players talking Super Bowl. (Safe to say, he doesn’t want to hear the word “dynasty” either.)

Right, and I won’t go into detail about [my goals]  because Coach Kelly told us as a team, “Don’t talk about winning the Super Bowl, just put in the hard work to get there. You talk about if you get there.” So I don’t think about winning the Super Bowl anymore. I just think about working hard as I can and whatever’s in the future is going to come.

Dan Graziano believes Donovan McNabb’s retirement ceremony should be separate from Reid’s return to Philly.

Nice idea, but if it were me I’d do it some other week. I think the Reid return is going to be its own circus, and that the fans’ feelings about Reid are still too raw and negative to mix those up with McNabb’s big day. Reid will someday have his own day in Philadelphia, but I’d keep McNabb’s separate from that particular game this year. Just my $0.02.

COMING UP

The first set of OTAs wrap up.

Andy Reid Selling All His Eagles Gear, For Some Reason

Former Eagles Coach Andy Reid is auctioning off his team gear for charity. Apparently they don’t really need much Eagles paraphernalia in Kansas City, where Reid works now.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports:

Items at the “Andy and Tammy Reid Moving Sale” will include Eagles gear-and-ware — including hats, dinnerware, glasses, gift items, tickets signed by players and miscellaneous memorabilia. Many items are autographed. Several Eagles players will also be on hand to sign items that have been purchased. Autographs will be offered for a fee of $25.

The sale will also include suitcases, purses and miscellaneous items, according to Harriton High School, which sent out an email about the sale Tuesday morning.

Proceeds will benefit Harriton’s football team and Laurel House, a Norristown, Pa., nonprofit working to end domestic violence.

The auction is 11 a.m. Saturday at the Harriton High School gymnasium.

Andy Reid Says He’s Eaten At 50 K.C. Barbecue Joints Already

No, really:

In an interview on Sirius XM Radio, Reid told “Schein on Sports” host Adam Schein that he has eaten at dozens of K.C.’s famous barbecue joints.

“I’ve eaten at about 50 Kansas City BBQ places and I haven’t found one I don’t like,” is the Reid quote tweeted by New York-area sportscaster Andrew Catalon during the show — a tweet that Schein retweeted.

That would mean that Reid has put a pretty big dent into K.C.’s heralded barbecues. A Yelp search for “BBQ” comes back with 79 restaurants featuring barbeque in “Kansas City” — an area that includes restaurants in both Missouri and Kansas.

As a former Kansan who spent a bit of time in Kansas City, I can tell you there’s that much good barbecue in KC to be eaten—Philadelphia doesn’t really compare. There’s BB’s Lawnside BBQ (which doubles as a great little blue joint); Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ, which is kind of fancy; Oklahoma Joe’sGates Bar B.Q. and Arthur Bryant’s, which seem to have the biggest rivalry, and, well, the list goes on and on. There are many great things about Philly. The barbecue scene really isn’t one of them.

Which is to say, Reid may or may not be joking about having eaten at that many Kansas City barbecue joints. He’s probably joking. But if he isn’t, you still don’t have a good reason to make fun of him. It’s that good.

Clearing Up the Reid-Barkley-Eagles Controversy

When the Eagles moved up in the fourth round to take Matt Barkley with the No. 98 pick, some wondered whether they were trying to jump ahead of Andy Reid and the Chiefs.

The Eagles originally had the 101st pick, while Kansas City had No. 99.

Reid was asked about the Chiefs potentially targeting Barkley and seemed to take a little jab at his former team.

“Well, we weren’t going there,” Reid told WHB-Radio in Kansas City, according to Sports Radio Interviews. “I actually was on the phone with Nick Saban from Alabama before that day ever started, so that’s just not the direction [we were going]. We had pinpointed Nico [Johnson] and that’s who we were going after.

“I know how rumors start and how people justify picks and all this other stuff, but I think if you look at our roster, we’ve got Akeem Jordan at middle linebacker; that’s the only player that we have there. So we needed a middle linebacker, we had a good one sitting right there and it fell that way and we were tickled pink to go get Nico and bring him on board. That rumor started and I heard it, and I had to laugh at it. That wasn’t even in the picture.”

While we love a good controversy here at Birds 24/7, unfortunately, we have to report that there’s not much to this one.

“No, not necessarily Kansas City,” said GM Howie Roseman, when asked if the Eagles were trying to jump ahead of the Chiefs. “Not necessarily Oakland. We just felt like this player was so far and away the best player on our board for the value that the trade was, it would have been silly that we lost him. It wasn’t because of any other team that we knew was going to take him or not.”

But did he know Reid liked Barkley?

“No, this wasn’t about Coach Reid, and us trying to do Coach Reid. …I had been to SC, the last six or seven years. I had obviously had conversations with Matt and knew that coach had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person. But we thought that it would be silly to lose the player over a seventh-round pick.”

Chip Kelly also explained that the Eagles were more worried about other teams moving up for Barkley than about the Jaguars, Chiefs or Raiders taking him.

The initial rumor can probably be traced back to Barkley himself. During his conference call with Philadelphia reporters, the QB said the Chiefs were “definitely looking to trade up” for him. But looking at the board, that doesn’t seem to make much sense. If the Chiefs wanted to move up, all they would have had give up was a seventh-round pick. Instead, they chose to stay put.

So again, this falls under the “much ado about nothing” category.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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What’s Left From the McNabb And Kolb Trades?

As recently as last offseason, it looked like the assets acquired in the Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb trades would play a major role in re-shaping the Eagles’ defense.

But looking ahead to 2013, that probably won’t end up being the case.

It was three years ago on Easter Sunday that the Birds shipped McNabb to the Redskins in exchange for a second-round pick in 2010, along with a conditional third- or fourth-rounder in 2011.

With the second-round pick (37th overall), the Eagles selected safety Nate Allen, who has been a disappointment in his first three seasons. At the end of last year, Allen was benched in favor of Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson. The Eagles added Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips in the offseason. And they very well could draft a safety later this month, meaning Allen will be competing for a roster spot.

The other pick from the McNabb trade ended up being a fourth-rounder (No. 104 overall) in 2011. But the Eagles traded that selection to the Bucs (who took tight end Luke Stocker). In exchange, the Birds moved down 12 spots and selected linebacker Casey Matthews. They also received a fourth-round draft choice in 2012 from Tampa.

The Eagles started Matthews at middle linebacker as a rookie, moved him to SAM, benched him and then got him back into the rotation at the end of the year. In 2012, he was a complete non-factor on defense, playing 45 total snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Matthews did have 14 special-teams tackles (second on the team). He too will be fighting for a roster spot.

As for the 2012 fourth-rounder from Tampa, the Eagles used that pick as part of the package to land DeMeco Ryans. The two teams also swapped third-round picks (Nos. 76 and 88).

So overall, the Eagles used compensation from the McNabb trade for Allen, Matthews and to a large degree, Ryans.

Kolb, meanwhile, recently signed a two-year, $13 million deal with the Bills, his third team in four seasons. When the Eagles dealt him to the Cardinals, they got cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick in return. Rodgers-Cromartie is gone after two disappointing seasons, having signed with the Broncos as a free agent.

The Eagles ended up trading the second-round pick from the Kolb deal, moving down eight spots and selecting Vinny Curry. They also got a fourth-rounder from the Packers and took Brandon Boykin. Curry barely played in 2012 (89 snaps), and the Eagles will have to figure out where he fits in Billy Davis’ new defense.

Boykin looks like he’ll be a solid option as a nickel corner, and there’s a chance he could get a shot to play outside.

So overall for Kolb, they landed Rodgers-Cromartie, Curry and Boykin.

The question now is: Which of the players the Eagles landed for the two QBs figure into the team’s plans going forward?

As we mentioned above, Allen and Matthews will be fighting for roster spots. Curry is an unknown, given his limited action as a rookie and scheme fit. Ryans is a key piece, who played really well in 2012. And Boykin figures to be a solid contributor as well.

In other words, the Eagles basically got two starters on defense (when you consider how much they play nickel) for the two quarterbacks.

No one would argue that the Birds got the short end of either of the two trades – especially when you consider that McNabb threw 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in his post-Eagles career, while Kolb started just 14 games for the Cardinals.

We won’t know the true results from the deals until we see if Curry, Allen and Matthews can contribute in the coming seasons. But clearly, Andy Reid, Howie Roseman and company could have done more with the compensation the team received in return.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Reid: Geno Smith In Play For No. 1 Pick

PHOENIX — When the Chiefs traded for  Alex Smith, the conversation about Geno Smith being taken  with the No. 1 pick in this April’s draft was shut down.

Andy Reid opened it back up on Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast.

“That doesn’t mean Geno is out of the water,” said Reid, surrounded by a group of Philadelphia reporters during the second day of the owners meetings. “I’m going to keep my eyes open on everybody. I think Geno is a good quarterback. We’ll just see how it all goes, get this workout thing going.”

It could very well be that Reid is simply not ready to show his hand yet. Asked how many players he is considering for the top pick, Reid said between eight and 10. That is a really high number at this stage of the process, even if  he is being thorough.

“You can’t force a pick there. You can’t say, ‘I need this position’ or you’re going to miss a good football player, and that’s what you want to get from that position right there,” said the former Eagles coach, who was celebrating his 55th birthday Tuesday. “So we’re going to work everybody out and see what’s available.”

Some other takeaways:

— Reid was asked about the level of interest he had in trading for Nick Foles.

“I had my eyes on Alex really when I took the job there. I wanted to make sure I evaluated the guys on campus and checked them out,” he said. “I really liked Matt Cassell. Sometimes I just think change can be good.”

— On his decisions to speak with Chip Kelly during the Eagles’ coaching search.

Jeffrey [Lurie] asked me if I would do that when I left, and I had no problem doing that. Jeffrey was very good to me. And then, really as a coach you want your players to be taken care of, you want them to have a good coach. Those are all kids we recruited there, drafted there, brought there, so  you want them to have something positive. I think Chip is a good football coach and it will work out great for him.”

— On Kelly in the NFL:

“He’s got different innovative and creative ideas. He has a great relationship with Phil Knight, so he’s on the cutting edge of all their technology. I think he’ll bring that into the league. I think most of what he does will work at this level. I think he is going to blend it. He brought Pat Shurmur on, and I think he’ll blend the pro style with what he does with the spread, and I think the tempo stuff will translate that he uses.”

— Reid said he didn’t talk to Kelly about hiring Shurmur, shooting down the theory that Reid had influenced that decision.

 

At Long Last: A Philadelphia Eagles Bridal Garter Set

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but it’s never too late to surprise the man in your life with Philadelphia Eagles bridal garter set!

Even if you fail your pre-wedding football quiz, a la Diner, you can make up for it by flashing a little post-wedding green. And if you’ve got the kind of man who’s turned on by $8.50 Eagles lingerie, you might just be the kind of gal turned on by Andy Reid’s mustache. In which case, do I have the t-shirt for him!

Chickie’s and Pete’s Following Andy Reid to Kansas City

Chiefs coach Andy Reid misses Philly cuisine so much, he’s apparently requested Chickie’s and Pete’s install a branch right in his new backyard, in Kansas City, Missouri.

This year, a Chickie’s & Pete’s pavilion will debut at Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, an amusement park operated by the company that owns Dorney Park. The Kansas City location will offer Crabfries, traditional and lobster cheesesteaks, and cheesesteak nachos. Pete is also in talks with the Kansas City Chiefs about a Chickie’s & Pete’s in Arrowhead Stadium.

Alright, Reid probably has nothing to do with it, but how else can you explain the demand for something like crab fries in a place completely devoid of seafood culture? That said, you might be able to trick Missourians into thinking those fries actually have a crustaceous element to them. [Foobooz]

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