Wake-Up Call: Chip Kelly, NFC East Champ

Arlington, Texas — Chip Kelly took the podium with a little water in his eyes and a smudge mark on his right cheek — presumably eye black that rubbed off one of the players during the celebration.

It was late in Dallas but the energy from Sunday night’s breath-stealing conclusion was still dancing in the air. The 16-game schedule was complete. And, though it took everything they had, the Eagles were still standing. Year One of the Chip Kelly era, and the Eagles are NFC East champions.

“I told those guys, I thought the first time I met them that it was a special group. I can’t tell you how much they’ve made this transition for me coming from college to the pros, it was those guys,” said Kelly. “They’ve bought in. It’s an awesome feeling when you can work as hard as they’ve worked and to see it pay off, and the results are you’re 10-6 and you’re division champs, it’s a real credit to those guys. They didn’t flinch.”

Looking back, did you honestly expect this to be the end result to your first regular season?

“I expected us to win,” said Kelly. Read more »

Wake-Up Call: Foles And the Golf Analogy

Eagles QB Nick Foles evades the Cowboys' rush. 10/20/13Chip Kelly has a bunch of sayings (“Chipisms” they’ve been called) that he’ll throw out there on occasion to get his point across. A couple examples from Thursday:

On doing things the right way: “Bad habits are like a bed; they’re easy to get into and hard to get out of.”

On the players’ attitudes: “It takes the same amount of time to be miserable as it does to be happy.”

And he’ll deploy an analogy from time to time as well. Like on this day, he compared the quarterback position to golf when discussing the ups and downs of Nick Foles.

“Sometimes that position is a lot like a golfer.  You can go one week and be in contention and you’re leading and you have a great round, and the next week the guy doesn’t make the cut, and that’s unfortunate.  But what we need out of Nick is consistency, and he understands that.”

So what kind of sample size do you need to properly judge a quarterback? Read more »

Lurie: If McNabb Went 1st, James Would’ve Been the Pick

At the time, the 1999 draft was considered to be a great opportunity for teams to find their franchise quarterbacks.

Five of the top 12 picks were signal-callers: Tim Couch (No. 1), McNabb (No. 2), Akili Smith (No. 3), Daunte Culpepper (No. 11) and Cade McNown (No. 12).

But the way Jeffrey Lurie tells it, the only one the Eagles thought was worthy of the second pick was McNabb.

“I remember it like it was yesterday, the details, amazing,” Lurie said. “It was dubbed as sort of the year of the franchise quarterback. New Coach Andy [Reid] was here. We were interviewing all together and very intensely every one of these quarterbacks and the top players at the top of the round with the second pick. This was meant to be a very, very important pick.

“We, ironically, going back, didn’t have a lot of confidence in most of the quarterbacks in that draft. The only quarterback that we all, and Andy leading the way, was very confident in was Donovan. And it wasn’t just his athletic ability. It was his years at Syracuse, his being able to learn a complicated offense, the way he was as a person, stable family background compared to some other quarterbacks both in that draft and elsewhere. So it all came together that that was really the only quarterback that was really far above all the others for us.”

The obvious follow-up question was: What would have happened if the Browns had taken McNabb with the first pick?

“It was really Donovan or ‘yikes.’ ” Lurie said. “What are we going to do? I guess the answer was Edgerrin [James]. We thought this was a potential Hall of Fame running back.

“But it was a no-brainer to go with the potential franchise quarterback [over] the running back, although Edgerrin became a superb player as well.”

That would have been quite the scene. Fans who infamously booed the McNabb pick wanted Ricky Williams. Had Cleveland taken McNabb No. 1 overall, selecting James might have drawn the same reaction.

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Forbes: Eagles Worth $1.26 Billion

The Philadelphia Eagles are the 15th-most valuable franchise in the world at $1.26 billion, according to annual rankings released today by Forbes.

Real Madrid tops the list at $3.3 billion.

As a sign of just how popular American football is, 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams made the top-50 list. And the NFC East is the richest division. The Cowboys are worth $2.1 billion, tops in the league. The Redskins are eighth overall at $1.6 billion. And the Giants are ninth at $1.468 billion.

Among NFL teams, the Eagles rank seventh, behind the Cowboys, Patriots ($1.635 billion), Redskins, Giants, Texans ($1.305 billion) and Jets ($1.284 billion).

If you’re wondering about other Philadelphia teams, the only one besides the Eagles to make the list was the Phillies. Worth $893 million, they came in at No. 41.

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Report: Eagles Offered Coaching Job To Kevin Sumlin

When Chip Kelly initially turned down Jeffrey Lurie’s offer and decided to go back to Oregon, the Eagles had to shift their attention to other candidates.

You remember many of the names: Gus BradleyBill O’Brien, Brian Kelly and others.

At the time, there were rumors that the team had shown interest in Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. And according to a report in the San Antonio Express-News, it was more than just a passing interest. While he wouldn’t name the team, Sumlin admitted that he’s had the chance to become an NFL head coach.

While Sumlin didn’t name names concerning who pursued him in the offseason, TexAgs.com co-owner and A&M insider Billy Liucci has said the Philadelphia Eagles and Auburn offered Sumlin head-coaching gigs after A&M’s stunning showing last season, including a 29-24 road upset of national champion Alabama.

Obviously, it’s a moot point now. Kelly took some extra time to think about the opportunity and ultimately decided to make the leap to the NFL. He was the first coach the Eagles’ brass targeted, and he ended up being the guy they landed.

But according to the report, Sumlin had a chance to come to Philadelphia. Instead, he chose to stay put with the Aggies and received a $1.1 million raise.

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Eagles Unveil $125 Million Plan For the Linc

The Eagles have released the details of the $125 million revitalization project already underway at Lincoln Financial Field.

The 10-year-old stadium is undergoing a significant make-over in an effort to enhance the fans’ gameday experience.

“We have had discussions with season-ticket holders over the past couple of seasons to find out what was important to them,” said team president Don Smolenski. “We listened and developed a plan of action. The revitalization of Lincoln Financial Field that will take place over the next two years is a direct result of those conversations.”

Some of the changes will be much more noticeable than others. They include:

HD Video Boards

New high-definition video boards in both end zones along with an upgraded sound system. The boards will have the ability to expand in size (over the advertisements) to accentuate a big moment. LED ribbon-board displays will be placed along each side of the stadium to make it easier to get real-time stats and scores.


Seating Bowl Expansion

An additional 1,600 seats will be added (an estimated 800 in the Southwest corner, 600 in the Northeast corner and 200 in the Northwest corner).

The extra seats will further close in the stadium, which in theory should help keep more of the noise in.

“We’ve been very happy with the sound,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, “but we never want to sacrifice. We want to keep the sound in – that’s big.”

Two bridges will be built in the Southwest corner that will allow fans in the upper concourse to get from the home to the visiting side of the stadium easier. And a new escalator will be built on the west side.

Showcasing Eagles History

There will be images of the best players and moments displayed throughout the lower and upper concourses, as well as the club and suite levels.

Change At the Gates

The three main gate entrances will be expanded so that fans can get into the stadium more quickly. At the Verizon Wireless entrance, you’ll see that the gate is actually being moved to the bottom of the steps.


An integrated Wi-Fi system will be installed that will feature 600 access points that are expected to accommodate 40,000 simultaneous users. Access to Wi-Fi will be free of charge.

Suite And Club Level Enhancements

All of the suites will be refurbished, and will feature personally selected images of the best players and moments in Eagles history. A food market will be installed in each club lounge. And the Touchdown Club will move inside and housed in a 5,000 square-foot space.

Retired Numbers/Banners

The retired numbers will be displayed in the stadium bowl. On the opposite side, banners reflecting team accomplishments (conference and division titles, etc.).

The historical imagery, entrance gate expansion, Wi-Fi system, concession-stand upgrades, Touchdown Club and suite renovations and pro-shop expansions are to be completed for the upcoming season, according to the team.

The video boards, bridges and club-level enhancements won’t be in place until next season.

Why all the changes? Teams are competing with the couch, essentially.

Watching the games at home in HD with quick access to your fantasy scores and the Red Zone channel is good living. The quality of the home-viewing experience “requires teams to be very vigilant about investing in their relatively new stadiums,” said Lurie. “You can let it play out until you are really sort of behind the 8-ball as a stadium; why not take it and be ahead of the curve? That’s what this is all about.”

No public funds are being used for this renovation, according to the team. The money will come from the Eagles, and the NFL will be providing financing support. This project is completely separate from the green initiative (solar panels, etc.) going on at the Linc.

Lurie stated earlier this offseason that he will push for Philadelphia to host a Super Bowl if New York is a success next year. While the renovations aren’t being done specifically with the Super Bowl in mind, the Eagles’ owner knows it can’t hurt their chances.

“When you are bidding for a Super Bowl the committee looks very closely at your stadium, your city, what you can host. Philadelphia would be a great place,” he said.

Leading up to this project the Eagles explored the idea of a retractable roof (and even asked if it was possible to put on a temporary roof if they were to host the Super Bowl). Ultimately they deemed that to be too large of an undertaking.

“And do our fans really want to have a permanent roof? I don’t think so,” said Lurie. “We’ve always surveyed our fans, when we built the stadium, do you they to have a domed stadium? And it was very obvious of course not in Philadelphia.”

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Eagles Draft: Sorting Through The Intel

Much has been written about the Eagles and their plans for the draft, which all of a sudden is right on our doorstep. We have heard hundreds of opinions. But at the end of the day, it is the opinions of the key decision-makers inside the NovaCare walls that matter.

Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and Jeffrey Lurie are in no hurry to divulge their plans, of course. It does them no good. Misdirection gets them farther than truth-telling this time of year. But if we sift through what has been said over the weeks leading up to the draft, maybe we can see the overall picture a little more clearly.

Let’s look at a few key quotes from the powers-that-be and try to find a kernel or two:

Howie Roseman on the strength of the draft: 

“You talk about the offensive line, obviously. There are some really talented offensive linemen in this draft, defensive linemen. This is a really meat and potatoes draft, certainly early in the first couple of rounds with lineman, which is exciting. It may not be the flashiest thing, but it’s exciting. It’s hard to find big guys who can move, play with power, and there are a lot of guys in this draft.”

Quick thought: “Big guys who can move” early in this draft include Eric Fisher, Lane Johnson, Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei. I don’t believe Roseman is trying to throw us off the scent here. The early portion of this draft is largely about the big men, most agree. It also needs to be noted that he thinks there are quality linemen throughout the draft as well.

Chip Kelly on the 2013 class:

“I think the draft has depth.  I don’t think ‑‑ there is not an Andrew Luck or RG3 or someone that you say that guy’s going to be a ten‑year all pro, one of the best.  I had the opportunity fortunately or unfortunately to coach against Andrew Luck in our league.  So he was as close as there was to a can’t miss guy.  I don’t see that type of guy in this draft at any position, to be honest with you.”

Quick thought: What pops into my mind is: If there is no “cant miss” quarterback in the head coach’s opinion, how could you possibly gamble on one with the fourth pick? You can’t.

Jeffrey Lurie, on the decision to attend Geno Smith’s private workout [the first such trip since he looked at Donovan McNabb back in 1999]:

“It’s a common thing when it’s an important decision. We haven’t had a high draft pick for 14 years, and I think it’s true with anybody that we’re going to look at that you want to have all the information you can. It’s a very important decision for us if we stay at No. 4 there.”

Quick thought: The visit tells me that they were entertaining the idea of drafting Smith. I don’t think ultimately they will. But if you were sold on the quarterbacks on your roster, would you be exploring the possibility to the degree they have? Likely not.

Interesting to me that Lurie threw in “if we stay at No. 4 there.” Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s a tiny peek behind the curtain.

Howie Roseman on defensive players in the draft:

“The safeties in the draft is an encouraging group. You compare it to the last couple of years, and there might be more guys who go in the first three or four rounds this year than have gone in the last couple of years combined. So to find those guys that we’ve talked about in these settings, about how hard it is to find safeties, so obviously that’s an encouraging sign as we go through this draft process. The corners as well. It may not be a group where you see 4 or 5 drafted in the first round, but there will be a run on corners at some point in this draft. It’s a talented group. The same thing at the LB spot. Pass rushers are going to go quick like they always do. There may not be much of a run in the second or third round as you’d normally see with pass rushers. But I think there are high quality ones at the top and they’ll go quick.”

Quick thought: Some good information in here that perhaps gives us a better understanding of the Eagles’ board. One message is: if you want a pass rusher, you better get one early. Keep in mind that the Eagles intend to stay disciplined and will not reach for a certain position just because of scarcity. But maybe it’s a tie-breaker if two players with similar grades are sitting there at 4. The obvious name is Dion Jordan. If he is not the pick, then it’s possible the Eagles go into the 2013 campaign with largely the same pass-rushing group that is already in place.

Roseman seems to like the safety and cornerback class. Assuming everything falls right, I would expect the Eagles to target the secondary a healthy amount.

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Eagles Wake-Up Call: On Roseman, Kelly And Gamble

Howie Roseman has been hesitant to offer a straight answer.

Perhaps he doesn’t want to feed into the perception that he’s a power-hungry GM looking for maximum control. Or maybe it’s just a matter of Chip Kelly wanting the organization to project a team-oriented approach in all aspects of the operation.

But asked many times over the past few months who has the final say on draft picks, Roseman has given different variations of the same response.

It’s a collaborative effort.

It’s an organizational pick.

We’re working together to make sure we get a good football player.

Back in January, on the same day Jeffrey Lurie fired Andy Reid, he gave Roseman a strong vote of confidence, saying he only held the Eagles’ GM responsible for the 2012 draft. Lurie, one of the few men who’s been privy to the behind-the-scenes decision-making, sent Joe Banner and Reid packing.

Yet he gave Roseman added responsibility. So even if no one wants to come out and say it, the draft is his baby.

“What we do is, as a scouting staff, we’’re watching 600 guys,” Roseman said. “And we’’re narrowing those down. Think of it like a funnel. We’’re narrowing down to then the coaches get involved, they’’re the guys that we’’re really excited about. And then we’’re handing them to the coaches to evaluate and getting heir feedback on those guys.””

Kelly wasn’t hired until mid-January. He didn’t have his staff in place until the second week of February. By that point, the Eagles were a little more than a month away from the start of free agency.

In other words, he’s had a full plate. Kelly definitely has a say and has given Roseman parameters for different positions, based on scheme and preference. The Birds’ head coach also has an advantage, having come from the college ranks. Kelly sets the guidelines, but it’s on Roseman and his staff to deliver the goods.

This year, the Eagles’ GM has the help of new vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble. The Eagles brought Gamble on board in mid-February, and Roseman said he’s been a big help throughout the evaluation process.

“By the time we got him in, having some experience, going on the road in the fall, having his own opinions, not being influenced by our draft meetings, those conversations, that insight’s’ been extremely invaluable,” Roseman said. “A huge addition to our staff.””

So in reality, it is a collaborative effort. Roseman, Gamble, Kelly, scouts, assistants and others.

But down the road, when it comes time to judge the success of the 2013 class, it’ll be the GM’s name attached to the picks.


For the Eagles and Roseman, offensive tackle seems like the safest bet, writes T-Mac.

What’s the likelihood of the Birds trading down? Here’s the rundown.

Reading between the lines, it doesn’t sound like the Eagles are targeting Geno Smith.

One national report links the Birds to Utah DT Star Lotulelei.

The Eagles released quarterback Trent Edwards.

Tim takes a look at the team’s situation at wide receiver.


Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com takes a look at some later-round QB options, including Arizona’s Matt Scott:

While he has the physical ability to be an NFL QB, he needs to work on his QB skills.  I don’t think Scott can challenge for a job initially.  I think he’ll need a season of coaching.  The reasons to love him are his running ability and the fact he’s a natural passer.  He has a good arm and quick release.  He has pretty good accuracy.  Scott did throw 14 INTs.  He simply makes bad decisions on some throws.  Aggressive is good, but you don’t want to force the ball into a situation where there is more chance for a bad outcome than good.  Scott did that at times.

NFL.com goes over the best and worst all-time picks for each franchise. Freddie Mitchell makes the list as one of the Eagles’ worst:

The Eagles were in desperate need of a playmaking receiver when they used the 25th overall pick in 2001 on UCLA’s Mitchell. What they got was a guy who never cracked 500 yards in a season and scored only five touchdowns during a 63-game run in Philadelphia.


The Eagles begin a three-day minicamp. We’ll hear from Kelly this afternoon.

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The Eagles In A Flat-Cap World

One of the most interesting scenes at the owners meetings in Phoenix last week came courtesy of Patriots owner Robert Kraft. He stopped to meet with a group of reporters outside of the Biltmore Hotel and, having just lost Wes Welker to the Denver Broncos, stepped out of character and went into great detail to explain why the Pats were unable to strike a deal with the popular wideout. In his efforts to paint New England in a better light, he allowed us a peek at the new NFL business model.

“Let me tell you what has happened in the NFL this year: The top 25 players  have received 700 million dollars. How many Pro Bowls  cumulatively do you think those players have gone to? Six,” said Kraft. “That tells you the trend has gone to signing young, up-and coming players.

“There were 52 starters — and a starter is someone that plays more than eight games — who had been cut this year. Forty-one of them are over 30 years old. I don’t think this has ever happened the same way in the league.”

As a member of the labor committee that helped negotiate the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Kraft is fully aware that the flat cap is behind this development. When the salary cap stays at around the same number from year to year but players’ contracts go up, teams have to be even more disciplined in their allocation of resources. As a result older players, whose projected production might not be in line with their salary demands, are hitting the streets with greater frequency. From Welker to James Harrison to Brian Urlacher to Ed Reed, a good deal of notable names either have a new address or no address at all. Quality, veteran teams like the Ravens and Steelers eventually bang their heads against the financial ceiling.

“Now, you can’t win for long, which is why nobody will ever go to four straight Super Bowls again,” said Bill Polian. “The system is designed to take good teams and rob them of players. That’s the way it is.”

It is a good problem to have if you are the Ravens and have to figure out how to redevelop your core after winning a Super Bowl and identifying a franchise quarterback. For teams like the Eagles, the process is about building and identifying that core.

“You have to set your priorities on your team because you’re going to want to keep your front-line players, and as the cap is flat the contracts are naturally going to rise year to year, and the pay scale is going to rise,” said general manager Howie Roseman. “You have to figure out where your priorities are, where your deal-breakers are, where you can live with maybe a younger player, maybe a more inexpensive player. Those are the decisions you have to make when you live in a flat-cap world.”

The Eagles identified LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans and Trent Cole as pieces they wanted to build around, signing each to contract extensions last offseason. The idea is to hold onto quality, homegrown talent to help establish a proper culture. You rely on the draft to find other key pieces at bargain prices. In a flat-cap market,  drafting well is more important than ever.

Free-agency dollars are spent on young players with upside like Connor Barwin (26), Patrick Chung (25) and Kenny Phillips (26) that are acquired at fair or below-market prices. Hopefully they fit in the locker room and are productive. If not, you cut your losses.

“Now you’ve got a flat cap and not a large, strong free agent class so you have to be more value-oriented,” said Jeffrey Lurie.

“It’s no different than the stock market. You’re not going to have a permanent philosophy for 10 years, you are going to adapt to the economic situation — what the opportunities are, the risk-reward – and try to maximize your situation.”

Invest in your core, supplement that core with quality, inexpensive pieces, have some financial flexibility for a rainy day (like when you discover a franchise quarterback, say) and hope that the group matures into a title contender. The Eagles have a young roster (average age of 26.2) and plenty of cap room at their disposal (around $23 million). Now comes the maturity process.

Lurie hopes that when he faces a situation a few years from now like Kraft did with Welker, that he will do so from a similar position of strength — one that can only come from being a champion.

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Draft Buzz: Geno Smith’s Journey; Mayock On Manuel

With the draft exactly five weeks away, here are some links and notes worth your time…

Much of the recent conversation in Philadelphia has centered around West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Jeffrey Lurie explained why he felt it was necessary to attend Smith’s workout in Morgantown, alongside Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman.

If the Eagles do take Smith with the No. 4 overall pick, they’re expecting him to be the face of the franchise. And while on-field performance comes first, personality and character count as well – especially at quarterback. For some background on where Smith comes from and what his background is like, take a look at this feature from Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com.

But when it was over, after a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29, Smith sat dejected on the bus back to the hotel while Spavital tried to tell him what he had meant to West Virginia. Smith didn’t appear to be listening.

“Man, I thought I was playing pretty well,” Smith told him. “But going 7-6 makes me feel like I did nothing this year.”

Spavital, who’s now at Texas A&M, has coached Brandon Weeden and Case Keenum. Spavital says Smith is more prepared for the NFL than any other quarterback he has coached. Smith will surprise people, he said, in part because he can do so many things he wasn’t asked to do the last two seasons at West Virginia.

There’s still the question of whether Smith will even be there at No. 4. It seems unlikely that Andy Reid would take him with the first pick (despite what he says), but Jacksonville and Oakland are still possibilities.

From Don Banks of SI.com:

[Gus] Bradley also echoed what I’ve started hearing a bit from league sources, that Jacksonville was much more impressed with Smith last week than it was prepared to be. Both in his workout and in their one-on-one time. Again, it could be a smoke screen, and the Jaguars have plenty of other needs to address with their first pick. But I wouldn’t dismiss Smith in Jacksonville just yet.

Even if the Eagles don’t take Smith in the first round, they could draft a QB at some point. Arizona’s Matt Scott had an official visit to Philadelphia, and according to Anthony Gimino of the Tuscon Citizen, Kelly made Scott a scholarship offer after he had already committed to Arizona.

“I didn’t really have any interest at that time in changing my decision,” Scott told the paper.

The other name to keep an eye on is Florida State’s EJ Manuel. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock recently had some positive things to say about Manuel.

“I think he’s a better prospect than Christian Ponder was two years ago with more upside,” Mayock said, per NFL.com.

“In all honesty, I had Ponder a second-round guy and Minnesota took him pretty high, and the jury is still out there. I think this kid (Manuel) has better arm talent, he’s a bigger, more physical specimen and really his ceiling is higher. Now, I don’t know if his floor is as high, but his ceiling is higher.”

Mayock has Manuel listed as his second-best quarterback behind Smith, and he said during a Sirius XM interview that he believes three QBs will be taken in the first round. If he’s right, there’s a good chance Manuel might not even be there when the Eagles select in the second round.

But not everyone’s sold. Here’s Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com on Manuel:

As T-Mac reported earlier this week, the Eagles have scheduled a March 28 workout with Manuel in Tallahassee.

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