Where Do Chip Kelly, Ryne Sandberg Rank Compared to Philly’s 10 Greatest Coaches?

Let's just say this new crop of skippers has its work cut out.


Photo | Jeff Fusco

One thing you have to credit Chip Kelly with is this—the guy can stick to a script. After his Eagles turned in their second horrifying performance in a row—Halloween ain’t got nothing on these Birds when it comes to scary stuff—Kelly faced some tough questions in yesterday’s press conference.

He deflected most of them with relative cool and a certain grace under pressure that’s admirable, considering the dismal state of his team. Then Kelly was asked about the problems with his offense, aside from the rotating cast of guys under center.

“You just hope if you’re a little unstable at quarterback, we can kind of lean on something else that can help us get through those murky waters,” Kelly said. “That’s where, as a group, we’ve got to do a better job… take a little bit of pressure off.”

Coach, if there’s one phrase to avoid in your post-game comments, it’s “we’ve got to do a better job.” See also: “time’s yours.” And avoid throat-clearing whenever possible.

Even before the Eagles set a franchise record for most consecutive home losses, it had been a brutal year for coaches in this town. Strangely, Kelly is the longest-tenured leader among all four major sports franchises:

  • Craig Berube has a few games to go before he’s coached as many Flyers games (seven so far) as he had penalties during his career (3,149).
  • Ryne Sandberg didn’t officially graduate to manager of the Phillies until after their miserable season ended with a whimper.
  • And Brett Brown’s biggest splash in his very brief time as coach of the Sixers was to announce that Nerlens Noel would likely sit out the entire season. Meanwhile, the Sixers ticket-sales department could be seen scouting the Walt Whitman Bridge in search of a good place to jump.

Early returns aren’t promising on any of these dudes, but remember, folks, it’s early.

However, one thing we can judge is how “Philly” they are—that intangible quality in some coaches and managers within whom we see a little of ourselves, and guys who will make a mark on this city’s sports landscape regardless of their win-loss records.

In this month’s Philadelphia magazine, I ranked the top 10 all-time Philly-est coaches, based on footprint they left on our teams. In a few cases, that impression looks like a boot-stain after a swift kick to our collective keister—Danny Ozark and Gene Mauch both made the list for contributing to our nightmares. For others, like Fred Shero and Billy Cunningham, winning was only part of their legacy. You’ll learn how the concept of spring training started here and the very Philly tale behind Greasy Neale’s name. And you’ll be hard-pressed to deny the number one pick—a guy whose spirit is long gone from Broad and Pattison these days.

As for the current crop of coaches and skippers?

  • Berube rates highest on that scale, mostly because he’s got a great nickname (“Chief”) and told a beat writer to “get lost” in his first week on the job.
  • Sandberg has potential as a no-nonsense, man-of-few-words type.
  • Kelly has the opposite problem—highly quotable, but hasn’t had many good things to discuss so far.
  • As for Brown, let’s just see if he can survive a full season with a roster that probably wouldn’t make it to the Elite Eight in this year’s NCAA tourney.

But again, it’s probably too soon to judge these guys on any scale. My advice to Chip Kelly—if you’re hoping to echo the ghosts of Philly sports past and be remembered for more than that visor, look to this list (and avoid any references to the guy in Kansas City).