Eagles Wake-Up Call: From An Ex-Duck Perspective
Chip Kelly‘s run at Oregon got off to a dismal start.
Not only did the Ducks fall in the opener to Boise State, but a national audience looked on as LeGarrette Blount dropped Bronco defensive end Byron Hout with a sucker-punch moments after the game ended, prompting Kelly to suspend the standout back for the better part of the season.
In the days that followed, Kelly received a number of emails from disgruntled fans, including an Oregon alum who made the trip from Portland to Boise and attached an invoice for $439, believing Kelly should cover his travel costs for putting such a bad product on the field. Kelly cut him a check.
It wasn’t all negative feedback, though. A few reportedly brought up the children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” which is about a boy who has one thing after another go wrong — from getting gum stuck in his hair in the morning to being served lima beans for dinner at night — and is eager to escape his problems. Kelly used that book to frame a talk to his team in the wake of the adversity, according to a New York Times story from November 2009.
He addressed the team with the story of a boy who told his mother he wanted to move to Australia after having a day much like the night the Ducks had in Boise.
“People in Australia have bad days, too,” Kelly told his team, mimicking the advice of Alexander’s mother.
A copy of the book now sits on a table in Kelly’s office, though there have not been many reasons to read it lately.
Kelly may be feeling the desire to crack it back open right about now. Forget a single defeat and a suspension, this Eagles team has seven losses with five to play, they’ve been outscored 90-31 over the last two weeks by Tampa and Detroit, and the fan base is so agitated that if Kelly tried to fulfill every refund request, there wouldn’t be much left of the $6.5 million that he reportedly pulls in annually.
Without a doubt, this is the biggest rough patch he’s faced as a head coach.
How’s he responding?
“The thing with Chip, man, Chip never changes regardless of the situation,” said Kenjon Barner, who was part of that ’09 Oregon team. “I go back to his first year as our head coach when we played Boise State and we got blown out the first game of the season. Nothing was different about him after that game then it was in fall camp, back to spring workouts, he remained the same. Times where we lost to Stanford, we lost to USC, he never changed.
“It’s kind of the same here. He’s a firm believer in everybody in this locker room, within the organization, and he’s a firm believer in what this team can do.”
That was absolutely the consensus in the locker room: Kelly has stayed firmly in character in recent weeks.
“He never panics in those adverse situations. He treats football just like life: you can’t overreact to something that’s been going bad, whether it’s one week or two weeks, three weeks, you can’t overreact to failure,” said another former Duck, Josh Huff.
“Chip, in my opinion, he’s always a leader that you look for. Obviously the last two weeks, we’ve gotten beat badly but you never see him panic on the sideline. And being in a situation like that, I don’t think you want your players to see you panicking if you are panicking just because it gives off a negative vibe. He’s stayed positive throughout the whole situation and we’re just looking to turn things around as fast as we can.”
Former Ducks-turned-Eagles might be quicker to believe that success is right around the bend. Barner saw that rough start in ’09 turn into a 10-win season and trip to the Rose Bowl. They’ve witnessed this operation come out on the right side of the ledger 46 times in college and 20 times in two seasons in the pros. Based on their experiences, winning is the norm and this season is the glitch.
Not everyone is as certain. Serious questions have been raised about Kelly’s scheme, methods and abilities as an NFL talent evaluator in recent months, and there appears to be more of a widespread belief that changes are in order if Kelly intends on turning this thing around.
But by the sounds of it, Kelly isn’t deviating from the plan just yet.
“He doesn’t change, he doesn’t waver,” said Barner. “He’ll be the same guy today as he was yesterday.”
And his message?
“Just keep working,” said Huff, “believe in each other and we’ll pick our heads up on January 3rd and find out where we are.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Is Kelly’s oft-repeated mantra of “it’s about plays run” a losing battle? So far, absolutely.
Kelly touches on the NFL’s decision to assign error-prone referees to Sunday’s game.
“Do I have faith in Chip Kelly? Hell no.” What they’re saying about the Eagles ahead of Week 13.
Josh examines the differences between perception and reality in Kelly’s stumbling regime.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Regardless of the way Sam Bradford finishes the season, Kelly will have a franchise-shifting decision on his hands come this spring, writes the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.
It doesn’t matter if Bill Belichick or Chip Kelly is your coach, if you have neither a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback and an above-average defense nor a quarterback a notch or two below and a once-in-an-era defense, your chances of snaring a title are virtually nil.
This isn’t rocket science. Every team knows as much. But year after year, teams fail to construct the formula, mostly because there are only so many quarterbacks capable of playing at the requisite level for winning in the postseason.
Kelly has opened his three seasons with a different starting quarterback, and each time – presuming they don’t win a Super Bowl this year – the Eagles have fallen short. But does that mean he isn’t capable of selecting the next quarterback – whether it is extending Bradford or finding one via the draft, free agency, or trade?
Could the Eagles wind up with Johnny Football this offseason? ESPN’s Adam Schefter says the Birds have already taken a hard look, writes NJ.com’s Eliot Shorr-Parks.
The Eagles don’t have a quarterback, and until they do, whenever a player at the position becomes available, there will be speculation.
Especially when it comes to a player like Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Speaking Thursday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that in addition to the St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers, the Eagles and Chip Kelly have “looked hard” at Manziel.
We’ll continue to get you ready for Eagles-Patriots.