Eagles Wake-Up Call: When Culture Pays Off
Chris Maragos started laughing, leaving the reporter before him baffled. The Eagles had just come off of a shocking win over the Patriots, and a horde of reporters left the man who blocked a punt alone in front of his locker.
A new reporter stepped in, and asked the question that would elicit laughter: How did you beat one of the best teams in the NFL, after being blown out by the Lions and Buccaneers?
“I know it’s like a code word now,” Maragos said, now calm in his words, “but we really have a great culture. Guys care for each other. The coaches care for the players; the players care for the coaches. And we kept trusting the process. I think we have a really resilient group.”
Maragos isn’t wrong, of course, at least about how “culture” has taken on a life of its own. Since Chip Kelly said “culture will beat scheme every day” last season, the phrase has become an unofficial slogan in Philadelphia.
Fans and media alike instantly took to the motto, perhaps because it explained the Eagles’ decisions under Kelly, like releasing DeSean Jackson. But as the team has declined during Kelly’s reign and increased power in personnel decisions, the phrase has almost morphed into a punch line.
According to players, however, you’re now seeing the pay off of Kelly’s culture emphasis and the changes he made to the roster.
“Absolutely,” Brandon Bair said. “That’s the goal of any team: you want to come together when things get tough. If you’re coming apart when things get tough, then what kind of a team is that?”
There are, however, reasonable follow-up questions if the players believe their culture helped them win on Sunday.
Why didn’t it pay off before, including after the first time you allowed 45 points? Does that mean your culture wasn’t as good in previous years? Couldn’t you attribute the surprising win more to two great special teams plays?
But players didn’t have much to say when asked to elaborate on these topics, often resigning to simply expressing confidence in Kelly’s philosophy. An important counterargument also exists, specifically that the Eagles wouldn’t need to be so resilient if they had more talent and didn’t lose in the first place.
Now that Philadelphia sits tied atop the NFC East at 5-7 with four games remaining, we’ll have a clearer answer about whether culture really does beat scheme every day — especially if a talent disparity exists — in about four weeks.
WHAT YOU MISSED
How Ron Jaworski helped change the way we watch football.
Tim reported more details about DeMarco Murray’s plane ride chat with Jeffrey Lurie.
Ryan Mathews is “really optimistic” about playing on Sunday against Buffalo.
“I will never take back nothing I say.” LeSean McCoy discusses his feelings on Chip Kelly.
According to a report, Murray expressed some frustrations after Sunday’s win.
Who will win the NFC East? Adam took a spin around the division to get a better feel for that.
Tim has three more observations from the wild Pats game before we’re on to the Bills.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
At long last, Chip Kelly bowed to the statistics, writes Angelo Cataldi, and it led to the Eagles’ biggest win of the year.
When Kelly decided to give Darren Sproles 19 touches in the game (not including punt returns), the coach was finally handing out carries based on production, not reputation. That Kenjon Barner got more action than [DeMarco] Murray was a strong indication that Murray’s status on the team is in serious decline, as it should be.
Kelly also milked the play clock in the third quarter with long delays before snapping the ball – something he has never done that early as Eagles coach. He tried a risky third-down throw late in the game that led to a critical first down, a throwback to his “Bill Balls Chip” college days. He even screamed at an official after a clock mishap.
The bottom line is, Kelly made some significant changes when he returned home to New England over the weekend – changes for the better – and they led to the best win of the season.
His numbers look pedestrian, and he doesn’t wow you, but Sam Bradford has been getting it done when it matters, says Mike Sielski.
For all the rightful complaints about Bradford then and the caution over the small sample size of his play since, here is what he’s done over his last three games, all since the Eagles’ bye week: 58 completions in 85 attempts for a 68.2 completion percentage, 651 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions.
And here is what Bradford did Sunday in the Eagles’ 35-28 victory over the Patriots, in a game in which the statistics (14-for-24, 120 yards) suggested that he was ordinary at best: four vital third-down completions, two for touchdowns and two for first downs. Without even one of those throws, the Eagles lose Sunday, and isn’t that the best way to judge a quarterback, whether he makes the right play in a big moment?
Chip Kelly will address the media at 10:50 a.m.