Who Cares if the New Eagles Coach “Understands the Passion of Our Fans”?
The Eagles are looking for a new coach. This is actually quite a big deal, as it hasn’t happened very often recently. If we ignore interim coach Pat Shurmur, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has only hired three coaches: Ray Rhodes, Andy Reid and Chip Kelly. (He inherited Rich Kotite, who Lurie fired after he opened 7-2 and lost his last seven games.)
Lurie is no Ed Snider. The Flyers owner had the team fire Terry Simpson two weeks after Lurie bought the Eagles and is on his 10th head coach since. Lurie is only hiring his fourth non-interim guy. Lurie said he wants someone who “understands the passion of our fans and what it’s like to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s a unique and incredibly passionate fanbase that just wants to win. You’ve got to incorporate that in your life, in your heart and you’ve got to be willing to do that.”
Ugh. Imagine a prototypical head coach who comes to the Eagles who “understands the passion of our fans.” He “incorporates that into [his] life,” even! Honestly, this sounds like typical placate-the-fans speak: He’s going to bring in a real “Philly guy.” But what would that “Philly guy” be like, if we’re thinking of the stereotypical fan?
He’d be a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t baby his players. He’d have so little inkling to discuss his personal life no one would even know he was married for years. He wouldn’t interact with many fans except war veterans, who he held a particular affinity for. He’d yell at players for celebrating too much. When players, even good players, didn’t fall in line with what he requested he’d trade them or cut them. He’d be in charge. Some players would even call him a dictator. This is the what fans want, right? After all, perhaps the most beloved coach in modern Eagles history is Dick Vermeil, a man Gary Smith dubbed “The Little Dictator.”
You’ve gotten the joke by now: Chip Kelly was pretty much everything the stereotypical Philly fan wants in a coach. Even though he was criticized throughout the year, this was the kind of coach fans wanted! Take Angelo Cataldi, the radio host who also bashed Kelly throughout the season. He just wrote a column that Lurie should’ve kept Kelly! Despite his inconsistency, he gets it: We just had our “Philly guy” as coach. It was Chip Kelly!
Chip Kelly was not Joe Kuharich, who received an inexplicable 15-year contract as coach and GM in the 1960s. Kuharich did jettison two Eagles veterans and fan favorites, Sonny Jurgensen and Tommy McDonald, and replaced them with inferior talent, but he went 28-41-1. Kelly was relatively successful here: 26-21, with one playoff appearance. Though Kelly was the first Eagles coach since Buddy Ryan to fail to win a playoff game, it’s not clear the next guy will do a better job.
Please, though, he better not be the type of guy a lot of Philly fans want. Such a coach could work, of course — plenty of hard-asses have won Super Bowls — but, geeze, the Eagles just tried it. And anyway, did Chip Kelly falter because he didn’t understand the fanbase enough? Do Eagles fans want to win more than, say, Bills fans or Browns fans (to name two long-suffering, passionate fanbases) or even the fanbase of any team in the NFL? If so, does that change the job for some reason?
Of course, Lurie could be blowing smoke. He usually ignores these things. Hell, that first year — when Kotite was still the coach — he attempted to bring in hated Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson to run football operations. Andy Reid was not a hire many Eagles fans were clamoring for. Reid then ignored fans’ wishes for Ricky Williams to draft Donovan McNabb, which worked out. If fans got to decide, the next coach would probably be Brian Dawkins.
Is the next coach really going to connect with the fans on an emotional level? Is it even necessary? Honestly, just win some playoff games. If you do that, you can even have a winery and still be beloved.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.