Baseball is still the national pastime, but it hasn’t been the nation’s favorite pastime for a long time – the NFL is leading the pack now and it’s not even close. Around here, the Eagles were threatened by the Phillies for a while, but now the Eagles are the undisputed kings of the Delaware Valley sports scene. And for that, you can thank Chip.
The Eagles are currently conducting offseason workouts, which are mostly half-speed drills with no contact and not much defense. Basically, it’s pretty boring stuff. Still, there was a huge media mob – estimated at more than 100 – for the first practices, even though this is not an elite team or one filled with superstars and it’s still early June.
Once again, you can thank Chip Kelly, the Eagles’ perpetual-motion head coach. Kelly made news almost daily in the offseason with the players he added (Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonzo, Tim Tebow, Nelson Agholor) and even more so with the players he subtracted (LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Cary Williams, Nate Allen). Rarely has a team gone through so many changes in such a short time, and almost never has a coach who won 20 games in his first two seasons orchestrated such a dramatic overhaul.
So, even though nobody expects the Eagles to win the Super Bowl, everyone expects them to be interesting. That’s why the Eagles will play in four prime time games this coming season and play another nationally-televised game against Detroit on Thanksgiving, as well as appear in at least two late-afternoon games that will also be broadcast nationally, against the two most glamorous teams in the NFL, Dallas and New England.
That’s a lot of love for a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year and traded away the one player on their roster who could be considered a real star in this league, LeSean McCoy. So, what’s the attraction now? Sam Bradford? DeMarco Murray? Nelson Agholor?
No, it’s Chip Kelly. Whether you like him or not, whether you approve of the way he tore apart and then rebuilt your football team, whether you think he’s an innovator or a fraud, you have to acknowledge that Kelly makes things happen. And people have noticed, which is why the Eagles are constantly featured by national broadcasters and columnists. People are intrigued by Kelly and his apparent fearlessness as he pursues the players he wants to build the kind of team he wants.
It’s a high-wire act, and everybody likes that sense of danger. Kelly could have played it safe, kept the players he had – and let’s not forget that he got rid of some pretty good ones – and added a couple of free agents and draft picks. There’s no question the Eagles would have been better this coming season if they had just added some new players while the old players improved simply by having another season of Kelly’s offense and defense under their belts.
But if anything has become apparent during Kelly’s short reign, it’s that he’s going to do things his way, with his personnel people evaluating talent and his coaches installing his system and his players executing that system on the field. In fact, Kelly probably won’t be happy until all of the players and front office people hired by former coach Andy Reid and former general manger Howie Roseman are gone. And at this rate, that won’t take long.