It’s a time of transition for area football fans, as the two teams for which we root the most – the Delaware Blue Hens and the Philadelphia Eagles – are entering new eras under new coaches who have new ideas.
Chip Kelly has brought his innovative, high-speed offense from Oregon to the Eagles and Dave Brock has brought his version of the spread offense — which originated at New Hampshire when Kelly was coach there — to Delaware.
Both new coaches are succeeding old coaches who were very successful and they both will have to deal with a rabid fan base. Those fans are spoiled and used to winning (although not recently, which is why the Eagles and Blue Hens have new coaches) and even though they’ll give the new guys a little leeway, the pressure is there.
The Eagles are probably going through the most changes because Kelly’s offense and defense are significantly different than the ones used by former coach Andy Reid. And it’s not just the system, but also the players who run it. Reid brought in players who had specific skills for his specific system and many of those players don’t fit into Kelly’s way of doing things. And even the ones who do fit in have had to reprogram their brains and their bodies to make the transition from Reid to Kelly.
The regime change hasn’t been as dramatic for Delaware because Brock runs an offense that is at least similar to the one used by former coach K.C. Keeler. Brock’s attack has a few more bells and whistles in the way it uses misdirection, but it’s close enough to Keeler’s to allow for a relatively smooth transition.
But Brock could have more trouble winning over the fans than Kelly will, for a couple of reasons. For one, he’s an outsider and Delaware insiders don’t like that. Keeler – who is currently working with former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski breaking down film for ESPN at NFL Films’ headquarters in South Jersey – had huge shoes to fill when he replaced the legendary Tubby Raymond in 2002. But Keeler was a former Blue Hens player who understood the pride and tradition that were the heart of Delaware football. That was nurtured for decades by Raymond, and Bill Murray and Dave Nelson before him, and that was important to the thousands of fans who packed Delaware Stadium.
So, when Keeler was fired – which was pretty shocking, considering he had won a national championship and been to two more title games – it was hoped by many that Delaware would once again hire one of its own. But Delaware didn’t and that means, fairly or not, that Brock has more to prove.
Kelly, meanwhile, is replacing a man who had worn out his welcome a while ago. Reid was the most successful coach in Eagles history, but he never won the big one and the fans were fed up with his monotone, what-me-worry approach to everything. So, here comes Chip Kelly, with a bounce in his step and smile on his face and a new, exciting offense in his back pocket. Even though there are a lot of skeptics who wonder if Kelly’s offense will work in the NFL, he’s generally been welcomed as a breath of fresh air to a franchise that badly needed it.
Another interesting parallel between Kelly and Brock: In this day and age, any NFL or college team is going to go as far as its quarterback takes it, and both the Eagles and the Blue Hens started training camp with veterans that still had something to prove. Both had been successful in the past, but also had their not-so-successful moments and last season led their teams to losing records and, ultimately, a change in coaches. That’s why Michael Vick and Trent Hurley had to convincingly win their starting jobs in camp and both of them did just that.
So, if nothing else, the Eagles and the Blue Hens should be interesting this season, unless they start to lose and keep losing. If that happens, they’ll discover that new can get old very quickly around here.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.