The end of a thrilling season came not with the angst usually associated with failure for the Eagles, but with the simple truth that they were not good enough, at least not yet. A better team with better players beat them. It happens.
In fact, it is a testament to the 2013 Eagles that – despite being dominated on both sides of the ball – they were undone Saturday night by a field goal on the final play, providing New Orleans with a 26-24 win that was much closer than it should have been.
For Eagles fans, the loss was surprisingly painless, given the stakes in the contest and the attachment they had developed for new coach Chip Kelly’s overachieving players. This time, there was no one moment that defined the defeat, no curious coaching decision or controversial officiating call. The Saints outgained the Eagles, 434-256. They deserved to win.
Philadelphia sports fans are not known for their big-picture mentality, but even they can see just how far the Eagles came in Kelly’s inaugural season. Where the future appeared so grim just last year, now it looks as promising as it was in the heyday of Andy Reid’s tenure a decade ago.
For example, there’s Kelly himself, a coach who needed only half a season to figure out how to take a dubious roster and win seven of the last nine games. Kelly introduced a brand-new offense that was both exciting and productive, provided some sports-science initiatives that kept his team healthy, and won over the city with his candor and his wit.
The search for a starting quarterback ended this season, too. Nick Foles is smart and accurate and a developing leader, the almost perfect complement to Kelly’s cerebral style. True, Foles runs like a nose tackle, but his quarterback rating was a team-record 119 – better than the best in the NFL this season.
With LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson already flourishing in Kelly’s system, they will only get better next season, as will rookies Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson. Once Kelly finds some key defensive pieces to prevent the kind of domination they endured against New Orleans – especially some play-making safeties – the pieces will be in place for a real Super Bowl run.
The biggest accomplishment in Kelly’s amazing first season is not that he replaced Andy Reid, but that he overcame a roster in disarray and a culture of cluelessness and somehow managed to capture the NFC East. Winning 10 games with Patrick Chung and Damaris Johnson and Isaac Sopoaga and Alex Henery was more than a great coaching job; it was a miracle.
Philadelphia shed no tears when the season ended late Saturday night because there was no reason for dejection. Thanks to Chip Kelly, the future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.
O’Brien leaves Penn State mostly unchanged
Two years after one of the worst scandals in sports history, nothing much has changed in Happy Valley. Joe Paterno is still in control of a community that cares more about football success than horrific behavior. Jerry Sandusky molested boys for years, and Joe Paterno enabled him. Those are facts that no misplaced hero worship will ever alter.
And yet, Penn State remains in denial. Bill O’Brien left the school last week to coach the Houston Texans after failing to change a culture corrupted by the 47 years of Paterno’s reign. O’Brien accomplished more on the football field than anyone could have hoped, but the coach came to realize that he could never overcome the blind stupidity of the Paterno zealots.
Weeks before his departure, O’Brien said this to PennLive.com. “I don’t really give a (damn) what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. . . . It makes me want to put my fist through this windshield right now.”
O’Brien worked under impossible conditions at Penn State, and not just because of the strict NCAA sanctions placed on the program. The worst part is the attitude of the alumni, the boosters, and the longtime residents there. Even now, most of these devotees worship Paterno. Of course, none of them were victims of Sandusky’s depravity.
When Paterno was removed from his job – and his pedestal – two years ago, it was an opportunity for the late coach’s countless admirers to deal with the reality of the situation. Paterno was just another football coach more interested in his own success than in using his power to prevent the horrors happening right in front of him. Unfortunately, they have ignored that lesson.
Bill O’Brien was smart to escape the epidemic of shameful denial still gripping Happy Valley.
Phillies better spend their Comcast money wisely
No one received a bigger gift over the holidays than the Phillies, who agreed to a new TV deal with Comcast worth – ready for this? – $2.5 billion. The team’s annual income from local television will soon skyrocket from $35 million a year to $100 million.
It is now official. The Phils have come a long way since that infamous day in the 1980’s when former president Bill Giles called them a “small-market team.” They rank among the richest now, right there with the Yankees and Dodgers.
There’s only one problem with this incredible new windfall, and it is the man – or men – entrusted with spending it. Other than covering up more colossal mistakes like the Ryan Howard or Jonathan Papelbon deals, what good will it do if the money continues to be squandered?
Here’s an even better question: Why should anyone have faith that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will make better use of the new cash? And if president Dave Montgomery really believes that the terrible recent roster moves were a team effort, then why should we trust any of them?
Montgomery went out of his way last weekend to credit the support of the fans for this major new influx of revenue. Their purchase of increasingly more expensive tickets and their interest in following the team on TV led to this bonanza.
Now it’s time for the Phillies to return the favor. Now that they have all the money they will ever need, they have to find somebody who will spend it wisely. That person is not Ruben Amaro Jr.
Idle thoughts . . . .
- Is there anyone left who thinks Andy Reid is a great NFL coach? Not only did his Kansas City Chiefs blow a 28-point lead in their playoff game, he totally bungled the final moments with his typical time-management issues. Reid is an OK coach – until required to think on the sidelines. Then he’s Rich Kotite.
- Life has not been kind to Joe Banner since his left the Eagles to run the Cleveland Browns. First, he lost the coaching sweepstakes for Chip Kelly, then his Browns tanked, and now he has fired coach Rob Chudzinski after one year. Is it time yet to say Banner was overrated here?
- How great a football city is Philadelphia? The only team hosting a playoff game last weekend that did not struggle to sell out was the Eagles. And the biggest local rating in NBC’s Sunday Night Football history happened in the Dallas-Eagles regular-season finale, when 58 percent of our TVs were tuned to the game. Bravo.
- Now that Claude Giroux is playing like a superstar again, someone needs to remind the Flyer captain that great players don’t have an on-off switch. How could someone this talented go cold so often? Giroux needs to show up to play every game, not just when the mood suits him.
- After only a few months, the Cleveland Cavaliers have seen enough of Andrew Bynum’s act. They suspended him last week after blowing $6 million on the laziest man in sports. Hey, do you think Doug Collins stills wants us to pray for Bynum?