Coach coming up small on big stage
Chip Kelly coached a terrible football game on Sunday, a performance reminiscent of the worst days of historically bad Eagles coaches like Rich Kotite or Joe Kuharich. After a hideous 15-7 loss to the Giants, Kelly’s name must be added to the list of Eagles deserving of our anger, and our doubts.
An alleged offensive genius who has worn a dunce cap the past two games, Kelly got nothing right. The decision to use an injured Mike Vick at quarterback was ridiculous. His time management was curious. His play-calling was clueless. It’s amazing Kelly remembered to wear his Eagles cap on the sideline; it was the only decision he got right all day.
Kelly has received unusually kind treatment since taking the job nine months ago, and with good reason. His predecessor, Andy Reid, left behind a dysfunctional roster. Vince Lombardi couldn’t win with Trent Cole and Nate Allen on defense, or with an offensive line that has fulfilled none of its overstated promise. The 2013 Eagles are a bad football team, and we all have Reid to thank for that.
But after failing to score a touchdown in the past 28 possessions, Kelly is no longer a sure thing. That glorious first half in the opener against Washington seems more like a cruel tease now than a preview of coming attractions. Since that game, the Eagles have lost five of seven and still haven’t won at home.
The big issue with Kelly in his first NFL season is his judgment. For a coach who used science so effectively at Oregon, he seems to be making alarmingly illogical decisions. For example, his commitment to play Vick on Sunday was disastrous, especially because it was apparent from the first play that the hamstrung quarterback wasn’t ready to return. What was the coach thinking?
And that was just the beginning of Kelly’s afternoon of insanity. When the Eagles finally showed a glimmer of life at the end of the first half, they were at the Giants’ 2-yard line, first down, with 1:14 to play. After wasting a timeout, Kelly chose a complicated pass play for rookie Matt Barkley instead of a simple run by the top back in the NFL, LeSean McCoy. The demoralizing fumble that followed was no surprise.
Late in the game, after a gift touchdown on a bad punt snap, Kelly chose a low-percentage onsides kick — three percent have succeeded in the past two NFL seasons — over a more conventional deep kickoff. Why did Kelly show so little faith in a defense that had kept Eli Manning out of the end zone? That strategic decision wasn’t just unnecessarily desperate; it was absurd.
Maybe these are the growing pains of a brand-new NFL coach. Maybe a year or two from now we will all chuckle at the questions we are asking today. Or maybe not. That’s the concern. After Sunday, maybe Chip Kelly isn’t the savior we thought he was.
‘Country club’ Linc needs The Vet’s snarl
From the day he bought the Eagles, Jeff Lurie was determined to change the atmosphere at games. He wanted a family environment, not the hooliganism that prevailed at Veterans Stadium. He dreamed of a comfortable, classy place filled with contented fans.
The moral of this story is, be careful what you wish for. At lovely Lincoln Financial Field, the only people enjoying the fancy digs more than the fans are opponents. Not only have the visitors won the last 10 games there, the Eagles have a distinction in sports that is extraordinary. Of the 122 franchises in the four major U.S. sports, they are the only team with a better record on the road than at home over the past decade.
Those who were here for the Eagles’ grungy 32-year run at The Vet are the only fans who understand how unimaginable that statistic really is. Love that old dump or hate it, no one can deny what a psychological edge those craters in the turf and those banshees in the 700 Level gave the Eagles.
The Birds’ world now is filled with luxury boxes, gourmet food and corporate signage. What is no longer tolerated are homemade signs draped down from the upper level, or any of the mayhem that made Veterans Stadium the most intimidating place in all of sports.
Progress is inevitable, but did it have to be at the expense of a home-field advantage? Is there any way to bring some of that Vet snarl to the Linc? Has the time come to close the country club and open a new house of horrors? Right now, Jeff Lurie really needs to ponder that.
Phils need to use TV money to fix Amaro’s mistakes
The Phillies are about to win the lottery, but will their incredible new TV deal help them win the World Series? Fortunately, we’re here to help.
If beleaguered GM Ruben Amaro uses some creativity with the extra $150 million a year — that’s right, $150 million per year — the Phils will not have to endure another horrible season like the 2013 nightmare we all had to endure.
Obviously, the Phillies will try to use some of that windfall on free agents, but Amaro must not stop there.
He now has the money to correct his many recent mistakes, and to reverse the negative course of the franchise. He can do this in two ways.
First, he needs to get rid of the bad contracts that are strangling the team. Ryan Howard and the ghastly $75 million left on his deal need to immediately head for the American League, where his many leg problems can hide behind the designated hitter. Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins should be next in line.
And second, Amaro has to identify the best talent scouts in the game — for example, those in St. Louis and Tampa Bay — and he needs to offer them so much money that they cannot say no to joining the Phillies.
Imagine how much better the Phils would be if they had a kid like Michael Wacha, of the Cardinals, in their starting rotation.
The rich are about to get much richer. The Phils owe it to Philadelphia fans to use that new money wisely — and, for a change, creatively.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
Here’s what else Angelo Cataldi needed to get off his chest this past week.
» If the Sixers don’t sell out tomorrow in their home opener against reigning champion Miami on the night of Allen Iverson’s official retirement, brace yourself for the worst turnout in a season for a major Philadelphia sports team ever. And the team’s carpetbagger owners deserve nothing more.
» Evan Turner said he isn’t worried about his contract because someone will want to pay him if the Sixers don’t. What is he smoking? Does he really believe there’s a demand for overrated, uncoachable head cases in the NBA? Uh, now that I think about it, maybe he’s right.
» Max Talbot’s face-plant into the boards last Thursday was one of the most horrifying moments in recent Flyers history, and his return to the ice just a short time later was one of the most courageous. The Flyers — and all of our teams — could use more players like Talbot.
» Nick Foles needs to talk about what happened in the Dallas loss nine days ago. Until he does, the label of “choker” is going to follow him everywhere. As soon as he passes his concussion protocol, his very first move should be to explain himself.
» The St. Louis Rams actually asked Brett Favre to come out of retirement and join their team last week, to no avail. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb keeps waiting by a phone that never rings. Sometimes, life is just not fair.