No forecast for an NFL season has ever been more precarious than the one facing us right now. That being the 2013 adventure of the Eagles and their unpredictable rookie coach Chip Kelly. Will he revolutionize the league with his unorthodox methods? Or will he fail spectacularly?
If you hate suspense, here are the answers to those two critical questions: Yes and no.
Yes, Kelly will change how teams prepare for games, the pace of offensive plays and many strategic decisions along the way. He has already altered the thinking of the most obsessive coach in the game, Bill Belichick of New England. The others will surrender to the trends, too. Sheep always do.
No, he will not fail spectacularly. In fact, he will not fail at all, especially after following a 4-12 debacle that marked the long-overdue end of Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure. Really, Kelly just has to win five games to crow about progress and all of those other tired coaching clichés.
Of course, we already know that Chip Kelly would never settle for a five-win season, nor for the clichés. The man was 44-7 at Oregon. He doesn’t lose well, or often. Any prediction of his rookie season must begin with that simple fact. Kelly is a winner.
What the coach has accomplished, both psychologically and physically, to Mike Vick is Exhibit A that Kelly is a master. No one (other than Kelly) thought Vick would be back this season, and now the bandwagon is rolling again for the revitalized quarterback. He’s stronger now, smarter, more committed.
There’s something else about the new coach that will take fans a while to comprehend. He runs the football. Unlike Reid, Kelly enjoys controlling the pace of a game on the ground, a fact that should be great news for one of the best runners in the NFL, LeSean McCoy. Add game-changer DeSean Jackson, a new corps of versatile tight ends and a fortified line, and you’ve got a winning offense.
Unfortunately, there is another side of the ball, and that’s where all of the concerns will be this season. Journeyman defensive coordinator Billy Davis has no track record of success — in any NFL role, really — and yet he is overseeing a dubious collection of unproven talent. Disaster seems inevitable when the Eagles are on defense, at least right now.
So how does it all add up? Well, the common denominator is Kelly himself and how fast he adjusts to the new level of competition. How soon he gets his players to believe and how much time it takes for him to emerge as the great NFL coach he is destined to be.
Call this a leap of faith if you must. The Eagles are going to the playoffs this season. They will win nine games, en route to a run with Chip Kelly that will make us all forget Andy Reid.
Blind loyalty to Charlie Manuel sickening
Now that the most ridiculous sendoff in Philadelphia sports history is finally over, it’s time to examine the fans’ bizarre reaction to Charlie Manuel’s firing. Two important lessons about the way we think emerged from this orgy of Charlie love.
The response proved, yet again, what Fred Shero said four decades ago, just before the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup: “Win today, and we walk together forever.” Nowhere is that statement more accurate than in Philadelphia. The long goodbye for Charlie Manuel proved you only have to win once here to be beloved forever.
At no point in the discussion that followed Manual’s ouster were the final five seasons of his tenure analyzed. At no point were all of the mistakes that squandered important wins mentioned. It was just one long parade of mindless zealots lamenting his departure. In a city known for its scrutiny of sports teams, most of us went blind when Manuel finally left.
The second lesson is one that will not go down easy: Philadelphia has an inferiority complex. Geographically dwarfed by New York to the north and Washington, D.C. to the south, we never really expect to win. Can you imagine the reaction if the Yankees had won once in nine seasons with the talent Manuel had? New York would be roasting him, not toasting him.
My column two weeks ago declaring that Manuel was the most overrated manager in Phillies history received a negative reaction unlike anything — on the radio or in print — I’ve ever done. I would love to admit my mistake right now and move on, but I can’t. What I wrote is true, every word of it.
I am sorry … but only that Charlie Manuel wasn’t a manager worthy of the loving sendoff he just got.
Goodell, NFL all about the money
The NFL admitted to no wrongdoing. Those are the words that resonated last week when our most powerful sport agreed to pay $765 million to more than 4,500 concussion victims. The NFL did nothing wrong. It is just paying $765 million because it cares.
In the history of professional sports, no league has ever lied more brazenly to protect its own image, and the NFL seems to be extending the boundaries of its own dishonesty with every new issue, every new statement. The NFL paid out all that money last week for only one reason — to end a PR nightmare.
How does it look when Jim McMahon says he can’t find his way home anymore because of the effects of countless concussions? How horrifying is it that Junior Seau went from the Super Bowl to the morgue after a suicide blamed on head trauma? People were beginning to see the NFL as heartless and greedy. In other words, accurately.
So the league decided to make a $765-million investment in image rehabilitation. The payout was nothing more than hush money for a core group of athletes disabled by the brutality of their own sport. These players knew they were taking a huge risk when they chose to slam themselves into each other for a living, but still their public anger and suffering was bad for the league.
Here’s what you need to know about the NFL and this concussion settlement: The billionaire owners and their slick commissioner, Roger Goodell, give a damn about nothing but money. It took $765 million to reinforce their bogus image of caring. That’s why they settled with the players last week. It was a business decision.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Ruben Amaro’s decision not to trade Michael Young a month ago to the Yankees for $5 million and a decent prospect became even more absurd last weekend when the Phillies’ GM gave Young to the Dodgers for a lesser prospect — and had to kick in $1.7 million. How many more dumb moves like this can Amaro survive?
» Eagles GM Howie Roseman said first-round bust Danny Watkins didn’t pan out because of the NFL lockout and the pressure of being a top pick. Here’s one more reason why Watkins was cut last weekend: He can’t play.
» Am I the only one who will be rooting hard for the team that faces Kansas City and Andy Reid every week? It is inevitable that Reid will improve on the Chiefs’ abominable 2-14 record of last season, but my dream would be for 0-16.
» The big news last week was that New England coach Bill Belichick looked the other way at Aaron Hernandez’s brazen drug abuse in his blind ambition to win. Really? The coach who cheated in Spygate is morally bankrupt? Shocking.
» The worst thing about being a sports fan during a two-week Jersey shore vacation is walking for miles on the beach without hearing a single radio tuned to the Phillies’ game. Time marches on. Go, Eagles.