Cataldi: Eagles get it right with Chip Kelly

An NFL coach can answer questions with honesty and wit. He can treat fans with genuine respect. He can adjust his philosophy to the roster, and he can actually enjoy the process. Who knew?

The Chip Kelly era has begun for the Eagles, and if the first week is any indication, football will be fun again in Philadelphia. Kelly racked up as many style points in his first few days here as his prolific Oregon teams scored in his four years there. He isn’t just a breath of fresh air; he is a cool, refreshing breeze after the stench of 2012.

If we needed any further proof that Andy Reid was gone, Kelly provided it the moment he sat down on the NovaCare Complex stage and offered real answers to important questions. Even in Reid’s earliest days, he never exuded the confidence or energy that Kelly provides naturally. Reid was a paranoid bully. Kelly, for now, is a bundle of infectious enthusiasm.

Of course, this whole Chip Kelly phenomenon could develop into a spectacular disaster, especially if his unconventional approach to football strategy doesn’t translate to the NFL. His unique offense might bog down against the best players in the world. His decisions to go for it on fourth down and to try two-point conversions might work well only against bad Pac-12 teams.

But this experiment will be vastly different than the last couple of years with Andy Reid. Unlike Reid, Kelly talks fast, aggressively, with purpose. And he says things we want to hear, in a winning manner. He is smart enough to invoke the Eagles’ heritage of Vince Papale and Dick Vermeil and Chuck Bednarik, the fans’ ambivalent relationship with Santa Claus and, yes, Wing Bowl.

What really matters is one slice of philosophy he has practiced throughout his career. Kelly said he will adapt his system to the talent on the roster. In contrast to Reid and his overrated West Coast offense, Kelly isn’t tethered to one approach. He is creative enough to devise plans based on whether his quarterback can run or throw or think.

When he appeared on my WIP show last Friday, I asked Kelly what was the most important quality he seeks in a quarterback. He didn’t hesitate. “Quick thinking,” he said. Hello, Nick Foles. Goodbye, Mike Vick.

First impressions are often wrong; fans embraced Rich Kotite in his first season as head coach. The impression Chip Kelly made in his initial week didn’t feel like the first blush of a new relationship. It felt like a new era with a new hero — a crazed coach chasing his dream in the most passionate football city in America.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Chip Kelly. You got here just in time.

Lurie ruins triumph with sour words

Jeff Lurie did something amazing last week. The Eagles owner took a moment of triumph — the signing of new coach Chip Kelly — and managed to stain it with his own petty bitterness. As a result, what had been a great week for Lurie and his organization degenerated into a puzzling one.

Lurie began the PR firestorm when he said the Eagles had “no competition” for Kelly before the Oregon coach decided to sign a five-year deal here. Clearly, Lurie was suggesting that his former partner, Browns CEO Joe Banner, provided no challenge to Lurie and his new BFF, GM Howie Roseman, in wooing Kelly.

Of course, Lurie couldn’t stop there. He openly implied that a report by Jason La Canfora of CBS that Roseman had become “drunk with power” and was sabotaging the Eagles’ coaching hunt had been leaked by Banner himself. Lurie, who often snorts at unsubstantiated reports about his own team, offered no proof of this allegation.

What La Canfora reported was common knowledge, both during the coaching search and long before it. I have two sources of my own for that allegation — my right ear and my left ear. Just listen to Roseman speak. Since he won a power struggle over Banner last spring, does the GM sound like a football guru or a babbling novice?

Lurie acted foolishly and without class in launching his latest assault on Banner. Whether you like Banner or can’t stand him — count me firmly in the latter group — Lurie became a billionaire because of his ex-friend’s efforts. What the smug Eagles owner needs to do with some of his money is invest in a good GPS – so he can finally find the high road in this nasty feud.

Finding it hard to get Flyer’d Up

Maybe it’s me. Maybe hockey is just a game that I’m not wired to enjoy — at least not the same way I savor football, baseball and basketball. The long-delayed start of the NHL season finally arrived Saturday, and it was a day I am already trying to purge from my memory. Ugh.

For a change, the hype really captured my attention. Chairman Ed Snider offered his annual commitment to win a Stanley Cup, something he has failed to do for 37 consecutive seasons. More than 15,000 fans turned out for a practice (we’re talking about practice) last Thursday night. The great Claude Giroux was named captain.

Then the Flyers raced onto the ice for the opening game, the crowd rose to cheer, and blat. It was 2-0 Pittsburgh moments later. The teams went 30 minutes with no goals. I fell asleep.

Having covered the 1983-84 Flyers on a daily basis for the Inquirer, I understand the appeal of hockey. But I can’t fully commit to a sport with so little scoring. Heck, when it was 2-1 late in the game, the Flyers appeared helpless. They were more pathetic the next day in a 5-2 loss to Buffalo.

Hey, I’m happy for the most loyal sports fans in Philadelphia. They’ve got their Flyers back. As for me, well, I’ll be getting a little more sleep.

Idle thoughts

» Jeff Lurie actually said this about his 4-12 team: “Some of the real iconic names were telling our candidates that this was by far the best organization to come in and work for.” OK, who’s going to inform the Eagles owner that he’s totally delusional. Any volunteers?

» Eagles defensive end Trent Cole is snubbing the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show next week because the organizers are banning a display on assault weapons. An avid hunter, Cole feels strongly about gun rights. As an Eagles fan, I feel strongly about Trent Cole. He should be released, for his poor play and for his shocking insensitivity.

» Manti T’eo, the biggest man on Notre Dame’s campus acquired a “girlfriend” on the internet, then shared the story of her death just before the Heisman voting. Hmmm. He’s either too dumb to succeed in the NFL, or he’s a liar. Take your pick.

» Lance Armstrong thinks a couple of hours with Oprah are going to make things right after years of cheating, lying and bullying? Uh, no. Nothing is going to fix his image. What he needs to do is get back on his bike and ride out of our lives, just another fake hero unmasked.

» Doug Collins snapped at a reporter the other day because the scribe had the gall to ask if maybe the Sixers were tuning out the constantly whining coach. “That’s doo-doo,” said Collins, proving once again that he’s a master communicator.

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