As we stand on the precipice of another NFL season, fans of all teams tend to relish their team’s undefeated record. Hope always springs eternal in the late summer, but that hope has waned for Eagles fans over the past five or so seasons as they tired of a regime that seemed destined never to reach the mountaintop.
For most of the last 14 years, Eagles fans have been one of the few hopeful groups whose hopes were not quickly dashed when they saw their team take the field and stumble to midseason mediocrity.
But that was not enough after so many years, and for the last few seasons, Eagles fans who had become accustomed to their team being a perennial contender were let down, bitterly. They were reminded that in the NFL, reputation does not translate to results and past performance does not guarantee future production.
The Eagles crashed and burned so spectacularly the last two seasons that it brought the inevitable: admission by the owner that Andy Reid, a very successful albeit flawed head coach, had finally run his course in Philadelphia.
Eagles brass accomplished its goal of luring Chip Kelly, the acclaimed coach they wanted from the college ranks, and his presence has restored that intense sense of hope among Eagles fans.
Is it justified?
Kelly will not revolutionize the NFL; however, he is so innovative and football-obsessed that it seems a good bet he will devise an offense that will score points in this league.
Just the fresh presence of a new Head Coach is enough to rejuvenate most Eagles fans, this writer among them. Kelly has a commanding personality, is unquestionably an offensive genius and is a big thinker. We do not know yet if he is a good NFL Head Coach, but we have reason to hope; a huge positive this time of year.
Michael Vick played well enough in the preseason to win the starting job in Kelly’s offense; yet once he was declared the starter, he quickly regressed to turning the football over and making bad decisions.
At this point, it is likely Vick will always regress to his undisciplined, mind-boggling form where he commits turnovers like it’s his job (and then denies they happened).
The last two years, opposing defenses have hit him hard and hit him often to the point that his brains got scrambled and he started making poor decisions again. Then, he would get injured.
That strategy has been so effective the last two seasons, it’s likely opponents will employ it again this year. Be it Vick or Foles, who looked excellent running Kelly’s signature hurry-up offense in the first two preseason games, Kelly will find a way to get the Eagles offense to score points.
As certain as it is that Kelly will put a potent offensive team on the field, it seems equally certain that the Eagles defense will surrender a lot of points this year. High-scoring football is entertaining in a lot of cities; not in Philadelphia, where fans have always loved defense more than offense.
There are two aspects over which fans have to be worried: the conversion from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and the selection of Billy Davis as the guy to oversee it.
Is there reason to believe he can be Chip Kelly’s Jim Johnson? Kelly or the Eagles brass must think so, but it seems a dubious contention.
The secondary looks to be the weakest area, with no help on the horizon. Some players like Kenny Phillips, who was brought in to improve it, have already been cut.
The Eagles have had good years and bad, but the one constant was the workmanlike performance of their defense, and the last two season have been an embarrassment.
Some years they lacked talent and performed poorly. Other times, like in the 1991 season, they were ferocious and ascended to heights NEVER before seen by any other defense in the history of the NFL.
But fans could always count on effort. It was what the Eagles were known for and what has been maddeningly missing the last two seasons. In the Philadelphia region, effort has always been held in higher esteem than talent.
On the eve of the season, that remains the biggest concern; can Billy Davis inspire the new players and the holdovers to restore the Eagles’ defensive pride?
Fans do not expect instant success. If the defense simply plays hard and hits hard, Kelly’s honeymoon will last much longer and Eagles fans can once again wear the green and silver with a sense of pride.
This season is not about wins and losses as much as it is about Kelly’s acclimation to the NFL. Fans have to give him a couple seasons to figure it out, provided he shows promise this year. His presence is an added reason to salivate for the start of the season; absent is the slightly stale aftertaste of the past few late summers.