Assessing Expectations for the 2013 Eagles

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.


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Jeem September 07, 2013 at 12:08 PM
I believe in Chip. Although this year if they have a bad season, I blame your boy Andy for leaving the cubbard bare. He goes off to KC with 6 pro bowlers and leaves our team in disarray. Thanks Big Red you fat SOB. I think we need to give chippah some time but in three years, he will make all eagles fans forget about Andy Reid. Mark it down.
Mike Diviney September 07, 2013 at 02:34 PM
I have high hopes for Chip Kelly as well, but to blindly put him in the HOF isn't wise. Let him coach a game before deciding he'll make us forget about 5 NFC Championship Games and a Superbowl loss. This is a transition year for him. It will be a lot of fun to watch, if not a lot of W's.
Mike Diviney September 07, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Bo, I agree they don't really have the personnel to install a 3-4. I think Kendrick, Demeco and Barwin are all good players, but to ask either B. Graham or Trent Cole to morph from DE to OLB at this point in their careers (particularly Cole) is foolish. Plus, to do so negates what they both are good at, which is getting to the QB. Maybe Davis can find a way to make them fit, but I don't see how.
Jack Walden September 07, 2013 at 04:08 PM
I am looking forward to the day that Foles is a starter; probably by game 3 or 4. All teams have 12 years of film on Vick and they know how to handle him. As for the defense, I think Chip has to better manage the the time he has and not give carte blanche to Davis.
Phil McConkey September 07, 2013 at 07:58 PM
what do you think the % is Chip Kelly gets booed this season? 50%? or more like 75%? I think he'll be booed by week 9.
bo September 07, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Yeah we don't have the personnel in place to run the 3-4, and yes two of those LBs you mentioned may be fine, but we all know why we got Demeco from Houston, and only had to give up a 4th. Look at all those stud/all pro defenders that Gamble assisted in drafting for the 9ers in his 9 years there. I heard that if we didn't move up and get the pick from Jacksonville that Andy was going to then take Barkley with the next pick. I wish someone, say Gamble would have spoken up a bit more, against the Barkley pick. I understand why he didn't. The simple argument is your roster lacked depth and quality at LB already, and now your switching to a system that uses four LBs instead of three, we need to draft any LB with an early pick, who played in a 3-4 system in college. Anyway I hope everyone reads that article which I put a link to above, and sees how both the journalist and researchers who published the study, ranking the most to least stable fan bases in the NFL, try to rationalize why we Eagles' fans came out looking, well, so rational. This discovery seemed to confound them & the WSJ writer. We're the 3rd most stable, horray! I honestly think their findings could be interpreted to say that we're some of the most knowledgeable fans in the NFL.
Mel Sharples September 08, 2013 at 08:50 AM
Every single coach in the NFL will be boo'd by Week 4. You can also count on Patriots fans ripping Tom Brady as a "distracted pretty boy" after the 1st loss. And calls for Coughlin's firing if the Giants miss the playoffs. Eagles fans are no better or worse than any other fan base in the NFL. It's a harsh business.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Couldn't agree more with Jack. I'm also looking forward to seeing Foles run the show, but hoping Vick plays well in the meantime. I also agree Davis has not earned Jim Johnson- like autonomy. Chip can't be the alter of Buddy and care only about the O and not the D- not with Billy Davis as DC.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 02:26 PM
Phil, he might get booed in an isolated circumstance, but generally, I think even Philadelphia fans understand it's his first year and will give him a grace period.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 02:28 PM
I don't agree with you there Mel. It is a harsh business, but I think fans in the Northeast corridor- and you mentioned us, NE, NY- are more demanding than the rest of the country. I'm basing that on traveling to away Eagles games. They're definitely more forgiving in the Midwest.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Demeco was their best defender last season. One of the few who acted like a pro and played hard all year. And he was very productive. I don't worry about him. It's that 4th LB spot that's reason for concern. That overblown snowballs at Santa Claus rep is old. Philly fans are tough, but loyal and knowledgeable as well.
Jeem September 08, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Good showing by Gus Bradley today at home on opening day..
Jeem September 08, 2013 at 03:54 PM
And Foles is garbage
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 04:56 PM
Foles had a better rating than Vick did last year and he was playing with an even more depleted team. Herremans out, Desean Jackson out, etc. You saw what happened when Vick played with that same team- lost 42-7 to a non-playoff team, then blamed everyone else. I hope Chip can make the offense work with Vick, I just think he'd have better luck with Foles.
Jeem September 08, 2013 at 05:42 PM
The team had given up by the time Vick came back for that last game. Foles has a weak arm, no mobility and never won in college. I will take my chances with Vick with a solid offensive game plan (has not had that with Reid) and an Oline that does not have Mike Diviney and Matf Falciani blocking
Mel Sharples September 08, 2013 at 09:47 PM
In Pittsburgh today, a fan base rained boos on their team for some time before abandoning them with about 6 minutes left on the clock. The reason you don't hear boos in the Midwest, South, and West Coast is simple. When it hits the fan they just stop paying attention. They just stop showing up. That doesn't happen in the NE. But NFL fans everywhere are just as brutal when riled.
Larry O'Doyle September 08, 2013 at 10:35 PM
First off, Falciani is a very underrated blocker. As for Billy Davis, he deserves as much leeway as Chip and the rest of the staff. The front office did little to improve the defensive personnel from last year's moribund bunch. Consistent effort and incremental improvement throughout the season are the only upgrades I hope to see. Go Birds!
Mel Sharples September 08, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Watching this DAL-NYG game and the track record of Shanahan / RGIII's leg and have to say... Birds can win this division at 8-8. No question about it.
Mel Sharples September 08, 2013 at 10:41 PM
PS - half of NFL teams have a guy like Foles. He's just a guy.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 11:09 PM
I don't think anyone can say that yet. We haven't seen enough of Foles to determine what he is. I know he ran Chip's hurry up like a finely oiled machine in the preseason. But whatever, he's not the starter right now so let's deal with what's there for the opener and enjoy it. Go BIRDS!!
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Agree on Falciani, Larry. Incremental improvements and effort are the most important things to see. Chip has a blank slate, that's why he gets leeway. Davis has 2 strikes against him already, but I hear you. You can't hold that against him, but it worries me.
Mike Diviney September 08, 2013 at 11:16 PM
Mel, I've been to Pitt. If you think they stop caring anymore than we do, you're nuts. I've personally been to KC and Green Bay. They've had some BAD teams and sell out EVERY week no matter what... and they're not nearly as hostile to visiting fans. I like our rep as tough fans anyway. Just shows we're passionate.
Mel Sharples September 09, 2013 at 06:49 AM
Are you old enough to remember the Bubby Brister era? Their stadium was half empty. It's a town famous for bailing on teams the second they stop being contenders (Pens, Pirates as well). That's just history. I lived in NYC in the late 80's / early 90's, you couldn't find a Yankee fan anywhere. It was 100% Mets. And I lived waaaaaay uptown. Once Melo leaves it'll be 100% Nets. People find other things to do with their time and money. Fans are fickle. That's not insulting anyone, that's just human behavior. The ONLY fan base that sticks with their team when it sucks is the Red Sox fans in New England. But that's only because they're Irish Catholic sensibilities make it so they enjoy martyrdom more than winning. And Green Bay, where fandom is a civic hobby...and there's little else to do.
Reed Rothchild September 09, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Good piece Mike. This is a transition year regardless so Chippah as well as us real fans will have to take the good with the bad and work on improving for the years to come. Anything better than last year is an improvement. Any Given Sunday! Birds 35, Washington - 28 (I can't use their derogatory name) FLY!
bo September 09, 2013 at 09:32 PM
First off, Mel, I've been to Fenway in the late 80s & early 90s and it wasn't sold out every night like it is now. I'd say 3/4s full on weekends and a little less during the week. I lived in Chicago and could make the same assement for the same time period as I just made for the Sox. Those are pretty loyal fans, would you agree? 2nd, does anyone wanna change their mind about this re-building process and how long it might take. I am a bit shocked, in a good way, and am certain I'm not alone. Enjoy the 2nd half!
Mike Diviney September 10, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Yeah Bo, I'm shocked as well. Trying not to get carried away, but I can't believe how dynamic this offense is. Still worried about the D, but I'm starting to think we might be farther along than I thought.
bo September 11, 2013 at 02:18 AM
Exactly Mike, I too am trying not too get that carried away. It is only one game of 16 & it's the first one. We beat the Super Bowl champs in week 2 last season, right. D DiMat made a great comparison when we spoke earlier. You remember Loyola Marymount, once coached by Philly guy Paul Westhead, run his crazy fast system in the late 80s & early 90s. One of his central offensive philosophies was to get off as many shots as possible and get them off as quick as possible.
bo September 12, 2013 at 10:33 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxHGK9LKpfM Watch the first 20 mins of this 30 for 30 movie on LMU. The similarities are many and striking. Start at the 15min spot, and you'll see what I mean. Between the 15-20 min mark, they must mention 'Philly' 25 times and how this unique style of organized fast paced basketball is really the same well known style they, Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, played on the streets of North Philly. Why and how to properly inbound the basketball, to assure the pace of the offensive, was described as vital to the success of Westhead's system. This seems important to Chip, and how he runs his football offense.
Mike Diviney September 12, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Inbounding the basketball seems important to Chip? I know what you're saying, but a bit of a stretch. I used to love watching LMU. Was such a tragedy that Hank Gathers died on the court so young.
bo September 13, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Getting the football to the referee quickly, so the pace and amount of the plays which might be possible is increased. I was fascinated, how before and then during training camp all the banter that seemed to be coming more from outside rather than Chip himself, about what he could and couldn't do or what he might do to speed up the pace, in order to get as many plays off as possible. That other team's coaches and even the league office, who were familiar with how he ran his offense at Oregon, and didn't want Chip to finds ways to push the NFL referees to assist in the pace he wanted. That this was one obvious tactic he used at Oregon to get more plays off. I heard Chip say once that football wasn't like basketball or soccer, where the players on the field could control the pace much of the time, i'e. an in-bounds after your opponent has just scored a basket or a throw-in in soccer. I assume he felt by not having the refs have to set the football, before each snap, rather letting the center do this, he could speed up his offense even more. That lost time between snaps had great value lost. Yeah a total tragedy with Hank. We could have our own lesser tragedy with our Eagles. Watching that movie again I kept thinking Vick is either going get knocked out for the season, and or have his career ended, by doing something stupid like the handful of times on Monday night he was in front of LeSean, blocking for him.


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