Remember the good ole’ days? The mantra of that time was “I have to do a better job”. The weekly post-game news conference began with the then-obligation injury roll call. Taco Tuesdays and fast food Fridays were the big locker room hits. Fast forward to today. Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly gave us a classic soundbite this past season that sums it all up – “we’re from Philadelphia. We fight!” Fast food got quickly replaced with nutritious options. Customized post-workout smoothies and sports science conditioning rules the day. It is as stark a shift in mentality and operations in an NFL team that we’ve seen. And shockingly, it delivered a post-season birth to a team that ended the previous year unable to break .500. Chip Kelly changed the culture overnight in Philly, but is it enough to maintain the trust of the team (and the fans)?
Much has been said about the Birds’ parting ways with DeSean Jackson. Were there more off-field issues than what we’ve come to read and understand? Were there gang affiliations? Is there some other dirty laundry that the Eagles have yet to release (or perhaps don’t want to)? We may never know all the answers, and Jackson may very well get his paycheck with a new team very soon. The bottom line however, is that Kelly firmly established that he is in charge now, and that the organization is 100% behind him. Even something as simple as Chairman Jeff Lurie not making a statement on Jackson tells a story. For years, Andy Reid had about as much control in an organization as you could get beyond being an owner. Kelly, while not having the same level of direct operational control, may wield an ever greater power – the ability to manage the perceptions of the team. While the Philly media may not like it, or the fans for that matter, having a tight ship can instill confidence within the locker room that some of these issues are team issues and not for public consumption.
It’s pretty clear through all of the ups and downs in Season 1 of the rebooted Eagles that change is in the air and here to stay. One promising aspect of this is the apparent buy-in from the team. With the Jackson release, other NFL players came to his defense, but no one has directly come out from the Birds and defended him. Maybe it’s because they can’t in good conscience defend him? Maybe it’s because the culture has changed where it’s not the best thing for the team. Either way, silence says a lot (save for Jason Kelce’s recent tweak about excitement for the team’s future.) As a fan, you can’t help but be excited for where this team is headed. Unpopular decision or not, there is implicit trust by the organization placed in Chip’s methods and style. Time (and a potential Lombardi Trophy) will be the ultimate judge of success. For now, we must all trust in Chip.