Faithful Or Doubtful? Which Fan Are You?
It’s the dilemma of every realistic fan, but Philadelphia Eagles fans seem to suffer more than most. Do you show unbridled trust in the team regardless of questionable player moves, or game management? Or do you ride the team for all its worth, withholding compliments until they win that elusive Lombardi, knowing full well they have yet to do so? Or do you try to be not too hot, not too cold? Do you have faith or doubt? Which fan are you?
You likely know this year. There is no sitting on the fences. After a career year, in the midst of a multi-year contract the Philadelphia Eagles decided the services of wide receiver DeSean Jackson were no longer needed. Whichever side of the fan base you sit, the earth shook a little under your feet. Despite a myriad of stories about cost, gangs, disagreements, hyjinks, working out or not working out, this has placed an obstacle in the path of the Philadelphia Eagles where there was no obstacle at the end of the season.
It was a good ending to a surprisingly good year. The Philadelphia Eagles rallied from a 3-5 record to begin the season to finish very strong with a 7-2 record. It was good enough to win the NFC East division and to get them into the playoffs. Injured players coming back in 2014 included wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn, defensive end Joe Kruger,and special teams specialist and linebacker Jason Phillips. The team has another off-season opportunity to use free agency and the NFL draft to shore up the roster. The Eagle’s offense was just behind the incredible arsenal of the Denver Broncos and rejuvenated quarterback Peyton Manning, and the defense was stingy against the run, but very vulnerable to a passing game. With some tweaks, the defense could strengthen, and the offense would be just as if not more potent having had a full year to grasp the plays. While some looked for top free agents, the team mulled in the mid price range, selecting players for value and specific scheme needs.
The Eagles free agent strategy is coming into focus. Rather than sign guys with good talent and hoping they fit what the Eagles ask of them, the team would rather not sign and wait for a specific set of skills which would fit what they want to do. To put it into perspective, imagine a normal team drafts like you might paint a wall. They keep putting layers of talent each year and hope it turns out. This new strategy, a more focused and specific process, is more like someone putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. They look at players, compare to the picture they want to make, and select only that player or players who add to the team.
It’s a very different process than that which we had employed. Its very different from what we expected. A second best NFL offense just released its top receiver for no compensation. There have been some interesting insights as to the logic, but even the most intriguing and curious theories are simple speculation. Chip Kelly made it clear when he arrived in Philadelphia, he acts with a specific purpose. From monitoring player health via remote telemetry, to nutrition, to training – everything is done with a goal of being more efficient than the other team.
But there’s a price to pay for any fan willing to support an unknown. It’s faith and trust. The saying that has caught on recently is “In Chip We Trust”. If you don’t, you will find plenty to talk about to support your opinion. But if you do, you have plenty to talk about as well. In either case, we’re talking. This Eagles team is not scripted for the fans to follow. The team is a “Feeley Meeley” experience. (ala. Feeley Meeley game by Milton Bradley circa. 1965)
For me, it comes down to this. The biggest positive that I experience with today’s Eagles is not that we have Chip Kelly as our head coach, and that I believe he is one of the best coaches for that reason. The true answer for me is that I am downright giddy that the Philadelphia Eagles do not have to face a Chip Kelly coached team. The man is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the NFL, and about what works and what does not work. In the NFC East, there has been a parity for many years. As soon as a team wins the division, the next season they are struggling to win games. In the NFC East track record, the odds were already stacked against the Birds. By the time the draft rolls in, the team seems to be less of a sure thing than it did at season’s end. A year ago, the team’s ceiling appeared to be a .500 season. In fact, pundits wrote that the Eagles were sure to draft Geno Smith in the expectation that Chip Kelly would want a franchise quarterback. I think the season followed a different path, with a result that left all Eagles fans encouraged.
The NFL Draft is soon upon us. The painful wait (thanks NFL for delaying the draft this year) is almost over. Soon, the three days of the 2014 NFL draft selection process, and a mad scramble to sign the talent which did not make the draft, will simply be a letter grade by Mel Kiper. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, the Eagles process does not end until the team takes the field. However the team selects, Chip Kelly will coach them up into a team ready to play from the moment of the opening kickoff.
“We’re from Philly, and We Fight!” has never rang more true than this year.