By Bret Stuter
Jan 4, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (14) runs with the ball as New Orleans Saints cornerback Corey White (24) chases in the second quarter during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
"“It might be choice, or a small inner voice. I can’t say. When you add up the cost, we all have a cross. How do you write off a loss? Where do I go from here? (where do I go from here?) How do I find my way? (can’t find it) When is it loud and clear, that there’s no turning back, no looking back? Where do I go from here? (where do I go from here?) Nobody gets away. (Nobody.) It’s a new kind of fix to the poor and the rich. You never know what’s coming next… At the Turning Point. – From the group: TOTO Album: The Essential Toto"
The key to sports is drama. The turning point of a game’s momentum. That moment, that series of plays where you can literally feel the collective will of a team, its coaches, and even it’s fans effect a change in fortunes. The key is the turning point.
The Philadelphia Eagles are chalk full of turning points on the team heading into 2014. Perhaps it was the sudden return to relevance? Perhaps it was not one, but two players on the roster who suddenly became frequent flyers on the Hall of Fame donation list. Perhaps it was the incredible finish, one play, one pass, one interception, one NFC East division winner. Perhaps it was the way our team seemed to score at will, or how our defense went from allowing other team’s offenses the same courtesy, but decided to get physical and stalwart in the second half of the season. Or perhaps years of almosts, that close, son-of-a-what-the-hell-was-he-thinking? In any case, Philadelphia Eagles fans have not been completely won over just yet.
Sure, there’s plenty of talk and optimism. But when the volume dies down, folks still need answers to this team that only 2014 can deliver.
Perhaps you see me as just one of those media guys who loves poking bee’s nests. This Eagles team will be just fine. Oh yeah? Well that’s faith and hope talking. The Birds absolutely have strong positives and I would be neither surprised nor disappointed if they become a post season favorite this year. But that’s the future. And without hard evidence, hard proof, it’s anybody’s guess. That’s the drama we love… the uncertainty. When the season starts, it’s time to put it out there.
But at this moment, before pads go one, before a football is snapped, before we get to see whether the team grew together or apart, got better or got complacent, got hungry or simply got and doesn’t want to be bothered, we can’t be sure. Why? Its a simple explanation. It’s just too soon to be certain.
Apr 26, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly at the 120th Penn Relays at Franklin Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
What does head coach Chip Kelly have for an encore? That’s a very good question. Some believe the 2013 Eagles were as good as Chip Kelly gets on offense, others believe he’s just getting warmed up, and that the speed, diversity of plays, and even the personnel on the roster last year were rather limiting to Chip’s vision. Can this team get faster? Can this team turn sports science into a very healthy season? Can Chip Kelly continue to confound defensive coaches by being one step ahead of them, or will defensive coaches unlock the mystery and the Eagles will struggle on offense?
Well if you can believe training camp and the messages which emerge from helmets, short sleeved shirts and shorts, this team is even faster. And if you were taking notes in 2013, at this time a year ago the Chippah was in the process of inventorying – taking stock of who and what he had on his team. From introductions straight to production, the assessment process had to be incredibly fast in order to convert those player skills into a formidable offense. There was no decision about starting quarterback, and the contrasting styles of Michael Vick and Nick Foles placed even the most imaginative football minds into a tailspin: How could the coach declare open competition when the resulting winner would dictate virtually completely different offensive styles and playbooks. But they did compete, and the playbooks surprisingly were custom fit to either quarterback.
And so there it is. Was it beginner’s luck, or a coach who simply did “Win the day”? Have the Birds gone from fool’s gold to gold? Judging by the results of 2013, it’s more than a mirage. The team has been thought to have talent, but no common thread to sew them into one cohesive unit; no common goal to place their focus on; no common cadence to have everyone marching in the same rhythm. Has Chip Kelly found that cadence?
The fork in the road stares into the face of everyone associated with this team, officially or indirectly as fans. Superstitions kick in, if we talk too boisterously we jinx the fortunes of the team. If we discount too deeply, we tempt fate to hit us between the eyes with self-fulfilling prophecy. On one hand, we had career years out of Riley Cooper, LeSean Jackson, Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin. On the other hand, we barely had Riley Cooper or Nick Foles on the radar before last year. The season was a tale of two teams. Which was the real one? The 3-5 team that couldn’t stop anyone on defense, or the 7-1 team that couldn’t be stopped on offense?
Let’s talk about some of the key points this pre-season: