Chip Kelly on if the Eagles will rest starters against the Bears this weekend: "We've got to play. We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to rest anybody." (AP)
His team needs to play football. It doesn’t need to rest. No matter what the circumstances.
That’s the way Chip Kelly is looking at this weekend.
The Eagles lead the Cowboys by one game in the NFC East with two games to play, and the two teams meet on the final day of the season in Texas.
On Sunday, the Cowboys face the Redskins at 1 p.m. in Landover, Md., and the Eagles face the Bears at 8:30 p.m. at the Linc.
If the Cowboys beat the Redskins, then the Eagles-Bears game has no bearing on the Eagles’ ability to win the NFC East.
Because under that scenario, the Cowboys would go into the finale with an 8-7 record and every tiebreaker over the Eagles. So whether the Eagles went into that game in Dallas 8-7 or 9-6 wouldn’t matter.
Either way, the winner of the game would win the division and lock up a playoff berth (see story).
The Eagles, even with a loss to the Bears, would be 9-7 with a win over the Cowboys, and the Cowboys -- assuming a win over the Redskins and a loss to the Eagles -- would be 8-8.
But -- still assuming Dallas beats the Redskins -- if the Eagles beat the Bears and then lose to the Cowboys, they lose the division, since they would both be 9-7, and the Cowboys would have two head-to-head wins over the Eagles.
So if the Cowboys do win Sunday, all the Eagles could gain by beating the Bears is playoff seeding. The Eagles can’t be a wild card and they can’t get a first-round bye, so they’re locked into either the No. 3 or No. 4 seed and would open in the first round against either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed.
But the conversation is moot. Kelly said no way he’s going to rest his starters, no matter what the circumstances.
“We've got to play,” Kelly said. “We’re not in a situation where we’ve got to rest anybody. We’ve got to play and get back on the winning track. We've got to be ready to play winning football.”
The Eagles are coming off their first loss in seven weeks, 48-30, to the Vikings Sunday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Kelly was asked why play the starters against the Bears if there’s little on the line instead of resting guys like Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson to make sure they don’t get hurt before a crucial game against the Cowboys.
“I think our philosophy has been it's on the line every time you play,” he said. “It's not really what goes on outside. It's we need to get better as a football team. Everybody needs to play.”
Coaches of veteran teams will generally rest starters for late-season games with little to gain.
In 2004, Andy Reid rested his starters for the last two games of the regular season after the Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a 13-1 start. The Eagles opened the playoffs against the Vikings a full four weeks after their last meaningful game, but it didn’t hurt the Eagles, who beat the Vikings and Falcons to reach the Super Bowl.
But that was a veteran team that had been to the playoffs four straight years and reached the NFC Championship Game the three previous seasons.
The 2013 Eagles are a young team still finding its way under a new head coach.
Kelly said he’s not wrapped up at all in what the Cowboys do. He said he was aware of the Packers’ comeback from 23 points down in the third quarter Sunday night while the Eagles’ charter flew back to Philadelphia but said all he cares about and all he’s concerned with is how his team does.
“I don't care what goes on with Dallas, to be honest with you,” he said. “We lost to the Vikings and that's not a good feeling. My whole philosophy is I'm worried about what we can control. We didn't play well enough [Sunday].”
So will Kelly follow along Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys and Redskins play?
No way. He just doesn’t care.
“It doesn't matter,” he said. “We know the score. We have phones and televisions and all that other stuff. But am I going to be glued to the set? No.
“I mean, it is what it is. Whatever happens in that game doesn't affect us. We still have to go out and play the Chicago Bears. I don't think we're going to have a victory party [if the Cowboys lose]. We have to play.”