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Eagle Eye: Looking for a silver lining
Chip Kelly has coached the Eagles to a 1-3 record. (USA Today Images)
Long snapper Jon Dorenbos, cornerback Cary Williams, and offensive tackle Lane Johnson will host an Eagles pep rally Monday night in Bordentown. That ought to be a happy affair.
If the faithful don’t show up for the event, or if they arrive with furrowed brows and scowls instead of pens and autograph pads, they should be excused. Sunday was worse than expected. The Eagles went to Denver for a football game but ended up as helpless victims in a savage public beating. Peyton Manning and the Broncos flogged the Eagles so mercilessly that you half expected NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to unplug the television feed and replace the proceedings with a mature audience warning: The program you were watching contains unspeakable cruelty. Viewer discretion is advised.
The Eagles weren’t supposed to win that game -- there’s a reason the Broncos are the highest-scoring team in the league and were favored by double-digits -- but no one could have expected the Birds to get bludgeoned by 32 points. Pay attention to what happens next. If you want to know what kind of coach Chip Kelly is, if you’re unsure whether the Eagles made a sound investment when they lured him away from Eugene, watch how he responds to all this and how he adjusts.
During Kelly’s news conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday, he talked about monitoring his team’s “energy” and “mindset” when the players return to practice on Tuesday. Good idea. That kind of loss can scramble the brain and fry the heart. But what about the coach? How is Kelly processing what happened?
“Ready to go,” Kelly said. “Going to go play the Giants. Put the game to bed last night. Watched film and graded it on the plane ride home, met as a staff and went over the film, offensively, defensively and special teams and now we are fully on to the New York Giants.”
This is all new for Kelly – the league and the losses. The neophyte professional coach has lost three games in the last 15 days. That’s more defeats than Kelly suffered in 973 days at Oregon. This isn’t college. Kelly keeps getting reminded about that.
How will Kelly handle the setbacks? Will he be able to fix what’s clearly broken on defense? Will he tinker with the offense and piece it back into a unit that can score consistently again? Or will the struggles continue?
This is when the questions begin, and there are lots of them. In the days that follow, Kelly will be asked about his quarterback and his commitment to Michael Vick – not because Vick is the problem, but because changing the quarterback tends to happen on teams that don’t perform. He will be asked about his defense, which has been shredded all season with the same amount of effort required to tear tissue paper. He will be asked whether he can correct what has malfunctioned. He will be asked, essentially, whether he can coach a sick and wheezing team back to some form of health.
Confidence. People seemed to have a lot of it in Kelly before the season and after that first game. Now you wonder whether that remains the case.
The Eagles are 1-3. If you’re looking for good news – and that’s a relative term considering the Birds are still recovering from having their beaks bashed in - it’s the rather incredible fact that the Eagles aren’t out of the division hunt. They are 1-0 in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys are 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the NFC East. It is a mediocre division with no frightening frontrunner.
The Eagles will play their next two games on the road. They will face the Giants this weekend, followed by the Buccaneers the following Sunday. Those two teams have played eight combined games and haven’t won any of them. Of course, the Eagles have won exactly one game more than the Giants or Bucs. New York and Tampa are a mess, but it’s not like the Eagles are a tidy bunch with everything in order.
“Sometimes the enemy that we play isn't the other team,” Kelly said, “it's ourselves.”
And sometimes it’s both. But go ahead and look at the enemy within first. It’s as good a place to start as any.