Cataldi: Chip Kelly flunks first NFL test

Chip Kelly's inexperience with clock control cost the Eagles a winnable game Sunday against San Diego.
Chip Kelly’s inexperience with clock control cost the Eagles a winnable game Sunday against San Diego.

With Andy Reid secure in his new Kansas City home, our worries were over. There would never again be any teeth-gnashing or hand-wringing over late-game strategy — not with a quick thinker like Chip Kelly around.

Uh, hold that thought. The Eagles lost a game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field because of a pitiful defense, some stupid penalties and — above all — illogical thinking by Kelly at the end of a still-winnable game. The smartest coach on the planet went blank at the worst possible time. He blew the game.

The explosive Eagles offense had moved the ball onto the doorstep of an improbable win, 14 yards from a touchdown that would erase an afternoon of mistakes and provide a 34-30 victory. The clock was ticking down to the two-minute warning, and the Birds would have three tries at the end zone before a field-goal attempt that would, at the very least, put them into overtime.

But then Kelly and his offense did something ridiculous, something implausible. The Eagles raced to the line, snapped the ball at 2:09 and managed to get both quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Brent Celek injured on the same ill-fated pass. Moments later, San Diego had the ball back with 1:55 to play, tied at 30.

How was this possible? How could Kelly, a man who had lost seven games in four-plus seasons as a head coach, ignore the clock and stay in his hurry-up offense? At that point, his defense had given up close to 500 yards. He had to know another drive by quarterback Phillip Rivers would be fatal.

When I asked Kelly these questions on my WIP radio show Monday, he said “in hindsight” it probably would have made more sense to wind down the clock, but he wasn’t thinking about that at the time.

“We were just focused on scoring a touchdown there,” he explained.

Unlike Reid, Kelly’s answer was respectful, and also unlike Reid, he left the distinct impression that he would learn from the mistake. But still, it was stunning to see a coach with his obsessive attention to detail make such a glaring error in judgment. This was Football 101, and Kelly just flunked the first big test.

In the end, the coach said he was disappointed in everyone after his first NFL defeat — the secondary for allowing 413 passing yards, the defense for permitting 10-of-15 third-down conversions, the offense for squandering several chances and a few players for boneheaded penalties.

But when he looked at the tape, he realized what we all knew after that maddening loss. The victory was still right there, 14 yards away, with two minutes left when Chip Kelly himself lost his way, and then lost the game.

 

 

Birds cannot lose to Chiefs 

 

Andy Reid absolutely must not beat the Eagles when he returns to Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night. If there is a wide smile under that bushy mustache at game’s end, the bubble of hope created by Chip Kelly will burst. Reid must lose — preferably in a humiliating manner.

Think about it. Kelly took over a 4-12 team smothered by the slow thinking and tired clichés of Reid. By the end of his 14-year tenure here, Reid had frustrated much of the city and many of the players with his uninspiring presence. He disrespected fans with his robotic answers to the simplest questions. He ruined football here for at least two seasons.

The very last thing Philadelphia needs to see on Thursday night is an invigorated (and undefeated) Reid lead the 2-14 dog of a Kansas City team he inherited to its third straight win over the Birds. It would not just be a victory for the past over the present, it would be a conquest for a man not worthy of one. Reid may be the most successful coach in Eagles history, but he will always be the most annoying one, too.

If you want to know how his players really feel about him, all you need to do these days is study their recent comments. Last week, Jason Kelce called the 2012 Eagles “stagnant.” LeSean McCoy praised the new coach’s ability to call plays quickly and effectively. DeSean Jackson held hands with Kelly at practice last week and said he felt “renewed.” They were as sick of Reid as we all were.

And so now we have reached an early crossroad in Chip Kelly’s promising career as Eagles coach. If he sends Reid out of here a loser, it will be a gratifying moment for Philadelphia. But if Reid somehow prevails, we will all plunge right back into the long nightmare we just escaped.

 

 

Phillies should fire Montgomery next

 

Now that Charlie Manuel is gone and Ruben Amaro has won the title of village idiot, it’s time to focus on the real problem in the Phillies organization. It is a man beloved by everyone for his gentle nature and his winning past. It is president Dave Montgomery.

As if fans had not been insulted enough by this unwatchable team playing out the final weeks of a dreadful season, Montgomery somehow thought it was a great time to offer a resounding vote of confidence to Amaro in an interview last week that established just how blind to reality the boss has become.

First, he said, “Oh, Ruben is our general manager” — as if the notion of replacing a man who has destroyed the roster of a championship team was absurd. Then, Montgomery proclaimed that the people who had identified Jayson Werth as a great player are still there today, looking for the next undiscovered gem.

Hello? The GM when Werth arrived here was Pat Gillick, who had a connection to the player for many years. Yes, Gillick is still technically a consultant for the Phillies … but he clearly isn’t responsible for signing Delmon Young, trading for Michael Young and assembling one of the worst outfields and bullpens in team history.

Montgomery also spoke optimistically about the Phillies returning to glory soon, especially with a windfall of new TV money on the way. He is in denial. The Phillies are a losing team with an old roster and a clueless GM. Until the real boss — Dave Montgomery — realizes just how grave the situation is, we should brace for more rotten seasons like 2013.

 

 Idle thoughts from Cataldi

 

» Roy Halladay, a pitcher in serious decline who has been treated with fairness and dignity throughout his four years here, is now whining about the demands of the Philadelphia media. Oh, please. If he wanted blind allegiance and no public scrutiny, he should have stayed in Toronto.

» Shane Victorino has become much more productive now that he has abandoned switch-hitting with the Boston Red Sox and bats only from the right side. Isn’t it amazing that the one of the greatest hitting coaches ever, Charlie Manuel, never realized this?

» Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine cemented his reputation as a contemptible person when he ripped the Yankees last week for not doing enough in New York after the 9/11 attacks. It takes a special kind of jerk to use 9/11 to vilify someone. Valentine is a disgrace — to the game, and to himself.

» Flyers GM Paul Holmgren managed to insult Simon Gagne with the broken promise of a new contract last week and then got snubbed by Dan Cleary, a 34-year-old nonentity with bad knees. Chairman Ed Snider immediately issued another vote of confidence for Holmgren. What did you expect?

» With attendance in freefall, the Phillies invited fans to bring their dogs to a game last week. The highlight came when a pit bull squared off with the Phanatic on the field between innings. Three other dogs played the rest of the game in the outfield for the Phillies.

 

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