During the Eagles’ bye week Metro sat down with the legendary Merrill Reese, Eagles play-by-play man for the past 39 years to discuss the state of the team, Chip Kelly, Eagles fans and the time he did a radio with Bill Cosby while attending Temple.
How unexpected has been the way this Eagles season has played out?
“I’ve never seen a season like it. Everyone thought this team would be the class of the NFC and right now they’re struggling. The pre-season no matter how you look at it only gives you a glimpse of the what individuals can do, It shows you cannot take the preseason as indicator.”
Have you ever seen a season like this in the NFC East?
“Other years they’ve been grouped together like this. It shows there’s no world beaters. I remember when the Giants and Cowboys met for the Division title in 2012 and the Giants went on after that to win the Super Bowl. So I would never rule out anything.”
So what about the Eagles?
“I think the next four weeks are critical for the Eagles. If they play well and can win four they can be a factor. I could see them running off four wins and suddenly they‘re 7-4 and be right back in the thick of things. It won’t be easy, but it’s obviously doable. But I’m not looking past anyone.”
What changes do you expect to see after the bye?
“I don’t expect anything different in terms of personnel in the offensive or defensive game plan. By November you know what you are. I don’t expect anything different. Hopefully everyone plays better and finishes strong.”
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What’s Chip Kelly really like?
“Chip is all football and everything about Chip is quick. He’s got a quick wit, a quick mind, a quick offense. But he’s a very, very bright man whom I think has a wider range of knowledge than people are led to believe.’
Do you expect the fans to stay behind Chip?
“I think when you’re a head coach in the NFL your fan appreciation rating always depends on your last performance. These are very passionate fans, who were thinking at the start of the season this team might go to the Super Bowl. They’re frustrated. When the team goes on a bad stretch like it has that’s how fans react. If they win 3-or-4 in a row they’ll be back in Chip’s corner.”
What do you do when you’re not broadcasting the games?
“I’ve been vice-president and general manager at WBCB — 1490 in Levittown — (for a long time). I’m here every morning. This station serves a lot of people in Bucks County and can be heard in Mercer County, Burlington and parts of the Northeast. We have a lot of young people work at this station because we do so many high school games. I am always available to critique their tapes and encourage them.”
As a Temple grad what’s it meant for you to see them have this kind of season?
“Seeing Temple nationally ranked, it’s beyond my wildest dream. I was there when Bill Cosby was playing (1962). He was a few years older than me because he’d gone into the military. He was the fullback on the team. We did a show together on the campus station, WRTI. We called it the Bill Cosby Show. I used to interview him and he’d be funny.”
What’s something people probably don’t know about you?
“My mother would take me for drama lessons and I did lot of TV commercials as a kid. I did Lummis peanut butter, Ranger Joe cereal and I used to be on with Chuckwagon Pete doing Sylvan Seal milk. Many of the commercials were live at the time. There was no video tape. But I couldn’t wait to get home so I could throw on my old clothes and play ball.”
What’s it like for a Philly kid to broadcast to Philly fans?
“I love the Eagles, there’s no question about it. But the fact is I am broadcasting the sport I love and the team I love to the most passionate fans in the country. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and the fact they care so much about their team makes this the most satisfying job in the world. When people say to me ‘It would mean so much to me if you could broadcast an Eagles’ team that wins the Super Bowl,' I say this and mean it sincerely, 'I think it would be great. But what would mean so much to me is the fans of this city who have expanded so much of their time and energy and put their heart into this team for so long would be rewarded with a championship they deserve.’"