Head coach Chip Kelly has the Eagles right where they need to be. Credit: Getty Images
On Feb. 1, 2015, Philadelphia’s 55-year wait for an NFL championship will end. The Eagles will win the Super Bowl. I’m pretty sure.
OK, I hedged a little bit only because it might take Chip Kelly a third season to have everything in place before the Eagles claim the Lombardi Trophy. But as the Eagles open training camp Friday, believe this: It is going to happen with Kelly as the head coach, and soon.
One of the reasons I’m speaking with so much confidence about the Eagles’ future, admittedly, is a reaction to the surprising lack of optimism nationally for a team that went from 4-12 to 10-6 in one season under Kelly. Many of the experts, however, are not very impressed with Kelly.
For example, Elliot Harrison of NFL.com last week ranked Kelly the 18th-best coach in the league, behind Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan and, yes, Andy Reid. ProFootballTalk.com ranked the Eagles as the 13th-best team in the NFL. And the NFL players themselves placed Nick Foles 11th among quarterbacks, even though he was No. 1 statistically last season.
Most of these so-called football authorities believe Kelly will experience his comeuppance in his second season now that opponents have had a chance to strategize against his unorthodox offense. My response is: poppycock. This backlash does not take into account Kelly’s own offseason counteroffensive, which has been to raise the IQ of his football team.
That’s why, all these months later, it is finally clear why DeSean Jackson was released at the absolute height of his career. He is on the Redskins today because he refused to play the mental game Kelly requires. He goofed off at practice, tuned out his coaches and posed a threat some of his teammates might follow.
In Jackson’s place at wide receiver is Jordan Matthews, the second-round pick who is much bigger in size and in mind. Matthews game-planned, on his own, for the Senior Bowl last year. What else do you need to know? He will make the fans forget Jackson, if they haven’t already.
On the other side of the ball, Kelly replaced an airhead at free safety, Patrick Chung, with a leader, Malcolm Jenkins. Granted, Jenkins is no sure thing based on his erratic work with the Saints, but listen to the man talk. His intelligence and Kelly’s coaching seem like a perfect match.
So what we have right now is the smartest coach in the league and — by design — one of the brightest teams in the NFL. We have the maniacal study skills of Foles, the brilliant instincts of LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and a more confident Kelly making the decisions.
Get out your party hats, Philadelphia. Early next February, you’ll be going to a parade on Broad Street. I’m pretty sure.
Idle thoughts ...
» In his first five games in the NBA Summer League, Nerlens Noel had to leave three different times with injuries, and his supporters think he’s going to survive an 82-game Sixers schedule? Stockpiling young players with injury histories is a dumb way to build a team, as general manager Sam Hinkie will soon discover.
» Yes, it turned out that the World Cup was a big deal this year even in America, but there’s something worth noting here: 400,000 fans turned out at a rally in Berlin last week to celebrate Germany’s win, compared to the 2 million who attended the Phillies’ 2008 parade. So let’s not go crazy here, OK?
» LeBron James is pushing hard for his new team, the Cavaliers, to trade for Minnesota superstar Kevin Love. Does this mean James is eligible for the NBA MVP and general manager of the year awards next season?
» When Adam Wainwright grooved a couple of fastballs to Derek Jeter last week at the All-Star Game, he was making a statement no one wanted to hear during the over-the-top tribute to the Yankee shortstop. Jeter has stayed in the game at least one year too long.
» Instead of attending the All-Star Game, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander had to deal with the failure of not making the team by going on vacation in Cancun with supermodel Kate Upton. What a letdown that must have been for him.