Good news for people who love bad news.
We've lost the plot and we just can't choose.
We are hummingbirds who are just not willing to move.
And there's good news for people who love bad news.
DeSean Jackson was unceremoniously cut, leaving the starting WRs a trio of a guy off a knee injury, a guy off an out of nowhere career year, and a rookie. That damn kicker is still on the team. Matt Barkley picks a fight with a writer. Keelan Johnson assaulted a cop. Lane Johnson and Jake Knott are suspended for PEDs. And who knows what training camp will hold. Year Two of the Chip Kelly Era is not off to the smoothest of starts. Can it end well?
The best predictor of future behavior is past performance. It is a saying so old that its original phrasing and author have been lost on us. But it holds true, particularly in sports: players of certain body types or playing styles or who fail to meet certain statistical benchmarks have fairly predictable career arcs, because similar players before them did the exact same thing. It would be smart to heed its warning in relation to the Eagles.
Chip Kelly enters his second year at the helm, after a successful first first year, with questions about how well his offense will perform and if his team is moving in the right direction on and off the field. This is familiar territory for Kelly, because that is also a fair description of where he was heading into the 2010 season with Oregon. You probably know the story, but it bears repeating.
Kelly’s first season as head coach at Oregon got off to a rough start. The Ducks lost ugly to Boise State 19-8, and then things got even uglier after the game when LeGarrette Blount punched a Broncos player in the head. Blount, who had past disciplinary problems, was suspended and Kelly’s run first offense was suddenly without its star running back. For Chip Kelly, this was not a problem. Blount however was a problem and since no one player is bigger than the team, the Ducks easily moved on without him, LaMichael James rushed for over 1500 yards and Oregon scored 40+ points in seven of its remaining 12 games, finishing 8th in the nation in scoring. As we have seen before, Kelly has consistently given his players chances to earn their way back to the team, and the team not skipping a beat in the absence of those players is as good a motivator as there is that Chip Kelly is not waiting around for you. Get with the program or get left behind, and as in all things with Kelly, quickly. Blount worked his way back to the team as a role player, and scored a touchdown in the Ducks' 37-33 win over Oregon State to secure the Pac-10 Championship, their first since 2001, and their first Rose Bowl appearance in 15 years.
In the summer, Kelly cut his star QB Jeremiah Masoli, a seemingly unthinkable move during the season. Masoli was at the time suspended after pleading guilty to burglary, and then a few months later was busted for marijuana and let go by Kelly days later. Suddenly, the narrative had changed, the Ducks were not quite the surging program they appeared to be, instead Kelly and the Ducks had their skeptics.
You have to look real hard to find the silver linings at Oregon since the beginning of the year. From the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State to the numerous and nagging off-field problems, the glow of last season’s Pac-10 championship is just a flicker these days. Of course, had anyone other than former star QB Jeremiah Masoli committed an infraction, there wouldn't be so much hand-wringing going on in Eugene. Now that he’s been dismissed, however, the Ducks have spent much of the spring and summer swatting away questions about a lack of institutional control and a lack of a frontrunner in the race to succeed No. 8.
You could change just the names, places and teams in that to be an accurate, but not entirely fair, description of the Eagles:
You have to look real hard to find the silver linings in Philadelphia since the beginning of the year. From the playoff loss to New Orleans to the numerous and nagging off-field problems, the glow of last season’s NFC East championship is just a flicker these days. Of course, had anyone other than former star WR DeSean Jackson committed an infraction, there wouldn't be so much hand-wringing going on in Philly. Now that he’s been dismissed, however, the Eagles have spent much of the spring and summer swatting away questions about a lack of institutional control and a lack of a frontrunner in the race to succeed No. 10.
That was easy. There were other skeptics:
When a talented group of sophomores emerged at Oregon in 2008, fans began to look forward to the 2010 season. National championship dreams don't often bloom in Eugene, but that was the thinking prior to all the offseason trouble the Ducks recently endured. After the wave of problems, there are questions about leadership and team chemistry. Those damaging issues will be tough for the Ducks to overcome as they try to repeat as Pac-10 champions.
All that happened was that Masoli’s replacement, Darron Thomas, played even better than Masoli and the Ducks, the highest scoring team in the nation, went to the BCS Championship. Not bad.
No coach chooses to have turmoil, but Kelly’s situation then and his situation now have more than their fair share of similarities. Kelly had his doubters early on at Oregon, including most notably a fan who asked him for a refund for having attended the Boise State game that was bitterly disappointing. Kelly complied. Kelly of course had his fair share of doubters before he ever coached a game for the Eagles, and when the team was 1-3 and then 3-5 the carnival barkers in the media got even louder, the hummingbirds flapped their wings more furiously upon finding the sweet nectar of Kelly struggling. In both cases Kelly and his team rallied through all the adversity: injuries in camp, Riley Cooper's transgression, a mid-season QB change, back to back weeks of the offense stuck in reverse. But like at Oregon Kelly and the team finished strong, though the final note being a disappointing post-season loss. Still, taken as a whole, successful seasons considering the starting points and challenges of the season. And then both were followed by off-season issues, which we all know.
To win, let alone get to a Super Bowl, a team must overcome adversity. The Patriots lost a star player to prison and another to injury and were not able to replace them. They lost to the Broncos, who imploded all over themselves to start the Super Bowl and were not able to overcome it, losing to the Seahawks, who had two players suspended and carried on without skipping a beat. Pick any other team and they too had challenges and failed.
This is not to suggest that the Eagles are primed to win the Super Bowl this year. But all the hurdles put in front of Chip Kelly so far: replacing a star player, dealing with suspensions, questions about his control... he has faced these before and cleared them with ease. No one knows how this season will play out, but there will be even more challenges ahead. If the past is any indication, and it is, Chip Kelly knows what he is doing, and he is going to be pretty successful.