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Lessons the Eagles Can Learn From the Grateful Dead

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You might not think there's a lot of common ground between a bunch of elderly hippie rockers and the Iggles. You're right, too. But they share two key strategies.

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The Grateful Dead are making a goal line stand against time this weekend in Chicago.  While I'm not as impressed with the results as many fans seem to be, you have to say they're showing surprising resilience despite their aging front line and the loss of their first two quarterbacks to (fatal) injuries.

Now Pete Carroll is more of a Deadhead than anyone connected with the Eagles, but as an organization the band has shared two important strategies that also build Chip Kelly's success.

1) Practice, Practice, Practice.

Preparing for this last home stand, the band spent literally months practicing despite not having played in 20 years. They've had a couple of rough spots but not from lack of effort.  It's just a shame they didn't copy more of Chip Kelly's tempo approach.

Back when they were actually a good band -- which is 1970-72 in my jaded opinion -- they practiced constantly and played constantly -- regular gigs, spontaneous free shows, benefits.  They even spent a couple of years hanging with their buddies Crosby, Nash and Young and got good at harmonies for a short while.

That constant practice builds muscle memory and makes improvisation work, whether it's the Eagles DL pouncing on a strip sack fumble or the first ever segue from New Potato Caboose to Bertha.

2) Organization Secrecy

Like Chip Kelly's Eagles, the band didn't leak a word about their game plan, leading to endless speculation about setlists (and 5 wildly sold-out shows, plus millions in live streaming and movie theater ticket sales.).

In my upcoming book "Controlled Chaos," I quote PhillyVoice.com's Matt Mullin who compares this strategy to an ancient Chinese manual of battle strategy, Sun Tzu's "Art of War:"

The concept is to hide your plans, then act suddenly and decisively.

"Be extremely subtle even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent s fate."

In both cases, it makes the event more compelling and interesting, while making it impossible to predict what is going to happen.  Will Tebow run a goal line package? The band's unspoken game plan appears to have been highlighting their songs of the 60s, 80s, 70s and 90s respectively, but what about the fifth show?  Might Bob Dylan sit in for a cover of one of his songs?

The band actually acquitted themselves pretty well despite their rustiness and having an offensive line even older than the Eagles.  Backup QB Trey Anastasio ran the offense OK, despite a lack of leadership on the jam out of St. Stephen. He certainly knows the playbook. Jerry Garcia was an underrated singer, though, whose heart and sincerity was missed on songs such as "Wharf Rat" and "Morning Dew."

This run of shows provided a surprising sort of closure by not shying away from their bad as well as good eras.  But if you're curious why some people care so much about this batch of old shaggy hippies, you might check out some of the classics with the original starting lineup, such as Easy WindSt. Stephen, the pretty jam out of Truckin on their 72 live album, or Not Fade Away and the less spacy parts of the Other One on the 1971 live album.