Chip Kelly

by Clark Groome

The Eagles were the underdogs in the season opener against Washington. They won.

The Eagles were the favorites against San Diego in the season home opener. They lost.

New coach Chip Kelly, who is supposed to be a change in approach from his predecessor, made some puzzling moves by using his time-outs with only seconds left when the Chargers had the ball in a game tied at 30.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who seem to get as much attention in these parts as the hometown squad does, is 2-0. Coach Andy Reid has led his team to a 28-2 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and a 17-16 squeaker against his old NFC East nemesis the Dallas Cowboys.

This Thursday, on short rest for both teams, Reid is bringing his new team into his old football home. The odds are that, unlike last year, he’s likely to win the game.

The Eagles’ defense gave up more yards in Sunday’s loss to San Diego – 539 – than in any game last year. In CSN’s post-game show “The Guv,” Ed Rendell, said that the Eagles defense was the biggest problem for the Eagles offense.

He’s right.

So what about this Thursday?

The Chiefs have a solid team, one that is coached by a man who, despite his unpopularity in Philadelphia for much of his 14 years here, knows how to get an NFL team ready for a consequential game.

This one will be consequential.

Reid wants to prove he can coach. The Eagles want to beat their former boss. The Chiefs want to help their new leader win. The fans, God love ‘em, are likely to give Andy a typical Philly welcome: initial cheers followed by significant boos. That should fire up the Chiefs.

So here we are at the beginning of a new Eagles era. Not only is the second home game of the new era against the old era’s head coach, the evening will also feature the retiring of Donovan McNabb’s jersey #5. McNabb, much like Reid, evokes mixed reactions from the local loyals. Mostly the town underestimates his abilities, although McNabb never fails to remind us how good he was.

Even if he were recognized for all he accomplished here, he is even more recognized for what he never accomplished: He, and Coach Reid, never won a Super Bowl.

It has been 53 years since the Eagles sat atop the NFL heap. While the Reid/McNabb period was the best in team history (five NFC championships), it still never ended with the Lombardi Trophy on a flatbed trundling down Broad St. to the Vet or the Linc.

Thursday should be quite a night.

What will be equally interesting will be how the media (and this is part of that, I admit) handles the Reid/Kelly, McNabb/Vick and Chiefs/Eagles matchups.

Ever since Reid got his walking papers and moved to Kansas City, the local media folk, most of whom had justifiable contempt for how the coach handled the press, have followed every move. Did he say more to the Kansas City reporters than he did to us? How will his team measure up to the one he had here when he took over in 1999?

Article after article and TV report after TV report about Reid seemed to overwhelm the coverage of Kelly and his new system and the moves the Eagles were making to improve from the team that went 4-12 last season. It didn’t, but it sure seemed that way.

So Thursday will answer a lot of questions about Reid and his new team and the Eagles and their new coach. My sense is that the fans can help the local guys by not booing Reid or McNabb. If they really care about the Eagles, they should do nothing to energize the Chiefs anymore than they already will be.

Again, Thursday should be quite a night.

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