State Of The Eagles: Breaking Down The Chip Kelly Experiment And Looking Ahead

It’s finally over, thank God. The Eagles season came to a close this Sunday following a 35-30 win in a meaningless game against the just-as-hapless New York Giants in the Meadowlands. The conclusion of the game marked the end of a chapter of Eagles history and the start of a new one, hopefully one that will wipe the Chip Kelly era out of people’s minds like it was Rocky V. Let’s break down the past, present, and future of a once proud franchise, a franchise desperate for answers on how to get back to their winning ways that seem like eons ago.

The Eagles hired Chip Kelly three years ago after it was clear that it was time for the Andy Reid era to come to a close. Despite Reid leading the birds to multiple conference championship games and even a Superbowl, his inability to get over the hump followed by mediocre seasons and then a dismal 4-12 campaign was the final straw. There was no ill will, but it was clear that both parties needed a change of scenery and a fresh start. The Eagles hired Chip Kelly, who was one of the hottest names at the time because of how he transformed the Oregon Ducks into a perennial national powerhouse, with it’s prolific and unique offense that operated at breakneck speed that some believed could revolutionize the way the game is played. This isn’t an exaggeration, Kelly’s uptempo offense and unique coaching methods made some seriously believe he could literally change the game to some degree. At the time, it wasn’t a surefire bet that Kelly’s success would translate to the NFL, but above all else he was hired because of his “football mind”, someone who just really knew the game and dedicated all his time and energy to the sport. That was why he was such a hot commodity coming out of Oregon. There was a belief that even if his team wasn’t putting up 50 points a game, he would figure something out and adapt because of his deep understanding of the game and manic work and study ethic.

Despite going 4-12 the year before, Kelly didn’t inherit a bad team, at all. After starting 1-3, the Eagles finished the season 10-6, good enough to win the division. They lost to the Saints in a close first round game but hey, not a bad start at all for a coach with virtually no NFL experience. People were excited, things were looking up. The Eagles had a coach committed to bringing a winning culture (more on that in just a bit) and attitude to Philly and the results backed it up on the field.

Following that year, something strange happened in the offseason. The Eagles cut star wide receiver DeSean Jackson after having over 80 catches and 1300+ yards. Why? There was no real explanation, just speculation that his attitude and perhaps demeanor didn’t fall in line with the kind of culture Chip Kelly was trying to instill in the locker room. Sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it? Especially after a great year? No big scandal, or suspension, just “rumors”, whispers of “gang affiliations” and such. In retrospect it really was pretty crazy. At the time, Chip Kelly was perceived as a potential guru since he just lead us to the playoffs in his first year. We thought we could be even better if we did things Chip’s way. Philadelphia wasn’t crazy for buying into the hype, at the time it made sense, even if we still had our lingering reservations about the whole thing.

The next season the Eagles went 10-6 again, however this time that wasn’t good enough for a playoff spot. Nick Foles was the starting quarterback after lighting it up the previous season, but got hurt and the team wasn’t able to overcome with Mark Sanchez. This was the offseason where things got weird. 10-6 wasn’t terrible by any means, just a little disappointing after making the playoffs the previous year. During the offseason Chip Kelly met with owner Jeffrey Lurie to discuss his role and responsibilities as head coach. Kelly wasn’t satisfied with just calling the plays, he wanted to be the general manager and pick the players too, have complete control over the roster. Despite only having two years of NFL experience, Kelly was given what he wanted. People were behind it. The reasoning was that Kelly had a vision and that (then current) GM Howie Roseman was holding him back from taking that vision to the next level. Nobody knew Chip Kelly’s system like Chip Kelly, so shouldn’t he ultimately be the one who decides on player personnel? Again, hindsight is 20/20 but at the time one could justify it. Philadelphia was all in with Chip Kelly.

Then Chip Kelly traded away one of the best running backs in LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, a former Oregon linebacker who was coming off tearing an ACL for the second time and only had one full year in the NFL prior to that. Again, in Chip we trust. It was bold, but there was an aura of confidence around the Philadelphia area. Chip being the offensive minded guy he is could certainly find a replacement to carry the rock and he got a great talent on defense in the process. Keep calm and in Chip we trust.

Then this past season happened. I’m not going to detail every move because I’d rather discuss the future than recap the past. You know what happened. Long story short, Chip signed a bunch of new players, drafted some encouraging young guys, and the whole thing just crashed and burned to the ground like it was set ablaze by a pyromaniac comic book villain. DeMarco Murray (the league’s leading rusher from the year before) was brought in to replace LeSean and couldn’t get going, at all. Byron Maxwell was brought in to help the secondary and even though they knew they probably overpaid for him, he didn’t even come close to the difference maker they needed. Poor production from draft picks (besides Jordan Hicks, who got hurt) and an aging and just out of it offensive line all were big factors in the flub. The one bright spot was Sam Bradford. The injury prone quarterback was brought in to lead the offense and while there were many questions about his durability, he took a shaky start and actually played pretty well down the stretch, despite not getting much help at all from his receivers. Still, the season was a wreck and STILL they had a chance to make the playoffs because the NFC East was dreadful but they were eliminated once again by DeSean Jackson and the Redskins in a primetime drubbing at home.

Jeffrey Lurie had enough. Kelly was fired before the Eagles even played their final game of the season. The Chip Kelly era was officially over, a massive failure. I would still defend the hiring, it was a bold move but his perceived football knowledge and passion for the game is something you want in your head coach. Apparently his people skills were hard for players to connect to. In the end it just wasn’t working, simple as that. It was the right move, once you lose control of a locker room it’s nearly impossible to get back. It’s time to start yet another chapter in Eagles history.

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Now the Eagles are back with Howie Roseman as the GM and are in need of a head coach. There are a lot of potential candidates out there and this decision will most likely have a significant long term impact on the team either way, good or bad. Let’s take a look at some of the names that are floating around out there:

Sean Payton: I think this would be a fantastic acquisition. While he’s struggled with the Saints of late I think it really comes down to him needing a change of scenery, just like Andy Reid did. He’s a great offensive mind who has shown he can really bring a quarterback along and get the most out of his skill position players. He won a Super Bowl. He’s an outside the box thinker that can rejuvenate this team and salvage some of the promising talent that remains on the roster. However, there’s two potential problems. First, he’s still under contract with the Saints and the Eagles might have to trade for him. It’s rumored that it would take a second round pick to acquire him, which is something the Eagles don’t have this year. Second, Payton could want a great deal of control over the team, similarly to Chip Kelly. Ownership might be hesitant to award that to someone seeing how that just went with Chip but this is a little different. Payton is a proven winner and has much more NFL experience and a history of successes. If it’s feasible to get him, Sean Payton would be an exciting and promising head coach for the foreseeable future.

Adam Gase: Gase has grown on me immensely recently. If you look at his resume, it’s just stacked. The current offensive coordinator is young and if successful could be the Eagles head coach for a long, long time. He was able to take Jay Cutler (who has a reputation for being difficult to deal with) and have him deliver a career year. He’s worked his way up around the league and has commanded a great deal of respect around the league. TheEagles have talent on this offense and Gase could be able to get production from it. However, he’s still young and has no head coaching experience which is risky. It could be a Josh McDaniels type situation where he doesn’t cut it and goes back to being a coordinator.  Still, I guess I’d support this because his track record has been darn good and if he’s ready to take the next step then whoever gets him will get a great foundation for years to come.

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Doug Pederson: The current OC for the Chiefs is an Andy Reid guy and was actually on the Eagles coaching staff before as a quality control coach and then as the quarterbacks coach. He’s been doing a remarkable job with the Chiefs who are scalding hot right now going into the playoffs. In his one year as Eagles head coach the team amassed 6386 total yards with Mike Vick and Vince Young leading the way. He played in the league as a quarterback himself. This would be a solid move, but do you really want an Andy Reid guy after all those years? I’d support it I just think the Eagles need a fresh start and some new ideas. If he can bring back the Andy Reid esque glory days though, then it would be totally worth it, just have to consider if the risk outweighs what the other candidates can bring to the table.

Sean McDermott: Another former Eagles coach, this one was in Philly for a long time. The Eagles were his first job away from his college and he was here all the way until he was fired in 2010 as the teams D Coordinator. Since, he has been the defensive coordinator for the Panthers who have been extremely tough on defense over the past few years. Finishing up the year 15-1, the Panthers D is one of the key reasons to their historic year. Additionally, McDermott has hinted that he wants to be here. He also seems to have a lot of local support. Still, this would scare me. I don’t know exactly why but he struggled here. Sure he was younger and has probably gained a ton of knowledge since but those dark days of defense still linger in my mind. He’s young, no head coaching experience. I also wonder how much of the Panthers success on D is attributed to him and not defensive minded head coach Ron Rivera. If the Eagles reach out to McDermott, I will get on board with it. I just have a gut feeling that there are better candidates than him available this year.

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Duce Staley: A fan favorite running back for the Eagles and current coach of said position, the birds already interviewed Staley to be their head coach. It would appear to be a formality and just a respectful conversation but it’s probably not realistic to think he’ll be the head coach next year. Having said that, I’d love for him to stick around,hopefully finding a spot on next years coaching regime.

Pat Shurmur: Shurmur finished the year as the interim head coach after Chip was fired. Previously, he was the Offensive Coordinator under Chip Kelly. It was interesting to see how the team exploded for 35 points in the final game with him calling the shots. Shurmur has had a failed head coaching tenure before with the Browns and that’s tough to hold against somebody. Having said that, Shurmur doesn’t figure to be a serious candidate to take over full head coaching duties for the following season.

John Harbaugh: If John Harbaugh became available he would instantly become my number one choice to be the next head coach. The problem is that he probably won’t be available. The Ravens had a forgettable year but they don’t appear to be considering firing him, which is probably the right call. It’s wishful thinking, but as of now this is a Hail Mary, and not one being thrown by Aaron Rodgers.

Teryl Austin: This is my secret underdog that I’m rooting for. Currently the D Coordinator for the Lions, Austin has impressed recently. The reason I like this guy is that he had a tough job this season, being in charge of a defense that lost its best player in Ndamakong Suh. They still faired alright this year, despite missing the post season. They almost beat the Packers twice and the most impressive part to me was how they played hard even though they were already eliminated from the playoffs. That says a lot. Austin would bring a tough, defensive mind to Philly with no former ties to the Birds. His resume is impressive and has been a part of Super Bowl winning units. I’m not saying this is definitely the guy the Eagles should hire, I’m saying he is an intriguing candidate worthy of the teams due diligence.

Dirk Koetter: The Eagles are reported to have interviewed or plan on interviewing Koetter. He spent this past season as the Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator. His work with rookie Jameis Winston was impressive, especially their demolishing of the Eagles this year. He has a lot of experience in football at different levels of play but I just don’t think his resume stacks up to the other available candidates.

Hue Jackson: Jackson has been the Offensive Coordinator in Cincinnati since Jay Gruden left to torment the Eagles. He’s done great in that role and has a wealth of football experience under his belt. He even did well as the Raiders OC and was promoted to their head coach and went 8-8, not terrible for Oakland standards. He was still fired and eventually made his way to Cincinnati. He’s definitely worth interviewing and investigating, although right now he seems totally focused on his teams playoff game.

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John Gruden/ Bill Cowher/ Brian Billick/ Mike Shanahan: All these guys have rings and all these guys are long shots. Shanahan has been linked to some openings but the Eagles do not appear to be one of them. I’d love to see the Eagles throw a fat bag of money at John Gruden. I just want to see some passion back in Philadelphia football and you know Gruden brings that. It’s unlikely he walks away from his current dream gig at ESPN though. Brian Billick called the Eagles vacancy the most attractive but I’m not sure if he’s a candidate to return to coaching. Bill Cowher? Who knows.

What does it all mean? While it’s frustrating to be back to square one, I must say I’m excited for a new chapter. There are some great names on this list that have a lot of potential for continued success as an NFL head coach. Once a coach is hired, then we can start evaluating the roster, seeing who stays and who goes. When a coach is picked, we’ll have a better idea of the direction this team is headed and the steps it will take to get there. There is a lot of pressure to hire the right guy, and even with the failed experiment with Chip Kelly I have enough confidence in Eagles management to make a sound decision this time around.

Gratzfood Presents: The Top 5 Cheesesteaks

I’ve been wanting to make this list for a while and I mean a while. Definitely a list I thought about making before Gratzfeed was even the premier online blog it is today. Growing up I spent a lot of time with my single dad which led to, lets just say…”ill advised” food trips (if you’re looking at it from a health standpoint). However, if you’re looking at it from a purely pleasurable/magical/sensational standpoint than these food excursions were anything but ill advised but rather well advised, extremely. Living in South Jersey and with my dad being from Philly, cheesesteaks became an instant go-to for us, going late night, before games, after games and just going to the city simply for the sake of eating a good fucking cheesesteak. With that said I’ve had enough cheesesteaks in my life to kill Andy Reid, one for every Sixers loss, one for every dollar in Ryan Howard’s contract (OK maybe not that many but you get the point). Simply put, I’ve tried a good chunk of em and while it may not be something to brag about, at all, it does make me qualified in a world where  my resume comes up short just about everywhere else. Here are the top 5 cheesesteaks

5. Tony Lukes- Anyone worth their weight in cheese whiz will tell you that the key to a good sandwich is the bread. Tony Lukes uses Liscio’s rolls which are pretty damn hard to beat. Put a generous helping of rib eye steak on those bad boys and you’re in business. Tony Lukes is a staple, it’s close to the sports complex and even in the stadiums themselves. To be fair though not all Tony Lukes are created equally, since it’s rise in popularity they’ve expanded at a rapid pace across the tristate area and while those sandwiches are serviceable, they can be underwhelming in size and overwhelming in price so make sure you go to the original on Oregon avenue if you want the true experience.

4. Steve’s Prince Of Steaks- Steve’s has everything you want in a cheesesteak: great tasting meat, lots of cheese, a solid roll, and late hours. If you’re looking for the quintessential Philly cheesesteak vibe then this is your place. Neon signage illuminates the divey atmosphere and nothing screams cheesesteak more than going up to a counter (ripe with every topping you could possibly want) and ordering one. Also, can’t stress the importance of the late hours. Eating a late night steak (sober or not) can be likened to a religious experience. Actually scratch religion, it’s more like marriage, seems like a great idea at the time but then you wake up questioning why you made this life choice that will haunt you forever. Not to scare you though, Steve’s is worth any gym session, guilt trip or self loathing you may endure.

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3. Leo’s Steak Shop

The hidden gem. Another dive, the Folcroft, PA spot has virtually no indoor seating and only a handful of weathered benches outside. Here’s the deal with Leo’s, their steaks are HUGE. Unlike the two aforementioned  places Leo’s chops their meat up real fine and piles it high on the roll. These suckers are juicy and tasty, with just the right amount of delicious cheese. This is definitely the least known entry on the list and with small wait times, I’m not exactly complaining about it. This tiny shop packs a heavyweight punch that can go toe to toe in the ring with just about anywhere else in Philly.

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2. Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop

Since 1949 Joe’s was known as “Chink’s” but with everything having to be all politically correct and shit nowadays they changed the name to Joe’s in 2013. Well, being perfectly honest this place could be called Horseshit Steaks and Slop and I’d still eat it because these are some of the best tasting creations the city (or anywhere else in the world) has to offer. For real, the quality of the meat is probably the best of anywhere in the city. Joe’s slices their meat down from a ribeye roll and pairs it with a great roll to make for a truly heavenly match. They also have real, authentic milkshakes which is just what you want to pair with a cheesesteak to show that you really give zero fucks in life. The original on Torresdale Avenue has the old school vibe going too, a big grill right in front of the window piled high with meat, a long counter, some tables, old jukeboxes that I don’t think work, this place has it all. There’s a reason this place has been in business since 1949, can give up it’s name, and still be one of the most popular places. One bite of these and you’ll understand exactly why.

  1. Dalessandro’s

This is the best cheesesteak. The best Philadelphia, or any other place in the world has to offer, hands down. I usually try to not sound so definitive on something opinion based but I’m pretty confident this is fact, science if you will. Navigating this corner shop (which is a total dive, albeit clean), can be likened to a crowded fraternity basement, rubbing elbows with the locals and a lot of “excuse me, excuse me”. Seating is at a premium with really one long “L” shaped counter (they have some tables to the side but the people waiting for takeout essentially take that option away). There are a few tables outside too, but as I write this in December, weather can obviously be a factor. So what makes these the best? It’s really just the perfect combination: the meats amazing, great bread and just the right amount of cheese. The portions are also generous, to say the least. OK, I’ll put it to you this way, they literally stick a fork in it because it’s so packed with meat that you can basically have a second meal just from what falls off the bread. I also like to call this a “cleaner” sandwich in that it’s not overly greasy and the breads never soggy. If you’re looking for the best cheesesteak in Philly, this is your place, without question.

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Takeout Titleholder: Cosmi’s Deli

This place is a little deli in with virtually no seating, so takeout is the move here. Packed with flavor and located in South Philly, this makes for a great pit stop on the way to a game.

All Underrated Team:

Campo’s Deli- Campos just has a delicious cheesesteak, plain and simple. Probably the first honorable mention of the top five. They have locations on Market Street and at the sports complex (and Liacouras Center). Not the biggest sandwiches in Philly but the high quality and taste alone cement it’s top ten standing in a competitive circuit.

Ishkabibble’s

While Jim’s on South Street is an undeniable powerhouse, Ishkabibble’s is more than a worthy alternative if you want to avoid absurd wait times and still get a delicious steak. Ishkabibble’s also has some of the best fries around so you can have the ultimate combination of indulgence.

Chickie’s And Pete’s

Sure you know about their out of this world crab fries but their cheesesteaks are also a standout on their big time menu. Great meat and they top it off with their crack injected (i think that’s the secret ingredient?) cheese sauce. True gluttons (like myself) can even dunk their sandwich into their cheese cup sauce from the fries, now that’s a pro tip right there.

Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 4

Predicting what’s going to happen in the NFL is a lot like eating a crave case by yourself, you think you know what you’re doing but the end result is always a disappointing mess that makes you question what the fuck you were even thinking. The first couple of weeks are interesting because there are always surprises. Each team’s offseason creates their own questions to be answered heading into the season and the results are always mixed. Some things go according to plan (the Patriots are still the fucking Patriots and the Packers are still the fucking Packers) and some things completely catch you off guard (Ndamukong Suh is a non factor on the D-line? The Ravens starting 0-3? Week 4 is an interesting time though because it’s right where you can start to gather enough evidence to make worthwhile observations and predictions for how things are going to pan out for the rest of the season. Of course there’s some shit you can never plan for but I think a teams performance after week 4 is a much stronger indicator for how their season is going to be than say after week 2. With that said, lets take a look around the league and try to make sense of just what the fuck is going on in the NFL.

Nobody expected the Dolphins to be this bad. In fact, it was almost universally agreed on that they were going to build off their 8-8 campaign from the year before and compete for a playoff spot which has eluded them since 2008. They spent a boatload of money on Ndamukong Suh and it’s already looking to be a complete disaster. He seems to be frustrated at times and indifferent at others. Reports from earlier in the year said that he was ignoring defensive calls and going rogue and doing his own thing. Not only is that not the type of play the dolphins payed for, it’s also not the leadership they expected from a veteran who has proven he can be one of the leagues most dominant forces. We’ve seen free agent fiascos before, on the defensive line too *cough Albert Haynesworth cough* but this one went downhill fast. The Dolphins have to find someone to get through to him and figure out a way to get him on the same page as the team or else this can cost this team a severe amount of not only money, but further headache and complications going forward. The big question is if head coach Joe Philbin will be losing his job soon. It’s a shame too, Philbin has been a solid coach the past few years but if he has lost the locker room it may be best for him to go so the Dolphins can scrap this year and start to plan for next season. Week 4 is still early, but once a locker room is lost it’s very, very hard to recover. Plus they play in the same division as the Patriots and while they’re only 2.5 games back, it doesn’t take an expert to realize they aren’t going to catch up to them and claim the division title and as always, grabbing a wildcard spot in the AFC is like grabbing a doorbuster from Walmart on Black Friday, a fucking dogfight.

Update: While in the process of writing this, Joe Philbin has been fired. He will be replaced by Dan Campbell, the Dolphins tight end coach of the past 5 years. Campbell will be the youngest head coach in the league at 39.

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Moving right along, the Jets rebounded nicely from their loss to the Eagles. However, it’s fair to wonder just how far they can go with Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Geno Smith, whatever) as their quarterback.

Kicking (or lack of) was a major theme in week 4. It cost the Steelers a chance to put the Ravens in a daunting 0-4 spot while gaining ground on the Bengals for the AFC North. Josh Scobee lost his job because of his performance in this game. It was still encouraging for the Steelers, Mike Vick showed that he is a capable backup for Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell is still an absolute beast and being paired with Antonio Brown on the offensive side should be enough to keep the Steelers afloat until Big Ben returns.

Caleb Sturgis had big time kicking problems as well this week. The Eagles replacement to Cody Parkey missed a 33 yard field goal as well as an extra point while the Eagles lost by 3 points to the Redskins. As frustrating as this is for Eagles fans the team has bigger problems than an inept kicker. They again showed their inability to produce substantial offense in the first half. The defense was on the field for 42 minutes and allowed a game winning touchdown drive to Kirk Cousins. Kirk fucking Cousins. While people will argue the defense was gassed, they still need to improve (they gave up a first down on 3rd and 19 off a draw play on the first drive of the game). It was nice to see them taking more shots downfield but they can’t just seem to piece everything together. DeMarco Murray has spoke out against his lack of touches in the offense. Luckily, the NFC East is one of, if not the weakest divisions in the NFL so the Eagles can still make a push for a playoff appearance, but with the way they’re playing the words eagles and playoffs shouldn’t even be in the same sentence.

Todd Gurley was finally ready for a full time workload and the rookie took advantage, accumulating 146 yards on 19 carries as the Rams pulled the upset and delivered the Arizona Cardinals their 1st loss of the season. The Cardinals, despite losing are still a good football team. However at 2-2 the Rams are a classic example of the “pretender or contender” debate. They are a pesky team and time will tell but I would expect them to be around .500 at the end of the season, maybe 9-7. Definitely an encouraging sign for a team who is way past due for success.

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One of the most impressive teams this year so far has been the Atlanta Falcons. Insiders have applauded their offseason strategy of getting hard working, mid level free agents who bought into the culture instead of throwing money at high profile names with big price tags and even bigger egos. Stellar rushing performances and a smart, efficient Matt Ryan carried the team to a 48-21 rout over the Texans. You never want to jump the gun, but the Falcons look like the real deal this year.

The Bears beat the Raiders. Whatever.

Colin Kaepernick has been disastrous since week 1 and there is starting to be some chatter about benching him. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday he was playing in the Superbowl with Jim Harbaugh on the sideline? I’m always amazed by how fast things change in this league. Kaepernick, to me, is hard to evaluate. Is he a quality starter just on a disorganized team with a weak supporting cast or is he really just not good enough of a passer to relive his past success? I think in the right system Kaepernick can shine. You can’t expect him to run an offense like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning but with an offense tailored to him and the right people around him Kaepernick would be a hell of an addition for another team at some point. Perhaps a split from the 49ers would be in both parties best interest in the near future.

The Giants walloped the Bills 24-10 for their second consecutive double digit win. Still have no idea what either of these two teams are about just yet. The Bills are really banged up and were without both LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins this past week and with Tyrod Taylor at the helm its not a surprise that they only scored 10 points. I still think the Bills are trending upward going forward but they simply have to get healthy and establish some consistency.

I heard an interesting point by Mark Schlereth this past week on ESPN, the NFL is having an offensive line crisis. He mentioned that offensive lineman simply aren’t learning the technical skills they were once taught in the past and that is a big reason why O-line play this season has been dismal. This can be directly accountable for the overwhelming amount of injured quarterbacks so far this season. It will be interesting to see if this is addressed in the future as teams need to protect the most coveted position in sports. We mentioned that the Steelers lost without Big Ben, the Colts survived a big time scare from the Jags with Matt Hasselbeck running the offense and Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys lost a wild overtime thriller to the Saints. It’s probably not too smart to evaluate these teams until we have a better idea when their true signal callers are ready to return to action.

Speaking of signal callers, Peyton Manning has been the subject of a lot of gloomy talk this year. He’s too old. He doesn’t fit Gary Kubiak’s system. Yet, the Broncos are 4-0 and two games ahead of everyone in the AFC West. This is in large part to their defense which has looked downright scary. They can really get to the quarterback and create turnovers. If the offense can get clicking to a vintage Peyton Manning level then this team will be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.

Finally, as a depressed Eagles fan I like to keep tabs on good ol’ Andy Reid to see how he’s doing in Kansas City. The Chiefs are 1-3 however they have had a brutal schedule so far with their past three games against Denver, Green Bay and Cincinnati. Still the Chiefs were supposed to compete for the AFC West so perhaps this really isn’t a valid excuse. Remember Eagles fans, the grass aint always greener on the other side…

Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 2, Breaking Down The Debacle In Philadelphia

For this week of Gratz’s Grumblings I will be focusing solely on the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Dallas Cowboys because well, that was the only game I watched this Sunday as I was unfortunate enough to have been there. The abysmal performance from the Eagles cannot be understated. Simply put, that was one of the worst displays of the sport I had ever seen. It’s early in the season, and there’s a lot to break down, definitely not too late to tweak things around and salvage the season, so let’s take a closer look at what the fuck is actually going on with this team after two games.

It’s no secret that the offense was atrocious. I think inept would be the correct word. Demarco Murray was held to 2 yards on 13 carries. Let me repeat that, Demarco Murray was held to 2 yards on 13 carries. However, if you talk to anyone who watched the game they would probably tell you this really didn’t fall on Murray or indicate what kind of runner he is at all. Murray had nowhere to run all game as the line played poorly. Also there was an even bigger problem than the offensive lines woes and Murray’s lack of running space…

Chip Kelly was out coached by Dallas this week and Atlanta last week. It was almost as if Dallas had the Eagles play call on each and every snap. Yes the offensive line played bad but there’s a deeper rooted problem and that is schematically the Eagles are off. This is a huge concern considering so much of Chip Kelly’s success relies on his schemes working each week. Chip Kelly has proven through two seasons that his offense isn’t a gimmick and I believe he is a smart enough coach to figure this thing out.  Whether there is enough talent to really take the offense to next level still remains to be seen. I’m really not too worried about this offense. The biggest concern for me is the line, which don’t get me wrong is a huge question mark going forward but as far as the scheme not working and getting out coached, I think Chip will figure it out.

Sam Bradford didn’t play all that bad. A lot of people are criticizing his play from yesterday but I really don’t think it’s founded. Listen, it’s hard to throw no matter who is under center when the defense knows exactly what you’re doing. The Eagles knew they couldn’t run against Dallas so were forced to pass and play catch up in the second half, what do you expect from Bradford? A Mike Vick type run of 30 yards to put them in scoring position? The red zone interception was a killer and a bad, bad play but I don’t think it’s fair to judge his performance off one mistake. With how the offense as a whole played yesterday that one interception should be at the very bottom on the list of concerns. I don’t think Bradford played particularly well but I don’t think he played poorly either. Again, it’s only his second game since 2013 so it’s going to take some time to get into a groove and get comfortable. He might not turn out to have the pro bowl season some of us thought he would under Chip Kelly but that’s not to say he won’t be effective going forward, and he’s still a whole lot better than Mark Sanchez. Also, he doesn’t exactly have the best receivers with the Eagles…

The receiving core’s ability might be limited this season. I’m sick and tired of defending Jordan Matthews. When they drafted him all I heard about was his tremendous work ethic and thirst for improvement. It was well documented that Matthews didn’t exactly have the most sound hands coming into the NFL but everybody was assured they would improve. Well guess what? He’s still dropping passes, important passes too. On one of his drops he leaped in the air for a pass he really didn’t need to jump at all for. He could have calmly put out his hands and secure the ball but he acted like a kid playing pick up football who was just trying to do too much. Don’t get me wrong I like Jordan Matthews and think he will have a fruitful career with the Eagles but his hands have to get better. It’s only his second year so it’s not really fair to hold him up to an elite standard. That’s really the problem with the receiving group as a whole, they are just young and inexperienced. As I just mentioned Matthews is in his second year and Nelson Agholar is only a rookie. You have to temper your expectations at least for this season. Josh Huff is only in his second year too but the former third rounder really isn’t showing much promise at all. Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are both on the downward sides of their careers which is OK considering they aren’t really supposed to be the focal point anyways. If the wide receivers underperform that falls mostly on Chip Kelly. These are his guys. He made the decision to let Jeremy Maclin walk. That is starting to show its ill effects as the Eagles really don’t have a respectable deep threat at the moment and its hindering them. I don’t remember Sam Bradford taking any big shots down the field because quite frankly we don’t have that type of receiver on the roster yet to throw it to, or we do and he’s not ready for that role at the moment. This hurts too, the five and six yard completions are great and all but when a defense doesn’t respect your ability to go deep it makes it much easier for them, plus it allows them to focus more on run stopping. Like the running game I think the passing game will see a lot of improvement too. If not, it’s another group of decisions you have to question about Chip Kelly. However…

It’s way, waaaay too early to start calling for Kelly’s job. Hey, even if this thing turns out to be a huge bust firing him now would only set us back another half a decade. Then, the next guy would have to bring his people in and the a new process would start and we would have an abundance of new players and recent draft picks who might be the total opposite of what they want. The bottom line is if the Eagles were unsure of Chip Kelly they should cut ties before this season. We’re pot committed at this point. Plus, at the end of the day it’s only two games, Andy Reid once took an 0-2 team to the NFC Championship so step back from the ledge. If the Eagles have a losing record this season then maybe in January we’re having a different conversation.

The defense is probably my greatest concern. I feel like a lot of people are excusing the poor defensive play due to the offense’s inability to stay on the field. That is a valid argument but I trust Chip Kelly’s ability to fix the offense more than I trust Billy Davis’ ability to fix the defense. His play calling seems off, his coverage personnel seems off and even their formations seem off.  Last week when asked why Julio Jones was able to run wild across the defense their response was because it’s hard to play him and double him because he gets lined up all over the field. So? Isn’t that the defensive coordinators job? To account for this and try to find a way to counteract it? There was a play this week where Maxwell was all alone on an island with no receiver on his side and two receivers lined up on the opposite side. It was evident that Maxwell would have no impact on that play, unless they gave it to the running back who was on Maxwells side, but still far from him and unlikely to cross paths with Maxwell. Yes the defense was on the field for a lot of the game but this wasn’t that hard of a game to plan for. Dez Bryant was out leaving the Cowboys with a weak group of playmakers. Their leading rusher from last year is now on the Eagles. Brandon Weeden is…Brandon Weeden. There is no excuse for letting Brandon Weeden go 7 for 7, none. Even when the Eagles knew the Cowboys were going to run the ball at the end of the game they still struggled to stop them. Like the offense, the scheme is off and unfortunately I’m not confident in Billy Davis’ ability to fix it. Speaking of Byron Maxwell though…

Byron Maxwell looked horrendous, again. Like really, really bad. They paid him a boatload of money not because he’s an elite cornerback, but because he was the best at his position in a weak free agency class and the Eagles needed to upgrade that position badly. If he’s unable to cover elite corners (or any corners at all) then the Eagles need to devise a plan that will put him in situations similar to where he found success in the past. That is, unless they can’t because they don’t have the Legion of Boom surrounding him. Maxwell plays better as a zone corner, not as a guy you throw on an island like Darrelle Revis. Whatever his deal is it needs to be figured out immediately.

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Yes, Sundays performance from the birds was dismal. Yes, there are huge question marks on both sides of the ball. Yes, it is early and the Eagles can still turn this thing around and salvage the season. You gotta remember our competition going forward, the Giants and Redskins don’t appear to be playoff teams and the Cowboys are going to be without both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo for an extended amount of time. Somebody has to win this division. Even the mighty Seahawks are 0-2. There’s plenty of reason to be scared silly right now but there is still a lot of football left to be played. Chip Kelly is now going to face the toughest challenge he’s ever faced in Philadelphia and the answer to whether he can handle it or not begins now.