The Running Man: Wendell Smallwood Hopes to be the Eagles Next Star Back

Wendell Smallwood

West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (4) during the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri via AP)

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

At this time last year, Philadelphia Eagles fans were salivating at the prospect of former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher at the time, leading the team to the Super Bowl Promised Land.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.  Between a patchwork offensive line and an offensive scheme that didn’t play to his strengths,  Murray couldn’t duplicate what he did in Dallas. Throw in the fact that he really wasn’t happy with the Eagles and had no problem letting anyone, including team management, know it, he was ultimately traded.

While Murray’s departure leaves a pretty sizable hole for the Birds, it also gives a rare opportunity to the team’s fifth-round draft pick, former West Virginia star Wendell Smallwood to make some real noise, starting with this week’s Rookie Mini-Camp. If he plays his cards right, he could be the starting running back for the team.

Of course, running backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles might have something to say about that, but what bodes well for Smallwood is that he appears to be a good fit for head coach Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.

Playing for a usually pass-happy West Virginia squad, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

“When you look at his numbers this year (2015) and you watch the tape, it’s like doubles all the time,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice-president of football operations. “Fifty-eight 10-plus yard runs and it’s play after play. He runs with a determination. You see the speed on tape and you see the speed in testing.”

Smallwood fits into Pederson’s offense the way Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles or former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook fit into Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But Smallwood comes into his first rookie camp with some minor baggage. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness to change a story that implicated his friend in a robbery attempt.  No criminal charges were filed.

Smallwood also got noticed here in Philadelphia for some offensive statements he made about the city in 2011 on, you guessed it, Twitter. He has since apologized and deactivated his Twitter account.

Most of Smallwood’s first press conference with the Philly media was spent fielding questions about his past social media activities and his arrest. To his credit, he handled the onslaught well and said he was happy that Eagles picked him.

“This organization trusted and believed in me and had confidence in me to know that’s not the person I am,” Smallwood said. “I think the impression that I left with the Eagles was good enough to get me drafted.”

While the scrutiny is understandable on one level, they amount to youthful indiscretion and bad judgment. If folks got judged on the stupid things that they did and said they were 18 or 19 years old,  a lot of people wouldn’t have jobs.

Did it have anything to do with why he was a fifth round pick? Not really. Had Smallwood stayed for his senior year at West Virginia, he might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate or Doak Walker Award candidate as the nation’s best running back.

Smallwood said he’s going to come into the Eagles camp with something to prove in the way he did in his final year at West Virginia.

“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder since I started playing the game,” Smallwood said. “That’s because I wasn’t getting the respect that I deserved. Just wanting to work for everything and wanting to prove to people that I’m better than whoever put me against. I’m a competitor and I love to compete.  I approach the game that way and its paid off that way in getting me here.”






South Philly Forty: Eagles Purge Continues with the Release of Evan Mathis

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

Two-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis is free to negotiate with other teams after he was released by the Eagles.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the drama at NovaCare had kind of subsided just a wee bit, the Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made another eye-raising move on Thursday by giving the heave-ho to two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis.

While the team hasn’t made an official announcement just yet, Mathis himself made the announcement on Twitter: “Thanks for the memories Philly.”

I guess the first thing that should jump out at you in the midst of Kelly’s purge of the team’s best veteran players is that being outspoken or even looking like you’re a critic of this regime will get you fired. Since assuming command of the team’s football operations, Kelly has made it clear that while a player maybe good, no one is above being kicked to the curb.

You can’t say that move was about race or any of his moves including the trade of running back LeSean McCoy. Kelly has made it emphatically clear that this is his team, ride or die.

The Eagles have become the real-life version of the 1970s football movie, “North Dallas 40.” Kelly, who makes all the personnel decisions, has become B.A. Strothers, the demanding coach played by G.D Spradling, who likened a football team to a well-oiled machine. In one scene the coach in the film if one of those gears from that machine flies off on its own, he would pull it.

Kelly has definitely done that when anyone dared to be a critic of his football ideology. McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams have all been shown the door in one way or the other.   The latest casualty of Kelly’s totalitarian rule is their malcontent Pro Bowl offensive lineman.

Mathis did not show up for the team’s “voluntary” organized team activities mainly because he dared to not be happy with his contract. He wanted more money and he wanted it guaranteed. The Eagles response to Mathis was stay home and don’t ya come back no more.

What makes this move even more painful for Mathis was that he was scheduled to make $5.5 million and $6 million next season. Despite his accomplishments on the field for the last couple years, some observers around the league are saying that it is highly doubtful that’s he going to make that kind of money at 33-years-old—he turns 34 in November.

Throughout the offseason, the Eagles had been looking to trade Mathis, but could find no takers. Given Kelly’s penchant for putting the kybosh on guys who don’t buy into the system, general managers around the league figured why give up a draft choice or a player to be named later when you can sign him as a free agent, possibly at a cheaper price.

The irony of this was that Mathis bought into Kelly’s holistic approach to the football which involves proper diet and nutrition along with getting plenty of sleep. I guess in Kelly’s mind Mathis wanting more money is a violation of a team that he wants to carve into his own image.

And so even with the departure of former head coach Andy Reid and former team president Joe Banner, the Birds are still the Logan’s Run of pro football where turning 30-something can be hazardous to your job security no matter how good you were the past couple of seasons.

Somewhere in the state of Ohio, Banner is smiling at Kelly’s handiwork.

Meanwhile, Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner will be vying to replace Matthew. My caveat to Kelly is that if you’re going to cut guys they have to be better than the guy being let go.

Running back DeMarco Murray had better have the kind of season to make fans say, LeSean who? Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to stay healthy and be productive enough to make people forget Nick Foles. The Eagles defense with its young defensive backs needs to stop people.

In other words, the end-result of all the offseason moves had better translate into a division title and a run deep into the playoffs. If it doesn’t, Kelly will find out in no uncertain terms that he, too, is expendable as the players he’s cut or traded.

McNabb Admits ‘Not Black Enough’ Comments Bothered Him During His Days in Philly

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Donovan McNabb will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Honor Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Chris Murray

Donovan McNabb will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Honor Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—For all of the slings and arrows that Donovan McNabb endured during his tumultuous 11-year tenure in Philadelphia, the one thing that seemed to stick in his crawl the most was the idea that he wasn’t “Black enough.”

Back in 2005, J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP and publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday SUN suggested that McNabb was playing the race card by moving away from being a running quarterback and turning into a drop-back passer.

Other local celebrities including boxer Bernard Hopkins also jumped on the “Are you Black enough?” bandwagon, questioning not only McNabb’s Blackness, but also his street cred and his toughness.

While he is the quarterback with the most wins in Eagles history, and went to five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl, the lack of support from some verbal elements of Philadelphia’s African American community took some of the shine from those achievements, McNabb admitted.

“It was hilarious to me that you would be criticized not only by the masses, but by your own people. That right there is still funny to this day,” McNabb said to a group of reporters at Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday. “That pissed me off more because of the struggles that [Blacks have] been through trying to play the position. To have a guy come out and say I’m not running because I’m trying to prove a point or you know, I’m not Black enough…. Well, I guess we have a lot more quarterbacks who aren’t Black enough.”

McNabb, who now works as a commentator on Fox Sports News, was in town to be inducted into the Eagles’ Ring Of Honor. The ceremony will take place tonight during the Eagles/Kansas City Chiefs game.

There are currently nine African Americans taking signals from center in the National Football League, which is the most in league history. Like former Eagles great Randall Cunningham and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, McNabb, and his era of signal callers including Daunte Culpepper, Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Aaron Brooks, made things a little easier for players like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kapernick and E.J. Manuel to shine in a league that sometimes still has problems knowing how to best utilize their skills.

“What you’re seeing with nine African-American quarterbacks that are playing the quarterback position that people are truly looking into having a strong-armed, athletic, intelligent guy at the position who can not only make plays with their arm, but with their legs.”

But while the athleticism of this new breed of African American signal caller gets a lot of the attention, it’s often at the expense of acknowledging their intelligence, McNabb said. The West Coast offense comes from a playbook that could rival any encyclopedia. You have to be more than just a strong arm to master it, he said.

“Stop looking at the outer shell and focus on who the kid really is,” McNabb said. “What’s the difference between an RGIII, a Russell Wilson, a Colin Kaepernick or an Andrew Luck? Is it skin color or is one smarter than the other? I think if you look at the overall big picture of it all, they’re quarterbacks if they’re Black or White. They’re ask to do what quarterbacks are asked to do—protect the football, read the defense, dissect it and be able to get the ball to the open man and win football games.”

McNabb left his mark on the current Eagles squad by convincing former coach Andy Reid to bring current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in 2009 after Vick was released from jail after serving time for his part in a dog fighting ring. Reid, who will be leading the Kansas City Chiefs into the Linc tonight, eventually followed his signal caller’s advice and gave the former Virginia Tech star a chance for resurgence.

Connecting Vick with the Eagles was about trying to help a friend, said McNabb, who has known Vick since he was a high school student and had tried to recruit him for his alma mater Syracuse.

“Mike and I had that tie together where I felt like bringing a brother in,” McNabb said. “Bringing a friend in to get back on his feet and continue to fulfill a dream.”

McNabb said he’s proud of Vick’s success, especially during these first two weeks of this season.

“I think he’s progressed and matured,” McNabb said. “I think the steps that he’s made is because Chip Kelly challenged him. The team saw the work ethic that he put forth. I think it showed on the football field. What you’re seeing is a guy who is a lot older than the guys on the football field and in the locker room, but he’s willing to do what it takes to win.”

Because Philadelphia was tough on him at times, one might think that McNabb would tell his friend Vick to rent, not buy, while he’s playing for the Eagles.

But as he looks back at his career as an Eagle, and the honor he’ll be receiving tonight, there are no hard feelings, McNabb said.

“I just dismiss it,” he said. “My Mom always told me that if somebody brings your name up, that means they’re thinking about you. It doesn’t affect me. It didn’t affect me when I played. I enjoyed playing here in Philadelphia. To see some of the fans that say they miss when I was playing and still wish that I was out there….”

“There are some people out there that truly respect what I’ve done…”

Hall of Fame: The Case for Donovan McNabb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Donovan McNabb got a  huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Donovan McNabb got a huge ovation from the crowd last Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA-It was an emotional Donovan McNabb who officially ended what was a tumultuous, enigmatic, oft-times controversial career in the City of Brotherly Love as a member of the Eagles.

McNabb, who is the Eagles all-time leading passer, will have his No. 5 retired in ceremonies on Sept. 19 at Lincoln Financial Field when the Birds play the Kansas City Chiefs, now coached by Andy Reid.

Ever since McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins after the 2009 season, there has been debate about how should Eagles fans should remember him.  Some fans and sports media pundits will remember him as a player who choked in the big games.

The anti-McNabb crowd will tell you that he was a passive-aggressive crybaby who refused to take responsibility for Eagles losses.  They blame him for the losses in four of the five NFC title games and the Super Bowl.

There were some who were upset that he was too much of a Black quarterback and others who said he wasn’t Black enough.  Huh?  What? The anti-McNabb crowd questioned his accuracy as a passer as well as his heart and leadership. By the way, he completed 59 percent of his passes-sixth among quarterbacks who are already in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

To the anti-McNabb faction, I guess it didn’t matter that he played on what turned out to be a broken leg and threw four touchdown passes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. McNabb gamely tried to play with a broken rib in the 2003 NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.

“Those are the type of things that the average player can’t play through,” said former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins.  “He’s had other things that he played through that you would never know about because he would never let you know.

“(McNabb) was mentally tough not only to deal with those injuries but to deal with all the negativity that came across his table so many times.”

Meanwhile, the pro-McNabb crew said that he was a great quarterback who managed to win in spite of having mediocre receivers for the most part and a head coach who refused to utilize the running game, especially in the big games.

They also point the fact McNabb was a model citizen off the field who involved himself with a number of charities in the community.  He never got arrested or had any brushes with the law and he was a good family man.

This past Sunday at the Eagles training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field, McNabb got a huge cheer from the 30,000 fans that came to see the Birds workout. That to me is an indication that maybe there were more people who appreciated him than those who loathed him.

I think the vitriol against McNabb is out of frustration because the team hasn’t won a championship since 1960.

I think with the passage of time people will appreciate McNabb in the same way fans like former Phillies Mike Schmidt, who was also disliked by fans when he was a player in spite of his success.

The anguish of coming so close to a Super Bowl win and not getting there is frustrating to fans and no one felt iit more than McNabb himself.

“My goal was to have that parade down Broad Street,” McNabb said Monday.  “Now the Phillies did it first, and I apologized to the fans because that was my goal.  I felt like I let them down.”

In the final analysis, I think McNabb, with the teammates he had, did everything they could on the field to win here.  If they had better personnel on both sides of the ball and maybe better coaching, who knows?

I do believe that there were times when I felt McNabb needed to just take over and dominate games with his ability to run and create on the fly. He did it at times, but not enough.

McNabb is the winningest quarterback in franchise history with 101 including the playoffs. He led the team to five division titles along with those five conference title games.

Is McNabb a Hall of Famer? It depends on whom you ask. There are a lot of people who say he falls just short.  I think you can make a case for him.

Well, if you like statistics, he has a good combination of numbers to get him there.  McNabb is one of four quarterbacks in NFL history to compile 30,000 yards passing, 200 touchdown passes, 3,000 yards rushing and 20 rushing touchdowns. He has the fourth lowest interception percentage in league history.

Only three other players have accomplished that John Elway, Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton.  Those three are in the Hall of Fame.

McNabb, Elway and Tarkenton are the only quarterbacks in league history to throw for 35,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards.

In McNabb’s 11 years with the Eagles, he won 92 regular-season and nine playoff games.  Only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have more wins and more Super Bowl rings. A huge sticking point for fans in this day and age who believe that McNabb falls just shot of having a place in Canton.

“If you’re talking about the top three of the era, Tom Brady, Peyton, and Don,” said former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook. “When you’re talking about Hall of Fame credentials, they’re there.”

But if you’re still not impressed, remember one thing—The Eagles could have drafted then Heisman Trophy winner Rickey Williams and his fondness for the whacky weed.  Ask yourself who had the better career.

With the Fourth Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft…the Philadelphia Eagles Pick…?

Texas A&M offensive tackle might be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Texas A&M offensive tackle might be the first offensive lineman taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—For an Eagles squad that has far too many holes on both sides of the ball, the major question that fans have is what will the Birds do with the fourth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft?

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman will probably give you the best athlete available line. In other years when the Birds were winning on a consistent basis, that might be an acceptable answer to fans.

The stark reality is that any pick the Birds make in the draft, whether it’s the first round or the seventh round, will more than likely fill a need on a team that had more than its share of flaws in 2012.

On offense, the Eagles are going to need more bodies to protect Michael Vick or whoever wins the starting job at quarterback. Last season, Eagles quarterbacks were hit 118 times and sacked 48 times. Even with left tackle Jason Peters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans coming back from injuries, the Eagles definitely need some depth in the offensive line.

If you’ve learned anything from last season, you can never have too many offensive linemen. The Eagles have their eye on Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel (6-foot-6, 306 pounds).   The word on Joeckel is that he’s a good pass protector who plays fast and has quick feet.

In Kelly’s hurry-up read option scheme, the Eagles are going to need their lineman to move quickly to the line of scrimmage and to get out attack opposing defenders.

“You’ve got to move. You’ve got to be able to play in space against some really, really good defensive linemen in this league,” Kelly told .

Before the Kansas City Chiefs, who have the No. 1 pick, put the franchise tag on left tackle Branden Albert, draft experts said Joeckel would be drafted by the Chiefs.  Some are speculating the Chiefs are going to go defense in the first round and pick up Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

But new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has always had an affinity for offensive lineman, so he might pull the trigger on Joeckel. If he does, there are some other linemen that Kelly and Roseman might consider if Joeckel is not available.

Alabama's Chance Warmack could help the Eagles improve their running game.

Alabama’s Chance Warmack could help the Eagles improve their running game.

Alabama guard Chance Warmack (6-2, 325) might arguably be the best guard in this draft. This is a player who cleared the way for 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, all of whom were either All-Americans or All Southeastern Conference.

The various mock drafts and scouting websites are saying Warmack is an athletic guard who is an excellent run blocker and knows how to lock in on a defender and finish him off. Warmack is also athletic enough to be a good pass protector and is quick on his feet.

Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher (6-7, 300) may not have the name recognition like his contemporaries from the big schools. But he was an Associated Press Third-Team All-American as a left tackle. The word on Fisher is that he is a good run blocker and pass protector, who does a good job mirroring opposing pass rushers.

Fisher’s weakness is that he may lack upper body strength and had gotten beaten by defensive ends who bull-rushed him during practices at the Senior Bowl.

Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson (6-7, 303) raised eyes of some NFL scout when he ran a 4.75 40-yard dash. Not bad for a guy his size and seems to be quick enough for Kelly’s quick paced offensive scheme.

While the scouts like his upside in terms of his ability to pass block and ability to create space in the running game, Johnson needs to put on a few more pounds and needs to learn to keep his feet under him.

Considering that he’s only played on the offensive line for the last two seasons after playing quarterback in high school and tight end and defensive end during his first two years of college ball, he hasn’t been half bad on the offensive line. I’m not certain you take him in the first round, but he has good upside.

Utah's Star Lotulelei has the ability to take on two blockers.

Utah’s Star Lotulelei has the ability to take on two blockers.

On defense, Lotulelei, if he’s still available by the fourth pick, could be the Eagles version of Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. At 6-4, 325 pounds, Lotulelei has the potential to plug up an opposing team’s running game. Last season at Utah, Lotulelei had 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, four pass breakups, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

If the Chiefs select Lotulelei with the first pick, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is the No. 1 linebacker on all the mock drafts.  In 2012, Jones led the nation in sacks with 14.5, tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven).

For an Eagles team that was near the bottom of the league in turnovers forced, Jones could be the answer in terms of having a playmaker on defense. The Eagles haven’t had a true enforcer from the outside linebacker spot since Seth Joyner .

Defensive end Dion Jordan, who played for Kelly at Oregon, can also start at the outside linebacker spot. At 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan may have to put on a few pounds, but could be a solid outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

During his senior year with the Ducks, Jordan had 44 tackles (10 for loss) and five sacks. He also has the ability to drop back in pass coverage. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Jordan ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.

Rolling the Dice: Can the Eagles Win A Super Bowl with Chip Kelly?

Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

Chip Kelly is hoping his up-tempo spread offense can take the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and The Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA—Perhaps the one question Eagles fans  have for Chip Kelly, the  Birds new head coach, is will his fast-paced, no-huddle, spread-option offense will be good enough to bring the franchise its first Super Bowl title?

Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie is hoping that Kelly can turn the Birds fortune’s around as quickly as he did during his four seasons at Oregon.  While with the Ducks, Kelly compiled a 46-7 record, which included a trip to the 2010 BCS National Championship game. He also served as the team’s offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job.

“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” said Lurie in a statement released by the team. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”

Kelly does have a tough act to follow after former Birds head coach Andy Reid, who finished his 14-year tenure as the winningest coach in Eagles history with nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five trips to the NFC title game and one conference title.

After interviewing with the Eagles for over nine hours in Arizona shortly after his team’s victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl two weeks ago, Kelly had originally opted to stay at Oregon. Why he apparently changed his mind is not known.

There is speculation that Oregon maybe facing NCAA sanctions because Kelly used a recruiting service. According to, Kelly said he wasn’t running away from anything and had been cooperating with the NCAA.

In four seasons at Oregon, Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense averaged 44 points per game. Last season, the Ducks rolled up 49.6 points per game. The Oregon offense is run exclusively from the shotgun formation with the quarterback opting to run, pass or hand it off to a running back usually up the middle of a defense.

It is an offense that requires the quarterback to be mobile and would put him in situations where he would be hit by the defense.  Kelly’s challenge will be to make that offense work in a league where the defensive linemen and linebackers are as fast as some running backs. It’s not like the Eagles are going to be playing Washington State or Cal every week.

Several teams around the league use a version of the spread option offense including the Washington Redskins, the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s starting to form more toward that offense. Anytime you have dual threat quarterback, it puts pressure on the defense that they can do numerous things throwing or running the ball,” said San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James, who played for Kelly at Oregon.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he’s even learned a thing or two from Kelly’s uptempo offense.

“I was interested to hear how he did it. I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing,” Belichick said.  “Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”

Perhaps the ideal quarterback to run Kelly’s version of the spread option could be Michael Vick, the Eagles starting quarterback until late in the season. The only problem is that Vick, while he is still a good runner, has been injury-prone and has committed a large amount of turnovers over the last two seasons.

It’s highly unlikely that the team will bring the 33-yea r-old Vick back simply because they would have to pay him $16 million. The former Virginia Tech’s age and history of injuries is definitely not an incentive for the team to shell out that kind of money.

Meanwhile, Nick Foles, who is your requisite NFL-style drop back quarterback, said he has never played in a read option-spread offense and would prefer to play in a more conventional style. Can Kelly adjust his coaching style to suit what Foles can do as a quarterback?  We’ll see.

“I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid’s a warrior. He’s as good as anyone in the country,” Kelly told a Tucson, Ariz. newspaper after his Ducks beat Arizona in 2011.

One quarterback from the collegiate ranks that could possibly fit Kelly’s system is West Virginia’s Geno Smith, who played in a spread-option offense. He has a strong arm and completed 71 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,205 yards and a career-high 42 touchdown passes during his senior year.

Another thing to consider here is will Kelly be smart enough to surround himself with a coaching staff that’s familiar with the NFL, especially on the defensive side of the ball? For the last two seasons, the Eagles defense has been from mediocre at best to downright awful, especially in the secondary.

Eagles players, via Twitter and the team’s website, are saying they are excited to have Kelly as the new head mentor.

“He’s a brilliant mind. We have a lot of weapons on the Eagles that kind of assimilates to what he was doing at Oregon,” Eagles center Jason Kelce.

If anything, Eagles fans are hoping Kelly can be as successful as a Jimmy Johnson who went from winning national championships at the collegiate level to winning Super Bowls as a pro coach.

The biggest fear is that he could flame out like collegiate coaches Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban, who had their shot in the NFL, but came up miserably short. and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

Not All In? Eagles Players Blame Themselves for Reid’s Demise

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

After former head coach Andy Reid was let go by the team, Eagles players pointed to their own lack of effort on the field as the reason their old mentor was fired.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

After former head coach Andy Reid was let go by the team, Eagles players pointed to their own lack of effort on the field as the reason their old mentor was fired. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA–On the day that Andy Reid was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, it was a time of soul-searching for the players who, while cleaning out their lockers, put the blame on themselves for their 4-12 record in 2012.

“We could never stop the bleeding,” said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “If I had to point to one game where everything went downhill, I would say it was that Detroit Lions game. After that, Juan [Castillo] got fired and everything just went downhill from there.”

In that game against the Lions, the Eagles had a 23-13 lead with 5:18 left and allowed the Lions to score on their next three possessions including the overtime game-winning field goal. The Eagles season spiraled into a disastrous eight-game losing streak that ultimately destroyed their season.

After what was described as an emotional farewell to their former head coach on Monday, some Eagles players criticized their teammates for not making enough of an effort to win. Running back LeSean McCoy said players didn’t lay it on the line as much as they should have this season.

“I think guys mad e a lot of excuses,” said McCoy. “Guys weren’t playing up to par and wasn’t focused enough. There were guys making a certain amount of money and not putting out. I think guys looked for excuses.”

Quarterback Michael Vick, who’s not expected to return next year, said it ticked him off that players didn’t give enough effort throughout the season and didn’t buy into Reid’s system.

“Until you get guys who are willing to better themselves week in and week out and want to win, you ain’t gonna win,” Vick said. “It’s unfortunate for Coach that things turned out the way they did. It could have been a lot better and this locker room could have dictated that.”

Some of the players said there was a lack of leadership from their ranks. Eagles offensive lineman Evan Mathis said its time for the veteran players on the team to take a more active, more vocal role as team leaders.

“We need a lot more leaders,” Mathis said. “Guys like myself and other guys that have been around for awhile need to step up and take the reins and lead.”

Vick said he regrets not being more of a vocal leader. He said that his style of leadership was more about leading by example and that he did what he could to hold his teammates accountable.

“I should have done it [been more vocal]. I tried to take a modest approach and try to lead by example,” Vick said. “We had a time meeting to try to help guys to recommit. It was still the same thing over and over again. I’m not going to tell a grown man anything twice.

“The reason I ended up incarcerated was because people told me things over and over again and I didn’t listen,” Vick continued. “I feel like if you don’t learn on the first go-around, then you’re just disregarding it, so you have to deal with the consequences.”

On the field, players like Vick, McCoy or Maclin certainly made their share of mistakes this season. Vick threw 12 touchdown passes, but also threw 10 interceptions and had five fumbles. McCoy had three fumbles.

The Eagles defense, especially after former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was fired, couldn’t stop anybody.  Free agents like cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha were major disappointments over the last two years.

In the aftermath of Reid’s firing, general manager Howie Roseman said the Eagles from a personnel standpoint have to get back to having a core group of players that they draft that believe in the system established by the new coaching staff and rely less on signing free agents.

“We have to get back to having a core group of guys that are Eagles, that bleed green, that are passionate about the city, that are passionate about playing here and really genuinely care,” Roseman said. “When you bring in players from other places, you think they’re good fits, but you don’t really know that until they’re here.

“It affects the chemistry and part of that is that we’ve been close for so long we were desperately trying to win a championship. You got to do it the right way, there’s no sacrifice for doing it the right,” Roseman said.



After Giants Rout of Eagles, Reid is Reportedly Fired; Players Point Fingers at Each Other

Comcast is Reporting that Reid Will Be Fired, Players say Team didn’t Buy into Reid’s System

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

Andy Reid Coaching in what is likely his final game with the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo By Webster Riddick.

Andy Reid coaching in what is likely his final game with the Philadelphia Eagles. Photo By Webster Riddick.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.–The Andy Reid era in Philadelphia Eagles football mercifully ended not far from Exit 16W off the New Jersey Turnpike with a beatdown your mama or daddy used to give you when you really screwed up.

After all the talk last week of playing the role of spoiler and winning for Reid by Eagles players, the Giants ended the competitive portion (and we use that term loosely) of this game early, jumping out to a four-touchdown lead at halftime.

For the record, the final score was a resounding 42-7 rout of the hapless Eagles at MetLife Stadium by the Giants, who were eventually eliminated from playoff contention when the Chicago Bears defeated the Detroit Lions.

“It was embarrassing, I don’t think I’ve ever lost like that high school or college,” said Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant. “It was definitely embarrassing. I hate to see Coach Reid go out with a performance like that which was totally inexcusable, definitely lackluster. Just bad.”

Of course, the only thing suspense left in this game is the time of Monday or Tuesday’s press conference announcing Reid’s imminent firing. Reid has put together an outstanding record during his 14-year tenure in Philadelphia, but his time has apparently run out.

Comcast SportsNet is reporting that the decision has already been made, but the team has yet to confirm it or announce a press conference.

“Either way, I understand,” Reid said after the game. “So that’s how it is, this is the business that I’ve chosen. I’ve been very fortunate to have been here as long as I have and if I’m here again, I’ll love every minute of it. If I’m not, I’ll understand that, too.

The Eagles were awful on defense as Giants quarterback Eli Manning blew up the Eagles weak secondary with five touchdown passes while throwing for 208 yards on 13-of-21 passing. The Birds defense couldn’t stop the pass or the run as the Giants scored on five of their first six possessions.

On offense, Michael Vick showed the rust of not playing since Nov. 11.  Against a swirling wind, Vick, at times, overthrew open receivers including a pass to tight end Brent Celek on the game’s first possession that was intercepted by safety Giants Stevie Brown.

Vick, who was presumably auditioning for other teams around the league, didn’t necessarily play the game of his life, completing 19-of-35 passes for 197 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Inside the locker room after the game, the Eagles came as about as close to pointing fingers at each other than at any time during Reid’s tenure as head coach.  During his post-game press conference, Vick didn’t openly throw his teammates under the bus, but the implication was there.

“It’s frustrating, it’s difficult because me, I leave it out there on the field, I give it everything I got.” Vick said. “I wish I could play other positions, but I can’t. You do the best you can and that’s all you can ask of yourself.”

Later in the press conference, Vick said that his teammates should feel the kind of anger and embarrassment that he felt about the season and in this last game against the Giants.

“I’m not saying my teammates gave a lack of effort and I noticed it, I just know that we can play better, “Vick said. “You’re down 21-0 and the first quarter is not even over, what is that? We don’t know.  I just notice that it is a big difference than what we were going through last year and the year before. It shouldn’t be that way.

“If I had to sit here and be candid right now, if every guy were to come up to this podium, they should say the same thing I said verbatim.”

Avant took it even further and said players weren’t buying into Reid’s system and that the team needs to find players who are willing to follow to coaches orders regardless of who’s coaching the team.

“It’s not a Coach Reid thing, it’s definitely a player personality and characteristic problem,” Avant said. “One thing that I do know is that we need guys that will buy into a system no matter if it’s Coach Reid’s system or anything else. I’m hoping and praying that it’s Coach Reid.

“But if that’s not the case, you’re still going to have the players to be responsible and accountable—not to allow the amenities of the NFL to distract them from what this game is about which is playing hard for a team and playing hard for the city of Philadelphia.”

Avant said that when he first came here as a rookie in 2006 there were stand up guys like Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and Jeremiah Trotter that set a good example to give their best effort for the team under any circumstance.

“When you have a younger team, there has to be a maturity level that previous coaches had to have taught them,” Avant team. “This team will be better, but the young players have to mature as well.”

Eagles 2012 Season: What Went Wrong?

Alex Henery's 26-yard field goal was the game-winning field goal in the Eagles 19-17 victory on Sept. 30. It was the last victory before the Birds season spiraled into an eight-game losing streak. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Alex Henery’s 26-yard field goal was the game-winning field goal in the Eagles 19-17 victory on Sept. 30. It was the last victory before the Birds season spiraled into an eight-game losing streak. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

PHILADELPHIA–The last time the Eagles played the New York Giants back on Sept. 30, the Birds came away with a 19-17 victory to give them a 3-1 record and had fans excited about a possible run for the postseason.

Even Giants players thought the Eagles were going to win the NFC East.

“At that point in time, I thought they were definitely going to be the team to beat,” said Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. “They had everything going and they were on a nice winning streak. They were doing some good things. I was definitely thinking, in my mind, that they were going to be the team to beat.”

Unfortunately, that turned out to be the last game the Eagles would win before an eight-game losing streak destroyed the Birds season and perhaps signaled the end of the Andy Reid era in the City of Brotherly Love.

“We finished the game,” Reid said about the Eagles win over Giants in September. “We finished it with a win and we’ve had a couple since then that we haven’t quite finished in the fourth quarter or the other team started fast and we’ve been playing a catch up game. We just didn’t take care of business in the end there.”

This Sunday’s matchup with their bitter archrivals from North Jersey will close a bad season for the Eagles and possibly put an end to the Giants slim playoff hopes. When you’re coming into the game with a 4-11 record and facing an off-season filled with questions, spoiling your division rival’s postseason chances is the only joy you can get.

Everyone from fans to media folk is trying to figure out how a season with that kind of promise could deteriorate into the nightmare of a year that will end with double-digit losses.

Was it a couple games here or there? How much did injuries to the offensive line hurt the offense? Was it a defense that got torched badly in that eight-game losing streak?  Was it the firing of former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo?

“We’ve had chance after chance to win games and we shot ourselves in the foot whether it be turnovers, big plays on defense, special teams—not making plays consistently,” said Eagles safety Kurt Coleman. “It hasn’t been all-round great year for us as a team.”

You could get a variety of different answers and they would probably all be right in some way.

Perhaps it was the first two games during that losing streak—losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Detroit Lions—that sent the Eagles spiraling into the abyss.

When you look back at the 16-14 loss to the Steelers, the Eagles had several chances to win that game only to have something go wrong.  On their second drive of that game, the Eagles drove to the Steelers three-yard line, but quarterback Michael Vick fumbled the ball at the one.

But the Eagles eventually rallied to take a 14-13 lead with a little over six minutes left.  But the Steelers went on a 14-play, 64-yard drive to Shaun Suisman’s game-winning field goal. The key play on that drive was a conversion on third and 12 by the Steelers.

“To me, that was a game we should have won and we didn’t get it done,” Coleman said. “We had them third and 12 and had them backed up. It was inexcusable for them to get that first down, they did and they ended up getting the field goal to beat us. That would have put us at 4-1.”

Perhaps the most painful loss of the Eagles losing  streak was when they blew a 10-point lead to the Lions in the last 5:18 of regulation and eventually lost in overtime. It was a winnable game that ultimately led to the firing of Castillo as defensive coordinator. The Eagles season took a nose-dive of biblical proportions as losses blowout to the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins put the Birds into a deep hole.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said it was the 31-6 loss to the Redskins (Nov.18)  where he figured that things had spiraled to the point of no return.

“The bleeding didn’t stop,” Asomugha said. “When we played Washington that’s when it hit up front when it was like what? Really?”










Swan Song: Eagles Comeback Falls Short in What Could be Andy Reid’s Last Game in Philly

Eagles head coach Andy Reid leading the Eagles in what could be his final game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid leading the Eagles in what could be his final game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

In what was supposedly the final home game for head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles 27-20 loss to the Washington Redskins was a reflection of the promise and ultimately the disappointment of a season that had higher expectations than their current 4-11 mark.

The Eagles started off well taking a 7-0 lead on their first possession of the first quarter, but then shot themselves in the foot with turnovers, penalties and a general lack of execution that put them in a two-touchdown hole.  To their credit, the Birds made a game of it until the bitter end, but came up short.

“We’ve been fighting back, but it’s always at the wrong time,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “It’s been a rough year.”

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles played a better game against the Redskins than he did back in November, passing for 345 yards and one touchdown on 32-of-45 passing. But Foles had an interception and a fumble that stopped a couple of Eagles drives and led to points for the Redskins.

“I have to eliminate mistakes,” Foles said. “I fumbled and threw an interception. It’s the quarterback’s job to make sure that we get more points on the board than the other team and I didn’t do my job today.”

Defensively, the Eagles slowed down Robert Griffin III a little bit. The former Baylor star completed 16-of-24 passes for 193 yards with an interception and two touchdown passes including a 22-yarder to Santana Moss that put the Eagles in a 27-13 hole late in the third quarter from which they would never escape.

The Birds  had chances late in the game to score the game-tying touchdown to send the game into overtime, but couldn’t pull it off.

They came close.

Nick Foles last pass resulted in an intentional grounding penalty that ended a painful loss to the Redskins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Nick Foles last pass resulted in an intentional grounding penalty that ended a painful loss to the Redskins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

With 23 seconds left in the game, Foles short-hopped a pass to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin, who beat two Redskins defenders in the corner of the end zone. Three plays later, the game ended when Foles was called for intentional grounding with one-second left. The penalty resulted in a run-off of time that ended the game.

“I think the Redskins got 10 points off two turnovers, something like that,” Maclin said. “It’s the same thing over and over again. I think we moved the ball and we showed how good this offense could be, it’s just that we came up short.”

Oddly enough, as Reid came off the field, he was met with some fans standing and cheering for him and of course, there was a smattering of boos in the background. But for the most part, it was more of an apathetic silence from the fans who are simply waiting for a bad season to end.

“Coach is one of the best coaches to ever coach, still is,” said Eagles tight end Brent Celek. “Hopefully, he’s back, but that’s someone’s decision.”

Eagles players were disappointed with the loss and seemed to be determined to come back next weekend against the New York Giants to win with for their embattled head coach who many expect to be let go at the end of the season.

“We knew this was the last home-game of the year and we wanted to make sure we go out of there and get a “W.” That’s what we talked about before the game,” Graham said. “I’m hoping things can work out for Coach Reid here, but if not I wish him well. I wish him the best.”

Maclin hinted that he would like to see Reid come back for another crack at turning things around for the Eagles in 2013.

“He’s a great guy, a phenomenal coach for what he teaches and what he preaches,” Maclin said. “The last two years haven’t been what we’ve wanted them to be, but at the end of the day that doesn’t mean he can’t turn it around the following season. We’ll see.”

With the season ending against the archrival New York Giants, Maclin said a win in the season-finale would be a positive cap on an otherwise bad season for the Eagles. He said the team was upset not just for their coach, but for the organization and for the fans.

“I think the season as a whole has been frustrating and disappointing,” Maclin said. “We’re not looking at it as being anybody’s last home game, being another game and going out there and take care of business. So for the whole organization, we wanted to get this win, but we came up short.”