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.

At 3-7, Eagles Players Try to Make the Best of A Bad Situation

Drowning in a sea of six straight loss, Eagles players like defensive lineman Mike Patterson (left) and Trent Cole (right) are trying to get the team back into the win column. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

After six straight weeks of losing games, your starting quarterback, your starting running back and most of your offensive line, and continuing speculation your  head coach is on his way out, the Eagles are desperate for a win.

Coming into this Monday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers, the 3-7 Eagles are looking for something to hang their hats on as their chances for the postseason are receding into the evening shadows, if it hasn’t faded to black already.

“You still have to do your job, you still got games to play,” said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “You’ve to get wins for ourselves, the coaches, and for the fans. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’re paid to go win games. Just because you’re in a rough situation it doesn’t change anything.”

The Eagles came into the 2012 season believing that last season’s 8-8 record was a fluke because they didn’t have the benefit working together during off-season minicamps. This season they had organized team activities and a full training camp. Suffice it to say, the Birds expected to be better than their current record.

“After last year, we had a lot to prove coming in, we came out winning some games this year,” Jenkins said. “We carried that momentum from last year and stuff just kind of stalled. It’s pretty disappointing.”

In a season that has gotten progressively worse, the Eagles are trying to find a way to make sense out of what has been a lost season for a team that once had Super Bowl aspirations. While keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of a losing streak is easier said than done, some of the Birds players feel they have no choice.

“We haven’t had a win in two months, it’s definitely is getting old, the same story, the same reasons why we aren’t getting the job done,” said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “It’s definitely getting old, but the only way to fix it is to get a win.”

While they’ve tried to put a happy face on their situation, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who’s never in his football career ever experienced anything like a like a six-game losing streak, said the frustration of losing is definitely there.

“It’s a tough situation being 3-7 and losing six games in a row  is definitely not any happy times,” Jackson said. “Throughout the course of the game when adversity hits, it might be quick for that frustration to settle in because it presents itself. That’s the difficult thing is trying to find a way not to get down and go here we go again…Just be positive and lift spirits.”

Perhaps the easiest situation for players to internalize the difficult times is during the course of the game when the mistakes can have a snow-ball effect on a team’s ability to fight their way out of it.

“Throughout the game, turnovers and penalties are things that break some guys as far as getting mad and frustrated if something doesn’t go right,” Jackson said. “It’s just an energy and a persona that I feel we kinda have to shake. When something does go wrong, I don’t think everybody has to be in a rush to panic, just be professional.”

Jackson was a rookie when leaders like Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook were the faces of the Eagles back in 2008. He said the current locker room lacks the vocal personality of those veteran players to keep the team upbeat during tough times.

“As far as anybody being that vocal guy there’s really not no one on this team like a Brian Dawkins to pump up the team,” Jackson said.

“We don’t have that going on with this team. When I was a young guy coming up through the organization, that’s who we counted on. Brian Dawkins, Westbrook, guys like that’s been here eight or 10 years. With the guys here now, we just have to mold together and find a way to get it done.”

Do the players believe that there is still hope to somehow save this season? Playoffs?

“We got to win first and not worry about anything else” Jenkins said. “That win has been eluding us, we’ve got to find it. We gotta get it.”

Too Talented to Fail: Eagles Hope to Be Mistake-Free Against Detroit


Eagles running back LeSean McCoy believes the Eagles have the players to be an elite offense, but they have to avoid costly mistakes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

With the way the Philadelphia Eagles have won and lost games this season, it has to drive their fan base crazy knowing that without the mistakes that have plagued them on both sides of the football, they could unbeaten or at the very least 4-1.

On offense, the $64,000 question is whether or not quarterback Michael Vick can survive a Sunday without giving the football away to the opposition. Coming into this weekend’s contest  against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field, Vick, who fumbled three times against the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he’s bracing himself for defenses looking the jar the ball loose.

“Absolutely, I expect everybody that gets close to me to be reaching for the football,” Vick said. “It’s totally my responsibility to take care of the football and especially for the sake of this football team and it’s something I have to get corrected.”

Running back LeSean McCoy, who had a couple of fumbles early in the season, said Vick knows how important ball security and believes that he will do a better job of safeguarding the football.

“He knows how serious it is, but Mike is fine, he’s our leader,” McCoy said. “A lot of people are on him more than we are because we believe in him and we know that Mike got us.”

Oddly enough, Vick has not thrown an interception in his last three games-a total of 108 pass attempts. His last interception was in week two against the Baltimore Ravens. Head coach Andy Reid said Vick has been doing a better job attacking the blitz.

“They blitzed us on some of the plays in that long drive we had (against Pittsburgh),” Reid said. “In some cases, zero blitzes where they brought everybody they could bring and still covered the guys who were eligible. He did well against those.”

But Vick said while it’s good that he is getting better at reading blitzes, he still has to play better in all phases of his game.

“Just trying to take advantage of what the defense gives me. The thing is you can’t take steps forward and then take steps back. In spite of all of the good things that happen, I [have] to focus on the things I haven’t been doing so well,” Vick said.

In terms of yards, the Eagles rank 11th in the league in total offense and average nearly 400 yards per game, but rank 31st in points per game, scoring just 16 per contest. Eagles backup tight end Clay Harbor said it’s been frustrating for the offense because they feel they can be one of the league’s best if they can avoid giving the football away.

“We know how good we can be if we can protect the football,” Harbor said. “If we stop the turnovers, we can be top 10 or top 5 and one of the most explosive offenses in the league. As players we think we’re one of the best offenses in the league. A couple of turnovers and a couple of mis-executed plays and we’re right there. We still think we’re one of the best offenses in the league.”

McCoy said the Eagles are just too talented a team to be floundering in a sea of their own mistakes.

“We have the right weapons to be an elite offense,” McCoy said. “We just gotta capitalize on opportunities and execute. We gotta stop the penalties and turnovers and stay true to each other. We have to trust each other and be true to each other and just the get the job done. “

Phils offense Held to Just Two Hits in Loss to the Cubs

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

When the day started, there were 45,550 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park hoping the Phillies would beat the Chicago Cubs in the finale of their three-game series.

But by the end of the eigthth inning, the ball park was half-filled when fans saw that their team was in five-run role and had just one hit off Cubs starter Matt Garza. Suffice it to say that there were more hits on the scoreboard’s “Bongo Cam,” than tanything the Phillies could muster in nine innings.

Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Cubs is just another game in which fans are marking their calendars to the day that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will return to the starting lineup. The Philllies finished the day with just one run off two hits.

The only run of the game for the Phillies came when Cubs closer Carlos Marmol walked TyWigginton with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

It was Garza that put the real mojo on the Philllies bats today allowing just one hit—a bloop single by shortstiop Jimmy Rollins in the first inning— with 10 strike outs in seven innings of work on the mound.

“As a matter fact we didn’t hit the ball hard,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “Garza had a lot to with it, but at the same time our hitting is inconsistent and we’ve got to more consistent. I expect us to hit the ball and score every night. You have to to hit some balls in the game and consistently move the ball around a little bit at the major league level to win games.

Kyle Kendrick allowed three runs, two of them earned ,and seven strikeouts in six innings of work. A bad throw on a pick-off led to one of those runs in the third inning He struggled in the beginning, but he got better as the game moved forward. Unfortunately, the Phillies offense just could not get anything going.

“I just try to give us a chance to win the game,” Kendrick said.

Inside the Phillies clubhouse , the silence was about as deafening as the silence of their bats today. Trying to find answers to the lack of consistency at the plate has also become somewhat annoying to the players when they’re asked about it on a daily basis by reporters.

“For every team I’ve been on these questions are nothing new,, you go through it every year,” said Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre, who was 0-for-3 in the loss to the Cubs. “I think that the guys have been through it enough that you can’t panic.”

Phillies rightfielder Hunter Pence said he believes that it’s a matter of time before the Phillies will become consistent on the offensive end.

“It’s going to take for a few of us to get hot and it’s going to happen,” Pence said. “[Shane] Victorino is going to get better than what he’s doing, I’m going to get better than what I’m doing. It’s a thing where you continue to come out ready to play everyday and continue to go with the process. There’s no panic, it’s a long season. Once we get a few those of bats hot and with our pitching and I think we’ll be alright.”

Whassup, Partner: Labor Disputes in Sports Show that Players and Owners Have Mutual Interests

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday  Sun

The year 2011 will be no doubt be remembered for its classic confrontations between millionaire athletes and the billionaires who pay them in both of America’s two most popular sports leagues-the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

The owners of both leagues believed that their million dollar field hands were raking in too much of the revenue and were claiming that they were losing money. The NFL, which brought in $9 billion in revenue, claimed they needed more money to deal with its “rising” business costs. The NBA owners claimed that 22 of its 30 teams were losing $300 million in revenue.

Both the NFL and the NBA locked out its million-dollar underlings, presumably to get a deal that would more suited to the bottom line of its owners. Both the basketball and football owners wanted to have a bigger part of the revenue than the players. The NFL Players Association and the NBA Players Association decertified their unions and wanted to take their bosses to court.

However, neither the players or the owners in both sports wanted to spend the millions of dollars in court costs nor did they want to lose the astronomical sums of money they would have lost if they went through the nuclear winter of not playing at all. In fear of a brutal war of attrition that would have made losers out of everybody, the business “partners” got together and settled their disputes.

In the NBA, the players will get 51.5 percent of the basketball revenue and in the NFL, the players will 48 percent of the total revenue without the owners taking a billion dollars off the top as they did in the previous collective bargaining agreement.

Beyond all the financial minutia of revenue breakdowns, the back and forth rhetoric that came out of these negotiations is the stark realization, as much as the billionaire owners or people who like to defend the so-called wealthy one percent would hate to admit it, the players, who are presumably their employees, are in reality their equal business partners.

(Shhhhh…it could be that way with all workers, regardless of occupation if they only knew their true power, but that’s another story for another time.)

Let’s face it whether you go to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia or the Staples Center in Los Angeles, you are paying to see the players, not the owners. Without the players throwing for 300 yards and chucking three-pointers from darn-near half court, all the owners have is an empty arena with well-painted team logos.

During the NBA lockout, the barnstorming tours of players like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James played to sold out arenas up and down the East Coast.

Folks aren’t going to spend their hard-earned money for that “classic confrontation” between Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

And it cuts both ways. Without the owners, the players don’t have the big arenas, the negotiated television contracts and the opportunity to make big salaries after their slam dunks and hard sacks of the quarterback puts the asses in the stands.

Perhaps the most explosive rhetoric that highlighted both negotiations was the suggestion the owners were like plantation owners. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson came out and said the negotiations were a form of “modern day” slavery.

In the NBA negotiations, HBO’s Bryant Gumbel referred to NBA Commissioner David Stern as “a plantation owner” and union lawyer Jeff Kessler said the NBA owners take it or leave it proposals treated the players like “plantation workers.”

Of course, those characterizations sent the sports media world, the left and right-wing of the Black literary community and just about everyone else into a manic tizzy that millionaire athletes would dare compare themselves to slaves. It’s not like LeBron James was horse- whipped by the Miami Heats for coming up short in the fourth quarter of the 2011 NBA Finals.

But when we get beyond the sanctimonious rancor of all those who admonished wealthy athletes for comparing themselves to slaves, I think the real issue has more to do with power and that the players want the owners to realize that their employee-employer relationship is more of a partnership in which neither side can live without the other.

“It’s really about making sure that this is a partnership and that everybody is making money,” said New York Times columnist William C. Rhoden, who wrote the book, 40 Million Slaves: The Rise, the Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete. “I think the new frontier is the exercise of collective power by players to force the owners to treat this is as a very even partnership. The underlying thing is not wanting to be exploited and putting a value on yourself and making sure the owners live up to the value you put on yourself.”

That’s something all American workers should think about.