Wednesday, January 16, 2013
It's a good day for the Eagles
By Dan Graziano
Contrary to our best efforts and boldest assertions, none of us can see into the future. Only his eventual win-loss record will decide whether Chip Kelly is a good hire for the Philadelphia Eagles. Ultimately, as his predecessor can tell him, the legacy of this move will depend on whether Kelly can win the Super Bowl. Kelly inherits a wide range of questions, from the identity of his quarterback and his defensive coordinator, to his own ability to lead and innovate at the professional level as effectively as he did in college. You're going to hear and see and read a lot of speculation in the coming days on whether Kelly is up to this task and how successful he will be, but it's important to remember that no one actually knows.
But within the confines of the current moment, Kelly is a great hire for the Eagles. Putting aside all we cannot possibly know about how he'll actually do and focusing on right now, it's hard to imagine how they could have done any better. The hiring of Kelly is a triumph of persistence by the organization, and news about which its increasingly disgruntled fan base has good reason to be excited.
Kelly was the Eagles' top choice all along, and they put a serious push on him two weekends ago when they went out to Arizona to interview him in the wake of Oregon's victory in the Fiesta Bowl. The next day, he told them he was staying put at Oregon, and they moved on to a slate of somewhat uninspiring candidates. Sure, you could get yourself fired up about the idea of Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as an up-and-comer who would make them take defense seriously. But that was about it, and Eagles fans were braced for the possibility that the team would announce someone like Lovie Smith or Ken Whisenhunt -- former NFL head coaches who were solid but not spectacular in their previous stops. This would not have felt bold or visionary. It would have felt safe, and unsatisfying. And that is not what the Eagles wanted to do. So rather than settle, they went back and did what it took to get their guy.
Now, don't get me wrong. I believe this is a football decision by the Eagles first and foremost. I am confident that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman have selected the man they believe is right to lead their team into the post-Andy Reid future, and that public relations was not the most important thing on their minds when they decided to go back and do whatever they did this week to convince Kelly to change his mind. But if you think PR is no factor at all, then you haven't been paying attention to the Eagles the past couple of years.
There are people around the league who will tell you that Lurie has grown increasingly befuddled in recent years about the way his fan base views the team. A team that has averaged 10 wins a year and made the playoffs in nine of the past 13 seasons has nonetheless engendered strongly negative feelings among its own fan base. Eagles fans grew weary of Reid's aloof public persona and his inability to deliver a championship, as well as what they perceived as complacency by Lurie, because he wouldn't make the change they wanted him to make. Lurie believes he's running one of the best franchises in the league and doesn't like the idea that the fans dislike the team.
So you'd better believe that one of the things on Lurie's mind throughout this process has been the impression the ultimate decision would make among Eagles fans. And in that respect, he's hit a home run. Kelly was the top college candidate on the market. Based on his collegiate record, Kelly represents energy, innovation and excitement. He has head-coaching experience of which to boast, but no NFL failures that public perception can hold against him. Eagles fans can puff out their chests and proclaim that, of the eight teams that fired head coaches at the end of the season, they were the one that got the top candidate on the market. It's a fun day to be an Eagles fan, and it's been a while since that was the case.
What comes of it, no one can say. Whether he should have been considered the best available candidate, only the inscrutable future will tell. Kelly could be a flop, a wild success or something in between. But what matters for the Eagles and their fans right now is that they got their man -- a fresh and exciting new face of the franchise and someone who represents bright possibilities for that future. That is what makes today a good day for the Eagles, no matter what tomorrow holds.