PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly does almost everything differently from his predecessor Andy Reid. Time will reveal whether Kelly’s methods are better.
One thing is very certain: It is going to be tough for Kelly to improve on the way Reid handled bye weeks. Reid won his first game coming out of the bye 13 times in his first 13 seasons as the Eagles' coach. His perfect record was spoiled in 2012, his worst and final season here.
Getting a bye week this late in the season is a mixed blessing. It has worked out well for Kelly in his first season because the Eagles didn’t have a lot of injuries mounting up and costing them games. They were down three defensive starters against Washington on Sunday, but they won.
So now they get a mental break and a physical rest before returning for a five-week playoff push.
“This bye occurred exactly when the NFL planned it,” Kelly said, “because we knew about this when the schedule came out. So we've had a schedule in place knowing that we're going to play 11 games and get a break. So we don't really worry about it. I think when you start to think, 'God, we're really playing well, I wish we didn't have a bye' -- things that we don't control, we don't worry about. We don’t make excuses.”
The players did their usual Tuesday practice/recovery session before scattering for the bye week. When they got back to their lockers afterward, they found a slip of paper with training suggestions for their upcoming week off.
Whether they hang out at home or find a beach to lie on for a few days, Kelly’s sports-science program follows them. The players seem fine with that. They bought into Kelly’s ideas early and they’re feeling the benefits after four months of football.
“For this late in the season, I’m feeling really great,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “I think it’s had an effect. Guys are more focused on those little things, taking care of their bodies, hydration, nutrition. Overall, I just feel like we’re taking better care of ourselves.”
“It’s the best I’ve felt on Sundays this late in the season,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “We’re seeing the effects. It wasn’t hard to embrace because it’s common-sense-type stuff.”
Barwin said the most unusual aspect was “checking our hydration every day. That’s something most guys haven’t had to do.”
That involves monitoring urine output and color, which probably weren’t on Vince Lombardi’s to-do list. But if it works, it works.
"It's a well thought-out research plan," Kelly said. "It's not just, 'Hey, let's try this.'"
Kelly has said he believes his Oregon teams were fresher and healthier than their opponents late in the season. It remains to be seen whether the Eagles will have an edge on their five December opponents.
“We’ll see,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who served on Reid’s staff and has been a head coach in the league, said. “We as coaches have always talked about preparation and hydration and rest. In terms of how it’s going to affect us in December, we’ll see. I’m just curious to see how it’s going to work.”