Speculation on Eagles ends in Washington
RARELY HAS a team coming off a four-win season generated as much intrigue as the 2013 Eagles.
Locally, the Eagles are always at the top of the food chain for interest, but this year the graduation of new coach Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon to the NFL has been one of the hottest national topics for the new season.
Speculation about whether Kelly is the most innovative offensive mind to enter the league since Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers has NFL insiders champing at the bit to see what Kelly will bring to the table.
Some have put the cart way in front of the horse.
"If there's one guy who might change the league in the most dramatic way, I think it's Chip Kelly in Philadelphia," NBC analyst and former NFL player Cris Collinsworth chimed on a recent "Sunday Night Football" preseason broadcast. "They're taking the read option, but they're doing things far beyond what we're seeing anybody else do with it."
Really? And how exactly does Collinsworth know this?
Everyone is assuming, and it's likely a good assumption, that Kelly is going to run with the Eagles the same kind of attack he ran at Oregon.
But no one outside of the Eagles' circle knows for sure what the Birds are doing. There simply has not been enough evidence produced to declare Eagles are going to be some NFL version of the Ducks, who averaged 44.7 points in 53 games with Kelly running the show.
Let's be honest. A large portion of practice is closed to the media. It's safe to say that the time away from peering eyes is when the Eagles work on their offensive intricacies.
The stuff the Birds ran in their four preseason games was blander than vanilla. It offered no substantive insight.
So, I'm not saying that Collinsworth is wrong, but I just can't see where he has gotten proof that the Eagles are "doing things far beyond what we're seeing anybody else do with it."
Most of us have made bold declarations about what Kelly will or will not do with the Eagles. We speak as if we are part of his brain-scheming on game plans.
"Chip is going to this."
"Chip is not going to do that."
We've talked, discussed and offered opinions on Kelly's thinking since the day he was hired.
It's fun. That's what fans and media do.
The reality, however, is that it's all speculation without concrete information.
That's why I'm looking forward to tonight's season opener at Washington.
It had been 14 years since the Birds introduced something fresh. Now we will finally start to see how things might work out.
The first threads of the "Magical Mystery Chip Kelly Tour" start to unwind tonight.
We'll start to see if Kelly really will be as creative on offense as he is touted to be or whether the NFL defenses will able to render his innovations obsolete.
Around 10 o'clock tonight, we will finally have a legitimate body of work from "Kelly's Heroes" to talk about.
Tonight we get to see if Kelly can run his offense at a warp-speed pace that will make him the NFL's version of the "Guru of Go."
In a few hours, we get to see if 33-year-old quarterback Michael Vick can start the resurrection of a career that has yet to live up to its full potential.
With the season opening, we'll see if an extremely suspect Eagles defense can play well enough against Washington and second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III for it to even matter what Kelly's offense does.
All of this attention to the Eagles, who are 12-20 over the past two seasons, is interesting because Kelly is the first to admit that he is not doing anything that has not been done previously in football.
"I don't think anyone is inventing anything new," Kelly said.
I suppose what everyone is most interested in is to see if Kelly can push the pace of the game enough to create a significant influence on how a defense will react.
As for me, until I actually see different, I'll follow the logic of former Ravens coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick - who was touted as an offensive genius when he came to Baltimore but ended up winning a Super Bowl by playing to his team's strength on defense.
"Even as we talk about new possibilities," Billick said recently about Kelly's potential impact on the NFL, "the heightened pace of offenses and the trend toward more agile, mobile quarterbacks, the NFL always returns to the eternal verities.
"If you run a no-huddle, make first downs and score points, you're a potent matchup problem for defenses. If you run no-huddle and string together a few three-and-outs, then it will be your own defense, not your opponent's, that winds up in the weeds."
The Chip Kelly era begins tonight and finally we get to see what it can do, instead of just speculating about it.