Friday, April 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Kelly can't worry about next year - yet

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Fast is Chip Kelly's preferred pace. Now is his preferred deadline.

The horn sounds and the music blares, signifying the start of practice at the NovaCare Complex, and the Eagles' rookie coach is in full gallop toward the field, a purpose for each minute in mind. He believes the best way to get better tomorrow is by getting better today.

The biggest problem with his line of thinking is that it isn't shared by most of us outside the organization. That's not his problem. It's ours. Kelly has enough other issues - an offense that has gone missing tops the list - that are far more immediate and important.

He has to get Nick Foles and the rest of his team ready to play the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. What sense does it make for Kelly to worry about which quarterback might be available in next year's draft when he hasn't even been sure in recent weeks which quarterback he'd have available in the second quarter or second half?

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  • We think about the big picture. We think about what might happen if the Eagles get to seven wins and all the really good quarterback prospects are gone by the time they make their draft pick. You may assume that Foles isn't the quarterback of the future for the Eagles. Kelly knows only fools assume such things. His focus is narrowed not to Sunday's game, but to Thursday's practice.

    The coach, in fact, sounded pretty excited about the return of Foles from a concussion even though the quarterback crumbled in the biggest game of his career a couple of weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys.

    "That's one of the things about Nick that I love," Kelly said. "I think there is a resiliency to him. Nick didn't play well in the Dallas Cowboys game, and he understands that. I've seen Nick play well. I've seen Nick come off the bench against the New York Giants . . . and lead us down the field, and we get a field goal. That's kind of a spur. And then [after] halftime he plays really well."

    And then he played well again the next week in Tampa Bay before looking lost against Dallas. Two steps forward and one back is a predictable pattern for all young quarterbacks. Look at Andrew Luck's game logs from a year ago with Indianapolis.

    To dismiss Foles would be a disservice to the quarterback and the Eagles. To dismiss this season would be a disservice to Kelly's players. That's not going to change this week, next week, or the week after that. Kelly, his words coming out at the speed of light, drove that point home as his questioners tried to steer Wednesday's news conference toward the future.

    "[The future] doesn't come in," he said. "It's about beating Oakland. That's it. It's a one-week season, and that's all it is. Last week was about beating the Giants. There wasn't, 'Hey, what are we going to be like next year, and let's go see if we can activate [practice-squad quarterback] G.J. [Kinne] and throw him in the mix?'

    "That's not our mentality. Our mentality is, 'Who are we playing right now?' And I think it's a disservice to those other players on our team and it's a disservice to our fans if I'm thinking about who our quarterback is going to be next year."

    A different approach was launched Wednesday when the 76ers opened their season against the Miami Heat. The Sixers have willingly admitted difficult days lie ahead, and they are pinning their hope for the future on a prized lottery pick. Football is not basketball. One player, not even a quarterback, can turn around an entire franchise.

    San Francisco and Seattle did not become Super Bowl contenders because they drafted franchise quarterbacks. They became Super Bowl contenders because they have two of the best defensive teams in the NFL and they selected quarterbacks who have evolved into solid starters.

    If the Eagles can add a couple of significant playmakers on defense, maybe they are good enough to win now with Foles at quarterback. Maybe not, but it's worth finding out now, and it's important to try to win in the process. Kelly, of course, thinks about the future from time to time, and he no doubt has watched video and live footage of all those college quarterbacks who might be available in next year's draft.

    But he has control only of what's in front of him now, and he'd be a fool to focus the majority of his attention anywhere else because that's the fastest way to the exit.

    "We're trying to win the game we're playing this week," Kelly said a third time. "And if we start playing it long-term, I may not be here long-term. . . . So let's go beat Oakland."




    Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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