Eagles

The day Chip Kelly big-timed Merrill Reese

The day Chip Kelly big-timed Merrill Reese

Everybody loves Merrill Reese, and Merrill Reese loves everybody. 

OK, almost everybody.

Merrill has been the voice of the Eagles for over 40 years. He’s the dean of NFL play-by-play broadcasters, beloved by players, coaches and team officials for four decades. 

And then there’s Chip Kelly.

“I had no relationship with Chip,” Reese said. “None.”

Reese spoke on a recent Eagle Eye podcast with myself and Dave Zangaro and related a story that illustrates Kelly’s prickly personality during his three years as Eagles head coach.

It was Nov. 27, 2014, Thanksgiving Day, and the Eagles had just gone into AT&T Stadium and destroyed the Cowboys, 33-10, on national TV in a battle for first place in the NFC East. 

You remember the game.

Nick Foles was out for the year, so Mark Sanchez got the start and had his best game as an Eagle. Jeremy Maclin caught 8-for-108, LeSean McCoy rushed for 159 yards and a touchdown, Jordan Matthews caught a TD pass, and the Eagles sacked Tony Romo four times and intercepted him twice. 

At the time, it seemed like a monumental win.

The Eagles improved to 9-3 and dropped the Cowboys to 8-4, and the mood was jubilant on the charter flight back to Philly.

Merrill was jubilant and couldn't wait to share his emotion with the coach.

I walked up to him on the plane flying home from Dallas after that great Thanksgiving night game, maybe the best game of his career here, and said, ‘Great game, Chip, it was really fun to call that,’ and he looked over and said, ‘Oh,’ and turned his head.

Yes, Chip Kelly big-timed the great Merrill Reese.

Even Rich Kotite didn’t do that.

“He was the worst communicator of any coach I’ve ever been around,” Reese said about Kelly. “I mean, Richie was mercurial, up, down all over the place, but Richie could be warm and nice. You never saw that with Chip.”

Curiously, once Kelly big-timed Merrill, his career began spiraling downward.

The Eagles lost their next three games, didn’t make the playoffs, then began the next season 6-9 before Kelly was fired.

Kelly went 2-14 in his one year with the 49ers and is 7-17 in two seasons at UCLA.

Let's do the math:

Before Chip big-timed Merrill, he was 65-16 as a head coach.

Since he big-timed Merrill, he’s 16-43.

I don't think it's a coincidence.

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What Patrick Mahomes' historic contract means for Andy Reid

What Patrick Mahomes' historic contract means for Andy Reid

It took Andy Reid 21 years to win the first one. Wild guess it won't take quite as long to win No. 2.

The news Monday that the Chiefs have agreed to a 10-year contract extension with 24-year-old Pat Mahomes means that Reid and Mahomes will be together essentially as long as Reid wants.

Mahomes is now signed through 2031, and the Reid we saw last year brilliantly leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl championship sure didn’t look like anybody who was slowing down or thinking about retiring.

The Reid we saw at the end with the Eagles seemed weary, burned out. I thought he’d take a year off before even considering another job, but he resurfaced immediately with the Chiefs and the change rejuvenated him.

He's even better now.

The way he’s going now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Reid coaches until he’s 70. Marv Levy coached until he was 72 and Dick Vermeil until he was 69. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are 68, Bruce Arians is 67.

Reid isn’t slowing down. If anything, the Reid-Mahomes partnernship has given him new life. 

In his first full season under Reid, Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns — second-most in NFL history — and then last year he won a Super Bowl, averaging 39 points and overcoming double-digit deficits in the three playoff wins.

You get the feeling watching Reid these days that he learned from every mistake he made during his 14 years with the Eagles. And there were plenty of them.

He had a heck of a quarterback in Donovan McNabb, but other than one blip in 2004, he never surrounded him with enough weapons. He’s got an even better quarterback in Mahomes, and he and brilliant GM Brett Veach, who started out as an intern with the Eagles in 2004, have stockpiled the roster with electrifying playmakers.

One thing about Reid: He’s quiet and humble, but he loves to win football games more than just about anything, and he’s got a chance to win a lot over these next several years.

lot.

With Tom Brady turning 43 next month and now in Tampa, the balance of power in the AFC has shifted. Right over to Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs are the best team in the conference and the Ravens, coached by Reid’s pal John Harbaugh, are next. They also have an elite young quarterback and a stocked roster. But then what? Nobody else in the AFC is close. The Texans are pretty good, but the Chiefs scored 51 on them in that wild comeback win in January. The Titans and Bills are competitive but don't look like Super Bowl teams.

Bottom line is the Chiefs have the best quarterback in the NFL and the second- or third-best head coach, depending where you want to put Sean Payton.

They're not going away anytime soon.

Belichick and Brady won six championships together.

Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr won five.

Those duos are untouchable.

Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw won four and Bill Walsh and Joe Montana three, and a handful of other combos won two, including Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman, Mike Shanahan and John Elway, and Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning.

Reid  got a late start. Didn’t win the first one until he was 61. But he’s not done yet.

Would it surprise anybody if the Chiefs win two or three more Lombardi trophies over the next six or seven years?

Let’s say Big Red coaches until he’s 70. Not that far-fetched. Belichick and Carroll are going to hit that in 2022.

That’s nine more seasons. Mahomes is now under contract for all of them. 

As long Mahomes is healthy, the Chiefs are going to be one of the NFL’s most dangerous teams.

And Reid knows how to win. He’s had three losing seasons in his career, including his very first, and he’s averaged 10 wins per year. He’s seventh in NFL history in wins. He's already a Hall of Famer.

And Mahomes? All he has is the highest passer rating in NFL history … by far.

When you have a Hall of Fame coach and the best QB in the game? We all saw last year what can happen.

The only head coaches to win at least three Super Bowls are Belichick, Noll, Joe Gibbs and Walsh.

Pretty good company.

If the Chiefs win two more before Big Red hangs 'em up, you can add his name to that list.

And by the time he’s done, the guy who was once known for never winning the Super Bowl could very well be known as the guy who won more Super Bowls than almost anybody. 

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Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Have Eagles really done enough to fix wide receiver position?

Conventional wisdom says the Eagles upgraded the wide receiver position this offseason.

Not like they had any choice.

Their wide receiver production was the worst in modern Eagles history.

• So bad that for the first time since 1966 they didn’t have a wide receiver with 500 yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have any WRs ranked in the top 65 in the NFL in yards.

• So bad that they didn’t have a receiver all year record consecutive games with at least 65 yards. 

• So bad that the five receivers that suited up for the playoff game against the Seahawks had a combined 55 career receptions.

• So bad that Doug Pederson fired Carson Walch and hired Aaron Moorehead as the team's sixth WRs coach in six years.

It was time for a total rebuild, and that’s what Howie Roseman did.

But as we wait to see what form — if any — a 2020 NFL season takes, the reality is that there isn’t a single sure thing in the restructured Eagles wide receiver corps.

Every single guy is a big, giant question mark.

There are once-great veterans. Youngsters with potential. Long shots who could be keepers.

But there isn’t one guy who you can safely say, “OK, he’s going to catch 65 passes for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this year.”

Yet the Eagles rank sixth in projected 2020 wide receiver spending at $34.1 million, according to Spotrac.

The Eagles currently have 14 wide receivers on the roster. We broke them down into five categories.

Who will wind up making the team? Who will wind up starting? Who will wind up contributing? 

How good will they really be?

A lot of projecting so far. A lot of unknowns. And a lot of hoping.

One-time Pro Bowlers

DeSean Jackson is 33 years old and Alshon Jeffery is 30. Jeffery got significant snaps in only eight games last year and Jackson in just one, although it was an explosive one. Neither has made a Pro Bowl since 2013, both are coming off serious injuries and both are at an age where even healthy receivers begin declining.

Jackson is on the books with an $8.6 million cap figure this year and Jeffery a whopping $15.45 million. The Eagles need production at those numbers. But how much can they expect from Jackson and Jeffery?

Reclamation project

The Eagles gave up virtually nothing to take speedy Marquise Goodwin and his bloated contract off the 49ers’ hands. 

But what are they getting in Goodwin? A guy who has 35 catches the last two years, has averaged 332 yards in his seven NFL seasons and has caught 30 passes just once, in his excellent 2017 season.

Goodwin has a $4.28 million cap figure, so if he makes the team, he better produce. But what does he have left? And can the Eagles get enough of a sense of what they have in Goodwin in a curtailed offseason to make that $4.28 million commitment?

Young draft picks

The real key to this wide receiving corps isn’t Jackson, Jeffery or Goodwin. It’s the 23-year-old JJ Arcega-Whiteside and the 21-year-old Jalen Reagor, the Eagles’ second- and first-round draft picks the last two years.

Reagor was the 21st pick this year and you’d expect a sizeable contribution as a rookie. JJAW was terrible last year but you’d hope for a big jump in Year 2. The reality is Roseman has never drafted an elite wide receiver. Or even a better-than-average one.

Reagor and/or JJAW have to end that streak.

Practice squad posse

Greg Ward is the closest thing to a sure thing the Eagles have, and he’s played seven games in his career. He had nearly half the catches by Eagles WRs the last seven games of the season (28 of 59). But it's still a very small body of work.

Deontay Burnett had a big 41-yard catch against the Giants — the fourth-longest catch of the year by an Eagles WR — and Ward, Burnett, Robert Davis, Marcus Green and Shelton Gibson make it Eagles six 2019 practice squad receivers currently on the roster. Can any of them really be factors?

Rookie long shots

Rookie fifth-round pick John Hightower and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins are both late-round speeders. Manasseh Bailey had a fine career at Morgan State and Khalil Tate is trying to convert from quarterback to wide out, much like Ward did after playing QB at Houston.

Hightower probably has the best shot from this group to make the team and find his way onto the field, but at this point, without OTAs or preseason games, they’re all long shots.

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