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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