Welcome to Women's World. Brandyn Campbell is the founder, editor and writer of the Philly Sports Muse. Every Thursday, Campbell will offer a unique perspective as she shares her passion for the Eagles ...
The lockers are cleaned out, and players, now friends, promise to stay in touch with one another over their break. The end of the football season is a lot like the end of a school year.
Just like in school, there are even grades of sorts given out. Chip Kelly gave himself a mark of 58.8 for his first year as head coach of the Eagles, the percentage resulting from winning 10 out of 17 games. Now that the offseason has begun for Philadelphia, he and his staff will be busy evaluating players, present and future, to determine who best fits the team.
If we, the fans, were completing Chip's evaluation, how would we grade something for which we had no expectations? It would have been setting ourselves up for failure to expect what transpired this season of a coach new to both the team and the NFL. The Eagles were slated to be a young team in rebuilding mode. Does Kelly get the highest marks for defying expectations, beating the odds and setting an early high water mark for the Eagles under his tutelage? I would certainly say so.
Kelly is likely the only person who would give himself that 58.8 percent grade overall, which is a failing mark. The former Oregon coach took on the challenge of leading what was just last year a 4-12 team and, before his twelve month anniversary, won over his players, Eagles fans, and the entire Eagles organization. Certainly his “report card" features categories other than winning percentage which are still very important in what was an incredibly successful year.
Kelly is not as impressed with himself and his performance in the 2013 season as the rest of us are. His modesty rings true but he's done far better than his self-appointed 58.8 percent mark would indicate. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement, and that there aren’t parts of both the Eagles offense and defense that need addressing and retooling in the offseason. No, Kelly isn’t patting himself on the back, congratulating himself on a winning season and a playoff berth while sipping drinks on a tropical island. There’s simply too much still to do. As he said at his press conference on Monday on his early success in the NFL, “You've never arrived.” Like any successful and driven person, Kelly has no plans to rest on his laurels.
There is a series of intangibles that make for a successful head coach. There is a likability factor that is critical. Kelly quickly showed himself to be hardworking, smart and down to earth. We related to him. One of Kelly’s toughest tasks his first year in Philadelphia was to win the PR battle with the city’s media and fans. It's a daunting challenge for any new sports figure entering Philadelphia, let alone the coach of its most popular team. Win over the hearts and minds of an incredibly passionate fanbase. When Philly loves you there is nothing better, but we make you work for that love. However, Kelly seems to have completed that assignment with flying colors.
Philadelphia already loves Chip Kelly for how he transformed the experience of watching the Eagles in just one year. While we will always watch and support the team, regardless of the record, after the horrid 4-12 2012 season no one expected anything this year. In fact, most made it a point not to have expectations. But then the slow start to the season picked up speed, and things got good. Really, really good. And suddenly we finished the season 10-6 and were NFC East Champions. We quickly remembered how fun it is to have a winning team.
Part of what drives performance on the field are the dynamics that occur off of it. By all accounts, including his own, the chemistry surrounding the 2013 Eagles was a key part of the special season. “There’s an energy around this group of guys,” said Kelly. While determining precisely how different personalities and competitive, driven men will interact with one another is a near impossibility, the words “good chemistry” simply aren’t heard when there is bad leadership. While the positive energy that resulted from this collection of 53 men couldn’t have been predicted, embracing those connections clearly helped the team jell together as they worked to improve themselves and their squad. At least partial credit should go to Kelly for fostering such a supportive brotherhood among his team.
In some ways, the success that Kelly enjoyed his first year as a coach means that subsequent years will be more challenging. It’s hard to maintain an “A” average for the long haul. With the bar set so high by the performance of this year’s team, repeat performances will be expected out of the coach year after year, regardless of how challenging that will be. But once a high achiever, always a high achiever. Kelly will do everything he can to make sure that next year his marks are even higher and the team’s success reaches new heights. And for all of that, Chip is at the head of the class, as far as we are concerned.