As we count out the days and hours before Training Camp begins and as our level of anticipation grows, the perspective of what has changed in 12 months is truly remarkable. One year ago, the Eagles were viewed, from the outside, as a rebuilding team led by head coach Chip Kelly, about whom opinions as to his ability to transition from the college game to the NFL dynamic were greatly divided.
Now, of course, a year of success has put even the most ardent critic in Kelly's corner. He about-faced not only what the Eagles are on the football field, but he changed the culture of the organization.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Sal Paolantonio, who has been with ESPN since 1995. "He completely changed the dynamic of the football team on and off the field overnight, relatively speaking. It's remarkable what he's accomplished."
We know that the Eagles are not yet a finished product and we know that there is only one true goal in the NFL, so understand that there is no sense of "We have arrived" with the Eagles. It's just that, during these wait-for-the-season times, taking a step back and recognizing just how far the team has come is exciting.
There were some pieces already in place when Kelly arrived, most of them on the offensive side of the ball. Running back
Defensively, the Eagles have overhauled just about every facet. They have a new scheme and many new pieces on the field. Coordinator Bill Davis has the defense heading in the right direction as it showed fine improvement throughout last season. More work remains on defense, for sure.
The special teams also has changed significantly, although key pieces like placekicker
As we sit back and think about it, perhaps the most remarkable impact is Kelly himself -- the way he thinks, the way his players respond, the respect he garners with an innovative approach to the game.
"I think Chip's way is to focus on every day, truly focus on that day, and maximize every minute of it," said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "He embraces any ideas to make the day better and to improve the team. He has an open mind about everything. We ask 'Why' a lot around here. That's the way Chip wants it. He encourages everyone to make the most of every situation, and I think that is stimulating for all of us."
The expression "What a difference is year makes," is often thrown around with no regard to a true big picture. In the case of Kelly and of the Eagles, it's right on point. The Eagles were a 4-12 team in 2012 and a season later they were atop the NFC East and again in the postseason. Now, they have higher goals and a strong roster in place to take steps toward those goals.
Training Camp is less than a month away, and it truly can't get here fast enough. What does 2014 hold for the Eagles? What Eagles fan isn't on the edge of his or her seat waiting to see what's around the corner? The Eagles are on the move. They've turned it around in rapid fashion, and the best is still to come.