When Chip Kelly became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, his offensive philosophies were not the only facet of his program lauded for being cutting edge and generating a competitive advantage. The practice of sports science and optimizing athlete performance took center stage, as well. So far, the results have been extremely positive.
"I see the sports science part of what we're doing having an effect on players," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said."The guy I talk to frequently is Brent Celek to see how he's doing because he's a guy that's a very veteran player. He's a guy who gets out there and plays hard and takes a beating each week. I'm watching it just like some of the other people in this building who are new to (sports science), and he's kind of my gauge because we've always had a great relationship and I ask him how he's feeling, how he's doing. I see a guy who, each week, has a high energy level. So, yeah, it works."
As one of the team's most veteran leaders, Celek immediately bought in to Kelly's sports science beliefs and has been cited more than a few times as the pinnacle example of the program benefiting a player.
"It makes sense," Celek said. "He wants you to get more sleep. He wants you eat right and take care of your body more. Especially me, being in the league now for six years, that's important – it's important to stay healthy. I think it'll be a big advantage (for us), we just have to stay healthy."
Shurmur always preached proper hydration and rest but, like the players, was new to Kelly's brand of sports science when he rejoined the Eagles coaching staff after stops in St. Louis as the offensive coordinator and Cleveland as the head coach. He has been impressed with the players' overall energy level week in and week out and sees a team that is getting stronger toward the end of the season.
"I think, generally speaking, we as coaches have always talked about preparation, hydration and rest," Shurmur said. "We've always talked about that. What we've done is shown the players, from a scientific standpoint, why all that stuff's important. I think in terms of how it's going to affect us in December, we'll see, we're still in November. I'm just curious to see how it's going to work. I've just seen our guys improve physically and have a good energy level each week as we get ready to play on Sunday."
With the sports science program working wonders in terms of maintaining and enhancing players' physical well-being, Shurmur knows the team can get even better on the field. While the players are getting some days off, the coaches will be hard at work to fix mistakes and improve in-game performance.
"I think you look at situational football," Shurmur said when asked what the Eagles want to correct first and foremost coming out of the bye. "Everybody goes into their bye week and they look at how they're doing on third downs, how they're doing in the red zone, how they're doing finishing games – four-minute situations, clutch situations when you're in a two-minute drill and you're trying to press the pace and score. We're looking at all those things and there are areas in all of our situational football where we can get better."
Media and fans alike are looking at the Eagles' 6-5 record and thinking NFC East title, playoffs. The team, meanwhile, is employing the same one-game-at-a-time mindset that has served them so well to this point.
"The next most important game is the Arizona Cardinals, and they're playing extremely well," Shurmur said. "We really don't look past it."