Chip Stew: Not Everyone's Cup of Tea

One of the nice things about the coaching change is to see a different personality lead the team. While we're largely interested in the play on the field, we also form opinions about the coach based on his interactions with the public and the media. After 14 years, everyone in Philly could quote Andy Reid's favorite press conference lines. Chip Kelly's sarcasm and deadpan humor is a great change. Others, like Marcus Hayes, already take offense to Kelly's obfuscation. All I have to say to that is get used to it. In a long article from December, John Locanthi recounted Kelly's refusal to cater to the outside interests of boosters or journalists:

And the media? Kelly treats the press like a malignant tumor. He is only available for interviews after practice and after games. He is available to the media whenever he is contractually obligated. But his appearances in these situations are often curt, crisp and threaded with the irritation of a man who views this part of the job as utterly trifling.

“If you approached Bellotti with a frivolous question, he would still go out of his way to try to give you something to work with,” says Rob Moseley, who covers Oregon football for The Register-Guard of Eugene. “Chip will not.”

As a member of the media, I suppose I should care about this, but I don't. Bill Belichick often lies about injuries and refuses to say anything useful to the press, but who cares? All that matters is the win-loss record. Sorry, beat guys.

A Smart-Aleck's Take

Les Bowen, for the Daily News:

I understood what Lurie meant, without buying it completely. Somehow, in 10 seasons covering the Eagles, I have become a frequent Andy foil at his news conferences, a guy especially likely to get a nonresponsive or smart-alecky answer. (In a related development, I also am a guy especially likely to ask a smart-alecky question.) On TV or on a webcam, or whatever, this looks a little different from how it usually feels. I was really surprised, several years back, when people started approaching me on the street, congratulating me for “sticking it to” Reid or just being willing to take on the coach. I don’t really see myself that way. I try to ask the questions I think most need answering. If somebody else asks those questions, I am comfortable just sitting there and tweeting. Some reporters hunger to be seen as the guy asking the tough question. I really don’t.

More to the point, Reid and I have a cordial relationship away from the podium. Over the years, I have dealt with coaches who openly despised me way more than this guy. Our interactions just weren’t televised as much. Yes, it frustrates me that Reid has no interest in helping me or you understand what is going on, telling us why something worked or didn’t work. Lots of times, though, I think what Lurie said is right - it isn’t often arrogance. Lack of deftness, sometimes. Paranoia, sometimes, about giving information the next week’s opponent might find useful. Protectiveness of his players is in there. And stubbornness, big-time.

A Serious Answer

Les Bowen, for the Daily News:

Reid refused to give a serious answer Sunday when asked why he thought the Eagles didn’t make the playoffs.

More specifically, Reid responded to Les’s question with “Well, we were 8-8, and the other teams weren’t. So they had better records, so they made it.”

No love lost there.

Asante, Asomugha, and Apocryphal Aces

Asante Samuel Nnamdi Asomugha Philadelphia Eagles

Right before free agency began, I started to write a post about what the Eagles could learn from the Phillies. I noted some of the similarities between two front offices that in recent years have been aggressive as well as value-oriented. But I also pointed out that the Eagles might do well to follow the cross town example of Ruben Amaro, who has no qualms about going for it all without qualification.

At the end of the post, I was going to recommend that the Eagles look seriously into signing Nnamdi Asomugha, despite my previous reservations. Adding him, in tandem with Asante Samuel, was as close a move as I could come up with to the Phillies signing Cliff Lee to assemble the Four Aces. Of course, what I didn’t anticipate was that the Eagles would actually follow through on that unpublished suggestion.

Unfortunately, after Samuel’s press conference yesterday, it has become clear that the Eagles may have learned the wrong lesson from the Phils. To put it bluntly, I don’t expect Asante Samuel to still be in Philly a week from now. As I’ve said in other places, this looks a lot like a “trade for Halladay, trade away Lee” deal.

And that’s a shame. There’s a reason the Phillies reversed course and resigned Lee last offseason. Plus, I’m just not sure what the Eagles can get for Asante at this stage. As far as I can tell, the Eagles valued Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a second round pick. Samuel is certainly worth more than that. As a consistent Pro Bowler and interception machine, Samuel should command a first round pick in 2012 (only worth a 2011 second rounder) plus something else, like another player or mid round pick. Is any team going to be willing to pay that price?

Hedging bets to be competitive today and in the future has made the Eagles a paragon of consistency. But sometimes you have to break your own rules. Reward requires some risk.

* * *

A couple more notes about the deal.

First, watching Asomugha’s press conference, you can tell he might be the more articulate player to take the microphone in Philly in at least the last decade. Not to slight other geniuses in the locker room, but the man used “apocryphal” in a sentence. He’s raising the bar on and off the field.

Additionally, check out this quote:

I did it the way I like to do it, making the decision early. So that decision was made in March. So once we made that decision, we put all the pieces together, marked off the boxes, saw what we thought was the best fit — when that comes around full circle, you got to go with it.

Was that Nnamdi describing his free agency decision, or Howie Roseman describing the Eagles offseason process? Perfectly in sync.

* * *

Finally, I think if the Eagles do keep Asante, they run the risk of discovering that either he or Nnamdi isn’t quite as good as they thought. When you have one great corner, all the passes can be funneled to the other side. But two great corners means teams will be forced to choose. Whoever they choose would be the weaker link.

Photo from Getty.

Impossible to Explain Castillo's Bizarre Promotion

The switcheroo promotion of Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator has to be one of the most head-scratching moves in Eagles history. Often, though, even the strangest of moves can start to make sense when you hear the reasoning behind them.

Not this time.

If you were unlucky enough to listen to the team press conference with Castillo and Andy Reid last night, you were treated to one of the most bizarre post hoc justifications for a coaching move ever.

Let’s start with the transition for Castillo “back” to the defensive side of the ball. Supposedly he’s been in Reid’s ear for years telling him that he’s a defensive coach at heart. Castillo did play linebacker in the USFL and coach defense at the beginning of his career — way back at a high school in the ’80s. The justification over and over was that Castillo’s “heart and desire has always been on the defensive side.”

But “heart” isn’t enough to run a NFL defense, to create complex pressure and coverage schemes, or know when to call them in a tight situation. “Desire” won’t help Castillo outsmart the offenses the Eagles had trouble with in 2010. Nor does his supposed experience consulting with Eagles defensive coaches mean he’s ready for this job. Lending an outside voice about which blitzes have the best chance of working is a completely different skill from actually designing them on one’s own.

Even scarier is that Castillo seemingly has no conceptual plan for the defense. He and Reid emphasized that the terminology will remain the same, but nothing else is clear. When asked what the biggest part of the defense that needed to be worked on was, Castillo said:

“First of all, what we’re going to do is be fast and physical, and we’re going to be fundamentally sound. We have good players here. This is the NFL, you change, you upgrade, players get hurt, but that’s what we’re going to do.”

I’m used to coach-speak, but there’s a difference between being coy about your goals and covering up for not having any at all. Scheme-wise, the big thing Castillo is going to emphasize is being “fundamentally sound”? What defense doesn’t need to be “fast and physical”?

Castillo went further: “We hired Jim Washburn, and I think most of you know what Jim does. Jim attacks. He’s a sic ‘em type guy, which is great for the players that we have and really what I’m going to do in the back is going to complement those four defensive linemen that are going to get up the field, going to create havoc, going to make plays. We’re going to complement that scheme.”

So, essentially, Washburn runs the defensive front autonomously, and Castillo’s going to plan the back seven to “complement” his ideas? That doesn’t sound like a defensive coordinator with a coherent plan, let alone one that wants to continue the blitzing strategy the Eagles have had in place for years.

At the end of the day, Reid couldn’t justify this decision with Castillo’s experience or knowledge or preparation. He had to fall back on “desire” and even an outlandish connection to the risk other people took when promoting Reid himself (under much more logical circumstances). For people looking to be reassured in the face of such a stunning move, these arguments don’t inspire much confidence.

Originally published at NBC Philadelphia. Photo from Getty.

In the Press Box: Vikings-Eagles!

Thanks to some awesome folks at NBC Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Eagles media relations crew, I’ll be in the press box Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field for the first time, breaking down the action, the post game press conference, and the locker room quotes — in person!

Obviously I have some ideas about things to cover and questions to ask, but I’m opening up the floor to you, my small cadre of followers. What should I do? Who should I talk to? What should I look into? Are there stories you wish were covered or perspectives you feel are missing?

Send me an email, post something in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter. I look forward to seeing what we can come up with, Eagles fans.

Andy Reid, Co. Give Tepid Endorsement of McNabb

Andy Reid Look

Andy Reid endorsed McNabb as the 2010 starting QB a few days after the playoff loss to Dallas:

“I was asked” late Saturday night “if Donovan [McNabb] would be my quarterback next year, and I said yes,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said yesterday as he continued to sort through the remnants of his team’s lopsided first-round playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys. “That’s what I’m saying now.”

When pressed on the issue, however, Reid admitted that there is a lot to consider between now and the start of training camp, and a lot of time to consider it.

“We’ll look at all of this,” Reid said. “Obviously, I haven’t gotten to the points that you’re asking here with comparing players, contracts, and everything else. I’m not at that point right now. We like Kevin Kolb and we like Michael Vick and we like Donovan McNabb. I think it’s a pretty good situation to be in. The rest of the things will take place as we go through the off-season.”

“That’s what I’m saying now.” What a calculated statement. Sure, on the surface he’s quelled ideas that McNabb is on the outs. Andy said what needed to be said to calm the ravenous hordes down. But saying that he still has to look at “comparing players, contract, and everything else” means he really hasn’t made a decision at all. Everything is still up in there air.

Here’s what a real endorsement sounds like, from Joe Banner c. 2007:

“I can’t envision a situation in which he is not our quarterback next year … I believe there is a very, very sizable silent majority who realize how lucky we have been to have Donovan McNabb. I mean, we are talking about a quarterback who went to four straight championship games. There are only four quarterbacks in the history of the league that have done that. You are talking about a quarterback who has had a higher winning percentage in his first 7 years in the league than Peyton Manning. You are talking about a quarterback that has one of the highest quarterback ratings over the first seven seasons, one of the best TD-to-interceptions ratios of any quarterback in the history of this game in his first seven seasons in the league … My expectations, and I can’t really even picture a different scenario, is that he’ll be the quarterback [next season].”

Banner couldn’t “even picture a different scenario” than one in which McNabb was back in midnight green. This was a “yes, he’s our QB next year no matter what and stop asking.”

Banner had a similar guarantee for McNabb (and Reid) after the 2008 season ended:

“The reality is, my view and our view is unambiguous, that we can win a championship with those people, and they will be back. We believe we’re very lucky to have them.”

See that — unambiguous support.

Andy’s endorsement, on the other hand, reads “we’re going to investigate all our options, including trades.” The very fact that the front office is hedging its bets is a clear sign they are going to consider jettisoning Donovan. They don’t want to be caught with their own words guaranteeing the future of the franchise will be back if there’s a solid chance they’ll be shipping him off to Cleveland or St. Louis or somewhere. Especially considering the uproar when management indicated Brian Dawkins’s return was likely last offseason — right before he signed with the Broncos.