The road to the Philadelphia Eagles' future under Chip Kelly detours through the franchise’s past Thursday night. Here are a few thoughts provoked by Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb being together at Lincoln Financial Field for the 77th time (including preseason, playoffs and games in which McNabb was present but didn’t play because of injury).
There was a time Reid’s Eagles teams were exceptionally successful on the road. His explanation was always the same: Good teams win wherever they happen to be.The reverse is true. Bad teams lose wherever they play. Reid and Chip Kelly now have more than an office in the NovaCare Complex in common. They have coached a total of seven consecutive losses at the Linc. Reid’s 2012 team lost its last six games there. Kelly lost his debut there Sunday.
It is the longest current home losing streak in the NFL, and the Eagles’ longest such streak since they lost seven in a row at Veterans Stadium in 1983. Overall, the Eagles are 9-13 at the Linc and 14-8 on the road since the end of the 2009 season.
If Kelly is going to restore the team to the levels Reid reached in the early- to mid-2000s, restoring home-field advantage would be a great place to start. But then, as we’ve learned, really good teams have the advantage wherever they happen to play.
For years, Reid’s Eagles teams had a tougher time against odd-man defensive fronts than traditional 4-3 defenses. So it became one of those annual offseason questions for the coach: Why not switch the Eagles to a 3-4? In the years when coordinator Jim Johnson’s 4-3 defenses were functioning at a high level, it was just a talking point. After Johnson died in 2009, Reid could have gone in any direction with his defense. He certainly went outside the box when he replaced Sean McDermott as coordinator with Juan Castillo, his longtime offensive line coach. But the Eagles always stuck with a 4-3, eventually implementing a disastrous wide-9 version in 2011.
Now that he’s in Kansas City? Reid’s defense is a 3-4.
“I thought change would be good,” Reid said. “You go back and you evaluate everything and you look at things, where the game is today and where it’s going. There are certain things you hold strong to and there are other things that you go with that might be a little bit better, that you learn from.”
There will be an unusual alignment of quarterbacks with unique ties to Reid at the stadium. There is McNabb, the man he took with his very first draft pick in 1999, coached for 11 years and went to a Super Bowl with. There is Michael Vick, the man he welcomed back into the NFL after a federal prison sentence and whom he restored to prominence. And there is Alex Smith, the guy he acquired in a trade and re-designed his offense around in Kansas City.His future with Smith is bright, at least based on two wins in two weeks. But it is only fair to note, on the night McNabb’s No .5 is retired by the Eagles, that Reid hasn’t won a playoff game since trading McNabb to Washington after the 2009 season. The Eagles won 11 games in 2009 with McNabb as their starter. They won 10 in 2010 with Vick taking the No. 1 job from Kevin Kolb. They won eight in 2011 and just four in 2012.