"I've got to do a better job."
This phrase has been painfully seared into the collective memory of the Philadelphia Eagles fanbase forever. The sentence haunts the Delaware Valley; it doubles as a humorless punch-line and a perfect synopsis for the latter half of the Andy Reid Era. As Iggles fans are all too aware, after every loss Big Red answered all inquiries of his decision making with that one horrendous condemnation, taking full and unequivocal responsibility for any and all errors. Eagles fans hated it.
The problem wasn't that Reid made an error. Well it was, but not entirely. Nor was it that he took "full responsibility." It was that the big goofy walrus of a football coach never seemed to do anything to correct said blunders. As season after season went from "this is our year" to "there's always next one," Birds fans knew the flaws of Reid were as consistent as death and taxes.
Run-Pass ratio. Challenge Flags. Early third quarter time outs. Reid's failings were as predictable as they were avoidable, making them all the more frustrating for a naturally-frustrated fan base.
The Football Gods soak in showers of irony, for it is this Thursday that Big Red returns to South Philly, just four days after the new head honcho at Lincoln Financial Field made his first mistake. In a sign of ultimate causticness, it was one of Reid's old nemeses, clock management, that put Eagle-sized eggs on Chip Kelly's face.
With a three point deficit and a little over two minutes remaining against the San Diego Charges, Kelly and his up-tempo offense found themselves with a first down inside the red zone. Foolishly, Kelly called a no-huddle quick-snap, as opposed to letting the clock run to the two minute warning. The end result was the Iggles kicking a field goal to tie three short plays later with nearly two full minutes remaining on the clock. Not to mention Vick missed a play from injury because Kelly didn't know he could get his starting QB back in the game by taking a time-out.
Predictably, Philip Rivers and the Bolts were able to slice through the Birds tissue-paper secondary and kick a game winning field goal with time (and time outs) to spare.
The gist: Kelly didn't know a rule, and didn't manage the clock well, and the Eagles lost the game. They may have lost it regardless, but there's little argument for the facts being mutual exclusive. Play the clock better, know the rules better, and the likelihood of an Eagles victory vastly increases.
The reaction from Coach Kelly the following morning, via Birds 24/7:
"Obviously when you look back at it, we probably should have ran the clock down," (Kelly admitted). "It's not difficult at all, that was just my decision and my decision totally. I thought we were going to score so I called a play I thought we were going to score on... I've made mistakes, I think we've all made mistakes... No one coaches a perfect game, no one plays a perfect game, but you have to learn from those mistakes and hope they don't happen again."
Sorry Chip, but that tunes been playing for 14 years now. We were kind of hoping you'd play some of the new stuff.
It's fair to chalk it up to a rookie head coach in just his second real game. It cost the Birds a winnable game, but so what? If they miss the playoffs by a solo victory this season, there will surely be bigger scapegoats to grill, like the D-line, or the secondary, or whoever eventually knocks Vick out for the season.
But if Week 12 rolls around and The Chippah is still losing games because he's too fast and too furious to manage the clock, or because he didn't know the in's and out's of the pro-game rule book, no one is gonna care how many plays the Birds are running or how fun watching the offense is suppose to be.
The Philly Phaithful need a head coach who actually starts doing a better job and doesn't just settle for talking about it. This Thursday, one sideline will host a coach who only provided the latter.
Will Kelly adapt? Will he improve? Will he do a better job when he says he's got to do a better job? It is this coaching trait that can most separate the speed demon from his odobenidae predecessor, and it is this trait that could go the longest way in winning over the Philadelphia fans.
Well, that and winning.
Follow Eric Marmon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrMarmon