Once the ball dropped on 2013—both literally and figuratively—Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie finally cashed out on his 14-year investment of Andy Reid and placed a new bet on a career college coach, Chip Kelly, best known for running a niche offense that many figured couldn’t translate successfully to the pros.
Meanwhile, before the ink even dried on his termination papers, Reid latched on in KC, also fresh off a miserable run.
Fast forward to November, and the Kelly-run Eagles were sputtering its way to a 3-5 start, while the Reid version of the Chiefs were the last remaining undefeated team in the league.
Philly fans infuriated with countless mechanical postgame self-sacrificial statements of how he had to do a better job didn’t even have the luxury of witnessing the insincerity in another city.
Skip ahead another couple of months, and it’s now much more of a win-win situation.
Chip Kelly #Eagles Andy Reid Chiefs Both are in the playoffs, who would thunk it— Lisa Reynolds (@LiLiReynolds) December 30, 2013
Minus a mirage of a meltdown in Minnesota, the Birds would run the table, and while the Chiefs cooled off considerably once the challenging part of their schedule kicked in (the Eagles were the only team they beat with a winning record), they did just enough to remain relevant.
It has now become a lot easier for once-disenfranchised fans to come to terms with past frustrations they may have had with Reid, knowing that any of his prior mishandlings are no longer suffocating the present squad. All is now forgiven, and he can finally be appreciated for being at the helm of the most extended period of success in franchise history.
Reid has essentially brought the same oft-winning strategy with him to Kansas City: an efficient, dink-and-dunk West Coast offense spearheaded by a dynamic, versatile running back, along with a fierce, sack-accumulating pass rush on defense (further proof of how impactful talented and athletic outside linebackers can be).
Meanwhile, Kelly entered town initially embraced mainly because: 1) He wasn’t Reid, and 2) he would emphasize a running game previously overlooked far too often by his predecessor.
Which team was the biggest pleasant surprise this season?
That LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing is indicator enough that mission was accomplished for the latter (although, ironically, Jamaal Charles came in second). And last I checked—though there are some physical similarities—he’s still not Reid.
However, Kelly is now embraced for what he is as opposed to who he’s not.
The record-breaking numbers prove that his turbo tempo offense can translate to the pros. His candid postgame sound bites are music to Philly fans’ ears. And although he’s had his share of hiccups along the way, Kelly’s shown he’s both willing and able to adjust on the fly, and at the end of the day, it’s continued progress that matters most.
At the beginning of the season, I predicted a Week 17 loss with the division title on the line against Dallas, resulting in an 8-8 finish for the Eagles (all things considered, not a bad stab at it, if I don't say so myself). The vast majority of fans I spoke with said they’d be pleased with that, considering that it was 2010 since a December game had playoff implications. That said, most thought even that was overly optimistic.
Ironically enough, if the Eagles did indeed lose that game and instead ended their year at 9-7, it would have been considered a major letdown. That’s what happens when the bar gets raised along with the expectations.
Although it had been just as long for the Chiefs to play a meaningful game this late in a year, their last contest in fact didn’t matter, simply because they already locked up their spot in the playoffs.
|2012 Record||2013 Record||2012 PPG (Rank)||2013 PPG (Rank)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||2-14||11-5||32nd||T-6th|
So now here we are: a combined 21 victories in 2013 between the two—a cumulative 15-win improvement over the year before.
And now, both teams are on house money.
Could those good vibes carry into February, where these two redeemed and rejuvenated coaches will cross paths once again?
Don’t bet on it, but the fact that it remains a possibility just a year after their new, supposed rebuilding projects began is enough to anoint both them and their respective franchises winners in 2014 already.
Follow Jeff Glauser on Twitter: @Jeff_Glauser.