What time is it, Eagles fans?? Tebow Time!!
(Sorry, I had to do it.)
As a lifelong Eagles fan living in Ravens country for the past eight years, I’ve grown quite envious of my purple-and-black clad neighbors and co-workers. When January rolls around, more often then not, I’m talking about the home team’s next attempt to knock off the Steelers or Patriots in the playoffs, while lamenting another frustrating season in South Philadelphia.
The Eagles’ surprising signing this week of SEC Network analyst—I mean, SEC Legend—Tim Tebow (For an extra arm in spring workouts? For competition for the third-string quarterback spot? For the unquestioned lead in NFL offseason “Breaking News” alerts? Who knows?) highlighted the major difference between the professional football franchises in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
The Ravens have experienced leadership at the top, organizational stability that has generated continued success. Ozzie Newsome, the team’s general manager, has been a Ravens executive since 1996, and John Harbaugh the head coach and Joe Flacco the starting quarterback since 2008.
All that triumvirate has accomplished since joining forces seven years ago is make the playoffs six times and win at least one playoff game during each of those runs (the Ravens have 10 playoff victories with Harbaugh/Flacco), culminating with a win in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans two years ago. Newsome was also a member of the team’s front office for its other Super Bowl win in 2001.
Contrast the Raven’s ongoing record of stability and success to the Eagles, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, have missed the postseason in three of the last four years, and are undergoing one of the swiftest offseason overhauls of recent memory.
Just a few weeks before the Ravens raised the Lombardi Trophy in 2013, the Eagles hired former Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly to replace Andy Reid, the Eagles’ head coach since 1999. In the two years since Kelly brought his “tempo” offense and “sports science” theory from the Pac-12 to the NFL, he’s gone 20-13 with the Eagles, with a playoff appearance in his first season.
In those two years, Kelly started Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Mark Sanchez at quarterback; the results were mixed. Since his last great season with the Eagles in 2010, Vick was oft injured and inconsistent; Foles was brilliant under Kelly’s direction in 2013, but he lost most of 2014 to a broken collarbone; Sanchez was average in eight games last year, and his inability to push the ball downfield and avoid turnovers were main reasons why the Eagles missed the playoffs.
A few days after the 2014 season finale, Kelly—though he won’t admit it—made a play to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to assume control of the team’s personnel department. He wanted to call the shots and coach his preferred player. Lurie is all-in on Kelly and his “vision,” so as of January, Kelly had final say on personnel decisions. It’s Chip’s World for the time being.
And what a world it’s fast become for the Eagles and their fans.
A quick (to make Chip happy) recap of Kelly’s personnel decisions since early March:
- Traded running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso (an Oregon alum), who missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL.
- Traded Foles and two draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford (who missed most of the 2013 AND 2014 seasons with separate left-ACL tears) and a draft pick.
- Lost free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Signed former Seattle Seahawks cornerback back Byron Maxwell and former New York Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond (another Oregon alum).
- Attempted to sign former San Francisco running back Frank Gore (who agreed to terms but ultimately signed with the Indianapolis Colts), then did sign former San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews AND former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
- Signed former Cleveland Browns wide receive Miles Austin.
- And, on Monday, to the Internet and ESPN’s glorious delight, signed free agent quarterback, former college football analyst, and all-around great guy Tim Tebow.
Around-the-clock sports coverage (thanks to 24-hour TV and radio, the Internet, blogs, Twitter, etc.) has placed a premium on sports “transactions” (the trading, signing, and drafting of players, and the hiring and firing of coaches and general managers).
Fans love to imagine what “could” be with another star player or another top prospect; analysts love to debate which team’s moves were “wins” and which were “losses” before a game has been played. Kelly has certainly given fans and analysts more than enough to talk about this offseason.
Even with the Bradford trade and the Tebow signing (I think Tebow makes the Eagles roster in some way, for the record), there’s still some uncertainty surrounding which quarterback will lead Kelly’s offense when the Eagles open their season on September 14, on Monday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons.
That’s because there’s ongoing talk about ANOTHER major move Kelly might make at next week’s NFL Draft: trading for Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota (who played for Kelly at, wait for it, Oregon).
The reason the Mariota rumor persists? Because it’s clear that, amidst the front office shuffling and offseason craziness, Kelly needs his Flacco, like Harbaugh has relied on for seven seasons in Baltimore.
Will Bradford (recovering), Sanchez (inconsistent), or Tebow (never mind), offer the long-term stability the Eagles need? Even the team’s head coach can’t be too confident in those options.
Kelly is searching for quarterback and organizational stability. The Ravens, and their fans, have enjoyed it for years.
Andrew Cannarsa has been writing professionally for almost 10 years, first as a crime and safety reporter at a community daily newspaper outside Philadelphia, and then as a business reporter at Baltimore Examiner. He graduated with a journalism degree from Boston University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @cannarsa.