Chip Kelly has been busy revolutionizing the Philadelphia Eagles. I think it was Lenin who said all revolutions have casualties. The first casualty in Chip Kelly's revolution was Mexican cuisine. Kelly banned "Taco Tuesdays," a staple of the Andy Reid regime (why are you laughing?). It's all protein shakes everything up in Philadelphia now. The second casualty was music. The whole thing. Music is dead. Chip killed it.
The Philadelphia Eagles' selection of USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round of this year’s draft appears, by any logical measure, to be a great value pick. At one time, Barkley was talked about as a high first-round pick, and there's no doubting his precise footwork or his accuracy on short and intermediate passes. That’s saying nothing of his personality and whiteboard smarts, which coaches and scouts have raved about since he started as a true freshman at powerhouse Mater Dei High School.
Barkley steadied USC through the loss of Pete Carroll to the NFL, NCAA sanctions that limited scholarships and depleted the Trojans roster, and the often bizarre antics of his coach, Lane Kiffin. Barkley’s final season at USC, one in which the Trojans began the season ranked no. 1 in the country before finishing 7-6, was one to forget. His play was inconsistent, and he finished the year on the sideline after suffering a shoulder injury against UCLA. But for Chip Kelly and the Eagles, grabbing such an accomplished player in the fourth round should qualify as the quintessential "value" pick.
For defenders of the NFL draft as must-see TV, last night was tough. A total of five skill-position players in the first round, including just one quarterback, is a pretty tough sell to the casual fan. There was one group, though, who couldn't have enjoyed last night any more than they did. Just trust me when I say that for us line-play nerds, last night was crazy. But we understand that some of you don't spend a lot of time watching the MAC (we actually don’t either), observing guard play in the ACC, or keeping tabs on the left tackle when the Heisman Trophy winner has the ball. Don't worry. We’re here for you. It’s with all that in mind that we present a special draft edition of the Trenchie Awards with the hope that after today you might know each top-10 pick just a bit better.
1.Eric Fisher, Chiefs
2. Luke Joeckel, Jaguars
The prevailing wisdom in the lead-up to the draft is that an offensive tackle would go first overall. It just wasn’t this offensive tackle. From what I can gather, it was really Fisher’s excellent Senior Bowl week that got things rolling downhill, and by the time yesterday rolled around, no one was really surprised when he ended up jumping Luke Joeckel. The question is why he did.
Both — as you’d expect from players who go one and two overall — have elite feet and quickness. They each look very comfortable getting into their pass sets, and you’ll have to watch a ton of tape to catch a pass rusher getting to the edge on either. They stonewall guys so effortlessly that often, defenders just give up.
Before making his fourth move in five years, Dana Holgorsen needed a little convincing. West Virginia had contacted the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and expressed interest in grooming him to be its next head coach. But prior to any commitments, Holgorsen wanted to see what it was his new home had to offer. So in late fall of 2010, he boarded a plane for Pittsburgh, where he was met by WVU athletic director Oliver Luck. And on they went, the 75 miles south to Morgantown.
Holgorsen’s first request was to see WVU’s indoor practice area, an amenity Oklahoma State had yet to add. The tour moved through the football facilities, and it was there, walking past photos of that year’s team, that Oliver Luck first mentioned Tavon Austin. “One of the first things Oliver did when he walked me through the building was point to a picture of Tavon Austin and say, ‘You need to get that guy the ball as much as you possibly can,’” Holgorsen recalls. “[Tavon] certainly was not shy about wanting the ball, and we certainly weren’t shy about giving it to him.”
During two seasons in Holgorsen’s offense, Austin got the ball plenty — 303 times, an average of more than 11.5 touches per game. As a senior, he caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards. He added another 643 yards rushing, on 8.9 yards per carry. Including kick returns, Austin hit the end zone 17 times. He was, along with USC’s Marqise Lee, one of the two most electric players in college football.
Anyone in my life can tell you that I have a serious problem when it comes to Fear of Missing Out. I could be off having a good time — a great time — but the moment I hear that something else is happening somewhere else, the fear begins to creep in. Uh-oh, is that more fun than this? Nah. Wait is it? It’s exhausting. This crippling dread manifests most fully in three areas: two or more of my friends attending a live music event, second-Thursday-of-the-month night at Wrightwood Tap in Chicago, and NFL free agency.
For the most part, I, as a Bears fan, should be happy with what’s gone down this week. Tight end Martellus Bennett was the best player available at a position of dire need, and although opinions are split about the money given to left tackle Jermon Bushrod (not really — most people think he got way too much money), two things about the signing are undeniable — the Bears now have another starting-caliber tackle in the fold, and GM Phil Emery now has infinitely more flexibility in the draft’s first round.
With both deals getting done in the first few hours of free agency, I should’ve been able to take the rest of the week off — give the refresh button on my browser a break and let other teams and fans open their new toys. Sadly, because I suffer from sports anhedonia, that just wasn’t an option. I watched with bitter jealousy as other teams cheaply picked off players I wanted or enjoy watching, and by this morning, that feeling had mostly enveloped any joy I’d taken earlier in the week. So I figured I might as well share my pain and lay out the fan bases that have garnered most of my jealousy.
The annual T-shirts-and-shorts craziness is under way in Indianapolis, and with all the stories flying around, we rounded up the biggest bits of news from this year's NFL combine.
Chip Kelly wasn’t the least bit shy in expressing his feelings about former Oregon defensive end and fast-rising prospect Dion Jordan to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Before the weekend, Jordan was considered a borderline top-10 pick, but he was expected to be a standout during workouts. The 6-foot-6, 248-pound Jordan was even better than anyone could have expected, and now it seems like he may be in range for the Eagles with the fourth overall pick. "Dion's just a special guy in my heart," Kelly told Zach Berman. "I had an opportunity to be with him for five years. He came into Oregon as a receiver, moved to tight end, we switched him over to defense the beginning of his sophomore year. He just had a huge impact, not only on the field but off the field." As the Eagles reconfigure their defense, it would seem that just about every position is one of need. Philadelphia has already released defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins this week, so it’s possible the team could also focus on that position with their first pick. Utah’s Star Lotulelei was originally considered a candidate to be the first overall pick, but that was before he was sent home from the combine after doctors found an abnormality during a heart exam (more about that below). Sharrif Floyd could also be another option. The former Florida defensive tackle is among the fastest-rising players in the draft, and he did plenty to help himself with his final numbers in Indy.
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This Is a Terrible Idea
Yesterday the Philadelphia Eagles announced they were re-signing Michael Vick to a one-year contract worth up to $10 million. Or maybe it's a three-year deal with a bunch of the money pushed into the second two years, structured so that the Eagles can pretty much shove the contract into a shredder after the first 12 months. A lot of the money is tied up in performance incentives — for instance it's been reported that Vick will make $900,000 if he participates in 70 percent of the snaps — which should make Vick and upstart second-year Napoleon Dynamite look-alike Nick Foles practically inseparable bowling buddies 4 life off the field.
The decision to bring Vick back seems to be all Chip Kelly's. The new head coach had a chance to part ways with the veteran quarterback/tackling dummy. And Vick's recent performances gave him all the reasons he needed: Vick has gone 10-13 in his last two seasons, with 30 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. The organization had a chance to start fresh — be it with Foles or someone else — by cutting Vick before February 6, and decided not to. Kelly must have come to the conclusion that they'd rather have Vick, with the flexibility of trading him or releasing him down the line, rather than no Vick at all. "You have to look at the landscape for other quarterbacks," Kelly said on Monday. Hi, Alex Smith. Bye, Alex Smith. For Eagles fans, it doesn't exactly make your heart sing with hope.
In case you were busy fixating on that piece of popcorn stuck between your molars, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The San Antonio Spurs took down the Bulls in Chicago, 103-89, despite missing their trio of future Hall of Famers, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. When asked about the challenge his team faced, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, "It doesn't matter; I could wring 40 wins in the NBA out of the San Antonio Silver Stars. Seriously, I started some French guy named Nando de Colo at the point today. None of our scouts had ever heard of him. Apparently, he's a friend of Tony's. They met at a Parisian falafel stand last winter, debated the nature of existence until 6 in the morning over a pack of Gauloises and three bottles of Malbec, before deciding that we're just shadows of an unforgiving god who vomited our spirits into this hellhole we call Earth. Whatever. Tony tells me to sign him up; guy's never even heard of basketball before, but apparently he's a hell of a freestyle walker, and in our system, he gets seven assists in his first start." Popovich then offered to play any of the reporters in the room at small forward against the Cavaliers to prove his point, but there were no takers.
The Charlotte Bobcats ended the Boston Celtics' seven-game winning streak with a 94-91 home win. Byron Mullens powered the Bobcats' upset with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Celtics forward Kevin Garnett was apoplectic after the game, saying, "Who let Nowitzki come down to Charlotte and wear some Mullens jersey so he could clown on KG? Y'all know I got the best sense of smell on this team, and something here was stinking to the high heavens." Garnett then broke into the Bobcats' locker room and started yelling "Sprechen sie Deutsch" at Mullens in a hapless effort to secure some sort of confession.
On a day with trade rumors swirling around the team, the Brooklyn Nets got a huge conference road win over Indiana in overtime, 89-84. "Everyone was a little on edge with all the speculation, but for some reason, I'm kind of used to it," said Nets forward Kris Humphries, who was ineffective in limited minutes and is rumored to be included in proposed deals with Atlanta and Charlotte. "Relatively speaking, this media attention seems pretty nice."
Marquette fell at Georgetown in a battle of soon-to-be Catholic 7 rivals. The game was decided late when all the players huddled at midcourt and deemed Georgetown the most prepared to be a communicative vessel for God. The referees then released a could of white smoke into the Verizon Center, which activated the sprinkler system and caused the game to be called with a final score of 63-55.
Kansas ended its three-game skid with an 83-62 win over in-state rival Kansas State. Ben McLemore had 30 points for the Jayhawks, and center Jeff Withey broke Greg Ostertag's school record for career blocks. "I view Greg as a bit of an idol," Withey said after the game. "I, too, wish to one day play center in the NBA, establish myself as a bona fide quality defensive player, sign a massive contract, and immediately stop trying. Also, I fully expect Glenn Robinson III to do something like this to me in the tournament this year."
Michael Vick renegotiated his deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, and will join new head coach Chip Kelly as the Eagles attempt to bounce back from a disappointing four-win season. Philadelphia fan Burt Gortowski reacted with uncharacteristic calm to the news, as he decided to only throw one rock through Kelly's window as a show of support for the new coach. "I think that Vick's game could work coming out of Kelly's blur offense," Gortowski said as he picked through the "throwing pile" of empty Yuengling bottles and rocks that he keeps in his backyard, "but just in case he doesn't, I don't want to be the one guy who didn't throw a rock through Chip's window. How would I be able to show my face around the Wawa?"
Liverpool squandered a number of scoring opportunities, including a Steven Gerrard penalty, before conceding twice to fall to West Bromwich Albion, 2-0, at Anfield. West Brom keeper Ben Foster, who had seven saves in the win, said after the match, "Liverpool is one of the biggest clubs in the Premier League, and a real threat to get back into the Champions League, so you know you have to bring your top game …" before collapsing in a heap of laughter. "Oh man," Foster continued, "I almost kept it together for that one. No, but seriously, Stewart Downing wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, so I did have to try almost all match long."
Kobe Bryant took to Twitter to admonish one of his fans (@PacSmoove) for calling a fellow Lakers fan "gay." Kobe went on to say, "If you really want to hurt someone with words, you can't be homophobic. I learned that lesson the hard way; it's wrong and only makes you look ignorant. What you have to do is get personal, learn about your foe, what they care about, and what they're ashamed of. Then you'll be ready to hurt people the way your high school girlfriend Michelle hurt you when she made out with your best friend on the way to junior prom. The way it hurt you when your dog Patches got real sick and died after you accidentally let it eat a piece of your birthday cake and you cried and cried and cried. The way it hurt you when your mom said your sister Kelly was her favorite kid, and that you'd never amount to anything. Then and only then will you, @PacSmoove, or should I say, 17-year-old Michael McFarlane, be ready to play with the Mamba."
The final prize on the MLB free agent market, All-Star center fielder Michael Bourn signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. Bourn, a client of super-agent Scott Boras, said he chose the Indians because of "the wonderful town of Cleveland? Are you kidding me? It was the money! No one else was going over $30 million in this market. Do you know what you can buy with $18 million? Art, you dumbass. This painting by Gerhard Richter. Look at it! I own that now. Best $16 million I've ever spent. Plus, I'll still have two million "Boras dollars" left over to get this work by Richard Serra installed next to my hedge maze. Yeah, I have a hedge maze."
In case you were busy deleting everything interesting from your Facebook account before Graph Search goes live, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
LeBron James reached a major milestone Wednesday night, becoming the youngest NBA player to reach 20,000 points in a 92-75 Heat win over the Golden State Warriors. James broke Kobe Bryant's previous record scoring pace by over a year. "I'm just trying to secure my legacy," James said, "and I'm very fortunate that Kobe doesn't have a chance to put this record further out of reach."
Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. This is more exciting than it probably should be; obviously, coaches change jobs all the time. But this feels different, somehow. Kelly is the best contemporary offensive mind in America (that’s an arguable designation, but it’s certainly the argument I would make if you put a gun to my head and started asking bizarre, subjective questions about football strategy). The Eagles are an elite NFL franchise in total disarray, habitually hounded by a fan base that despises everything (including themselves). There are landmines aplenty, all in the form of questions. Here are the main ones:
It's Rivalry slash Thanksgiving Week, when teams who have historically aggravated one another by virtue of shared geography, but who may not even be in the same conference in 2012, meet up for an annual gathering of bad feelings. This is the week for Florida–Florida State, Georgia Tech–Georgia, South Carolina–Clemson, and more. But before we get to the top 10 games, let's take a quick look at the perfect scenario for the final few weeks of college football, and let's do it in stream-of-consciousness form. For the ultimate comedic and poetic payoff, here's what has to happen:
Oregon loses to Oregon State, Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, Florida loses to Florida State, Alabama loses to Georgia in SEC title game, Georgia Tech beats Florida State in ACC title game, Kansas State loses to Texas, Stanford beats UCLA then loses to UCLA in Pac-12 title game, Louisville beats Rutgers but loses in a bowl game, Wisconsin beats Nebraska in Big Ten title game, Notre Dame loses to USC, Oklahoma wins out, Kent State and Northern Illinois both lose in bowls.
First, none of those outcomes are unlikely. All of them put together? Highly unlikely. But humor me for a second, because these are the teams that would earn automatic BCS berths if that scenario plays out: Georgia Tech, Georgia, Louisville, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Oklahoma. And the national title game would probably be Notre Dame vs. Georgia. Now, let's say Notre Dame, at 11-1, loses to 11-2 Georgia. Also, Ohio State beats Michigan this week.
The result? Zero bowl-eligible teams with even a one-loss record, and a BCS champion in Georgia that lost 35-7 to South Carolina, and suffered a hypothetical loss to Georgia Tech. The whole college landscape is a dusty wasteland. And then, rising amid the destruction, like a glorious phoenix, is Urban Meyer with his 12-0 Ohio State team. So riddle me this — could the AP poll, which is independent of the BCS, really put the Buckeyes anywhere but no. 1? I say no, and that means Ohio State would win a split national championship. The same Ohio State that's banned from postseason play because some kid got a free tattoo, and the same Ohio State that barely beat Cal at home, escaped from Indiana, and needed a miracle to beat Purdue in overtime.
And when all that happens, I'm going to phone up the BCS and just start laughing in their faces. A dude can dream.
It can’t be overstated just how impressive Stanford's 17-15 overtime victory over Oregon was. Stanford almost entirely shut down Oregon and its record-setting offense, the same offense that shredded the Cardinal 53-30 last season. Last year, Oregon's victory kept Stanford out of the national championship conversation. This year, the Cardinal might have returned the favor.
Last week, I described how Oregon's flashy offensive attack is, at its core, truly about old-school, fundamental football. Stanford's defense — Stanford’s entire program — is unequivocally about the same. On offense, the Cardinal are a power football team, with most of their passing game based on play-action. On defense, they use a "one-gapping," attacking 3-4 system — the same system brought to Stanford by current San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just a few years ago.
A century before the Saturday evening that will forever be recalled for the painful death of Bill Snyder’s 16 preceptsin Waco, and for the gumming up of Phil Knight’s fast-twitch widget-production apparatus in Eugene, and for Les Miles’s epic Lebowski Speech — tell me he doesn’t resemble Jesus Quintana just a little at the 1:39 mark — Notre Dame was just a tiny Catholic college in Indiana with a progressive strategy and a dream of defeating the U.S. Army. This goes back to the summer of 1913, when Irish quarterback Gus Dorais and an end named Knute Rockne worked together as lifeguards in Sandusky, Ohio, practicing a newfangled stratagem on the beach known as “the forward pass.” They unleashed it on the first day of November, against a bigger and stronger West Point squad; the Irish won, 35-13, and an epoch’s worth of treacly film scores were birthed.
There’s limited value in writing about things that didn’t actually happen (“What if the South had won the Civil War?” “What if Winona Ryder had been cast in The Godfather III instead of Sofia Coppola?” Etc.). But something almost happened on Sunday that’s worth considering, at least briefly: For six hours, it looked like Chip Kelly was going to become coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. By the time I woke up Monday, the rumor was already extinct; Kelly was staying at Oregon. And that bland reality destroyed the mesmerizing unreality of what he might have done to the NFL.