December 17, 2020
In good seasons or bad ones, in many ways, Jason Kelce serves as the face of Philadelphia sports, or at least the veteran All-Pro center should.
At 33 and fighting through a 4-8-1 season with one healthy arm and a mane of hair his younger brother Travis would kill for, Kelce gave an impassioned take on what the NFL is on Wednesday as the lone survivor of the attrition that has forced the Eagles to start 12 different offensive line combinations over their first 13 games, a number that will become 13-of-14 on Sunday in Arizona.
"I think at all times in the NFL, the focus should be winning the football game," Kelce said. "Nothing else takes precedence, no player evaluation, no amount of curiosity from anybody within the organization. Everything is focused, in my opinion in this league, about winning games."
To say many in the modern landscape disagree is underselling things dramatically.
Perhaps no city can best discuss losing purposefully better than Philadelphia.
At least a part of the fan base here really believes it has a Ph.D. in stinking up the joint for the "greater good," coupled with the undeserved haughtiness that ties them to two executives many of the same don't like very much right now, the dynamic duo running their beloved Eagles — owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman.
Maybe the tag lines are different, but the losing-is-the-only-way crowd taps into the same self-aggrandizing tripe that birthed "the gold standard" or "quarterback factory."
Kelce, conversely, embodies the old-school Philly narrative of the blue-collar, hard-working mentality. The kind that will fight through a hyperextended elbow during a dismal season for his teammates even though the easier path is an obvious one.
"The Process" folk?
Those are Chris Heck's "New Philadelphia" lemmings, afraid to step out of the carefully cultivated echo chamber which abhors original thought and is fueled only by conformity. Dare to dissent from the monolith at your own risk or those with an IQ of a ham sandwich will unleash the debating power of 1,000 sheltered souls emboldened by a ban of competing ideology.
A friend of mine has a voicemail message to describe the hubris to think you've gamed the system or the assumption you've thought of something no one else has: "If you find yourself to be the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room."
"You don’t care about me or this team. You care about the future, you care about this. That’s not what the focus is here, that’s not what the focus is on any winning organization’s team." —Jason Kelce
The really intelligent among us never stop learning and are always adapting as they are fed new information.
Maybe it's ironic that Kelce was the one who put the idea of losing as a strategy on blast this week.
You don't get to decide when it's time to turn from scratching and clawing for every win to the evaluation of younger players or how much more important a higher draft pick in April is for the Eagles.
And if you did, Kelce wouldn't be your hero, half-blitzed in a Mummer's outfit spewing a Stone Cold Steve Austin-level promo because he would have long ago tapped out of the culture you created before the Lombardi Trophy was ever brought back to One NovaCare Way.
"You see a lot of losing teams sustain losses for a number of years when they have bad cultures," Kelce explained. "They have cultures where you don’t try to win every week; what are we going to do in the draft, what are we going to do in free agency, what can we do over here?
"In football — this isn’t basketball — one draft pick isn’t going to make us a Super Bowl champion."
Even in basketball, it's exceedingly rare where a once-in-a-generation player like LeBron James means what it says — once in a generation not once every year or two.
"Tanking for Trevor [Lawrence]" is just the latest example in the NFL, a stepchild to Indianapolis' "Suck for [Andrew] Luck" campaign, although the New York Jets and our old friend Joe Douglas are getting to Lawrence on merit this time around.
"It might be a big start to a Super Bowl championship but it’s always going to be about the team," Kelce said of snaring the big-ticket item. "That’s the greatest thing about this sport, and culture and the way guys fight, and the way guys go about their business is a huge reason for success in this league and in this sport."
The Eagles are going to try to win on Sunday in Arizona, and whether that's successful or not the goal won't change against Dallas or Washington over the final two weeks.
"Nothing takes precedence over trying to win a football game," Kelce again emphasized. "I don’t care who you’re trying to evaluate, I don’t care if you lost every game, you’re 0-15 and it’s the last one you got, everything is about winning in this league.
“I know that won’t appease a lot of people out there that always want to talk about getting better draft positions, getting looks at certain guys to see what you got for the future, but, again, the moment a team feels like you as an organization aren’t doing your job for me to go out there and win, all of a sudden, you’ve shown who you are."
And who are you?
Take it home, Jason Kelce.
"You don’t care about me or this team," Kelce said. "You care about the future, you care about this. That’s not what the focus is here, that’s not what the focus is on any winning organization’s team."
Now that's a promo.
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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