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April 20, 2015

Tebow signing proves Kelly’s only focus is on winning

Opinion Angelo Cataldi
042015_Tebow_AP Charles Krupa/AP

Don't like the Tim Tebow signing? Chip Kelly doesn't really care.

Tim Tebow can’t throw deep, can’t throw accurately, hasn’t played football in two years, and has enough baggage to fill an entire NFL locker room. For all of these reasons, the Eagles made the right decision by signing the forgotten quarterback to a one-year contract on Monday.

You heard me. It’s the right decision.

Follow the logic. At best, Tebow will be third on the depth chart, a specialist for wildcat formations or maybe goal-line plays and two-point conversions. But the real importance of Tebow’s presence on the Eagles’ roster is none of that. The essence of this bizarre move is what it says about the guy who put him there, coach/GM Chip Kelly.

Philadelphia has never had anyone like Kelly running one of our sports franchises – bold, fearless, aggressive and totally uninterested in the public’s opinion. Like it or not, this is Kelly’s team now. Tebow’s signing was final proof that Kelly will stop at nothing to win, and he doesn’t care what anybody else has to say about it.

Do you have a strong position on Kelly’s unprecedented roster makeover this off-season? Feel free to express it. Just don’t expect him to listen. Kelly has a unique ability to look at what he needs – or thinks he needs – and to take action devoid of any outside input.

For example, after Tebow flopped in a summer audition in New England two years ago, not one other team looked his way, despite his Heisman Trophy, two national championships at Florida and his first-round draft pedigree. The negatives (see above) far outweighed the likelihood that he might actually help an NFL team.

Ever since the news broke that Kelly had decided to bring Tebow back to the NFL, there have been some fascinating theories about why he did this. Maybe he owed a football crony a favor. Maybe he wasn’t happy with the depth at quarterback. Maybe he wants to one-up his old pal, Bill Belichick. Maybe he just loves attention.

These theories all have something in common. They are stupid. They completely ignore who Kelly has consistently shown himself to be, a single-minded coach who cares only about improving the team. Why else is DeMarco Murray the running back now, and not LeSean McCoy? Why is Sam Bradford the quarterback, and not Nick Foles?

This grand experiment that Kelly started three months ago by forcing ex-GM Howie Roseman out and taking full roster control is either going to be one of the most dynamic, brilliant schemes in NFL history, or it’s going to turn into a disaster of epic proportions.

In a league that specializes in agendas, Kelly has none. That’s why he was the only coach willing to bring the Tebow circus back to town. Kelly knows the Eagles are one of the top stories in sports again today – for a third-string quarterback, no less – and he doesn’t care. He knows the many self-appointed sages are crinkling their noses right now. So what?

This grand experiment that Kelly started three months ago by forcing ex-GM Howie Roseman out and taking full roster control is either going to be one of the most dynamic, brilliant schemes in NFL history, or it’s going to turn into a disaster of epic proportions. There’s no middle ground.

If McCoy regains his form in Buffalo, Kelly is going to look ridiculous for trading him. If Murray gets hurt, as anticipated, Kelly’s commitment to sports science will be mocked mercilessly. If Foles turns back into the 2013 quarterback that so dazzled the NFL, Kelly will be the fall guy. And if Bradford flops, the target of every joke will be Kelly.

It is clearer now than ever that Chip Kelly has more at stake in the season ahead than any coach, in any season, ever has with the Eagles. Not only are all of his unique systems fully in place, but most of the players have been handpicked by him. And now that roster includes Tim Tebow.

Worried that the new quarterback might get caught Tebowing in the end zone? Kelly won’t care. What if Tebowmania starts up all over again – women swooning, religious zealots flocking to the city? The coach won’t even notice. Kelly will be too busy calling the next play, plotting the next move.

Tim Tebow signing with the Eagles may be the big story today, but it is not nearly as important as what lies ahead for Chip Kelly and his Eagles.


The Phillies have said Ryan Howard would be better off in the American League, they have benched him against left-handed pitchers and now they have moved him out of the clean-up spot in the lineup.

What’s next, a public flogging?

The great irony in this ill-fated plan to cling to the past is that, in doing so, chairman Dave Montgomery and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have insulted the heroes of 2008 and are now in the process of staining their legacies. And no one is more a victim than Howard, a declining player who continues to conduct himself with dignity and honor.

The lumbering first-baseman – 36 now, and looking more like 46 – said he understood why manager Ryne Sandberg dropped him in the lineup last week – as low as seventh for two games. It’s hard to argue with a sub-.200 batting average and an endless parade of rally-killing strikeouts. But the truth is, there is nothing logical at all about how the Phils are handling him.

The one sane voice in the Phillies’ organization, president Pat Gillick, is already on record writing off this season, and probably 2016, too. In fact, by the early look of the team, Gillick may be overly optimistic about the immediate future of this too-old and too-young ballclub. Right now, the Phillies stink. Period.

So why is Howard still on the roster? For the sake of everybody concerned, he must be released now, today, this minute. The longer he stays with the Phillies, the more damage will be done to his legacy, to our memory of that magical 58-homer season in 2006, those huge hits that won critical games, that amazing parade.

Howard is not going to get any quicker or more tradeable, not with the lingering effects of his Achilles surgery and the $60 million left on his contract. The only smart move, and the only humane one, is to stop this madness and set him free.

Ryan Howard has earned a far more dignified exit than this.


When Ron Hextall finally fired Craig Berube last Friday, the GM revealed a lot more about himself, and the antiquated organization he runs, than about the overmatched coach. Nobody looked good last week as the Flyers said goodbye to their 10th head coach in the past 20 years.

Immediately, chairman Ed Snider offered words of support for Hextall, as if that still mattered. Snider is 82-years old, still chasing a goal he has long forgotten how to reach. It has been 40 years – four decades – since he last won the Stanley Cup. He is too old, and so is the thinking of his organization.

The idea that yet another ex-Flyer, Hextall, is making all the decisions right now is proof of Snider’s destructive stubbornness. Before Hextall, it was Paul Holmgren running things, and Bob Clarke before him. Always an ex-Flyer, always a Snider devotee. Through the past generation, no one was ever more suited to run the team? Seriously?

Hextall also provided evidence in the past week that he is not going to fare any better than the ex-Flyers who previously occupied his position. Last Thursday, he said he hadn’t decided what to do with Berube, before making the move the very next day. It’s safe to say Hextall was a far more decisive goalie than he is a GM.

As for Berube, the only shock was that it took anyone almost a week to figure out he wasn’t the answer behind the bench. Hextall said the ex-goon didn’t get enough out of the players, and that was painfully true. Berube was especially inept at handling goaltender Steve Mason, and the shootout, and anything else that required nuance.

In the end, though, the problem with the Flyers is not Berube or Hextall or Holmgren or Clarke. It’s Snider, who preaches stability while overseeing change after change, who extolls patience while predicting success every year, who keeps trying to buy the one thing his fortune cannot deliver, another Stanley Cup.

Here are some early predictions about the immediate future of the Flyers: The next coach will have some connection to the Flyers, he will lavish praise on “Mr. Snider,” he will vow to bring a new culture to an old organization, and then he will fail. The pattern never changes. And it won’t, until Ed Snider relinquishes control of the Flyers.

And finally . . . 

     • The NFL schedule will be announced on Tuesday night, and here’s one loud vote against the Eagles opening the season on a Thursday night against the defending-champion New England Patriots. First, Chip Kelly is going to need time to blend his revamped roster, and second, who wants to start a season on a Thursday night?

     • Sixers owner Joshua Harris actually said last week that fans remain supportive of the team’s rebuilding plan and are “taking a long-term perspective” after an 18-64 season. Sure they are. That’s why the Sixers finished last in NBA attendance for the first time in their 52-year history. Please.

     • There’s a new sports villain in Philadelphia – Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, who purposely hit Chase Utley last week in the back with a 95-mph fastball. Then the bigheaded pitcher glared at Utley, for no apparent reason. Matt Harvey needs to eat some dirt the next time he bats against the Phillies. That’s all I’m saying.

     • A physicians’ organization has gone to war with the Phillies Triple A Lehigh (Pa.) affiliate over the Iron Pigs’ promotion of bacon. The team has bacon on its hats, scratch-and-sniff bacon t-shirts and bacon on a stick at the concession stands. The doctors want fans to eat broccoli at ballgames instead of bacon. Well, here’s a second opinion for the docs: Get a life.

     • With his polls in free-fall, N.J. governor Chris Christie made an appearance last week in Atlantic City and expressed his admiration for former Eagle Brian Westbrook. The gambit didn’t work. When Christie belly-bumped Dallas owner Jerry Jones last season, he ended any chance to be President. Only morons want a Cowboys fan in the White House.