Philly hasn't been same since Kelce got here

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Kelce has seen Philly sports turn upside-down in only 2 years here.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jason Kelce has seen Philly sports turn upside-down in only 2 years here.
Posted: July 26, 2013

IT HAS BEEN a turbulent 2 years.

Jason Kelce landed in Philadelphia about 28 months ago, as anonymously as possible, a sixth-round center in the 2011 draft. He joined a football team that had been run by Joe Banner for 17 years, had been coached by Andy Reid for 12 years, had held training camp at Lehigh University for 15 years and had made the playoffs nine times in 11 seasons.

Franchise quarterback Michael Vick had just signed a long-term contract. There was a franchise receiver in DeSean Jackson, franchise defensive end in Trent Cole and running back LeSean McCoy, who in his second season had offered a glimpse of his terrific abilities.

The Eagles weren't the only team riding high.

A few hundred yards away, the Flyers were captained by Mike Richards, fueled by scorers Jeff Carter and Danny Briere and had a promising young goaltender named Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Sixers were beginning a run to within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals behind All-Star Andre Iguodala, promising point guard Jrue Holiday and charismatic coach Doug Collins, a genius resurrected.

Just across Broad Street, the Phillies had snatched free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee from the Yankees and given themselves four pedigreed starters who led them to a 102-win season and their fifth consecutive NL East title.

What a difference 2 years makes.

Kelce no longer is anonymous. He missed most of last season with an injury, but his play as a rookie made him invaluable. His perceptiveness in general makes him, much more so than most athletes, an acute observer of his surroundings.

But can he even recognize his surroundings?

"Yeah," he agreed, shaking his head as he glanced at the Eagles' practice field after the second day of training camp.

Nowhere in the Philadelphia sports landscape is the cataclysmic change in the four organizations more tangible than on the fields where Kelce stood.

He stood in an end zone that didn't exist 2 weeks before.

New coach Chip Kelly last month ordered the fields at the practice facility resodded and reconfigured. Now, all three fields run parallel, east to west. Previously, two fields ran parallel, north to south; at the north end, a third field ran east to west.

Of course, until this season, the Eagles would not even be on these fields for at least 3 more weeks. The Eagles would be at training camp, not just attending it. Kelly, a technophile of the highest order, bases his coaching on the fastest and best electronics available. Those electronics are unavailable in Bethlehem, so bye-bye, Lehigh.

The NovaCare Center has a different vibe, too.

Banner is gone, now running Cleveland. Reid is Kansas City's coach. Men of vastly different statures, they each cast an enormous shadow at 1 NovaCare Way. Kelly and Banner protege Howie Roseman run things now, and things are muted. They realize how change, cosmetic and procedural, can be seismic.

The hallway from the locker rooms to the cafeteria once featured photographs of Eagles who made the Pro Bowl. Now, they are represented by a mural.

Many of the changes were forecast and apparent at the OTAs:

Kelly plays music during drills, and he runs briefer practices; there is no yelling by coaches; quarterbacks run drills simultaneously.

Players lately have been learning the Navy SEAL code - especially the part about taking responsibility for their actions and those of their teammates. Not only does Kelly have a former Navy SEAL trainer on staff, he invited a SEAL to run some team-building meetings.

"It's been pretty cool hearing the different ways they go about their business. And the similarities between football and the Navy SEALs," Kelce said.

The closest the Phillies come to anything Navy SEAL-like is the training regimen of injured starter Roy Halladay, but his maniacal regimen likely will be part of Phillies lore after September; his deal expires.

If the Phillies continue their second-half struggles - they lost three of their first four coming out of the All-Star break - even bigger changes could come by the trading deadline next week. Cornerstone players Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon all will be involved in trade conversations, as will Michael Young.

Wherever those guys play next season, they might well be managed by Charlie Manuel, whose deal with the Phillies expires after this year. Expect Manuel to take the fall for the past two seasons' injury-marred campaigns. Certainly, Manuel won't quit.

That's what Collins did, in April, after he oversaw last summer's disastrous trade of Iguodala and three other first-round picks for Andrew Bynum. Collins worked with front-office men Rod Thorn and Tony DiLeo on that deal. They're gone, too, replaced by general manager Sam Hinkie, who since traded Holiday . . . but who, incredibly, has not replaced Collins.

The Flyers still have a coach, and Peter Laviolette's job seems safe, despite his team missing the playoffs and the continued disassembling of the franchise. Kelce never got a chance to know Richards and Carter, since they were traded soon after he arrived. They left, in part, to make room for franchise goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whose presence made Bobrovsky expendable; so Bob was traded, too.

Richards and Carter have since won a Stanley Cup for Los Angeles. Bobrovsky was the league's best goalie last season, in Columbus. The Flyers paid Bryzgalov - disruptive and inept - a $23 million buyout to go away. They sent Briere packing with $3.3 million.

The remade Flyers have a new toy in Vincent Lecavalier, no proven goaltender and virtually no shot of making noise in the Eastern Conference.

Still, they might be the best show in town for the next couple of years.

Back on the west side of Broad Street, Kelce watched as Vick took a pay cut and began a fight with one-win Nick Foles and fourth-round rookie Matt Barkley for the starting-quarterback job.

Cole, who might move to linebacker in the Eagles' new 3-4-based scheme, does not even have a position, much less a job. Jackson does not fit Kelly's mold as a big, tough receiver. Then again, McCoy might flourish in Kelly's system that worked so well . . . at the college level.

Just 2 years from Kelce's arrival in Philadelphia, the sports scene has turned upside-down.

He shouldn't be surprised if it turns again in the next 2 years.

DN Members Only : Bennie Logan looking to make his mark.

Click here for complete coverage of Eagles training camp.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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