Eagles do their best to eliminate distractions

Posted: June 21, 2014

The Eagles used to hand out T-shirts to their players that had a message for the next season. Two years ago there was the "It's Time" shirt that wound up having more to do with the end of Andy Reid's tenure than it did with finally winning a title.

Chip Kelly ended that ritual, but if he was to have shirts emblazoned with a unifying message in the post-DeSean Jackson era, it probably would have the word "Drama" in a red circle and under a slash.

The Kelly Eagles in Year 2 are devoid of divalike receivers, controversial quarterbacks, contract holdouts, and the sort of off-the-field drama that seemed to plague the Reid Eagles after their 2005 Super Bowl appearance.

"Does that bother you?" Kelly joked to a reporter.

Todd Herremans was here for the drama days. He was drafted the April after the Super Bowl and a few months later Terrell Owens was doing sit-ups in his driveway. Each subsequent offseason, there seemed to be another soap opera brewing.

Even last year, Kelly couldn't avoid a major distraction when Riley Cooper was caught on video using a racial slur. It's still a long way until the start of the season, but the Eagles enter the one-month break before training camp happy, healthy, and drama-free.

"This is what I imagined it would be like. This is fun," Herremans said Thursday after the final day of minicamp. "We've got a locker room full of guys and an office full of coaches that want the same thing and are doing whatever each individual has to do to get there."

For the most part, Reid's Eagles had that atmosphere, too - especially in his first six seasons with the Eagles. But as Herremans pointed out, the system had gotten stale, and "maybe they softened up a little bit" and got "away from what they were doing in the beginning to have the success that they had."

Kelly is still coaching a charmed team. After a 10-6 first season, patience abounds. And while fans still fret over the decision to release Jackson, there can't be many who miss the headaches that accompanied the receiver.

"We don't like [quiet] in Philadelphia," McCoy joked, referring to fans and the media. "We like the quarterback controversies, we like all that type of stuff. It's a little bit different going into this camp. It's quiet."

Kelly, for the record, has never said that he got rid of Jackson for any reason other than football. McCoy has implied that his former teammate didn't "buy in" to the new coach's plan, but Kelly dismissed the notion.

Kelly also re-signed Cooper this offseason. But it's clear the roster is light on prima donnas (if there are any at all) and lightning-rod superstars and heavy on gym rats and all-effort guys.

Is that a recipe for winning a championship? Some coaches and teams thrive despite the distractions. Did the boisterous Richard Sherman curtail the Seahawks' run to a Super Bowl title last season?

"We want a bunch of guys that like playing football," Kelly said, "not what football gets them."

Michael Vick was in the former group, but he couldn't avoid the microscope because of his past. Nick Foles is about as bland a quarterback (read: a coach's dream) as Kelly could want. McCoy is the only star on the team who speaks off the cuff.

Kelly gives his players a great amount of leeway, though. He keeps business days to a minimum and said he isn't worried about the next 35 days when the players aren't required to do anything football-related.

He talks about the players investing their time and maximizing the hours in a day. Kelly can't micromanage. There has to be level of trust.

"Do you want blind obedience or informed acquiescence or self-governance?" Kelly said Wednesday.

Kelly has studied high-performance operations like the Navy Seals for years. The quote above comes from the HOW Report, a study of 36,280 employees from 18 countries that "provides a view into organizational behaviors and how they impact business performance outcomes," according to its website.

Self-governance is the most successful of the business models, according to the website.

"If you have self-governance," Kelly said, "I think the individuals have more invested in what's going on because they have a say and they have a stake in it, and we are moving towards that model.

"But I don't know if we are totally there right now."

Maybe "Self-governance" on a T-shirt would make more sense than "No drama."


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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