Phil Sheridan, Inquirer Columnist
Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013, 1:53 AM
For Eagles fans, this was the most anticipated Super Bowl since that game in Jacksonville.
Not because they cared who won, or because old buddy John Harbaugh was coaching against his big/little brother Jim, or because it meant the end of Ray Lewis.
No, Eagles fans were looking forward to Sunday's game because of Monday. With the miserable 2012 season finally completed, they can officially get on with 2013. And that means getting answers to some pressing questions.
The biggest question, of course, was answered last month. That's when we learned that Charles Kelly - of the New Hampshire-via-Oregon Kellys - is the man who will take Andy Reid's well-worn place on the Eagles sideline.
But since his initial and largely positive first impression, Kelly has pretty much vanished. He emerged, groundhog-like, for one early morning appearance at a radio event Friday, but otherwise he has been working (we hope) on the answers to the next round of questions.
The most pressing, of course, is who will coach Kelly's defense. The answer to that one is eagerly awaited for two reasons: first, and most obviously, because it is the most important job on Kelly's staff; second, because this hire will presumably put an end to the farcical double-secret coaching staff charade of the last few weeks.
It isn't clear why Kelly declined to announce his hires as he made them. He succeeded mostly in annoying fans eager to understand his vision while forcing grown men in Eagles gear to spend weeks pretending they don't work for the Eagles, at least in public.
But once Kelly hires his defensive coordinator, likely one of the assistants freed at the conclusion of Sunday's game in New Orleans, the embargo will be lifted. There will be some forward motion and some answers.
Will the new defensive coordinator switch to the 3-4 alignment Kelly is known to prefer?
Let's hope so. For years, Reid insisted on sticking with the 4-3 even though his own offense had huge problems against 3-4 schemes. So it was a chuckle when Reid announced that he would run a 3-4 in Kansas City.
There is only one compelling reason to stay with a 4-3: a roster full of players who are better and more effective in the 4-3. Kelly doesn't have that problem with the defense he's inheriting. Only a handful of players are worth keeping at all, and none were dominant enough in the 4-3 to cause even a moment's hesitation about switching.
A change in attitude is more important than the alignment here, anyway. A decade ago, I remember writing about how smart the Jim Johnson-coached Eagles defenders were. Each player not only knew his responsibility, he understood the concepts behind it. It was as far as you could get from watching Nnamdi Asomugha and Nate Allen try to figure out what coverage they were supposed to be in after an opponent's touchdown.
Smart. Tough. Physical. Bring those qualities back and you can line up anyway you want.
Of course, Kelly was hired to bring his innovative offensive ideas to the NFL. That experiment is going to provide the real drama and fascination over the next few years.
Kelly's reported hiring of former Reid assistant Pat Shurmur was a bit of a head-scratcher. Shurmur, most recently head coach of the Cleveland Browns, is a good man. He seems a peculiar choice to serve as coordinator of an offense he will be learning along with his players.
If Kelly was looking for someone who's been an NFL head coach and has a feel for Philadelphia and the Eagles, why not Brad Childress? He has more and more varied experience than Shurmur and played a key role in implementing Reid's original, successful plan.
Shurmur's most relevant recent experience was working with Sam Bradford in St. Louis and Brandon Weeden in Cleveland. So his hiring supports the idea that Kelly will jettison Michael Vick and develop a young quarterback - whether it is Nick Foles, a draft choice or former Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (now on Baltimore's practice squad).
But that's a surmise, like so much else about the burgeoning Kelly era. Now that the Super Bowl is finally over, we can start replacing surmises with real information.
Contact Phil Sheridan at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.
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