What Jason Kelce’s rant says about Eagles coach Jalen Hurts

PHILADELPHIA – It was obvious something was wrong with Jason Kelce.

The Eagles center had heard all the heightened expectations for this Eagles season, with some pundits suggesting they could go to the Super Bowl.

He had heard Eagles coach Nick Sirianni describe his comfort level heading into his second season, or quarterback Jalen Hurts’ comfort level being in the same system with the same offense for a second straight year. This was something he hadn’t experienced since playing in high school for his father.

While Kelce acknowledged that all of this was true, the word “comfort” gnawed at Kelce.

FOR WITHOUT THE SEATS:How AJ Brown Brings the Terrell Owens Effect to the Eagles

BIG THINGS:22 Bold Eagles Predictions for 2022, Including a Record WR, Carson Wentz’s Unfortunate Return

He was a rookie in 2011 when the Eagles went on a free agent spree that became infamously known as “The Dream Team.” It was a disaster. The Eagles had to win their last four games that season to finish 8-8.

So the explosive offense started flying when Kelce was asked about Sirianni’s comfort level in his second season after a campaign in which the Eagles reached the playoffs, then added AJ Brown and revamped the defense. The Eagles added free agents in pass rusher Haason Reddick, linebacker Kyzir White and cornerback James Bradberry before trading for safety Chauncey Garnder-Johnson just last week.

Yes, the Eagles are better. But Kelce didn’t want to hear it. After all, Kelce will play Sunday when the Eagles open the season against the Detroit Lions, a month after elbow surgery, extending his starting hitting streak to 123. It’s the longest active streak by a center since 2014.

“To be honest, I don’t like comfort,” Kelce said. “I think comfort is a terrible place to be if you’re in this league. I know everybody’s expecting us to be Super Bowl champions in Philadelphia right now, and I think that can definitely happen. But it’s not going to happen you are comfortable, I can guarantee it.

“So I hope (Sirianni) doesn’t feel comfortable. I hope it’s very uncomfortable.”

We all know Kelce’s bonafides as a true Philadelphian. This was evident during his famous speech during the Super Bowl parade in February 2018, when he dressed up in a Mummer outfit and spent his entire impassioned speech addressing how everyone was being overlooked and counted out.

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce speaks in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art after a Super Bowl victory parade for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Philadelphia. The Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl 52.

But what about Sirianni? He was an NFL head coach last season after spending previous stops in Indianapolis and with the Chargers in both Los Angeles and San Diego. Both are far from the cauldron that Eagles fans create.

Well, we didn’t have to wait long. After overcoming a 2-5 start to make the playoffs last season, Sirianni showed he’s not ready to rest on those laurels.

That was evident during the first preseason game on Aug. 12, when Sirianni screamed across the court at Jets coach Robert Saleh after one of Saleh’s players was flagged for a late hit on Hurts as Hurts was going out of bounds.

Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett showed that a few weeks ago when he was asked about Siriani during their time together in Indianapolis. Sirianni was the offensive coordinator and Brissett was pushed into the starting quarterback position when Andrew Luck suddenly retired two weeks before the 2019 season began.

“I remember one time he was trying to fight the fans (when) they were booing us,” Brissett said.

How often did this happen? Brissett was then asked.

“Every game,” he replied, though he was quick to say that he was exaggerating.

But we saw that, too, after a loss to the Chargers last November, when a fan, poking fun at Sirianni’s pot analogy a few weeks earlier, threw flowers onto the field as Sirianni entered the tunnel.

Sirianni stopped, went back and began searching for the fan before being dragged back into the tunnel.

This is the fighting spirit that Eagles fans are known for. That’s why there’s a statue of a fictional boxer by the steps of the Art Museum.

But back to Sirianni and the pot, who seems like the polar opposite of Rocky Balboa (more on him in a bit).

As the Eagles prepare to open their 2022 season in Detroit against the Lions on Sunday, Sirianni was asked about the last time the Eagles played the Lions, last Oct. 31.

At the time, the Eagles were reeling. They had just been humiliated by the Las Vegas Raiders, losing 33-22 and falling to 2-5. Sirianni was in his first season as an NFL head coach and Jonathan Gannon was in his first season as a defensive coordinator.

Both seemed overmatched.

However, Sirianni showed his players an image of a flower growing with roots underground to show that the team was improving even if the results might not be visible.

Sure enough, the Eagles started their 7-3 playoff streak with a 44-6 win in Detroit. Earlier this week, Sirianni was asked how that game changed the Eagles’ season, and perhaps his coaching career.

“We talked about growing underground and fertilizing — I’m teasing,” Sirianni said.

More seriously, Sirianni said: ”Culture is how you go about your business every day, and that’s also part of the dawg mentality.” You go about your business every day forgetting what happened in the past or forgetting what anyone says about you.

“They say we stink, fine, we’ll work as we should. They say we’re very good, fine, we’ll work the way we’re going to work. They say ‘it’s average, fine, we’ll work the way we’re supposed to work.’

October 6, 2019;  Philadelphia, PA, USA  Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) prepares to throw the ball against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field.  Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

October 6, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (62) prepares to throw the ball against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

That boils down to Hurts, the quarterback who has faced more questions about his future as the Eagles’ quarterback than bystanders trying to fire him.

Sure, the Eagles publicly committed to Hurts as their quarterback after he completed just 61.3 percent of his passes last season. But Hurts knows that’s not good enough, not with Brown adding to a receiving corps that includes DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.

So Hurts worked diligently during the offseason with coaches in California and teammates in Texas, Florida and near Philadelphia. He knew improvement wasn’t going to happen just by adding Brown.

“I think you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Hertz said. “(Expectations are) just a lot of rat poison, in short. They are all external factors that we don’t want to (worry about) or get involved with.

“So it all comes back to pushing ourselves every day in practice, doing the little things we need to do, to maximize the days and win the days. To get better, you have to push yourself. That makes uncomfortable.”

That’s what Kelce wants to see from his teammates and his coach. And here, Kelce was getting to work again, with more offense flying, almost as a warning of what could go wrong, like with the so-called “Dream Team” in 2011.

“I think when expectations are high, you tend to let little things go,” he said. “When the expectations are low, it’s like we have to get everything right (over)right now. Otherwise, we will be fired. Otherwise, people will take to the streets.

“I think we’ve got enough older guys around this building … to understand that expectations are just that — they’re nothing (expletive). And the moment you get comfortable in this league, somebody comes for you.

“We’ve got to (be like) Mr. T in Rocky III. He’s going to be after us every week. And we haven’t won anything yet, so we’re not even the champion. So we better work our asses off.”

No doubt, Kelce, pity the fool who doesn’t embody that spirit.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: What Jason Kelce’s fire says about Eagles’ approach to 2022 season

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *