Eagles fire head coach Chip Kelly

In a bit of a shocker, the Philadelphia Eagles have parted ways with head coach Chip Kelly. The move is surprising, mainly because the Eagles still have one more game to play. But, with three seasons in and no playoff appearances since his opening season, it appears that Eagles ownership ran out of patience.

The move broke around 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday night, with the Eagles issuing the following statement:

Today, Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman and CEO of the Philadelphia Eagles, released Head Coach Chip Kelly.

"We appreciate all the contributions that Chip Kelly made and wish him every success going forward," said Lurie.

Coach Pat Shurmur will be interim head coach for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

Ed Marynowitz, vice president of player personnel, was also released. Tom Donahoe, former GM of the Buffalo Bills and director of football operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers and senior football advisor for the Eagles since 2012, will assume the role of senior director of player personnel.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, December 30 at the NovaCare Complex at Noon with Lurie.

The move comes just a few days after Kelly told reporters he was not worried about his job security.

The Eagles and their fans had high expectations for the 2015 season, despite losing running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The additions of running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews were highly touted, but Kelly seemed confused as to how to use them alongside Darren Sproles. Kelly's draft picks have contributed very little to the Eagles team.

Since joining the Eagles in 2013, Kelly has led the Eagles to a record of 26-21.


Over one-third of Phillies Twitter followers are fake

In the last few weeks, a few news stories appeared about various political candidates and just how "real" their Twitter followers are.   In this Business Insider story, 51% of New Jersey Governor and presidential hopeful candidate Chris Christie's followers were deemed to be real.   Secretary Hillary Clinton's Twitter status started the conversation initially, as she has just 65% real followers.   Clinton actually has the Phillies beat; the Phillies come in at 64% real followers.

According to Twitter Audit, the service used to track Clinton's and Christie's numbers, followers of the Phillies official account are only about two-thirds real:

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A quick review of the followers of the Phillies account includes many followers with "Twitter egg" profile pictures, and several non-English languages.

The Phillies are not alone among Major League Baseball teams in having fake followers.  According to the same service, the New York Yankees have 913,876 real followers, while 604,190 are fake.  The Boston Red Sox  Red Sox are reported as having 710,294 real followers and 372,472 fake followers.    

The Toronto Blue Jays have the worst record: 65% of their users are fake: 496,671 are real, while 607,043 Fake.

The Phillies have the fourth-most followers on Twitter of Major League Baseball teams, behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays.

But before casting a finger at the teams, there could be an explanation as to why Major League Baseball teams attract a large number of followers.  When signing up for Twitter, the service prompts users to begin following accounts.  Besides the big-name politicians and big celebrities, Twitter prompts new users to like professional sports franchises as part of the sign-up process.  

With companies using bots to make accounts so that people may "buy" followers, it makes sense that those bots would be trained to like some professional sports franchises along the way.  So, the Phillies probably did not purchase any followers, but instead are the victim of the follower-buying craze.

This is why the results are rather consistent among the big-name MLB franchises and why the Phillies have such a large percentage of fake followers.  If there is any criticism against the Phillies it is that they do not interact with the fans enough.   Five Thirty Eight Sports put together a report of Social Media use among all teams.  

With 720,000 interactions, the Phillies are very behind the 2.560 million interactions the Blue Jays get, even with the large number of fake followers.

The Phillies were also the only team to show a decrease in Facebook fans.  This could be because the Phillies were very active on social media and peaked among their most successful years from 2008 through 2011.  This could also be because Facebook seeks regularly to remove fake "likes".

The one way to avoid these fake followers: protect tweets and selectively accept people that are legitimate.  But, who has time for that?


How can the Philadelphia Eagles utilize Darren Sproles more?

Darren Sproles delivered a huge impact for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014. Sproles contributed in the passing and running game on offense, while returning punts for the Eagles as well. Earning his first pro bowl in his career. In the first three games of the 2014 season, Sproles had 17 rush attempts for 117 yards, averaging almost 6.9 yards a carry.

On the receiving end, Sproles caught 14 passes for 196 yards, including a 152 yard performance on Monday night against the Indianapolis Colts.  But through the later weeks of the season when the Eagles were in '"crunch time", The same question kept arising: "Why not include Darren Sproles in  more plays?" It seemed like only positive results would occur every time Sproles would touch the football.

The Philadelphia Eagles could have increased their chances of making the playoffs in 2014 if they would have used Darren Sproles in more plays. How will The Eagles use Darren Sproles in 2015? 

According to Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly, Darren Sproles is the Eagles' "Swiss Army Knife." "You can use him in a million different ways." So how can Chip Kelly properly utilize his "Swiss Army Knife" and include the versatile weapon on more plays? We all know Chip Kelly is devoted to the running game.

This is why he brought in new running backs Ryan Mathews (San Diego Chargers) and the NFL's reigning rushing king Demarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys). This almost automatically puts Darren Sproles third in the depth chart for running backs. But certainly does not mean Sproles will not be get playing time.

Chip Kelly plans on using Murray as his number one running back but does not plan to make him his work house. So Sproles could still be getting anywhere from 3 to 5 touches running the ball every game. Although the Eagles' backfield is very talented, it is also very crowded as well, and barring an injury to Murray or Mathews, Sproles getting more touches in the run game does not seem very likely. 

Although it will be tough to get more touches in the run game, The Eagles' passing game should be open to Sproles more in 2015. The Eagles have a very bright and young receiving core consisting of Riley Cooper, Josh Huff, Miles Austin, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and rookie Nelson Agholor. Yet, none these receivers have really "proven" themselves just yet.

Jordan Matthews had a great rookie season, but was also highlighted with dropped passes as well. Riley Cooper seemed to drop off the planet until catching two touchdown passes in Week 16. Nelson Agholor has yet to play a single snap in the NFL, but has been getting rave reviews in OTA's. The point is that Sproles could line up in the slot or catch passes out of the backfield.

The Eagles have reportedly been getting Sproles reps at the slot position along with Josh Huff. Darren Sproles is a highlight reel when catching screen passes out of the backfield (See week two against The Colts). The Eagles may use a similar plan for Sproles just as what the Patriots uses for Shane Vereen. In New England's game against Seattle, Vereen caught 11 passes for 64 yards and picking up five first downs.

Expect a different approach to Sproles and consider him more as a receiver than a running back looking forward to the 2015 season. But still expect him to make an immediate impact every time this dangerous "Swiss Army Knife" touches the ball. 


Phillies second baseman Chase Utley cannot run, will not play Spring Training games anytime soon

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While we were aware that second baseman Chase Utley sprained an ankle during the offseason, we learned today that Utley is not yet close to taking the field.   Utley is in Phillies Spring Training and working on drills.  But games will not happen.

Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports:

Utley revealed the injury between cell phone pictures and curse words during his opening press conference.

Utley did not play in Sunday's loss to Division II University of Tampa.

While this isn't a huge red flag, it's not the first time Utley has been down for what appeared to be a minimal amount of time early in Spring where it ended up being much longer until returning to action. It doesn't appear that's the case this time as of right now. Until Utley is ready, look for Cesar Hernandez to get a nice look at second this first week of play.


Riley Cooper appears in Eagles team calendar...in Black History Month, of course

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Photo via Deadspin

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper has had a hard time restoring his image after the July 31, 2013 post on Crossing Broad that showed Cooper making a racial slur in reference to African Americans at a Country concert.    Since then, Cooper has tried to keep his nose clean, slowly rebuilding the team's trust.   However, the publication of the 2015 Eagles calendar has upset the public once again with an unfortunate placement of Cooper Deadspin reports.

Whether it was accidental, or someone was playing a cruel joke, Cooper appears on the team calendar for the month of February.  Yes, February is Black History month.  The Eagles pointed out that a third party vendor was a responsible for the production of the calendar.

The Philadelphia Eagles released the following statement, as seen on Deadspin:

"We do not oversee the production of the annual team calendar. We do not provide any input about the players who are featured or where those pictures appear in the calendar. The NFL licenses the production of that calendar to a third party and we do not have an opportunity to review the material."

The calendar does feature the seal of the NFL Players Association.

Whether the calendar was put together as some sort of cruel joke by an employee, or if it was just one unfortunate coincidence is unclear.  What is clear is that an old wound was reopened today and many are upset.  Let this be a lesson that such language will continue to stick with you.  


Flyers captain Claude Giroux: 'There's no doubt that we're a playoff team'

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The playoff hopes for the Philadelphia Flyers are not looking too good.  Despite the recent four-game winning streak, the odds of the Flyers making the playoffs are just 3.9 percent according to Sports Clubs Stats (via CSNPhilly.com).

Last night, Flyers captain Claude Giroux held his inaugural Claude Giroux Foundation event at Lucky Strike Lanes and stated that he has faith in his team.

CSN Philly's Neil Hartman caught up to Giroux at the event, and asked the captain, "Are you a playoff team?"

"There's no doubt that we're a playoff team," Giroux said. "We're going to prove it in the future."

View Hartman's interview on CSN Philly here:


Texas Rangers Still Talking About Cole Hamels, Want Phillies To Eat Salary

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Photo: Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso

The Texas Rangers emerged as a suitor for Cole Hamels just the other day for the first time in a published report.  A report out of Dallas this morning suggests that these talks are ongoing.  However, money is an issue.

Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that the Rangers are still involved in talks over Hamels, but want the Phillies to eat money:

The Rangers have remained in contact with Philadelphia about Hamels, a person familiar with the process said on Thursday. The stumbling block appears to be money.

Hamels is guaranteed $96 million over the remainder of his contract, which ends with a club option for 2019 at $20 million. The Rangers would need Philadelphia to absorb some of that salary. How much the Phillies would be willing to eat would hinge on which prospects the Rangers would be willing to include in a deal.

The idea of the Phillies eatin money seems silly, since Hamels is priced just right for an ace pitcher in his prime.  In fact, James Shields reportedly has a deal on the table that will pay him more than Hamels.

The Phillies would be willing to eat some money, for sure, but if they do, the return better be high.  The Phillies already are criticized for wanting too much in a trade for Hamels.   Today, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote:

The Phillies say they are open to moving Hamels for the right package. The problem, the rival exec speculated, is that Amaro wants to make the "perfect" deal -- and perhaps needs such a deal to keep his job.

Amaro is not alone in the Hamels talks; the Phillies' former GM, interim CEO Pat Gillick, also is involved in the discussions. The Phillies, though, are in something of a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don't position.

They do not want to waste their biggest chip by making a questionable trade. But they also do not want to risk Hamels getting hurt by carrying him into the season -- remember, Hamels did not pitch until April 23 last year due to left biceps tendinitis.

The risk that Hamels gets injured is enough that it could ruin the Phillies' best chance to rebuild, as they learned last season with Cliff Lee.

It would behoove the Phillies to eat salary if they are goin to get better.  The Rangers stifled themselves with contacts like Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, and Elvis Andrus.  Now they have to pay... in prospect form.  With their highest payroll ever in 2014 and mediocre results, the Rangers need Hamels if they hope to make any use of this other high-priced talent.


Early Minor Moves Suggest A Major Phillies Shakeup

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The Phillies have been very aggressive this offseason in terms of number of moves, considering that the World Series is not over yet.  You might ask, "Aggressive? Jerome Williams and Grady Sizemore?"  These moves may not be the minor moves that they appear to be on the surface.  Instead, these moves may be the precursor of some major moves coming.

Here are the moves the Phillies have made thus far:

  • Outrighted Sean O'Sullivan to AAA; O'Sullivan chose free agency.
  • Outrighted Tony Gwynn, Jr. to AAA; Gwynn chose free agency.
  • Outrighted Andres Blanco to AAA: Blanco cleared waivers.
  • Agreed to a one-year contract with Jerome Williams.
  • Agreed to a one-year contract with Grady Sizemore.
  • Avoided arbitration, agreed to a one-year contract with Cesar Jimenez

The first three moves were to be expected.  None of those players were in the Phillies' plans. I would not be surprised if O'Sullivan re-signed if he did not find something better.   But the other two moves tell more than they appear to on the surface.

Who is going to start in 2015?
A Cole Hamels trade may be brewing.   The Phillies will not be able to move starters A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee this offseason due to their previous injuries.   David Buchanan is in the mix internally, as is Jonathan Pettibone.  One reason the Phillies could have rushed to sign Williams is that they know they will need somebody, anybody, to take the ball every five days.

The Cesar Jimenez signing was particularly noteworthy, too.  The Phillies have three other left-hand relievers: Antonio Bastardo, Mario Hollands, and Jake Diekman.  Diekman and Hollands appear to be the left-handed future in the bullpen.   Bastardo is likely as good as gone.  Would the Phillies turn Hollands back into a starter?  

Hollands turned heads in Spring Training last season, going from someone who was invited to camp just to get a little flavor, to surprisingly making the Opening Day roster to spending a whole season in the bullpen.  Hollands started his whole climb up the minor leagues and could fill a Phillies rotation spot if a trade occurs.

The signings of Jimenez and Williams give the Phillies some options for the future; as players move on, they will be capable to plug some spots in the bullpen or in the starting rotation.  The possibility of trades of Cole Hamels, Antonio Bastardo, and maybe Jonathan Papelbon creates holes.  The Phillies are not expected to contend, even by management's standards, so 2015 is a matter of having people on the mound to throw the ball.

Who Will Play the Outfield in 2015?
The signing of Sizemore seems to be odd, since it locks the Phillies into five outfielders: Darin Ruf, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd, and Sizemore.   With the Phillies reportedly hot for Yasmany Tomas, that means there will be too many outfielders.   It appears that the Phillies expect changes in the outfield.

Sizemore is not the player he once was but he is indeed a useful player.   If the Phillies trade Marlon Byrd and sign Yasmany Tomas, maybe he and Ruf platoon in left field.  If the Phillies find a deal for Ben Revere that makes sense, Sizemore can play center capably.  If the Phillies trade Byrd and add no one else, Sizemore can play against right-handed pitching.  

Sizemore could start, Sizemore could plattoon, Sizemore could be on the Phillies' bench.   But with the Phillies continued interest in Tomas, talk of Cody Asche potentially playing some outfield, and the Sizemore signing, it appears some of the heads in the Phillies outfield are ready to roll.  Sizemore will give them options.


Report: Phillies "Ready To Deal Veterans", Eat Money

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Photo: Philliedelphia/Steve Trapani

The Phillies have been relatively aggressive thus far this offseason, which technically has not begin yet, since as many as five games of the World Series remain.   The Phillies re-signed free-agent-to-be Grady Sizemore and minor league catcher John Hester.  Additionally, the Phillies outrighted outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., infielder Andres Blanco, and pitcher Sean O'Sullivan, and, avoided arbitration with reliever Cesar Jimenez.   These were all minor moves, but the Phillies are making many more moves than other teams.  It is a sign that the Phillies plan to be aggressive.

Buster Olney of ESPN says that the Phillies plan to be aggressive to the point that they are willing to trade veterans and eat salary:

Could this mean Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins could be moved?  Could more than one of them be moved?  All three?  It sounds like anything is possible.   Though we do not tend to think of him as such, Cole Hamels is indeed at this point a veteran.  He could be moved too.

With Pat Gillick publicly stating that the Phillies should not contend in 2015 or 2016, the Phillies are officially waiving the white flag.  The Phillies have been criticized in the past for holding on to 2008 for way too long.   This may finally be it.  

 

 


Antonio Bastardo, Jonathan Papelbon Reportedly On Tigers' Radar

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The Phillies are open for business and two of their relievers are getting attention from around baseball.   This time it is the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers reportedly are interested in left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, and perhaps even Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports has the scoop:

Bastardo is expendable to the Phillies because they have two left-handed relievers in Mario Hollands and Jake Diekman.

Papelbon's heir apparent, Kenny Giles, is in the majors and ready to go.   The Tigers signed closer Joe Nathan in the offseason, but he has failed to keep up his form that he had in Texas with the Rangers.  Nathan has 20 saves but has blown five and has an ERA of 5.89.  If Nathan continues to be unreliable, they may grab Papelbon in the right deal.  With starter Max Scherzer facing free agency, the Tigers may not want to let 2014 go to waste.