by Brandyn Campbell
Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski is a man who needs no introduction in the City of Philadelphia. But alas, I’ll give it a try.
Jaws, as he is otherwise known, remains one of the most popular sports figures in Philly sports history. His place in Eagles lore was solidified when he took the 1980 team to Super Bowl XV and was named NFL MVP that year. He remains active in the area’s sports scene as president and part-owner of the Philadelphia Soul.
Jaworski is a popular fixture on ESPN due to his analysis and insights revealed through hours of film study as well as his affable personality, all of which contributed to Jaws’ role as a commentator on Monday Night Football for five seasons.
Jaws joined me as well as Roy Burton and Kris Domingo of the Broad Street Line podcast to talk Eagles quarterbacks, Chip Kelly, his famous nickname and its connection with the Philadelphia Sixers and an exciting announcement about the Philadelphia Soul. You’ll also find out the new project that has Jaws feeling like a 31-year old again.
QUESTION: The Philadelphia Eagles are in the midst of a lot of transition, with Chip Kelly being the first new head coach in 14 seasons. We’ve had a chance to hear from Kelly briefly, but obviously there are so many questions about what he’s planning to do. What qualities make you believe that he can succeed as a head coach in the NFL, and specifically with the Eagles?
Jaws: First and foremost, Chip Kelly has tremendous football IQ. He understands the game, and he comes from an offensive persuasion. I think in today’s NFL it’s so important that you have your offense in place. It’s a quarterback’s game. The quarterback is the most important player on the team. He is the heartbeat of a football team. So that’s one situation that Chip Kelly is going to have to clear up for the short-term and the long-term as well.
But what I really like about Chip, and I’ve watched his offense at Oregon for a number of years broken down on tape, tried to figure out what he’s trying to do and it’s very difficult to do that. Even a guy like me who’s a football wonk that studies all the tape–this guy is brilliant. He understands how to beat defenses. And he brings tremendous energy.
I know he is of the offensive persuasion, he cares about quarterback, but what I love is the energy he brings into the room that he will bring to the football team. That’s something you just can’t fabricate. I mean, he loves football and I think quickly the people of Philadelphia will understand that.
QUESTION: Speaking of quarterbacks, right now there are three in the mix for the Eagles—Mike Vick, of course, Nick Foles and recently Dennis Dixon. Who do you anticipate succeeding the most in Kelly’s spread offense?
Jaws: I don’t think there’s any doubt it’s going to be Michael Vick. In fact, as Chip Kelly was hired I quickly announced that Michael Vick would be the quarterback, much to the chagrin of many people in Philadelphia who felt it was time to move on from Michael Vick and move to Nick Foles, or now we have a Dennis Dixon in the mix or whoever they deem in the draft or via free agency to acquire. But I think when you look at Michael Vick, he has a skill set that fits what Chip Kelly wants to run. Mobility. The one thing, if you look at the Oregon offense, it’s not about throwing the football. It’s about a quarterback with movement who can run. Michael Vick can do both.
In the NFL it starts with throwing the football first. Mike Vick is still an outstanding passer of the football. We know he can run the football. Yes, he may have lost a couple tenths of a second in his 40 time, he may have gotten beat up a little bit over the past couple years, but even with those things going against Michael Vick he’s still a guy who can give you the burst, give you the big play. I think he’s the absolute perfect fit for a Chip Kelly offense.
Then you go to Dennis Dixon, a guy that played with Chip Kelly out of Oregon, understands his system, has been with the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been with the Baltimore Ravens. He understands what it takes to run this system.
Nick Foles is your prototypical NFL pocket passer. I don’t see his style fitting in to what Chip Kelly wants to do. That’s not to take anything away from Nick Foles because I think eventually he is going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback. But he’s not a guy who fits in the type of offense that Chip Kelly wants to run.
QUESTION: What do you think went wrong with the team last year, specifically? Can we chalk it up to talent or a lack of effort or was there something else going on?
Jaws: When we talk about professional football I never use the term “lack of effort.” I think these are highly skilled professional athletes that are paid to do their very best no matter what the situation is. Now, maybe there were some situations where they lacked the intensity and enthusiasm that we like to see from teams that are contending for a Super Bowl, but I certainly don’t think the Eagles would fall into the category of a team that lacked effort. Andy Reid got the best out of his football team.
When you look at last season’s 4-12 record, you have to go back to two years ago when the team struggled at 4-8. I believe going 8-8 masked their deficiencies. They were not a good football team at 4-8, they got their season to 8-8, Andy Reid got another shot but it was clear to me that there were problems within the football team that they needed to make changes. Those changes were not made, consequently the team comes back, suffers some very serious injuries–there’s no question of that–the offensive line was decimated and yes you did lose Michael Vick, your starting quarterback, for a number of games. But I look at this Eagles team now, this downfall where they won only four games this year, eight the year before, 12-20 over the last two years. This started a couple years ago. So clearly, I think all of the changes were mandated by a 12-20 record so time to move in another direction, and they are.
QUESTION: Is it true that Sixers’ current head coach Doug Collins gave you the nickname Jaws?
Jaws: That is correct! Doug Collins was my next door neighbor when he was playing for the Sixers and I was playing for the Eagles and he came up with the nickname Jaws. Now, most people think it was because the movie “Jaws” was very popular in the early 80s, but Doug said every time he saw me my jaws were always flapping so he gave me the nickname Jaws and it has stuck ever since.
QUESTION: We all know and admire your analysis on ESPN but you’re working on a new project that’s pretty close to home, as it’s about your health. You found relief from arthritis pain with a product called Stopain. Did your time playing football exacerbate your pain? Tell us a little about how you found your way to the product.
Jaws: I’m a 61-year old guy who played professional football for 17 years and 25 years total playing the game so when you get to be 61 there are some bumps and bruises that act up every now and then. Like most guys my age we’re looking for something that will provide us with some immediate relief and I found that in Stopain.
Before I got involved in the company I actually tried the product for months. I wanted to be sure that it worked, that it did help stop pain, that it allowed me to play golf, it allowed me to move freely, that it deeply penetrated my joints. It allowed me to swing the golf club, walk the golf course for 18 holes. Stopain had a remarkable turnaround in my life as far as being athletic and wanting to move and doing all of the things that I have to do at this age.
QUESTION: You’re part-owner of the Philadelphia Soul. We heard that you had some news that you wanted to share about the Soul. Is there anything you’d like to tell us?
Jaws: There are so many great things happening with the Philadelphia Soul right now. Our training camp opens on March 2. We open our season in Arizona, which will be a replay of the Arena Bowl championship of a year ago in New Orleans. Philadelphia unfortunately lost that game to Arizona but we have a tremendous football team. We are very, very excited about bringing a championship back to Philadelphia. In 2008 we won the Arena Bowl championship and we kind of felt that we remained the team that everybody looked up to. Of course, a few months later the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series and we feel that we removed the jinx of William Penn in the City of Philadelphia.
We feel very strongly about what we’ve been able to bring in terms of competitive football and championship football to Philadelphia. I think one of the really cool things that our ownership group of the Philadelphia Soul—Marty Judge, myself, Craig Spencer, Cosmo DeNicola, Pete Ciarrochi–we’re taking arena football to China. You heard me correct. We are taking not National Football League to China, the Arena Football League under the direction of our ownership group of the Philadelphia Soul is going to China. We are the only organization in football that is going to be playing football in China this fall. It’s very, very exciting.
I know you’re sorry it’s over but I have good news for you—it actually isn’t. Be sure to catch the full interview tomorrow, Tuesday, February 26 at 6 pm via The Broad Street Line podcast for more from Jaws, including his thoughts on other quarterbacks around the league.
Want more Philly Sports Muse? You can find me on Twitter at @sports_muse and on Facebook.
Brandyn Campbell of Philly Sports Muse, for War Room Sports