Eagles fans tuning into 94.1 WIP this morning heard a familiar voice filling in for longtime host Angelo Cataldi.
Jason Kelce, the beloved Eagles center and four-time All-Pro, was in studio as a guest host on the WIP Morning Show Wednesday alongside Jon Johnson, Al Morganti and Ava Graham, and will spend the entire three hours in the chair.
But those who tuned in early didn’t have to wait long to get the answer to the question on everyone’s mind when it comes to the 34-year-old veteran: Will he be back for a 12th season with the Eagles?
And while Kelce, who was much more subdued than he was during his profane Eagles’ victory speech, didn’t give a specific “yes” or “no” answer, it did sound like a decision may have already been made.
“I’m playing until I’m not. I’m an active player for the Philadelphia Eagles right now,” Kelce said. “I love my teammates. I love playing in the city. When it’s time to step away, I’ll make that abundantly clear. I don’t want to announce anything on the radio and I kind of feel like everything is trending in a certain direction. But I’m going to make that clear to my teammates and coaches and everything like that first. So I will not be announcing that today.”
“Maybe he’s just waiting to see how this goes,” Morganti quipped.
“This might be it,” Kielce joked back. “This might be it. I’m having a lot of fun right now.”
Inquirer Eagles reporter Jeff McLane reported last month that several people close to Kelce don’t believe he’ll retire, but Kelce has yet to officially confirm his plans. Reading between the lines of what Kelce said on Wednesday morning, it certainly sounds less guaranteed than ever that he returns to the Eagles this season.
On one hand, retiring feels like the option where he would want to tell teammates and coaches first before making it public. If he’s coming back as per his contract, he can just say that.
On the other, when asked about the Eagles’ chances next season, Kelce spoke in the first person, saying “we” and talked as if he’ll be back in the fold, so maybe he really hasn’t decided yet.
The one thing Kelce does know is that no matter what, he’s going to have second thoughts.
“You’re probably going to regret that decision either way,” Kelce admitted.
On Nick Sirianni
During the second hour of the show, the hosts took a call from someone named “Nick from South Philly.”
“I was just really impressed with what’s going on there today,” the caller said. “And if Jason is the host of the show, I’d be willing to come on three times per week as opposed to just my one time per week that I’m required to do now. We’re not ready to give him up quite yet, but I’m just saying that if he’s the host, three times per week. Boom.”
That’s right, it wasn’t any old Nick from South Philly. It was Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni.
Sirianni hasn’t kept his feelings on Kelce’s retirement a secret, telling anyone who will listen how badly he wants Kelce back next season. He even went so far as to send Kelce two kegs of beer in an attempt to persuade him to remain with the Eagles, which Kelce said was “the highlight of the offseason” after he “forgot just how much beer was in a keg.
“We’ve obviously talked and he knows that the keg was delivered,” Sirianni said of his pitch (bribe?) to keep Kelce. “I actually got a picture of the keg at his house. So he knows where we stand, he knows how important he is to this football team, and he knows we’re begging to get him back.”
“Another keg would be nice,” Morganti joked.
“We did use the keg to connect [with teammates],” Kelce chimed in. “I had some of the guys over last weekend and we enjoyed it, so thanks.”
If another keg is what it takes, it sounds like the Eagles coach would be more than willing.
“He’s the backbone of this team. He’s so smart as a football player — he makes us go as a team,” Sirianni said during a previous interview on WIP. “I think in the middle of the year I said, ‘You got five more years in you?’ As long as he wants to go, we want him to go.”
On Jalen Hurts
Kelce has shown a remarkable ability to remain healthy. He hasn’t missed a game since 2014, and his 129 consecutive starts (which includes playoffs) is the longest active streak among NFL interior lineman.
Given the position he plays, Kelce knows a thing or two about the quarterbacks who have come through this town in his decade-plus running the offensive line. And he likes what he sees in starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, specifically how the young signal-caller handles the adversity he’s faced and the never-ending string of doubters who question his skill set.
“I think Jalen Hurts has been dealing with this his entire career… He’s got certain measurable that cause people to question him, but he’s proved them wrong every time,” Kelce said. “That’s someone I want in my corner. He has tools that make him unique, has tools that separate him in a game where it’s hard to be unique.”
Needless to say, Kelce is on board with Hurts returning as the starter next season, something the team has already said is the plan and became even more likely this week with Aaron Rodgers re-signing in Green Bay and Russell Wilson heading to Denver.
On Ben Simmon’s return and the Sixers
While the Eagles typically dominate the WIP airwaves, football wasn’t the only topic of the day. Kelce offered a follow-up to his viral take on former Sixers star Ben Simmons. Specifically, Kelce spoke about how different Simmons is from Hurts, another high-profile athlete who has taken his fair share of criticism since arriving in Philly.
“I don’t know who Ben talks to and who is in Ben’s corner. But it seems like even if these are the feelings, there’s a better … there’s a better way to handle this, there’s a better way to communicate this,” Kelce said on the eve on Simmons’ return to Philly with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets. “And maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s like, ‘You know what, screw this. I’m done with this city; I’m done with these fans.”
“But, yeah, there’s obviously a clear distinction [between Simmons and Hurts]. In Philly, you have to be able to use the criticism. You have to be able to use your struggles as fuel to improve your game, because it’s going to happen to everybody. Everybody’s going to go through down times and how you handle that is going to be key.”
Kelce said he’s been keeping a close eye on the Sixers this season, especially since the football season ended. And on Monday night, he’s going to get an even closer look — he’s scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Wells Fargo Center ahead of the Sixers’ matchup with the Denver Nuggets
“I hope they have auto-tune,” Kelce joked, adding that he’s going to need the fans to sing along so he doesn’t embarrass himself.
On Philly fans
Speaking of Simmons’ return to Philly and how he’ll be received by Sixers fans, Kelce was asked what he’s learned about the local fan base during his time in Philly and what those around the country often get wrong:
With Cataldi’s retirement at the end of the year looming, WIP is going the Jeopardy! route by turning the microphone over to a series of surprise guest hosts every Wednesday in March. The station has not yet decided on a successor for Cataldi, whose last day on the air will be sometime in the end of December.
Last week’s surprise guest host was Merrill Reese, the Eagles longtime radio voice. While Reese got the chance to spread his wings a bit by talking about James Harden and the Sixers, he also told a terrific story about receiving the cold shoulder from former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who was fired back in 2015 and currently coaches the UCLA Bruins.
After Kelly’s introductory news conference at the NovaCare Complex back in 2013, Howie Roseman introduced the team’s new head coach to Reese, explaining that he’s been the Eagles announcer since 1977.
“Chip turned to me, he shook my hand and said, ‘Hi, Merrill. Great to meet you. When you have a chance, come to my office — I’d like to pick your brain and hear your stories,’” Reese said. Unfortunately, Reese said when he was brought to Kelly’s office, the former head coach quickly jumped out of his chair, patted Reese on the back three times, and sent him on his way.
“He had no interest in knowing anything about me or caring,” Reese said. “He was the worst communicator I’ve ever been around. ... I actually had assistant coaches say to me, ‘Do you think I did anything wrong? Chip’s not talking to me.’ He just didn’t talk.”
It’s safe to assume Kelly won’t be getting the call to fill in for Cataldi any time soon. Kelce, on the other hand? He might have a future at this radio thing — whenever he ultimately decides to hang up his cleats, that is.
Correction: This article misstated the on-air lineup of Wednesday’s broadcast. Ava Graham filled in for Rhea Hughes.