The next six games will say a lot about how Eagles players feel about Chip Kelly.

The coach faced a similar crossroads two years ago in his first season with the Eagles, although he wasn't smack dab in the middle of the intersection as he is now. He was only eight games into his tenure, and after a 3-5 start there were players already questioning the neophyte who added speed bumps to their NFL lives.

"People were talking, turning heads," tackle Lane Johnson said on Monday. "But we stayed true to the path. Nobody jumped ship. But it did make people question [Kelly's ways] a little bit. But once we believed in the process it came through for us."

The Eagles won seven of their final eight games along with the NFC East title. Some players may not have liked the Tuesday practices, or the sleep monitors, or the practice pace, or the slogans, but they were small prices to pay as long as the Eagles were winning.

It should be noted that DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis, Brandon Boykin and Cary Williams - all former Eagles who had been either released or traded by Kelly and would later criticize him - were on that team.

Last season brought another kind of obstacle, although it came late. There already had been some chirping by the time the Eagles lost three straight in December, but when Kelly needed to end the year on a positive note, he got his starters to win a meaningless finale in convincing fashion.

All but one of the aforementioned five (Jackson) who lost Kelly's culture wars were on that team. There was something missing from those first two squads - or some things - but character may have been the least of the issues.

If culture really does beat scheme, then Kelly's first team as general manager won't deliver another listless effort as it did Sunday in a 45-17 loss to the Buccaneers. But if the players have started to tune him out, or feel they have little vested in a coach who is often isolated, then there's likely only one road this caravan will head down.

"I feel bad because we've been able to do some good things here in the first two years, but to come where it is now, it's a big drop-off," Johnson said. "But we still believe in him, we still believe in our players. We just have to dig ourselves out of this hole."

Whether they were bitter or just being honest, a few of the "Culture Wars Five" had been critical of Kelly and his relationship with the players. Boykin noted that the coach would pass him in the NovaCare Complex halls without a word.

Kelly was asked Monday if he thought his bond with the players would be enough to steer the Eagles through the current malaise and in the right direction.

"We're with our players consistently," Kelly said. "We spend a lot of time with our players in individual position meetings, group settings, and all of those things. So we lost a football game. I don't think it's time to say, 'Hey, we don't believe 'this' is 'this.' "

Bill Belichick is as prickly as NFL coaches come. He lost with the Browns and his personality was cited as one reason for the failure. He's done nothing but win with the Patriots and his stoicism is now considered a calming influence.

Andy Reid was beloved by his players. But that didn't stop some from bailing on him in his final season with the Eagles. Some of the notable quitters (Hello, Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha) were free agents who arrived when Reid's capital had been waning.

"I've seen how if we let [negativity] slip in, it can get back to that because it started getting ugly," said linebacker Brandon Graham, one of only 13 leftovers from the Reid era. "I think it was because everybody knew Coach Reid was going to be gone."

Kelly, who is three years into a five-year contract, isn't near lame duck status. But he did make free agents like running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell very rich this offseason.

NFL players put their bodies on the line for many reasons. They play for the love of the game, for pride, for their teammates, for their families, for money and for their coaches, among other things. But mostly, it seems, they play for fear of failure.

"Nobody knows who's coming back next year and who's not," Graham said. "All I know is when they're thinking about, 'Who quit on us during the season,' I don't want them to say B.G."

Kelly held a team meeting Monday as the Eagles began preparations for their next opponent, as usual. He didn't yell, according to several players who were in attendance. He didn't flip over the dais. He told them where they were and where they need to go and that the only answers were in that room.

"He was just realistic about stuff," Johnson said. "As bad as we have been playing, [he said] there's still a possibility we could go to the playoffs."

There will be other team meetings, and Kelly may have an occasional individual conversation, but that will be the extent of his interaction with the players. That is generally how it is around most of the NFL.

"He ultimately sends a message in the team meeting and that then trickles down to the position coaches," Johnson said. "And that's really who we have our heart-to-hearts with."

Graham, though, said he felt compelled to text Kelly after Sunday's disaster.

"I told him, 'I'm still here, I'm still behind you'" Graham said. "He likes that kind of stuff - for us to let him know that we've still got his back."

And Kelly's response, according to Graham?

"[Expletive], yeah. We're all going to be coming to work."

But will they get the job done for Kelly?

@Jeff_McLane