We have a long way to go before we’ll know exactly what to make of Chip Kelly as an NFL coach, but we can already see some positive signs. The offense is moving the ball really well. Shady McCoy and DeSean Jackson are having great years. The offense had back-t0-back 30 point games to open the season. The last time the offense scored that much in consecutive games was the beginning of the 2011 season. The Eagles only had one 30-point game in all of 2012. And it took a PR score for that to happen.
Alan Siegel wrote an excellent piece on Chip Kelly for SB Nation. A short snippet…
For Kelly, class was always in session. “Some guys were going on spring break, and he was going to Wake Forest and Clemson,” Day says. Kelly used his vacations to visit other football programs, picking the brains of coaches, observing closely and borrowing liberally. “I got this from Nevada, we’re going to call it Nevada,” David Ball remembers Kelly saying at practice after one fact-finding mission. “Here’s the signal, we’re gonna dress it up. We can run it five ways …”
Sure, Kelly made stops at schools like Georgia Tech and Auburn, but preferred programs whose limitations forced them to be creative. “He was never going to Ohio State,” Barbato says. “They’re a big FBS school, they have better players than you do. He was going to the Utahs” — in other words — “the teams that were overachieving.”
But for all of Kelly’s ingenuity, UNH wasn’t exactly a powerhouse — at least not right away — something impatient Eagle fans might keep in mind. In his first five years as offensive coordinator, the Wildcats finished with a winning record only once. McDonnell says he and Kelly, old buddies, used to argue about the direction of the offense. “You gotta slow down, Chip,” McDonnell would tell Kelly. “We’re not good enough defensively. His whole thing was, ‘We’ll score 60.’” Neither realized one day soon that they’d actually have the players to make that happen.
That really is an excellent piece. You also get to see Chip’s yearbook photo so you pretty much have to go take a look.
Back in late December I also wrote a long piece on Kelly and his background. At the time, I was trying to figure him out and then make a case for/against him as the Eagles head coach.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that the Eagles hired him. I still think Kelly has the potential to be a great head coach. He sees the big picture unlike any coach I’ve ever read about. If his ideas work, they can deliver big results in the NFL.
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The one area where Chip is probably most confusing to us right now is his how he’s handling the team.
He’s trying to win games this season.
He’s trying to lay the foundation for the future. This involves evaluating players, implementing schemes and also teaching players and coaches what he expects of them.
Chip isn’t selling out to win or to go young. This frustrates some fans. Why be wishy-washy?
The first thing you have to understand is that Chip is extremely competitive. He doesn’t believe in “We’re gonna spend this year developing young players.” He wants to win.
Chip also wants to win his way. He can’t just add talented players. Chip needs guys who will do things his way. Does anyone think Jeff Maehl is the most talented WR option available? No. But Kelly knows him. Maehl will practice hard. He’ll play hard. He’ll go all out on STs. He’ll block. Chip can deal with players who aren’t great, but he can’t stand underachievers. He wants players who are consistent…guys that he can trust to perform at a certain level.
Don’t underestimate the practice angle here.
Chip likes to stress the mentality that “you play how you practice”. He doesn’t want guys to be sloppy during the week and then hope they are “gamers”, guys who come alive on Sundays. Chip wants players that do a good job in the weight room, the classroom, the practice field and then in games. If you do something well over and over, you can come close to perfecting it.
Mike Holmgren told the story of Bill Walsh stopping a practice to correct a pass from Joe Montana to Jerry Rice. Rice made the catch, but Walsh felt the ball was 10 to 12 inches off target. He wanted the ball in a precise spot so that Rice could maximize RAC yards. Nevermind that Montana had a pair of Super Bowl titles at that point or that he and Rice were the deadliest pass-catch combo in the league. At that moment…on that day…they weren’t good enough. And Bill Walsh let Holmgren, the QB coach, know that Montana needed to throw that play over and get the pass right on target.
Chip isn’t loading the Eagles up with grinders, but he’s mixed in enough of them so that they can help the other players know what he’s talking about. Some are Oregon guys. Some Reid holdovers fit the bill. Guys like Avant, Kelce, Cole, and Ryans were Kelly types before he even showed up. You get the feeling that even rookies like Bennie Logan and Matt Barkley are Kelly types.
As for just going young…you could try that, with the idea that you’d develop players for the future and would probably end up with a high pick. There are some problems. What would you be teaching the young guys? Just giving young guys reps isn’t enough. You need to develop young players by putting them in position to succeed. We’ve seen some teams go young and not develop guys well. I think mixing in some older players is the way to go. Once you get systems in place and established, going young makes more sense. Players are easier to teach because the coaches and other players should know the systems inside-out.
You also aren’t guaranteed to get the player you want. The Colts have had 2 awful seasons in the last 15 years. They landed Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The Raiders have been mostly awful since 2003 and are still looking for a franchise QB. There are no guarantees that you’ll get the franchise player by going young and struggling.
I understand that most franchise QBs come early in the draft, but I just think it would be a mistake to throw in the towel for something that might happen. I think that sends a terrible message to your team. The Ravens managed to find Joe Flacco in the bottom half of the 1st round. The Niners found Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd. The Seahawks found Russell Wilson in the 3rd. Not all QBs have to come from the Top 5.
It may take an extra year to find a QB if you don’t have a high pick. That certainly makes things harder. I just don’t think it is wise to build plans around a hypothetical situation. What happens if you go young and Teddy Bridgewater tears his ACL and Marcus Mariota stays in school? There might be one QB for 3 or 4 teams.
Focus on what you can control. That’s winning games and developing the talent currently on your roster. You always want to keep an eye to the future, but you can’t plan too far ahead. There are just too many unknowns.
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I’ll write about some college QBs that the Eagles might want. I think Vick is gone at the end of the year. He’s older and just isn’t a player you build around anymore. It doesn’t feel like Foles or Barkley are the long term answers. That could change, but if I had to bet right now…I’d say no.
Of course…at midseason last year I thought Vick was on his way out of Philly and Matt Barkley was going to be a Top 10 pick. A lot of things can change.
We’ll see what happens.