Chip Kelly and his coaches have caught some flak for how they do things. I was one of many people that didn’t understand why they had Vinny Curry sitting for 2 weeks while Damion Square did nothing on the field. Could those lunatics not see Curry was better?
Time has proven them right and me wrong.
Curry was the better player back then. I was right about that. The coaches were right in regard to how they handled things. They didn’t want to blindly reward Curry’s talent. They went with the player who did what they wanted and how they wanted it done. To some fans and members of the media, this still doesn’t make sense. To good coaches, it makes total sense.
Coaches want talented players that they can control. Remember when everyone got so excited by Gus Bradley last year? It was his epic “Do your F’in job” rant that fired most people up.
Notice that Bradley doesn’t rant about playing with more heart or more toughness or making plays or being clutch. He tells his guys to do their job. That is the backbone of defensive football. Doesn’t matter about 4-3 vs 3-4, 2-gap vs 1-gap, or Tampa 2 vs Cover 4. Guys must be in the right place and functioning correctly in the scheme in order for it to work.
Curry looked great in the preseason, but he didn’t do it within the context of the defense. So he sat.
Curry showed enough progress in practice to get on the field. He has gotten better each week and is now a key member of the defense. Curry needed to be held back by the coaches in order to understand what he needed to do and how he needed to do it. The coaches made a highly unpopular decision back then, but it turned out to be the right decision.
Kelly’s staff has done a great job with player development. I wrote about that for PE.com. In that piece, I highlighted Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson, Nate Allen and Curry. I chose them because they are such different players, in terms of background, skills and overall talent. The coaches are getting a lot of different guys to play good football. This isn’t one assistant coach or one system that is working. This is a really good staff.
There were some questions about why the coaches have used Brandon Boykin the way they have. I addressed that in a piece for BGN.
The one thing we can clearly see from the Curry and Boykin situations is that the coaches have specific plans. They aren’t just flying by the seat of their pants and hoping. The coaches are balancing the system with the individual. Vinny Curry played 30 snaps in the last game. His partners on the backup DL, Square and Geathers, totaled 32. Curry is playing with them, but also getting mixed into the Nickel and Dime. The coaches want him to be a 2-gap DE at times, but aren’t ignoring his ability as a 1-gap attacker. When they have those types of situations, they try to get Curry in the game.
Boykin only played 26 defensive snaps on Sunday, but that is because the Skins are one of the few teams that doesn’t do much with 3 WRs. Boykin has had other games that almost double that total. The coaches could force Boykin into the lineup by shifting other players around or coming up with a hybrid role for him, but they think it is best to keep him as the nickel corner.
It takes patience and discipline to bring players along slowly. It would be much easier to throw them to the wolves and see what the guys can/can’t do, but that can hurt the player’s development. Bad habits can set in and they are very hard to get rid of. We see some of that with Bryce Brown. The coaches have made progress on his ball-handling and fumbling, but Brown still has some bad habits as a runner. He’s too quick to want to go outside. In recent weeks he’s shown progress with getting his shoulders square to the LOS and running behind his pads, but Brown is still very much a work in progress.
There is no magic formula for developing players. The coaches mixed in Zach Ertz and Earl Wolff more aggressively. Lane Johnson has been the RT from almost Day One. The coaches feel out who is ready early and who needs time. It is also helpful when the team has adequate players at that spot so the rookie can learn at his own pace. We saw that with Isaac Sopoaga and Bennie Logan. Sope wasn’t a liability, but he wasn’t good either. Logan got to the point where the coaches felt he was ready to be the starter. They made the trade and put Logan in. He’s been terrific ever since.
This coaching staff isn’t perfect, but they have done an excellent job of developing young talent and even fixing some veteran players. That’s critical since the Eagles haven’t had that same kind of development in recent years. A lot of people love to point to draft picks and rip on Howie, Andy or the scouting staff, but part of the equation is the coaches didn’t do a good job of developing those players.
The current staff is going to be a good friend to Howie, Tom Gamble and the rest of the Personnel Dept.
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Speaking of Howie and draft picks…there was a recent discussion in the comments section about how to judge recent drafts since Jeffrey Lurie made those comments that absolved Howie of the blame for some bad picks.
The first thing you need to understand is that the GM is going to control rounds 4-7 about 95 percent of the time. Andy Reid was very hands on with the draft and he certainly watched tape of every player the Eagles took, but Andy based his opinions of those players on a lot of information that was provided to him by Howie and the scouts. Andy isn’t visiting a bunch of colleges and doing the grinder work on those guys like the scouts do.
Andy didn’t go to the Senior Bowl, but you can bet he watched those tapes over and over and over. He read the practice reports and got info on who the team interviewed and how those meetings went. Andy did go to the Combine. He was in on those interviews. Andy then met with any key prospects who were brought to Philly for a visit.
Like most coaches, Andy knew the top of the draft pretty well. Andy did have a better knowledge of the bottom of the draft than other coaches, but his knowledge still paled in comparison to scouts and personnel people who had studied those prospects for months and months.
As a general rule of thumb, you can credit the 2010 and 2011 picks in rounds 4-7 to Howie. The last couple of years, Howie did have control of the drafts.
Now, that isn’t to say that Howie didn’t object to all the players from the first 3 rounds in 2010 and 2011. I’m sure both Howie and Andy wanted Brandon Graham. Who wouldn’t? The guy was a coveted pass rusher. Danny Watkins is a trickier subject. I’ve heard/read different things. I know Reid wanted him. My guess is that Howie was fine with that pick as well. Jaiquawn Jarrett is the one guy that Big Red pushed on everyone. Some Eagles scouts had 5th round grades on him. Others felt different, but Reid is the guy who pushed for Jarrett that early.
I have no idea about Curtis Marsh and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Marsh feels like a scout/GM pick. Teo feels like a coach’s pick. Neither guy worked out as expected.
And while Howie did control things the last 2 years, he still worked with the coaches to make sure they were involved in the process. The Eagles have never had one guy making decisions all on his own. There has always been a lot of give and take. That’s how the front office worked so well for so long. It wasn’t until recent years that things got a bit awkward.
Howie and Chip are on the same page right now and that bodes well for upcoming drafts. It also helps that the staff is doing such a good job of bringing out the best in the players.