Colin Cowherd made a good point on his radio show on Tuesday. He has praised Chip Kelly and the Eagles in recent weeks and talked about how smart a coach Chip is. The point that Cowherd made is that Chip isn’t some genius that re-invented the wheel. He’s making smart decisions here and there. Those add up over time and make him look like a smart coach.
Too often we expect a smart coach to do things that are so different that they stand out in a big way. Most of the blocks and pass routes that Chip Kelly uses are the very same ones used by Andy Reid. The offense is different in some ways, but this isn’t as if Kelly has created an attack that is completely new to the NFL. He took some basic concepts and put his spin on them.
The defense is a standard 3-4. There is nothing significantly special about STs. These are generic units that could be found on a team from 2003 or even 1993.
Kelly has done some cutting edge stuff with the sports science angle. The Eagles practice differently than other teams. They move at a faster pace than any other NFL team. The fast practices are not new in college and will likely become more common in the NFL over time. Kelly’s practice schedule is different. Paul Domowitch wrote a good piece today on how Tuesdays have become important to the Eagles success.
The Eagles train differently as well. Kelly has taken ideas from a variety of places and incorporated them into football. He has tested them and figured out what works and what doesn’t. The stuff the Eagles are doing is different, but still is reasonable. It isn’t like Kelly is doing something outlandish. The Eagles still lift weights. When and how they lift are what’s different. Again, this is just a twist on standard training.
Kelly is essentially taking standard ideas and trying to improve them. Everything he does is based in the fundamentals of football. The Eagles might practice fast and with music blaring, but they still hit the sled and tackle everyday. Kelly’s offense looks wild, but is based on running the football. What is more basic than that?
I think an important trait with smart people is awareness. Know your limitations. Know your strengths. Take outside ideas and mix them into your concepts. Find someone who is smarter than you and steal ideas from them. Kelly didn’t hire a coaching staff full of sycophants. He hired veteran coaches who would speak their minds and help the Eagles to be a smart team.
A big part of Kelly’s brilliance is knowing he’s not some genius that is going to show the NFL how smart he is. Steve Spurrier did want to show the NFL that he could do things his way and win. There was a lot of hubris going on. Even Andy Reid had some hubris issues. Every person associated with the game of football begged Big Red to run the ball more, even just a little more. He wouldn’t do it. Andy wanted to do things his way. That hurt him and the Eagles over the years. Kelly has no desire to make a statement about how things can be done. He just wants to score points and win games.
Kelly loves to say that everyone outside of Pop Warner and Amos Alonzo Stagg isn’t doing anything original. If you weren’t there at the beginning, you are borrowing from someone else. You can bet that if Kelly thought there was a formula for winning, he would be following the directions exactly as they were written. Since there is no formula, he’s stolen ideas from others and morphed them into his own philosophy and way of doing things. Smart guy.
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One of my frustrations with recent Eagles teams is that they were dumb. Reid drafted smart players. The Eagles had high character guys. But they still did things that made you scratch your head way too much.
The 2013 Eagles are different. We don’t see wasted timeouts. We don’t see players jumping offside on a regular basis. Players know when to get out of bounds to stop the clock and when to go down and keep it running. There are some dumb moments when a player takes a poor angle or gets out of position, but no team is always smart and disciplined.
Penalties aren’t a huge problem. I love the fact that Bill Davis reminds his DBs every game to adjust the way they play to how the officials are calling the game. If they let the players get away with more, then be physical. If they throw the flags, back off. Simple, but smart.
Think of some of the knucklehead stuff DeSean Jackson did in recent years. Remember the 2011 Giants game when he flipped the ball to the assistant coach on the sideline? You don’t see the Eagles doing stuff like that. Chip Kelly doesn’t have a set of choirboys out there, but the players are smart and disciplined for the most part. Cary Williams has had some odd moments, but hasn’t gone over the edge.
Kelly is a smart coach. Right now he’s got a smart team. And that’s part of why the Eagles are winning.