Gotta Let Chip Be Chip

Posted: March 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 346 Comments »

Jeff Lurie hired Chip Kelly in January of 2013 to bring his ideas to the NFL. Kelly was a visionary coach at Oregon and led that school to the forefront of college football. Lurie didn’t want to hire just any coach. He wanted somebody unique. He wanted to take a chance on greatness.

Chip delivered good results in 2013 and 2014. His coaching methods and ideas are slowly spreading around the NFL. But the Eagles were still lacking something. Lurie decided that in order for Chip to fulfill his vision, Kelly would need complete control of the team.

Out went Howie Roseman.

And with Howie, out went a conventional way of doing things. We certainly learned that in the past 10 days. Chip does not look at a roster the same as us. He doesn’t look at a wish list the same as us. He is willing to take risks and do what on the surface seems like an insane move.

I wrote a piece recently that talked about some of the wild moves made by Seattle. Some failed, but enough worked that they put together a great team and have a Super Bowl to show for it. You won’t build a great team without taking risks.

Chip wasn’t interested in the Eagles getting better. He wants them to be great. That meant rolling the dice on some moves. If too many fail, this won’t work and Chip will be headed back to college football in the future. But if some of the moves work, the Eagles could have something special.

I’m glad Chip is working his magic. He wasn’t hired to be conventional. He wasn’t hired to be safe.

Interestingly, Joe Banner agrees with me.

VRENTAS: How is Kelly’s mindset different from other coaches and GMs in the NFL?

BANNER: There is a tremendous emphasis put on continuity in the NFL. There is a tremendous emphasis put on people who know how to do what you want them to do. And that is important, but it can become overrated, and then teams become afraid of making moves. I know Chip believes [continuity] matters, too. Anybody in the NFL who has knowledge believes that. But you can take the point too far, and then you get paralyzed. I think Chip saw an opportunity here, with him being relatively still new in his tenure, with a system he is still implementing, to not feel like he was unable to radically change the roster to be more conforming to what he wants he do, and not overrate the importance of continuity. That’s what’s refreshing here. That’s good. It’s smart. More teams should have been doing this sooner. I think maybe you’ll see it become more common now. Not to this degree; this is very significant. But to see more aggressive moves made that still value continuity, but not overvalue it.

VRENTAS: Do you think that stems from his college coaching experience, where you have to retool your roster every year?

BANNER: I think it’s that, but you also hear Chip talk openly about his belief that the only reason you continue to do something the way you’ve been doing it is because there’s a good reason, not just because it’s the way you’ve been doing it. My interactions with him, and my observations of him, are that he tends to look at everything with a new eye, and with a fresh outlook, as opposed to bringing too much conventional wisdom to it.  When you are looking at the team with less of an absolute need to have continuity, then you really are open-minded to any move that can possibly make you better. And I think that is a big advantage if they are doing that. Because most teams are very hesitant to do that, and they’ll be able to kind of pick their spots and keep their eyes open for any opportunity.

The fact Chip is making the right kind of moves does not mean they are the right moves. Only time will tell on that front. The Sam Bradford deal has grown on me, but it could still end up not working out. Then you’ve got Mark Sanchez starting and you’re out a 2016 pick.

I think you can really see where there would have been issues between Howie and Chip as you think about these moves. Howie was an aggressive GM, but was also pretty conventional. He also was value-oriented. Chip is not focused on getting maximum return from his deals. He wants his players.

You can certainly fault him for not taking more time and trying to hammer out a better deal. At the very least, couldn’t he have gotten a straight swap of Foles for Bradford? Maybe. It sounds like other teams did have interest in Bradford. We don’t know how many teams had interest in Foles.

Chip didn’t want to take a chance. He made the deal.

Maybe Chip pulled the trigger because he felt QB was too important to take a chance on not working out. Maybe he coveted Bradford so much he legitimately thought it was a good deal. Or maybe Chip lacks the patience to negotiate trades for maximum value and that’s something he’s going to have to work on.

One thing Kelly is doing that will be very interesting to track is adding players with injury issues. He is taking a huge risk on the Sports Science group being able to keep these players on the field. This may prove to give the Eagles an advantage. Or it could be misplaced hope on the part of Kelly.

I don’t think he is seeking damaged goods, but the reason some good players hit the market is that they have issues, and one of them is injuries. If the Eagles can cut down on the injury factor, that allows the team to acquire talent at a reasonable cost.

I’m glad Chip isn’t playing it safe. The whole point in hiring a coach like him is to have someone that will do things differently. Be aggressive. Take risks. Don’t be afraid of the unknown.

If Kelly does fall flat on his face…so what. The Eagles weren’t a player away from winning the Super Bowl. I’d rather be a team trying to do things creatively than to be one of 25 teams all trying to do things the same way. It is that much harder to get to the top when you use the same ideas and strategies as your competition. Go for greatness.

Besides, if things don’t work out we can always give Howie back his GM job and go hire Gus Bradley after the Jaguars fire him.

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Friday Night

Posted: March 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 421 Comments »

All quiet on the western front.

No Eagles news on Friday. Evan Mathis wasn’t traded. Sam Bradford didn’t get a contract extension. No new DBs were added. Just a day of peace and quiet.

I think this is actually a good thing. The past 10 days have been incredibly interesting with all the moves, but it has been hard to step back and see the big picture. What is Chip Kelly trying to do? What is the endgame here?

Every time I think I’ve got a handle on what he might be doing, there is a new rumor or report that throws me for a loop. It ought to be really fun to sit back on about May 10 and look at the roster. Kelly will have had free agency, the draft and UDFAs to add the players he wants and to shape the team as he sees fit.

For now, we concentrate on S, WR and OG. I expect at least one more FA signing, but there could be a couple. Eventually Kelly will have to address some spots with draft picks.

* * * * *

Speaking of the draft, the Eagles did have people at Oregon’s Pro Day. They checked out Marcus Mariota and others. The Eagles are going to be prepared to draft Mariota if he does slide. Kelly knows him inside-out, but Pat Shurmur and QB coach Ryan Day don’t know Mariota. Day was at Oregon to study Marcus and figure out what he thinks.

From what all the reports said, Mariota didn’t have a strong performance. I don’t think that will have a significant impact, but it could be good news for the Eagles. If one of the teams up high was going back and forth on drafting Mariota, something like this could have an effect. I still think he’s more than likely to go Top 5, at least Top 10.

But we’ll see. If he does slide…things could get interesting.

* * * * *

Agholor is a Jeremy Maclin type of player. Could be an interesting target in the 2nd round.

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Feeling Better

Posted: March 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 777 Comments »

It is amazing the good that a simple press conference can do. On Wednesday we heard from Chip Kelly and Sam Bradford. Those PCs helped quite a bit. It doesn’t make Kelly’s moves any less out of the box, but I think it gave you a better feel for the situation and what was behind everything.

Here is Kelly’s PC.

Kelly didn’t say anything groundbreaking. He danced around some questions about the Howie Roseman situation, saying that was Mr. Lurie’s call. I’m guessing Chip had a bit more than “nothing” to do with that series of moves. He talked about the Shady trade, explaining that as much as they loved McCoy they needed ILB help and Shady had a huge cap figure.

Kelly talked a lot about Bradford. I thought he did a good job of explaining that any time you are making a move like this, it is for a reason. Good QBs just don’t come available. It happens due to an injury or there can be money involved. Peyton Manning left Indy when he was expensive and hurt. Drew Brees left San Diego when he was going to be expensive and he had a bum shoulder. You are almost always taking a chance when a talented QB comes available. There is going to be some kind of baggage.

While Kelly did a good job of pointing out that players can come back from injuries and still play at a high level, he was too dismissive of injuries. He gave all the good examples. He never talked about Cornelius Ingram, Marlin Jackson or Shaun Phillips. Kelly wasn’t involved with those guys, but the point is there are plenty of players who tear ACLs and never recover, let alone play well.

I hope people came away understanding the trade for Bradford wasn’t some fluky thing. It was by design. There was a lot of research that went into the decision. Kelly talked to Sam’s college coaches. He watched all of his NFL throws. That doesn’t make the move any less risky, but I hope it gives a sense that this is something the Eagles think can work…they aren’t just guessing.

In non-Bradford news, I thought the most interesting comment was that the Eagles signed Walter Thurmond, who would come in and compete with Nolan Carroll and Brandon Boykin for the starting corner spot opposite of Byron Maxwell. Boykin will finally get his shot. Maybe. Kelly will need to expand on that comment in the future, but it sure sounded like there was hope for Boykin. All I know is that he better play like the 2013 BB if he wants to have any shot to win that job.

And Kelly did emphatically address the Marcus Mariota situation.

“Let’s dispel that right now. I think that stuff is crazy. You guys have been going with that stuff all along. I think Marcus is the best quarterback in the draft. We will never mortgage our future to go all the way up to get somebody like that, because we have too many other holes that we are going to take care of.”

Les Bowen has all the quotes here.

If Mariota falls anywhere close to the Eagles, he could still be a target. But there won’t be any RG3 packages to move up. The Eagles will need picks to help with RG and DB, possibly WR.

* * * * *

As for Bradford, I came away very impressed.

Here is Sam’s PC.

I thought Sam did a terrific job of being positive, but also letting everyone know that he wasn’t delusional. He doesn’t see himself as the best QB in league history. He fully understands that people doubt him based on performance and injury history. And he understands it is up to him to prove them wrong.

Nick Foles always did a good job of saying the right things in PCs, but sometimes it was a bit fake. Sam actually seemed…dare I say…honest. The media could grow to love him for that.

The most interesting thing he said is that the Eagles have been talking to the Rams for a month or so. Again, that shows you this move was really by design and not a panicked reaction to “Mariota will cost too much!”

One of the things I like best about Sam is that I just thought he had a good presence. Sam was in the spotlight in college and then was the center of attention for the Rams, although that’s nothing huge. I think he can handle the role of being a team leader and one of the faces of the franchise.

I still have lots of questions about Sam the QB, but came away feeling better about him after hearing him speak.

* * * * *

We got more PCs on Thursday.

Kelly

Murray

Mathews

Thurmond

I wouldn’t consider the M&M PCs as must see material. They say some interesting things, but nothing that blew me away. I did love hearing Mathews say “Sprolesy” several times. That was funny.

Thurmond was very interesting. He’s sharp. Most people think of him as a nickel, but he explained that he played both outside and inside for Seattle. He can handle either spot.

When asked about injuries, he talked about the violent nature of football. He broke a leg a couple of years ago when he took a hit from a teammate. There is nothing you can do to prevent something like that. It is simply the price of playing football.

Someone asked Thurmond about being a returner. He talked about a bad experience he had returning a kickoff and said no thanks to that offer. He compared KO returns to car wrecks. Thurmond did say he could help on punt returns. He was a RS in college.

As for The Chippah…he was interesting as always. He explained that the Eagles wanted to come out of free agency with a pair of good RBs. The team targeted Gore, Murray and Mathews. They didn’t think they could afford DeMarco so they focused on the other two.

Chip talked about the desire to add physical, downhill runners. That is something I wrote about yesterday. Chip knows that running like that will take its toll so that’s why he wanted a pair of runners. Shady had the ability to avoid big hits. M&M will take hits. They will also punish tacklers. By using 2 runners, the Eagles can spread out the carries to each player and protect them.

This certainly sounds great in theory. Putting that plan into action is challenging. The stud RB never wants to come out. But Kelly has sold these guys on the idea of using them both so I’m hoping it works well.

Chip was asked about whether the Eagles would sign a WR. He said he wasn’t sure if that would happen and then noted that the team thinks there is a good group of WRs in the draft. Sounds like the Eagles will look at veterans, but aren’t going to overpay anyone, knowing they could address the position in the draft.

Wouldn’t surprise me to see them wait a few days and let the market settle down before going and talking to some WRs.

No real update on the Evan Mathis trade reports or the hole at RG.

* * * * *

Speaking of holes…

Safety targets Rahim Moore and Marcus Gilchrist signed elsewhere on Thursday. The fact the Eagles weren’t aggressively talking to them leads me to believe they weren’t all that interested. That’s fine. Those weren’t great players.

But what are the Eagles going to do?

Maybe they love Landon Collins at pick 20?

Maybe there are other NFL guys they are targeting. I’ll be writing more about this in the next few days. Big mystery to be sure.

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RBs ‘r Us

Posted: March 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 565 Comments »

The Eagles signed DeMarco Murray today. And Ryan Mathews.

I think I predicted that a few weeks back. Or maybe not. Okay, no man or machine in the known universe had any idea this was coming.

Chip Kelly continues to surprise us. He now has Sam Bradford handing the ball to a 2-headed monster of Murray and Mathews, while throwing to Darren Sproles on 3rd down.

Crazy.

I have mixed feelings on Murray. Love the player, unsure about the deal. I am excited because he is the most physical runner in Philly in a long time. You’d have to go back to Ricky Watters of 1995 or maybe even Heath Sherman of 1992. Those were punishing runners. Tackling them was no fun.

A lot of people are trying to use numbers to compare Shady McCoy and Murray. That is missing the point in a huge way. I love Shady to death. You can still make a strong argument that he’s the #2 RB in the NFL (to Adrian Peterson). But there is value in having a N-S runner who gets behind his pads and attacks up the field.

Shady was a bit like a baseball player that heavily mixed strikeouts and home runs. Murray is the guy who rarely strikes out and is a doubles machine. You lose the spectacular, but gain consistency. I think there is real value in that at the RB position.

It is a lot easier for coaches and QBs to deal with 2nd/7 than 2nd/10. Those 3 yards don’t sound like much, but they add up. They keep the chains moving in the right direction.

Shady made great strides in the last 3 years and cut down on moving laterally in the backfield. He used to almost do it by default. He became more judicious about it, but still did it more than Chip Kelly liked. Murray is going to hit the hole or make one cut and attack an opening. He understands the value in going forward. You can’t always look for space. Sometimes you just have to go where the play is designed.

I’m as curious as everyone else on how Kelly is going to get maximum production from M&M. Both guys have had some injuries, but both have also been workhorse backs. The Saints used to do a great job at maximizing the talents of various RBs. It can be done very effectively. You need a creative coach. You need an offense committed to running the ball. That sounds like Chip.

I need to look into the deal before really talking about value and how this does or doesn’t make sense. For now, I’m enjoying the thought of having a physical runner in this offense. I think Murray is a great fit and can be a big help to the offense becoming more consistent.

* * * * *

One development I’m not so keen on is this.

Barf.

Evan is a terrific player, but also a player you love to have on your team. He isn’t cheap and he’s a bit older, but I’m not real keen on this move. The Eagles aren’t going to get great return because of his age and price.

There was a report that the Patriots might be interested.

What do you do at LG? Matt Tobin showed real promise there in the summer of 2013 and parts of last year. He played RG during the season, but is much more natural on the left side. Tobin is young and cheap so there is some logic to giving him a shot at that job.

The Eagles need to get OL help in the draft. Initially that was thought to be for depth, but now could be for a starter as well. There is a hole at RG and very possibly at LG as well.

I would love for Evan to stick around, but unfortunately it doesn’t sound like that will be happening.

Just get him out of the NFC East so I can cheer for him.

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DeMarco to Visit Philly

Posted: March 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,778 Comments »

DeMarco Murray is flying to Philly on Wednesday night. He will visit the Eagles on Thursday.

The Eagles agreed to terms on a deal with RB Ryan Mathews. Jimmy Bama has some details on that here. So the question becomes…can you sign Mathews and Murray? Should you sign them both?

The deal with Mathews has not yet been signed. It is possible the Eagles could try to back out of that. After all, Frank Gore did the same thing to the team just a couple of days ago. But I don’t think teams do that often.

I think Murray would be a terrific fit in the Eagles offense. He is a downhill runner that goes through first contact. He has excellent strength and balance. The big worry with him is how much the 2013 workload will affect him moving forward.

Williams, George and Johnson had limited success after those years. Can DeMarco break that trend?

There is a big difference. Johnson had 336 carries the year before he had 416. George averaged 340 carries in the 4 years prior to his busiest season. Williams had 313 and 383 carries in the years leading up to his workhorse year. Those backs were getting used an unhealthy amount.

Murray had 164, 161 and 217 carries before last year. There should be plenty of tread left on his tires. I don’t dispute that Dallas overused him last year, but that was an anomaly. In the past, either he was hurt or they wouldn’t commit to the run.

If the price is right, I love the thought of adding Murray.

Could you add Murray and Matthews, while also paying good money to Darren Sproles? Maybe, but that would be a less than ideal use of resources. I’m all for splitting up carries, but that should also mean splitting up cost. Mathews was supposed to get $4M per year. That’s not backup RB money.

The Saints have been one team that successfully used a trio of RBs over the years. Usually one of them was a young guy making little money.

It is possible this is all posturing by Murray and his agent to get Dallas to pay him something reasonable. Or maybe to squeeze a big deal out of the Raiders. Free agency is a big game, and there are millions of dollars on the line. Sometimes you have to get creative.

I don’t want to make too much of this until Murray actually signs somewhere and we find out the cost. Looks like Thursday will be another interesting day.

* * * * *

I’ll write about Chip and Sam’s PCs on Thursday. Really enjoyed them. Let’s hope Byron Maxwell covers much better than he performs at a PC.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Earlier I had some tweets from a guy named Kevin who supposedly had inside knowledge about DeMarco Murray, but apparently he was just “trolling” so I removed them.

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