Posted: December 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »

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.

* * * * *

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.


63 Comments on “Brains”

  1. 1 mtn_green said at 2:48 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Smart Post!
    Thanks Tommy.

    It seems that the ‘eye test’ really shows that the 2013 eagles are better coached than the opposition. Even in the pressers a generic question about Megatron to a defensive player and that defensive player would answer the question knowing how many inches Megatrons reach was.

    Apparently they don’t tackle to the ground in practice but practice tackling, ball control, high pointing your jump, and hand technique on the sleds at every practice. That practice means the eagles don’t drop the ball, out of position on jump balls, and win the line of scrimmage.

    I think AR got sloppy in preparation and relied upon the stars to be stars without the reps on the little stuff. Easy to do after 14 years of same practice routine.

    Well coached teams, and a little health, seem to be the teams that reappear in playoffs over and over. Eagles are making an exciting run, why not!

  2. 2 OregonDucker said at 3:16 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Committed players, outstanding coaches, player leadership, and real NFL talent make for an intoxicating elixir. KoolAide anyone, it tastes great!

  3. 3 ceedubya9 said at 3:28 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Two glasses please!

  4. 4 Chippah said at 3:31 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I’ll have them mix it into your smoothie

  5. 5 P_P_K said at 4:11 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I’ll drink to that.

  6. 6 theycallmerob said at 6:25 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    ….someone say kool-aid?

  7. 7 BlindChow said at 7:32 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    *the brick wall shatters*

    Andy Reid: Oh yeaaaah!

  8. 8 A_T_G said at 8:04 PM on December 11th, 2013:

  9. 9 Eagles_Fan_in_San_Fran said at 12:48 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    That particular Kool-Aid contains Red Dye #2, which is sure to kill those fans come playoff time.

  10. 10 Daniel Norman Richwine said at 3:42 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I speculate Kelly’s background with college kids helps him relate to and teach the players now who aren’t much older. in an emotional game like this, that’s a much bigger part of it than many realize.
    Chip also has the genius of taking difficult ideas and presenting them as if they are simple.and obvious. Not at all as easy as he makes it look.

  11. 11 ACViking said at 4:07 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    You’re on to something.

    The two greatest coaches in NFL history were teachers, first and foremost — developing their communication skills, with their teaching skills, as high school coaches.

    Paul Brown — the father of modern pro-football coaching spent 10 years coaching HS football, then 3 years head-coaching Ohio State.

    Vincent T. Lombardi — 8 years coaching HS football and basketball; 8 more years coaching college football; 7 of those at the US Military Academy under the greatest college coach of the post-Rockne era, Earl “Red” Blaik who famously said, “Inches make a champion, and the champion makes his own luck.”

    I’m betting Kelly’s a Red Blaik-type: Good teams make their own luck.

  12. 12 A Roy said at 4:52 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Whatta they know? Not one of them’s a Norman Einstein.

  13. 13 laeagle said at 7:59 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    If there was a coach at the top of my list, I’d say Bill Walsh. Walsh was most famous for being a program builder, for dictating every detail of how the entire organization would be run, including detailed notes about how practices would be run that bucked conventions of the time. Sound familiar?

  14. 14 ACViking said at 3:52 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Re: Brains and Brawn

    1. Since Week 4 of the NFL season (a/k/a, “The Denver Debacle”) . . .

    the Eagles’ defense ranks 3rd in scoring defense, allowing 18.1 ppg. SF at 13.2 and Carolina at 14.4 are 1st and 2nd during the same period.

    Those points-per-game figures, like all NFL defense scoring numbers, include special-teams’ TDs allowed.

    So if we eliminate Detroit’s two kick returns last Sunday, the Eagles’ defense — alone — is actually giving up just 16.5 ppg.

    To give some perspective to how far the Eagles have come, in Weeks 1-4, the Eagles’ defense averaged 34.5 ppg. The 49ers were at 23.75. No defenses have improved more than the Birds and SF since the first month of the season.

    I’m surprised that the Eagles’ ranking since October has not received more mention. I’m aware of the caveats (Oakland, GB missing Rodgers, TB).

    Regardless, seeing where the Eagles defense started in Month 1 and where they are now in Month 4 is damned impressive.


    2. As for Brains . . . maybe Chip Kelly is the “Dirty Harry” of NFL coaches. He’s old-fashioned — taking plays, according to him, that Rockne ran in one form or another. He believes in his system — clearly saw that against Detroit.

    And I think he’s very focused on knowing what he doesn’t know. Kelly’s a man who understands his limitations.

    Not everyone is . . . .

  15. 15 TommyLawlor said at 4:50 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    So ask yourself , is the ball going to Shady up the middle, out wide to DeSean on a quick screen or to Celek on a pop pass. Do you feel lucky, punk? Do you?

  16. 16 ACViking said at 4:53 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Top Shelf!!!

    You’ve just proven that Kelly’s “fast” offense comes straight from “Dirty Harry.”

  17. 17 OregonDucker said at 5:39 PM on December 11th, 2013:


  18. 18 Steven Steiner said at 4:03 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    One thing Tommy points out, that I also think gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, and is worth repeating: We don’t take stupid timeouts anymore! We haven’t needed them much at the end of games lately, because we are either trying to burn clock or just don’t want to stop it because we have the lead, but there will come a game at some point, obviously, when we will be so glad we have them and could pull a game out we were losing in the last seconds.
    Reid never cared about timeouts. I even remember him saying in a “Sound FX” type thing to Donovan as a rookie, “It’s okay if you aren’t sure – call timeout, no big deal…” – Donovan was just doing what he was taught – it was more important for Donovan to get the play right then save timeouts. Meanwile timeouts are like Extra Lives! They are GOLD! I think this aligns with something else Tommy said recently about Andy being stubborn. Chip doesn’t seem stubborn like that to me and it’s refreshing.

  19. 19 ACViking said at 4:11 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Kelly = Shula-esque.

    The teams coached by Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, (1) committed few penalties, and (2) protected the football. And he always adjusted his system to fit the talent around him. That’s how you win.

  20. 20 Andy124 said at 5:04 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Except for that whole adjusting thing, sounds and awful like JoePa.

  21. 21 ACViking said at 5:18 PM on December 11th, 2013:


    Great comparison. Those Penn State teams were so disciplined and almost anonymous. Like the UCLA basketball teams of the Wooden era in years w/out Alcindor and Walton. You could take any player from any UCLA season and stick him on another season’s team, and he’d fit right in. Same system. Same discipline.

    That was JoePa’s Penn State teams. Same system year after year. Lineback-U . . . and guys like Onkotz could’ve subbed for Conlan — and vice-a-versa. Excellent point.

  22. 22 ACViking said at 5:20 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    And how ’bout Charlie Pittman? He was Lydell Mitchell before Lydell Mitchell.

  23. 23 ACViking said at 5:22 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    GREAT POINT . . . have to say again.

  24. 24 BobSmith77 said at 4:32 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    How do you objectively measure a team’s ‘smartness’ on the field though besides some of the obvious metrics (e.g., numbers of penalties and type of penalties committed)?

  25. 25 Mike Flick said at 4:44 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Everytime I watch the Lions, I get frustrated how dumb they play. Hard to put a finger on it, but they just do stupid things.

    A smart move is when Colt Anderson tries to pick up a ball after it was touched by the opponent on a punt. Having all your timeouts for a late 2nd or 4th quarter drive. Sliding instead of scoring by Celek.

    Dumb plays: Taking a timeout with 10 men on the field for an extra point drives me crazy. Miscommunications make you look dumb. Guys running around before the snap and not knowing where to go (See Dallas last year). The challenge of a play by Detroit on last years thanksgiving day game which gave Houston a TD. At the end of the half running out of time before you are able to kick a FG. Illegal formations on offense.

  26. 26 fran35 said at 8:11 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    All of the dumb things you mentioned were a trademark of the Andy Reid Regime the last few years. So glad to see those days gone

  27. 27 ACViking said at 4:45 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I don’t want to speak for TL (not retained on this matter) . . .
    But smart is all about situational awareness, including discipline — which is the product of repetitive behavior during practice.

    But it’s not about IQ. Otherwise, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be a HOFer.

  28. 28 TommyLawlor said at 4:51 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I don’t think there is a specific formula. I rely on the Lawlor eye test.

  29. 29 ACViking said at 5:25 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Do you wear glasses? Or contacts?

  30. 30 TheRogerPodacter said at 5:32 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    i wish i could come up with a witty comment about sunglasses, but i can’t so i’ll just post this instead.

  31. 31 Mac said at 10:16 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    More like, he sits on the couch and says… do you like 1 or 2… 2 or 3… a or b… hmm.

  32. 32 BlindChow said at 7:36 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I use s = x + ( ( f – e^2 ) * 24 ) / t

    The Eagles rate a 7.2.

  33. 33 A_T_G said at 8:17 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    7.2?! I think you messed the f up!

  34. 34 Spooonius said at 12:23 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Ha! I see what you did there. I finally get to use my math degree. My mother thanks you sir!

  35. 35 Eagles_Fan_in_San_Fran said at 12:54 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Isn’t that the formula they use to calculate the QB ratings in college?

    (3 for 12 for 15 yards with 2 INTs? – why that’s a 110.0 rating, or so it seems)

  36. 36 ajbduck said at 5:37 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Duck alum… lifelong Eagles fan. Thought I’d share this gem on Chipper that was published about a year ago (URL below). Only somewhat connected to this thread, but priceless nonetheless.

    I agree with Tommy… Chip’s not revolutionizing the game per se, he’s revolutionizing the process of preparing for the game. Singular focus, nameless/faceless opponents, Next Man Up, Fast-Hard-Finish, Win the Day, et. al. The difference with Chip is… it’s not just coach speak… he lives it and absolutely demands it from everyone around him.

    As an Oregon fan I am 100% convinced that the Ducks would be preparing for the National Championship game right now if he were still the head coach. Instead, they’re headed to the Alamo Bowl to face an unranked Texas team. Oh well, at least he landed in Philly!

    You’re going to love the Firehorse rant…

  37. 37 ACViking said at 6:32 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Marriota’s injury may have sunk the Ducks regardless of whom their coach was this year.

  38. 38 47_Ronin said at 1:54 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Woudn’t the loss to the kryptonite of OU–Stanford–dashed those national title dreams?

  39. 39 ConcussedFB said at 5:38 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Not reinventing the wheel? One of the things I’ve learned here about QB play is that really is a sign of weakness. That must be extremely bad when applied to coaching. Kelly is 2 games away from being dead to me.

  40. 40 SteveH said at 6:07 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I’m shocked reality didn’t collapse in on itself after Tommy wrote that first sentence.

  41. 41 TommyLawlor said at 10:41 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Ha. I’m not a big fan of his, but listen on a semi-regular basis because I love sports info.

  42. 42 Mike Flick said at 5:24 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    I had to re-read it about 4 times to make sure I was reading it right.


  43. 43 shah8 said at 6:08 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    This is a little off-topic, please bear with me:

    We’ve had some discussion about complexity in scheme, right? I was doing some reading at some of my usual internet haunts here…and I found this segment very useful in thinking about how coaches setup their systems on offense and defense:

    How to look at this? The cybernetic tradition, I think, is the right way. Cybernetics, the study of control systems in general, was concerned from the word “go” with the problem of what happens if there are more questions than there are answers. One version of this was imported from psychiatry, the notion of the double bind. A patient is forced by their situation to respond to two mutually incompatible expectations, so that whatever they do is wrong. The result is that they go mad (to be brief), and the shrinks of the time did horrible experiments in inconsistent conditioning with dogs to prove the point.

    Various cyberneticians, especially Stafford Beer and Ross Ashby (himself a psychiatrist and quite the pre-ethical review board creep), identified an important principle here: the principle of requisite variety. To exercise control over something, you need a range of responses – a degree of variety – that matches the variety of its outputs.

    If its outputs can change along more than one axis, you need at least as many responses. If you want to determine both the air speed and the vertical speed of an aeroplane, you need both the elevators and the throttle. If you want to determine both its course and its attitude, you need both the ailerons and the rudder. If I need to please my mother and my husband…you may see the point. To some extent, you can get away with less variety in the more forgiving bits of the flight envelope. In that case the variety adds to redundancy, which is good. But the problems arise when things become more challenging.

    In the Eagle’s case, this is most glaringly obvious when it came to why Chip Kelly wanted to go to a three-four defense despite the lack of talent fit for the system. Chip Kelly seems to have a very high degree of respect for the concept of having a high number of responses to what an offense or defense might present to his players. A four-three system, broadly speaking, is a good system when you have a stacked DL with four-three type talent, but not only is it relatively inflexible (which the wide-9 is the acme of) for LBs and safeties, it tends to lower the responsiveness of the defense by wasting DL players who are further away from the action, and this really tends to hurt against offenses that use a lot of horizontal spread concepts. A three-four presentation sacrifices some negative yardage plays for the ability to flow to the play better. How Chip Kelly must of thought about this, particularly in the specific rejection of the four-three under, is really something to chew fat on for a while especially in terms of where he things offenses as a whole are going…

  44. 44 bdbd20 said at 6:20 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    “Colin Cowherd made a good point”

    I had to read that three times. I’m still not sure I believe it.

  45. 45 P_P_K said at 6:26 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I’ll take Mike & Mike.

  46. 46 ACViking said at 6:30 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    A clock is always right at least twice a day. And 3 times in a 36-hour period.

    Does this help at all?

  47. 47 A_T_G said at 6:50 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    What if the clock moves at the proper speed, but is set to the wrong time? Then it would never be right. What if the clock moved in the wrong direction? Then it likely is right four times a day. What if the clock read way too deeply into a common expression? Then it would be posting here instead of me.

  48. 48 ACViking said at 7:05 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    But even if set to the wrong time, the hands will pass the right time twice, no? Even going backward, too, no?

    In the Twilight Zone, you’d have the power to stop time, change the setting, and avoid the “twice a day” conundrum — thereby defeating time and Cowherd.

  49. 49 A_T_G said at 7:47 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    No. If the clock is set wrong, say, to Alaskan Standard Time, but moves at the correct speed it will always be wrong by five hours (except during Daylight Savings, when it will only be wrong by four hours).

    Of course, if you were to take this clock to the North Pole, tie it to a rope, and swing it around in circles, lasso-style, it would be right for a portion of each second.

    I think we should adopt a similar tact with Mr. Cowherd.

  50. 50 Mac said at 10:19 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Just remove the hands. It’s similar to how they stop bulls from procreation.

  51. 51 livingonapear said at 10:34 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    He’s making observations about a white person. When he does that, the chance he’ll say something not-stupid triples.

  52. 52 McNabbulousness said at 10:45 AM on December 13th, 2013:

    I stopped reading the post after the first sentence. Later I reopened the post and read it to see what it was actually about.

  53. 53 bsuperfi said at 6:50 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    An important way in which Kelly is smart is his systemic approach. He thinks strategically about the team across all dimensions. His offense is coherent in itself, which contrasts with the patchwork of well designed plays we saw with Reid in his final years. His conditioning program is especially strong because it aligns with the fast paced approach. Presumably his player selection and development will align also as time goes on.

    He’s a big picture guy and he makes good efficient decisions on a decision by decision basis. Maybe more than being a smart guy, he’s just a clean and sharp thinker.

  54. 54 A_T_G said at 6:53 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    It is great that it helps the team to win, but even just from the perspective of making the games that much more enjoyable to watch, I appreciate the focus on clean, disciplined play.

  55. 55 ACViking said at 7:07 PM on December 11th, 2013:


    Speaking of hands on the clock . . . what about turning them back to the era of Andre Waters? Clean? I don’t know. Disciplined? Very.

    Those were the best of times. And the worst of times.

  56. 56 A_T_G said at 7:37 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Watters was my first favorite player as a kid. I loved the safety flying across the field to sacrifice his body for the good of the team and punish the receiver for daring to enter his space.

    In hindsight, sacrificing his body seems a little less noble fun and a little more… something knowing it was so literal.

  57. 57 RobNE said at 8:21 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Mine was Wes Hopkins

  58. 58 ICDogg said at 7:59 PM on December 11th, 2013:


  59. 59 A_T_G said at 8:06 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    I agree completely.

  60. 60 Weapon Y said at 11:49 PM on December 11th, 2013:

    Totally unrelated to this post, but I love how chaotic the Redskins are now. I joked with some friends that the Redskins should take a page out of the Eagles’ book and hire a proven, former national championship winning (yeah I know Chip didn’t actually win it, but forget that detail) college coach who has a reputation for building up explosive offenses. If they do this, the Redskins can restore great memories for fans……of the Philadelphia Eagles by hiring Steve Spurrier again!

  61. 61 Eagles_Fan_in_San_Fran said at 12:57 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Mack Brown is available!
    BTW: Why “Weapon Y”? Are you related to “Weapon X”?

  62. 62 Weapon Y said at 1:26 PM on December 12th, 2013:

    I wish I was related to Weapon X. I’m just another huge Dawkins fan and am waiting for the next great defensive player for the Eagles so I can call him “Weapon Y.”

  63. 63 Eagles_Fan_in_San_Fran said at 12:44 AM on December 12th, 2013:

    Smart > Stubborn