Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is Chip Kelly a Good Fit For the Philadelphia Eagles?

(In a shocker, Oregon Ducks football coach Chip Kelly became ex-Oregon Ducks football coach this afternoon, as he signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly had been courted by several NFL teams, but seemed to be going back to Eugene after some sources reported he had signed with the Cleveland Browns just two weeks ago. Our man and foolish Eagles faithful El Mariachi had no choice but to comment on his potentially history-making day)

It is common knowledge that the Philadelphia fan base is a notoriously tough crowd when it comes to sports. But when you look past all the bad press that they get you can see deep down in the cavities of their chests that there is a tiny, Kelly-green Grinch- heart three sizes too small. They are arguably the most passionate fan base in all of sports and they are usually the most critical. Which made the 2012 season all the more painful.

To say the least, it was a sad year. Beginning with the tragic death of Andy Reid’s son, the culmination of a 4-12 season, and the inevitable firing of Reid, ending a twelve year long witch hunt. Add everything up, and this made the Eagles one of the unprecedented seven teams that needed a head coach entering the 2012 postseason.

After a grueling process of interviewing over 11 candidates, it was reported today that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly will be the new boss of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ask any fan and they’ll tell you that any change is for the better...but is it really?

Chip Kelly is best known for his high octane offensive style. His no huddle offense is reminiscent of the Patriots, Redskins, and the Colts during the Manning era. Almost always starting in shotgun, Kelly uses the spread offense with 3, 4 or even 5 receiver sets. In theory this spreads the defense dangerously thin which opens up not only the run game, but the read-option for the quarterbacks. This is best run by someone mobile like Cam Newton, RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, or interestingly, a young Michael Vick. The Eagles might have Nick Foles running the show next year, which is a problem in itself. It's not that Foles isn't capable--it's that he's unproven with such a small sample size of games. Regardless of who's throwing the ball, this offensive is devastating when implemented correctly with the right personnel and it led Chip Kelly to an astounding 46-7 record in only a four year span at Oregon.

The problem with this style offense is that it’s not much different from Andy Reid’s pass first, chew bubble gum and take names second, West Coast offense. And with the current wide receiver core consisting of an over paid and underweight DeSean Jackson, solid but not great Jeremy Maclin, Jason “I-like-to-take-chunks-of-the-season-off” Avant, and cascadingly-haired Riley Cooper, the Eagles don’t have the big pass catching threat that would draw double coverage to help spread the defense. With the way this group plays, there is no reason to not run the bump and run defense with opposing team’s corners. And on top of that, they don’t have a competent quarterback in Michael Vick who finished 24th in quarterbacks with a dismal 78.1 passer rating. A young Michael Vick would work well in this offense, but that time has clearly come and gone.

The Eagles are a young and talented group, but they lack the super star wide out such as Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dez Bryant, or Andre Johnson that could implement Kelly’s offense correctly. This is the NFL we are talking about, consisting of the best players in the world at every position. A team would need one of these star wide outs to demand attention and drastically change defensive play calling unlike how it is in college footbal. But what the Eagles do have is a super star running back in LeSean McCoy, who is the best player on the team and arguably one of the top running backs in the league the past several years. However, is he still an elite player? In 2012, he averaged only 23 touches per game, when backs like Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch averaged around 25-30 touches. In 2011, McCoy scored a mind blowing 20 touchdowns but this year he only scored 5--needless to say, something is clearly amiss here. Kelly’s system could work if he could modify it to exploit his stellar pass catching backs in the throwing game. Both McCoy and Bryce Brown, if used correctly, could be a devastating weapon for Kelly.

Instead, theories are that Chip Kelly would essentially be running the same offense as Andy Reid, which doesn’t fix the problem and instead puts a fresh band-aid on it. The only way it could work for Kelly would be to upgrade at wide out and get that big target that would open the run game. Then he could use the inside outside scheming that worked so well in Oregon to keep defenses on their heels, not sure whether to defend the pass or the rush. The Eagles run into another problem there too, since they are in desperate need of a solid offensive and defensive line which will undoubtedly be built through the draft which leaves upgrading at wide receiver depending on trades or free agency. 

Chip Kelly has a tough road ahead of him. In college football, his offense is run by young players who don’t play against the best players in the world for 16 weeks straight. NFL players may not physically be able to handle the hurry up offense that he demands week in and week out. The Patriots and Redskins use it sparingly and when they do it is for drives, not entire games. Kelly will undoubtedly have issues with the personnel for his schemes; a mind-blowing sentiment because the Eagles are one of the most young and athletic teams in the league. Unless the Eagles front office can work out some sort of personnel change, especially at quarterback, by the close of the 2013 season they could be finding themselves in the same hole that they were in this year. 

But like I said, the Eagles are a young and very talented team. For all we know, the speedy but small receiving core could be used to devastating effect with Kelly’s style. This in turn could blow the run game wide open and see Shady McCoy return to NFL dominance. Who knows, Michael Vick could even shows signs of his former self in terms of explosive play making and maneuverability. We can only speculate as to what will happen. The problem is that the Eagles fans are more than anything, impatient. 

Hire Rating: B-

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