Chip Kelly suffered his worst game as a head coach in the NFL against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.
His team, the Philadelphia Eagles, got walloped, losing 45-14. That score makes it seem closer than it really was.
This was the second week in a row the Eagles were killed. It looks like his team is quitting on him.
The Eagles are now 4-7, and there’s a very good chance they won’t win another game this season. They face two of the best teams in the league, the Patriots and the Cardinals, as well as division rivals Giants and Washington, and the Bills, who are decent.
The Chip Kelly era is on the cusp of turning into a disastrous failure.
As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I’ve watched nearly every minute of the Kelly era. I’ve listened to far too much sports radio and podcasts on the Eagles. I’ve read an embarrassing amount about the team. This doesn’t make me an expert, but it makes me a fairly well-informed fan.
From where I sit, these are the biggest problems with the Kelly era right now:
- He has no quarterback.
- He has not invested in the offensive line.
- He’s bad at drafting and evaluating talent.
- He coaches the team he wishes he had, not the team he has.
The first problem is pretty obvious. The NFL is driven by great quarterbacking. The two undefeated teams — the Patriots and Panthers — have great quarterbacks. The Eagles have Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, two mediocre (at best) talents.
Which brings us to the offensive line. You can get away with mediocre QBs if you have a great offensive line. A great offensive line makes up for a lot in the NFL. It gives your mediocre QB time to find receivers. It gives your running backs lanes to run, which also helps the QB.
This year, the offensive line has been injured and the Eagles have a patchwork group of players who can’t protect Bradford or Sanchez, which only makes them look even worse than they are.
Kelly hasn’t invested in the offensive line. He drafted one offensive lineman since he joined the Eagles. At the start of the season he cut lineman Evan Mathis over some small contract beef. This was probably his biggest mistake from the offseason. (And there were a lot of mistakes in the offseason.)
Kelly’s talent evaluation has been suspect. Players like Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray are looking like busts. And in the draft, he’s fared just as poorly. The Lions destroyed cornerback Eric Rowe, this year’s second pick for the Eagles. In Kelly’s first year, his first overall pick was Marcus Smith, a player who was basically sat all of last year, and barely makes it on the field.
A look at the Eagles drafts over the past three years only shows a handful of productive players. Drafts are always going to be a bit of a crap shoot, but the best teams build themselves through smart drafting.
This brings us to the final, and most important point.
When Kelly joined the Eagles three years ago, he was supposed to be a genius who revolutionised the NFL. He came from Oregon where he only lost 7 games over four years. He almost won a national title.
He brought an unconventional attitude to the NFL. He plays blaring music at his practices. He monitors his players’ sleep. He makes custom smoothies for everyone. And, above all, he operates at a high speed.
The Eagles run more plays in less time than anyone else. Kelly’s attitude: The more plays you run on offence, the more chances you have to score. This is supposed to put rivals’ defence on its heels, wearing them out, leading to more scores.
On paper, that makes sense. But, it only makes sense when you have a good offence that can score. The Eagles have a terrible offence that gets off the field quickly without putting up any points. As a result, the opposite happens. The Eagles’ defence gets back on field quickly, which leads to the defence getting tired and then torched by rivals.
A genius coach would adapt to the reality of his players. He would adjust his scheme. When it’s not working — and it’s not working — it’s time to try something different.
Kelly has not changed. He’s doing pretty much the exact same things week after week.
If Kelly really wants to prove he’s a revolutionary genius, it’s time to rip up his scheme. It’s time to try something entirely new. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to college.
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