Chip Kelly and the Eagles shocked just about everyone today when the collegiate coach backed out of his return to Oregon to take the head coaching job of the Philadelphia Eagles. Yay or nay? Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
By nature I’m a pessimist. If someone dropped $10K at my door today I’d probably shut the door, lock it, drag my mattress downstairs and wedge in front of the door with the fridge right behind it. Obviously, I’m an overwhelming “nay” on the Chip Kelly hire.
First of all, this whole coaching search has been a bumbling mess. I was on board with the pursuit of Bill O’Brien. He had NFL experience and seemed like a no-nonsense-stick-up-his-butt kind of guy. You know, something a lax Eagles locker room desperately needed. But the subsequent pursuit of the Kellys left me cold. Thankfully, they both passed (or so we thought) and two weeks later it looked as if the Eagles would bring in Gus Bradley, a defensive minded up-and-coming coach with a proven track record of success in the NFL. Then Kelly flip-flopped.
Has a college coach touted with being an offensive innovator with no NFL experience ever succeeded in his first run in the NFL? Steve Spurrier comes to mind. That didn’t go so well. Bobby Petrino? That ended quicker than a motorcycle crash. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Even Pete Carroll bombed in his first and second head coaching opportunities. The NFL is where gimmick offenses go to die. Chip Kelly had his pick of the litter in college. A good majority of the fastest, quickest, most athletic adolescents in the country either considered Oregon or ended up there. You don’t get to continuously pick from the top of the apple tree in the NFL. The best teams are the ones that find the ripe apple among the rotting scattered across the ground.
Furthermore, the Eagles need a defensive makeover more than they need a revamped offense. The last time the Eagles truly competed for anything of note was in 2010, when an unstoppable offense was undercut by a truly underachieving defense. The defense has only gotten worse in the two seasons since. Even worse, that side of the ball is loaded with overpaid ageing talents with little heart. Even worse than worse, the entire starting secondary needs to be replaced. Nnamdi Asomugha can’t run, can’t tackle, and even struggles to put one foot in front of the other when the football approaches. The safeties are atrocious and the other corner (DRC) only plays hard 24% of the time. The Eagles didn’t need an offensive surgeon to fix this team. They needed a defensive excavator.
Granted, there is the possibility Kelly brings in a strong defensive coordinator to address the Eagles biggest weakness. Then again, what proven NFL defensive coordinator wants to take orders from a rookie head coach with no NFL experience? That’d be like Avon Barksdale hiring one of McNulty’s kids to run his operation and Wee-Bey Brice volunteering to be McNulty’s kid’s right hand man. Instead of improving a fatally flawed unit, the Eagles will now likely roll the dice on an unproven defensive coordinator and hope and pray he’s more competent than the disasters Andy Reid brought in over the past three years. (Actually, I’m not sure it could get worse, so we might be guaranteed some improvement here.)
Also, has Jeffrey Lurie forgotten the 2012 Eagles were the least disciplined team of his tenure as owner? Can an unproven college coach really fix that? Reid successful changed a lazy, entitled culture 14 years ago. However, Reid was an experienced NFL coach with a ring, and more importantly, athletes weren’t the spoiled, overpaid divas they are today. Kelly has to find a way to earn the trust of a broken locker room while also demanding discipline and accountability. I’m not sure anyone short of Tony Dungy could accomplish that with this group of Eagles in less than three seasons.
Finally, what does this hire say about the quarterback position? Kelly coached in the PAC 12, so he’s very familiar with Nick “Napoleon Dynamite” Foles and Matt Barkley, who is expected to be a top draft pick in the 2013 draft. Does Kelly role with Foles or make Barkley his franchise cornerstone? Or, did Kelly watch Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick set the world on fire last weekend and think he needs to draft the unpredictable Geno Smith out of West Virginia? Or, will Kelly settle for the much older and deteriorating version of Geno Smith in Michael Vick? For an offensive wizard like Kelly, having a quarterback of his liking is key. If using the 4th overall pick in the draft is used to address that situation, it means the Eagles shaky offensive line and putrid defense will likely remain shaky and putrid, respectively.
Obviously, nothing would thrill me more than to be completely and utterly wrong about Chip Kelly, but this may blow up in Jeffrey Lurie’s face. There’s a reason college coaches are hesitant to leave college for the NFL; the NFL is harder. There’s no Washington States or Colorados in the NFL, only 31 other teams with 31 coaches trying their hardest to make sure you’re fired before them.
And c’mon, the dude wears a visor.