How Chip Kelly Can Fail In Philly
In a tantalizing effort not to be cliché, the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles season is going to easily be the most interesting one in years, due in large part to the man responsible for leading them out of the depths of mediocrity. Andy Reid had a tremendous run with the organization, but his coaching style over the years frustrated a fan base that values a Super Bowl ring as the measure of success.
Chip Kelly’s entrance into the Philadelphia sports world comes at a fascinating time. Reid’s tenure over the Eagles lasted 14 seasons, and while he certainly garnered some success, no ring was ever won. Change was inevitable and necessary for the Eagles to evolve. But with all the hype surrounding Kelly and his creative packages built on speed, let’s not overlook the very real obstacles he faces in the NFL — obstacles that could lead to his demise.
Kelly proved that he is a brilliant coach at Oregon. His individual coaching style resembles a rebellious teen unaware of societal norms. His success was accompanied by brash decisions, fearless calls and a lot of points. Oregon’s explosive offense made them national contenders annually under Kelly, and while their uniforms were not the most imaginative thing in Eugene, it was Kelly’s creativity that trumped all.
Kelly’s first test will come at the hands of NFL defenses. Professional linebackers and defensive lineman in the NFL are fast … much faster than the lines Kelly saw while dominating the Pac-10. Professional lineman can get to the edge with ease, and if Kelly plans on winning with speed, he better account for this speed on the defensive side of the ball.
The realization that some NFL linebackers are just as quick as running backs might lead Kelly to allow Michael Vick or any QB in the system to run the option, which sounds good in theory, but could be disastrous. Any option or design run for Vick will be predicated on the protection he receives from his line. More importantly, Vick’s injury-prone recent past indicates an inability to take hits. Kelly needs to protect Vick and, in doing so, limit his ability to take off in the open field unless it’s absolutely necessary.
The most obvious factor that could lead to Kelly’s demise in his inaugural season is injuries. For starters, if Kelly loses Vick, the quarterback situation in Philly will be a circus. Will Kelly and Dennis Dixon reunite for an improbable run through the professional ranks? Can rookie Matt Barkley prove his critics wrong and lead the Eagles to the playoffs? Can Nick Foles … I’ll just stop there. Bottom line is if Vick goes down, the uncertainty at the quarterback position will not bode well.
Lastly, it is crucial that Kelly understands he’s not coaching just another football team. In Eugene, Kelly had carte blanche to operate as he pleased; failure at the collegiate level is tolerated. Although Kelly rarely experienced it, he operated within a comfort zone that would have allowed him to remain at Oregon for life. In Philly, Kelly’s moves will be scrutinized to the fullest extent. Local media can be harsh and often times nasty. Kelly should be prepared to handle these situations if success isn’t achieved.
In the end, of course, all of this is moot if the Eagles win.