Friday, December 28, 2012

Why the Eagles should hire Chip Kelly

First Down
So with something like 55 hours left in the Andy Reid Era -- here in the Cave, we have one room set up for reverence with mourning candles in a chapel setting, and the other is an open bar with confetti and streamers -- talk in the Philadelphia media has gone to his replacement.

(And oh, Eagle players? No one cares what you think, and no media member should be asking you. You've had ample opportunities, over the past two years especially, to let your effort and execution speak to your desire to keep the coach. You've also managed one win in your last 11 games. You've said plenty.)

Now, the way to look Very Very Smart about these things is to piss all over Chip Kelly, the Oregon spread offense architect, as a candidate for the job. It's purely a college gimmick. Kelly won't be able to bring his recruiting advantages to the NFL. The league will catch up to him fast. QB Nick Foles isn't the kind of mobile QB that can lead to success with his offense. The team has to hire someone with experience in the pro game. If you can say all of these things with a straight face, and while dressing badly and carrying 40 to 75 extra pounds of press box food bloat, I'm pretty sure you can get your tee vee time and look like a Very Serious Eagle pundit.

But that won't make you correct, or entertaining, or show anything more than how wedded you are to the status quo.

Here's the reasons why I want to see Kelly on the Eagles sideline. Badly.

> His offense isn't a gimmick. It's simply where the NFL is going.

The Washington Redskins are a very winnable home game away from winning the NFC East with an overall talent level that's not particularly better or deeper than what they've been for years. And sure, the easy thing is to say it's all Robert Griffin III's doing, but the deeper look at the actual plays that the Redskins run is that they are taking in elements of Kelly's game, and simply executing them with a reasonably solid RB in Alfed Morris. More importantly, they control the clock and keep the defense off the field.

OK, but that's just Washington... except it's also San Francisco under Colin Kaepernick, and Seattle under Russell Wilson, and Indy under Andrew Luck, and even, to some considerable extent, Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and New England with Tom Brady. Spreading out the defense and then giving it to the running back isn't a gimmick. It's just good football.

> Anyone that thinks the Eagles should disqualify Kelly based around the abilities of Nick Foles is, well, out of their minds.

Would it be nice if the Eagles got competent starting QB play for the bargain basement price of a third round pick? Well, sure, and I really do think the kid can have a reasonable NFL career -- say, on the level of an Alex Smith or Matt Schaub, though he seems to have a lot more in common physically with Joe Flacco to me. And that assumes a factor that he's failed on here at the end of the season, which is staying healthy.

Now, what do all of those guys have in common? They aren't the reason why their teams win, and if you put them on a bad team, they'd lose. They also haven't won a Super Bowl, aren't in the top rank of guys you'd pay to see, and only go to the Pro Bowl after three other guys beg off with an injury.

Foles might be the Eagles starting QB in 2013, or he might not. The chance of him having the job in 2014 are a lot lower. And the impact that he should have over a coaching or GM hire is borderline non-existent... because Nick Foles is fungible, people. Fungible.

> The Eagles best player is LeSean McCoy. Chip Kelly could do great things for LeSean McCoy.

There are no franchise QBs available in this draft or in free agency, so why not roll out an offense that will give the team's best player the biggest chance to dominate? The ideal move for the 2013 Eagles is to replicate the Niner/Seahawk path of breaking in a young mobile QB, leaning on the stud RB, and building from the ground up on defense. And the best thing the offense can do for a defense is (a) score, (b) not turn it over, and (c) burn up some clock. A spread running offense potentially does all of those things without elite talent, which isn't available, at QB.

> Hiring just another coordinator does not come close to the scope of the rebuild here.

I get that the organization wants to just have another Reid -- an anonymous coordinator that has a long run of success based around a consistent offense. But the conditions of Reid's ascension were special and unique. Kelly's not coming in with a borderline Hall of Fame QB draft pick on tap, a legendary defensive coordinator, and a division that's looking at a decade of meh. Just doing what worked before is, well, what we've watched for the last five years under Reid. I'd like to see something different.

>  If it was so easy to build a dynasty in Oregon... why didn't anyone do it before Kelly?

I get the more than healthy level of skepticism for coaches trying to make the jump from college to the pros. But what Kelly's done in Oregon -- innovation that's fundamentally changing the game without the benefit of the kind of top-drawer talent that's been the purview of the SEC -- demands attention. And if he's as smart as he's seemed to be to date, he's not going to just take his game across the country and think that it's all done.

> The NFL is now about three things: scoring in the red zone, avoiding turnovers, and staying healthy. I like the Eagles chances of doing all of these things better with Kelly than without.

When you have success running the ball, you take the heart out of a defense. When you do it quickly, in a fast-paced hurry-up offense, you take the legs. And when you do with players that handle it a lot, and have handled it a lot for their entire career, you do it with less fumbling and a whole lot less interceptions. And you are doing it with a resource - top-level running backs, which the Eagles have already with McCoy and might have with coaching and development with Bryce Brown, Dion Lewis and Chris Polk -- that's a lot more available than top-flight QBs and WRs. And we won't even get into the relative ease for the offensive line.

> Kelly's teams have a much greater chance of becoming truly loved by the team's fans than a Reid clone.

Success is its own reward, but one of the main frustrations of the Reid Era has been how some of the best RBs in the history of the franchise (Brian Westbrook and McCoy) were not given enough of an opportunity to win games. And there's always been the worry that the defense was going to be left high and dry, or that once your primary strength as an offense was taken away, that you couldn't win in another way.

That's just not the vibe you get from Kelly's clubs. Either the RB is gashing you, or the WR is getting it in space, or the TE is running a seam route: the ball is going all over the field, and it's doing it with alacrity. He's not a guy who's going to do it his way or no way. Unlike, well, an offensive coordinator who is giving the keys to the kingdom.

> I'd much rather win with this guy than try to beat him later.

In five years, the NFL could be a very different league -- no kickoffs, every team with a Wes Welker/Randall Cobb clone, 2-man pass rushes with maximum protection schemes, more undersized QBs like Wilson and Drew Brees, flopping calls against offensive players, and as always, more points and more money. There's only so much more that can be done with the passing game before every game becomes Last Serve Wins. We're going to see some rule changes to give the defense something back. (My smallest and most heartfelt suggestion: equivalent yardage penalties for offensive pass interference. Moving on.)

So, living into the future... why don't you want to see what can happen with Kelly here, giving you something that not every team has tried to implement -- rather than elsewhere?

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