Saturday, January 16, 2016

Why Chip Kelly Isn't Going To Work In San Francisco, Either

Refried and Refraud
Now that the NFL's coaching carousel has stopped and Nero Kelly has found himself in a new perch, the same people who told us that the Eagles were wrong to fire a man for ample cause are here to tell us why it's all going to work out in the Bay Area.

Well, sure. There are few bets in the world better than It's Not Going To Work Out For Eagle Fan, and if the Chiefs wind up bouncing the Patriots out of the playoffs this weekend, there's a reasonable chance they would be favored to go to the Super Bowl. At that point, the Eagles will be wrong for bouncing Andy Reid for ample cause as well, and the world will get to continue having its New York-centric chuckle.

Philly Fan: 300+ years of getting peed on since we're not New York or DC, and being told it's rain. Also, that it's raining because God hates us, and that the rain is also God's pee, and everyone else is made much happier about that. If only You People weren't so negative and deserve it. Now lie back and think of how you are not NY or DC.

Sorry, tangent. It's wearisome, I know. Anyway, rather than continue to tell the same story, let's move on to why Nero isn't going to just turn around and rule the NFC West, shall we?

1) The NFC West is terrifying

Seattle is the two-time defending NFC champions, and might make it three. They have one of the best QBs in the game in Russell Wilson, and Wilson's just starting to enter his prime. They have a fantastic home field advantage, a defense that's starting to fade but is still among the league's best, and a front office that's hit on a very high number of picks and moves over the past few years. You probably don't really want to play these guys twice a year if you can help it.

Arizona is most people's odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl this year. They've been good for a while, and might have broken through with more luck around injuries. The offense is the most balanced and complete in the NFL, and while the coaching staff is old and the defense not entirely airtight, they make both of those elements work, and might still be on the upswing. The home field isn't as strong because the Arizona market is filled with transients, and the ownership has a history of family weirdness, but they are not a new contender or a paper tiger. Winning games from them in the next 2-3 years is not going to be very easy at all.

Los Angeles (nee St. Louis) is also clearly on the upswing. The defense has lots of high quality players, they might have the best RB in the game in Todd Gurley, and while they are still major pieces away from real contention, they'd be a playoff team in the right division. They are also likely to get an ill-gotten gain from moving away from a Midwestern dome to a new SoCal pleasure palace, along with tons of new screaming fans who will cheer a lot louder than the old abused ones did. Winning more than the occasional game from these guys is also going to be no cakewalk, and heaven help you if they ever find themselves a QB. Oh, and they also have an extra second round pick in this year's draft, thanks to some asshat that's making it tough on the Niners' new head coach.

So, enter SF into that. After the worst off-season in recent NFL history, the talent roster is as bare as any in the league. Sure, you've got a tolerable RB in Carlos Hyde, an interesting reclamation project in QB Colin Kaepernick, a maybe tolerable QB2 in the frisky Blaine Gabbert, a WR in Torrey Smith and a half dozen guys from the old good defense that can still play, along with some high picks in the upcoming draft. But *every* NFL team has some assets, and this isn't exactly a tremendous collection. Pair that up against this division, and Kelly could easily do the best job of his professional life and never get close to .500.

2) The Niner front office is still broken, and might be (even) worse than what Kelly left in Philly

Here's a fun fact. The Niners didn't tell Kaepernick they were hiring Kelly. Hell, why would you want to do that? He's only the broken asset that you just spent the last year messing with, and a mobile asset that might actually make Kelly's read option Cutting Edge of 2013 gimmickry work, but let him hear about it on Twitter like everyone else. You wouldn't want that guy to have hope or a lack of mind games at this point in his career, when you've made all of these smart moves leading up to now.

Honestly, if the Niners were to hire away Howie Roseman from the Eagles to room with Kelly in a wacky rom-com, it wouldn't surprise me at this point. We're talking about a franchise that ran off the only head coach that's had any degree of success in the past 10 years because too many people were giving him the credit, rather than the GM. We're talking about an organization that's turned their new yard into an albatross in less than two years, and who would cede the Bay Area to the freaking Raiders, if only the Raiders were bright enough to sit still and try to win games, rather than play Stadium Dickery.

I'm not sure the best coach in NFL history could win with this organization, in this division, at this time. And this just in...

3) Kelly's Not A Great Coach

Enough, for heaven's sake, about the Two 10 Win Seasons In His First Two Years nonsense. That also describes Ray Rhodes and Rick Kotite, and I don't see anyone hiring either of those guys, or anything particularly good happening for them in their professional lives after the hot start. (Kotite: 21-11 after two years as a coach, 19-45 the next four. Rhodes: 20-12 the first two years, 17-30 the next three.)

Are there Bill Belichickian aspects to Kelly that point to a resurgence following immediate fail? Sure. But if you look hard enough at *any* coach, you can trick yourself into seeing Belichick. Prickly with the media? Wow, what a unique attribute. Gamblers? That really narrows it down. Convinced of their own intellect, confident that their decision making is sound and superior, and ready to toss out the non-believers? Why not throw in mammals, vertebrates, oxygen breathers and carbon-based? It's like their twins!

Great coaches develop talent. Kelly didn't do that in three years in Philadelphia. Great coaches innovate and get better. Kelly's offense got more and more basic, and don't blame it all on QB Carousel; it's not like Mike Vick and Nick Foles, his first two signal callers, don't seem any more or less bright than Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford. Great coaches make things difficult on the opponent by using unexpected tactics. Kelly had great special teams that never faked, tempo offenses that didn't cause the opponent to do more than watch the ever-growing amount of similar tape, and defenses that almost never showed you even a hint of innovation. Beyond the tempo and sports science work that was great on Day 1 and a lot less interesting on Day 1,000, there was nothing new here.

Oh, and in terms of late-game management? The man sent in the punt team in the final game of his Eagles career, down 21 in the fourth quarter with 10 minutes left, on a manageable fourth down. Only an injury timeout by the opponent and the outrage of the dead-end crowd caused him to change that utterly indefensible on every level move. Does this sound like a guy who is going to turn it all around in Year Four and Stop Two in his post-college cash-out tour?

4) Kelly Is A Compulsive Liar, And The Lies Are Obvious, Pointless, and Self-Destructive

Evan Mathis wasn't coming to camp; ignore the social media photo of the man with a plane ticket in his hand, heading to the airport. DeSean Jackson was just too small and prone to leaked and likely fabricated stories about his background. Ryan Mathews was too hurt to carry the ball any more after the longest touchdown run of his life. Duce Staley was in charge of which RB was in the game, Ed Marynowitz was the GM, Kelly has no interest in managing personnel any more, and so on and so on.

Look, for the most part, I don't really care if my NFL HC lies, even a lot. I more or less assume that's going on a lot, because the HC *should* lie when it benefits the team, and convincing grown men to risk permanent injury to win games isn't exactly a profession for people of good conscience. But Kelly's lies were so common, so self-serving, and so transparently obvious that even football players could see through him. There's a reason why a decent defense turned into Swiss cheese in the second half of the year, and that reason is that when your manager lies all the time, you just don't want to do anything other than the bare minimum required to keep drawing a paycheck. That's what happened here, and it's going to happen again. Kelly is what he is, and has gotten to the station he's gotten to. He's not changing this aspect of himself; he's probably lied so long, and so often, about so many things that he's not even aware he's lying any more.

5) Always Bet On Fail

This weekend, eight teams will play for the right to continue their NFL season, while 24 other franchises will think about what might have been or what needs to happen for things to be different next year. Which means three out of four teams have, by most measures, had an unsuccessful season. Think about those 24 teams that are out, and with the occasional exception of mildly noble failures like Minnesota, the Jets, maybe DC and Houston, and if I really want to stretch the envelope, Tampa... well, over half of the league is really unhappy about how the season ended. That's why so many clubs run their coaches every year, and coaches are lucky to last more than three years. All of the players are eventually going to get hurt, and all of the coaches are eventually going to fail. For the most part, both events happen in about three to four years. We remember all of the exceptions to the rule, but that's all they are: exceptions.

Kelly doesn't have to be a liar and fraud to fail in SF. He doesn't have to squander Pro Bowl talent, fight with anyone in the locker room who shows signs of not being a total college mark for his methods, or neglect player development, especially around the lines. His schemes don't have to be shown as amateur hour against actual contenders, or have his teams turtle up with turnovers and complacency, because he doesn't promote, bench or motivate players terribly well to date.

All he's got to do to fail is not have teams that are better than 3 out of every 4 clubs, and achieve that standard not less than once every 2-3 years, from a start position that's one of the NFL's worst.

Betting on any coach to succeed is like betting against the house in blackjack.

Betting on a coach with crippling drawbacks, who just spent the last three years not winning in a vastly better competitive situation and talent level?

Well, that's like betting against the house in blackjack without looking at your cards.

It can be done, but you'd much rather have your money on the house, wouldn't you?

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