In Week 14, Ryan Bradley dissects Chip Kelly’s success in his inaugural season as an NFL coach, the Eagles having won 5 in a row and poised to make the playoffs.
Remember after Week 8? The Philadelphia Eagles, after a loss to the lowly New York Giants, were 3-5. Michael Vick was hobbled. The Chip Kelly “experiment” was a failure.
As is so often the case, the sports media made a mountain out of a molehill. Now Week 14 is in the books and the Eagles are riding Nick Foles to a five game win streak and a division lead.
Before the season started I predicted the Eagles would end the season at 8-8. At 8-5, I could end up being right, but given their last three games (at Minnesota, home against Chicago, and at Dallas), it’s not unreasonable to think they have a better than good chance of winning any and all of those games. And if they make the playoffs it’s going to be hard to make a case against Chip Kelly winning Coach of the Year. Hell, Nick Foles will likely even be in the MVP discussion (he probably wouldn’t win, but he’d be in the mix).
The biggest misconception about Chip Kelly is that he is narrow-minded, that he has a specific system and he won’t stray from it. The truth of the matter is that Chip Kelly just doesn’t buy into certain “knowns” about how football should be played, how a game should be managed, or how a team should be prepared. My first thought when Chip Kelly left Oregon was, “Damn! I wanted him to stay forever!” My second thought was, “Dude better not re-sign Vick.”
People automatically assumed that Kelly’s “system” couldn’t work with Nick Foles. I’ve been waiting for the emergence of Foles since he declared for the draft. Did I think he’d be a perfect quarterback for Kelly? No, but I knew he’d be better than Vick.
Chip Kelly isn’t an alien, he’s probably not even as much of a “genius” as people want to make him out to be. What he is, like Bill Belichick, is a guy who doesn’t buy into the idea that just because something’s always been done a certain way it should continue to be done that way. He’s not afraid to look at an old game and approach it from new directions. He hasn’t changed the way football is played, he changes the way his team approaches the game. And that’s exactly the kind of culture that Philadelphia needed after the tenure of Andy Reid, a classicist of the football world in many ways.
The Eagles haven’t always played to Chip Kelly’s preferred 90+ snaps a game or any of the other stereotypes that get bandied about. What they have done is grow and learn, not just from their mistakes but from their successes as well. And like Belichick, Kelly will always be a love him or hate him kind of guy, but he doesn’t worry about that. He stays his course, does things the way he believes they should be done.
I’m not sure Philadelphia is a team that’s ready to make a deep playoff run, but they are a team that’s developing an identity and a culture all their own in the NFL, one of the first steps to any team’s greatness. It’s time for people to put aside their preconceived notions about Kelly and his system and think of him as a football coach who knows what he’s doing. It’s as simple as that.
His team has bought in, maybe the NFL, the pundits, and the fans will start to do the same.
Photo: AP/Mike Roemer