NFL Handicapping: Chip Kelly, Eagles Headed For A Rough Season
by Robert Ferringo - 7/17/2013
Chip Kelly’s first season in the NFL is going to be a spectacular failure. And boy is it going to be fun to watch.
Kelly is the headliner of the eight new NFL head coaches hired for the 2013 season. His signing marks the start of a new era of Eagles football after the ouster of Andy Reid. But when the news was announced in mid-January it was a bit of a shock.
Kelly’s had spurned previous offers to graduate to the NFL. Most reports in early January had him locked in as the new Cleveland Browns coach. But that pairing fell apart. And at the time Kelly was believed to the rope in a tug-of-war between Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and former Eagles president – and new Browns CEO – Joe Banner. Kelly reportedly turned both men down and was set to return to Oregon, which was facing a rocky offseason and a lot of uncertainty thanks to a major recruiting scandal that took place under his regime.
Channeling his inner Favre, Kelly changed his mind. He decided against a return to Eugene and instead took the gig with Philadelphia. The initial popular reaction was shock, which gave way to excitement at the prospect of Kelly tossing his high-powered read-option offense into the mix at a time when the multifaceted attack is taking the league by storm.
It’s been all downhill since.
First came blowback from a media that has seen ballyhooed college coaches crash and burn in the NFL. Next came rumbling from pro football insiders that are skeptical of how Kelly’s offensive approach will take in the NFL. Then came a tense offseason between Kelly and his new players regarding everything from music during practice to playing time to Kelly’s decision not to name a starting quarterback.
Training camp begins on July 22 for the Eagles, and the team heads into the fall with a rookie coach, a quarterback controversy, and an even greater level of fan angst than even Philadelphia seemed capable of. Concerns about Kelly’s capabilities are mounting – and he has yet to coach a single NFL game.
The list of big-time college football coaches that couldn’t make the transition to the NFL game is lengthy and comical. Seemingly any monkey throwing feces can build a winning college program. (See: Miles, Les). And even Hall of Fame-caliber college coaches like Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier were fantastic failures in the NFL because success on the pro level is predicated on a lot more than being able to recruit and schedule well.
I’m not sure Kelly is up to the task.
Also, I don’t think Kelly is going to fit well in the hell-fire that is Philadelphia. Eagles fans are already skeptical of Kelly’s college chops and gimmick offense. And it could take several years for the Philly front office to construct a roster to fit to Kelly’s schemes. Eagles fans – who have endured just six losing seasons in 25 years – aren’t known as an especially patient lot. Things could get ugly, quickly.
But I don’t care about the weird drama and maneuvering around Kelly’s hiring. I don’t care that better college coaches have flamed out in the pros. I don’t care that Kelly has zero NFL experience. I don’t care that he’s never worked through anything like the pressure cooker of Philadelphia fans and media. I don’t even care that Kelly inherits a team ill equipped to run his systems or that he spent the entire offseason building negative karma while fighting those players.
What I do really care about heading into this season is that the makeup of Kelly’s coaching staff, namely his offensive and defensive coordinators, makes absolutely no sense.
Kelly tabbed Billy Davis to be his defensive coordinator despite Davis’ short, checkered, history in the NFL. Davis was behind some atrocious defenses in San Francisco and Arizona and was not considered a very hot prospect for positions throughout the league. He was allegedly hired because his teams showed a knack for causing turnovers, and Kelly’s defenses at Oregon liked to focus on turnovers. (See – innovation! No NFL coach had ever wanted to put the focus of his defense on creating turnovers!)
Davis utilizes a “hybrid” defense that is neither 4-3 nor 3-4. So already Kelly is riding the fence on scheme. Kelly could get away with a tenuous defensive philosophy when he was protecting 50-point leads against Colorado or Missouri State. But that’s not how it works in the NFL. You pick a front, you stock your roster with players to fit that scheme, and then you build from there. But the selection of Davis, who has been pretty awful in his previous stops as a DC, looks like a mistake right out of the gate.
Then there was the hiring of Shurmur to run the offense. Kelly’s teams at Oregon were known for high-scoring, high-flying, lightning-fast offenses. The Ducks scored quickly and in bunches, utilizing big-play bonanzas to blitzkrieg their opponents. That’s the approach that Kelly is allegedly bringing to the pro game.
But Shurmur’s offenses are basically the opposite of that. He is one of the most conservative offensive planners in the business, and the four offenses that he fronted for in St. Louis and Cleveland averaged an underwhelming 15.3 points per game. Further, Shurmur is a West Coast disciple. That is a foil to Kelly’s spread-style attack, and I have to say that this pairing doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Shurmur and Davis were not the inspired, outside-the-box hires of a team looking to shake up the NFL establishment with a new approach to the sport. After all, that’s what Kelly supporters are predicting for the former lead Duck, right? No, Shurmur and Davis are NFL retreads with spotty resumes and styles that seem to blatantly conflict with Kelly’s own philosophy. So how and why is this going to work?
It won’t. I am selling Philadelphia big time this year. Their roster is about one-tenth as talented as people think it is. The franchise seems to lack a coherent message or direction, and they are casting their lot with a man that is completely out of his element. I think that this will be a spectacular failure, and I’m looking forward to cashing in against this team throughout the season.
Although according to this story, it looks like blindly betting against them is off the table.
Robert Ferringo is a lead writer for Doc’s Sports and one of the best football handicappers in the nation. Robert has posted five of six winning Augusts and his football plays for the NFL Preseason are available right now for just $49. CLICK HERE to sign up and quit missing out!
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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