Handicapping Chip Kelly's Performance in Philadelphia
by Trevor Whenham - 9/17/2013
When Chip Kelly took the job with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason after previously flirting with the NFL, we knew that we were going to see fireworks. We haven’t been disappointed. It has been far from perfect, but the team is averaging 31.5 points per game and has played two of the more interesting and exciting games of the season.
Kelly has gotten so much attention from the media and the public that he is very challenging for handicappers to deal with — especially early on before we get an accurate sense of what to expect from him. What have we seen so far that can help us determine the best way to bet on the Eagles?
The Kelly offensive approach is, to say the least, relentless. No huddles, and no time for defenses to think or rest. In order for it to work effectively, though, two things are necessary: the offense has to be able to physically handle the high speed more effectively than the opposing defense, and the key offensive players have to be able to act properly without having to think about what they are doing. Both things take time, and not enough time has passed yet. In the opener the team clearly let up on the gas in the second half — and it almost came back to haunt them. In the second game they weren’t nearly as sharp in the second half, and it did hurt them. Play that is at times tentative because of overthinking combined with exhaustion is a bad combination. Until this team gets comfortable with the pace and the playbook — and that is clearly and consistently visible — it will be hard to have complete faith in the squad.
Defense isn’t up to par
Part of the problem with a high-paced offense is that your defense doesn’t get as much time to rest as it would under a more conservative offensive approach. This defense was likely going to be challenged under the best of scenarios this year given their talent and depth issues. Under the strain of this new reality, though, they just aren’t performing well. They have allowed an average of 30 points per game. They have the second-worst pass defense in the league — more than 360 yards allowed per game. They are 19th in rushing yards allowed. At this point they just aren’t good enough — and no matter how magical Kelly and his offense is, the team can’t be trusted completely until they can prove that they can stop someone — especially in the second half of games.
Plenty of learning left to do
The realities of the NFL are very different than college football. Kelly has learned that already — if he didn’t fully realize that. Against the Chargers he badly botched the time management over the last two minutes — most notably pulling Vick in favor of Foles for one play when he didn’t need to — because he admittedly didn’t understand the rules. There is no reason for concern — he would be far from the first coach to have a steep learning curve when switching leagues. Where the problem lies though, is with the sense that the public and the media seems to have that Kelly is some type of genius. If people don’t come to terms with the fact that Kelly is mortal then they can easily overvalue his skills — at least his present ability and preparedness — and overbet him.
Vick is going to get killed
Michael Vick has never been accused of being the most durable QB in the league at the best of times. He’s not getting any younger, and under Kelly he is working more and getting hit harder than ever before. The chances of him holding up through the rest of the year — especially if his defense starts to get better at putting the offense back on the field faster — is very low. Nick Foles is far from a disastrous second choice, but he is a change, and change means betting uncertainty.
Can he stay interested?
Steve Spurrier was fully dominant at Florida, and he has South Carolina in a good place. Nick Saban is the best coach of his generation. Bobby Petrino is far from likeable, but he knows his game. What do those three coaches have in common? Despite dominating the college game, they all struggled in the NFL — at least in part in each case because the culture didn’t fit them and they never got comfortable and enjoyed themselves. Kelly was as good as can be in college, but everything has changed — and the impact isn’t certain. It will be very important to keep a close eye on Kelly’s demeanor as the season progresses — his happiness will have a remarkable impact on how well the team does for bettors.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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