On Thanksgiving, with millions of people watching and enjoying their turkeys, the suddenly surprising Detroit Lions (4-7) embarrass the Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) 45-14. In just five days, the Eagles’ defense has allowed 90 points and nearly 1000 yards of offense to two sub .500 teams. The defense has also allowed five touchdown passes games with no interceptions to unlikely quarterbacks (the first time to rookie Jameis Winston and the second time now to the struggling Matthew Stafford). Heading into Foxborough next week against a team that clearly outmatches them on paper, the future is looking bleak for the Eagles and head coach Chip Kelly.
The ‘System’ (or Ego) Over Talent
Analysts always seem to look smart when they make a prediction in 20/20 hindsight but when just about everybody makes that same prediction and it comes true, the people who didn’t foresee that prediction coming true seem to look like idiots. To sum up what everyone thought about Chip Kelly making the decisions he made in this past offseason (basically getting rid of what made his team good): He is either going to look like a genius or an idiot by the end of the season. And what a surprise, he looks like the latter. The main reason being that Kelly chose his ‘system’ (ego) over talent.
This is the same Chip Kelly that never won a national championship with his ‘system’ on the college level and the same one that won ten games his first two seasons with the Eagles because he assumed control over Andy Reid’s players and not the ones he plugged in himself. I understand that every head coach dreams to operate like Bill Belichick, scouting out the players no one believes will succeed at the NFL level and proving everyone wrong, but not everyone can be him. Even so, it isn’t as if he picks up the players that clearly lack talent. Also, many of the players that succeed on his team were failures with other teams. Take RB Dion Lewis for example. He was a nobody on this very same Eagles team, but under Belichick, he looked like a primed Darren Sproles before he got injured. What that means is that Belichick knew how to utilize the talent that he had to get the best result. Still, the players had to have some talent to succeed in his system. Even with all of the ‘upgrades’ Chip Kelly made, he had to rely on an injury-prone and not so good quarterback in Sam Bradford to get the job done and sure enough, Bradford got injured and didn’t really look good when he did play. Now Kelly has to rely on Mark “butt-fumble” Sanchez to lead the team to the playoffs for the second straight season. Both points are telltale signs that he clearly doesn’t know what he is doing and he is the only one that doesn’t see it because of his belief in his system.
A Look Towards the Future
The biggest problem for the Eagles at this point is obviously Chip Kelly, the man at the helm. Firing him doesn’t magically bring back the players that were released. Although the team currently has a lot of talent at a lot of positions, collectively, the talent doesn’t fit together. Besides, what other head coach out there would want to work with the roster? The only reason the next potential head coach (someone who isn’t working for the franchise right now) comes along would be because of the appeal of running an NFL franchise or making millions of dollars.
At the same time, keeping Kelly means that the front office and owner Jeffrey Lurie are showing their desperation. Kelly is the only one who believes he can work with this roster and he is probably right. Also, he has been handed a lot of power to make a lot of very important decisions. Getting rid of Chip Kelly the coach means getting rid of Chip Kelly the GM. The next head coach and GM in all likelihood will scrap this team and start over.
Regardless of how the Eagles finish their season, Kelly can do no wrong. If the Eagles somehow win all their remaining games, Chip Kelly will look like a genius (somewhat) and he will have another year to show the league how delusional he is. If he is fired, every major college football program with a need for a head coach will look to have him at the helm. The worst part about firing Chip Kelly is that firing him gives him an easy way out of the mess that he has created. His hands will be washed clean of the Eagles franchise and he gets to move on as if nothing happened. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if franchises started adding in fix-my-team clauses (I just made that up) in a new head coach’s contract that states that any bonehead decisions that the head coach makes will be undone if the decisions made worsen the team. That way, everyone gets to rest easier at night knowing that the franchise-breaking decisions made by the few and the nightmares that follow are only temporary.