When Chip Kelly finally decided to come on board as the Eagles head coach this past February, there were many questions and not a lot of answers. Could he make the coaching transition from the college ranks to the NFL? Would his offensive scheme work? Would the Andy Reid players he was stuck with be able to adapt to new plays and positions on both sides of the ball? Overall; would we see success during his first year as a NLF head coach? Some of the answers to these questions are still playing out, so let’s take a look at what’s working.
Now, after two really bad games against the Cowboys and Giants, some said in recent weeks that teams are figuring out his offense. That’s not the case and saying so was a knee-jerk reaction by the national press. The Raiders, who had been playing defense well going into that game against the Birds, certainly didn’t figure out the offense when QB Nick Foles threw for seven touchdowns. The Green Bay defense this past week really didn’t figure it out either. When anyone takes a look at those two games, they were structurally different from an offensive play calling perspective.
This past week, RB LeSean McCoy was given the opportunity to execute, and he did. Kelly ran him 25 times (McCoy rushed for 155 yards) and only gave Foles 18 passing attempts. Productively executing the ground game worked against Green Bay’s defense (who isn’t terrible), and that was the game plan Kelly laid out prior to stepping on the field. The previous week in Oakland, we saw the opposite. He gave Foles 28 passing attempts, and he certainly executed. McCoy and RB Bryce Brown combined only had 19 rushing attempts. Kelly isn’t stubbornly sticking to a vanilla or offensive style like his predecessor where teams and defenses have a clear picture as to what they’ll see on the field from week to week. He’s mixing it up and it is throwing off defenses.
I’ll say this. I don’t necessarily think the success we’re seeing solely hinges on the amount of passing and rushing plays called from week to week. Frankly, no one sees Nick Foles as a rushing threat like they do with Michael Vick. But Foles rushed this past week 8 times for 38 yards. His legs can be used as a weapon at the right time and moment. Plus, I think many of us can agree that Foles’ deep ball and touchdown success cannot be guaranteed every week. Look for that to alter a bit.
The screen game is fun to watch and it’s effective. With a versatile offensive line and good blocking from the wide receivers, they’ve been dominating the execution of their screens this season. We still don’t know from week to week whether or not the tight ends will be incorporated into the passing game. They weren’t at all this past week, and it was okay. The game plan worked.
Everyone calls Kelly’s offense “up-tempo.” Quite simply, I call it “smart.” From a coaching and play calling standpoint, throwing off opponents is what he has been able to do in the five games they’ve won. The five they’ve lost, key players have been either injured, a 3rd string rookie QB was on the field or players simply had a bad game. I’m not being an apologist, I’m being realistic.
Unless you’re Jim Harbaugh or Pete Carroll, not too many contemporary and highly touted college coaches have had much success in the NFL. Let’s take a look at the list: Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Steve Spurrier, and Greg Schiano. Many thought Kelly might become part of this list, but after 10 games, I’m already and very early putting him in the Harbaugh and Carroll category. Although we’ve seen some questionable calls every now and then (some rookie coaching mistakes), he’s calling plays that his guys at specific points in the game and with certain field position can execute. In the end, it’s all about making the right calls, and then having the players on the field execute. It’s working.