Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Key Question With Chip Kelly

Three weeks from today, Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks will take on Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.

And not long after that, we’ll find out if Kelly’s ready to make the leap to the NFL.

We’ve written about Kelly often in this space (don’t forget to check out our special Coaching Buzz section), but recently, a couple guys with unique perspectives offered thoughts on whether he would be successful at the next level.

The first is Penn State’s Bill O’Brien. O’Brien spent five years on the Patriots’ coaching staff before taking over the Nittany Lions’ program. He has NFL experience. He has college experience. And he’s also known Kelly for a long time.

In a recent piece by Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com, O’Brien pointed out that NFL owners don’t want their quarterbacks taking the hits that are often required in Kelly’s spread attack. But that doesn’t mean he thinks Kelly would be a flop.

“Chip’s one of the brightest coaches I’ve ever spoken to, and that says a lot, because I’ve been around a lot of smart coaches,” O’Brien told Maisel. “If he ends up in the NFL, he’ll adapt his system to the type of people he has.”

That’s actually a key issue. I’m of the belief that flexibility is a key attribute in a potential new coach. Evaluating personnel is an imperfect science. And injuries will always be a factor. Putting a scheme in place and trying to force players to do things they’re not capable of often results in failure. Adjusting scheme to personnel is as important a quality as there is for an NFL head coach.

Which makes what David Shaw had to say especially intriguing. The Stanford coach beat Kelly and the Ducks, 17-14, earlier this season. But Oregon hung 53 on the Cardinal in a 2011 victory.

“It would take an organizational commitment,” Shaw, who spent nine years as an NFL assistant, told Maisel of Kelly’s spread offense. “Everybody from top to bottom, the GM, the owner, the personnel people, need to be on a mission to give that offense what it needs. You can’t waver from it. Everybody needs to be on the same page. It can’t be, ‘Well, let’s bring this receiver in.’ If he doesn’t fit their offense, they can’t bring him in. It’s so different than [what] most people are used to.”

The two stances reflect an important question that general managers and owners will have to ask themselves when weighing Kelly as a serious candidate. Are you bringing him in because you love his offense and think it could work in the NFL? Or are you bringing him in because you believe he’s a great football mind who will be able to figure things out at the pro level, and replicate the success he’s had in college?

If it’s the former, you’re looking at a high-risk, high-reward proposition. Kelly’s offense could flop, and if you’re a GM, that could very well mean you’ll be looking for work very soon. If it’s the latter, you still could fail, but you’re basing your decision on much more sound reasoning.


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Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com predicts a 27-17 Bengals victory:

If this is Andy Reid’s last season in Philadelphia, his Eagles team — led by unlikely heroes Nick Foles, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper — sure gave him one sweet win to remember from his 2012 campaign on Sunday. Inspired and undaunted, the Eagles came back from a 21-10 deficit to beat Tampa Bay on the final play of the game on the road last week. Four days later, I’d love to rally around this “Win one for Andy” thing and pick the Eagles, but even the most inspired rallying cry in the world can’t stop Geno Atkins in the middle. The Eagles’ offensive line struggles with mediocre defensive tackles on a regular basis. Atkins may be the league’s best.

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com also has Cincinnati winning, 24-17:

This is a must-win for the Bengals coming off their disappointing loss to the Cowboys. Nick Foles looked good last week against the Bucs, but the Bengals front is much better than Tampa Bay’s. That will be a factor here. Also, look for A.J. Green to bounce back with a big game.


We’ll get you ready for tonight’s matchup and then be live-chatting the action, starting at 8 p.m.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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