Year-End Review: Fairly Evaluating Chip Kelly


This has been the greatest strength of the current coaching staff. Offensively, Jeremy Maclin had a career year in 2014, playing better than he ever has. Jordan Matthews showed great improvement from Week 1 to Week 17. And while Sanchez deserves plenty of criticism, he still completed 64.1 percent of his passes and averaged 7.8 YPA. With the Jets, those numbers were 55.1 and 6.5.

Defensively, we’ve seen Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks make the leap from good players to Pro Bowl-caliber players. Connor Barwin had a career year. Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton have developed into rock-solid starters. Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry found roles in an unfamiliar scheme.

Look at the roster, and try to identify guys who have underachieved. It’s very difficult. That’s a credit to the coaching staff’s ability to teach. And it’s one reason to believe there’s hope for guys like Smith. Extended time in the program seems like it actually might count for something.

Through two years under Kelly, talent acquisition has been a far bigger problem than player development.


Kelly is entering his third offseason as the head coach, and the quarterback question looms as large as it did the day he was hired.

Before we look forward, let’s look back. Kelly decided to bring Michael Vick back and let him compete with Foles during the summer of 2013. Vick won the competition, got injured, and then Foles stepped in and flourished. To say Kelly saw something in Foles that no one else did is false. To say that he helped Foles reach heights no one thought possible is accurate.

That year, Kelly spent a fourth-round pick on Matt Barkley in one of the more tough-to-figure selections of the past two years. In that round, it’s a win if teams can find a developmental QB or a backup. Barkley doesn’t appear to be either. The USC product played well against Kelly’s squads in college and impressed the head coach during his combine interview. Kelly saw something in Barkley, but going into Year 3, he doesn’t seem to even trust Barkley to be a backup.

Many have dismissed the idea that Kelly wants/needs a QB with running ability. But the truth is a signal-caller who could pick up 25 yards instead of 6 on a zone-read keeper would add a whole new element to this offense that has been missing. Much of the run scheme is still based on the QB accounting for an unblocked defender. And it’s been common for that unblocked defender to crash hard on McCoy behind the line of scrimmage. Kelly has two options to fix this issue: find a quarterback who can keep the defense honest, or change up the scheme.

Finding an above-average quarterback who has the skill set Kelly covets is not easy. But the fact that at this point there isn’t even a developmental option who possesses the athletic ability to fully utilize Kelly’s playbook is troubling.

To say that Kelly’s system is QB-proof is inaccurate. Poor QB play was one of the reasons this team missed out on the postseason in 2014. But to say that it’s QB-friendly is fair. There aren’t a lot of attractive options out there this offseason. Maybe Kelly can get Foles going back in the right direction. Maybe he’ll find an under-the-radar guy he likes through free agency, the draft or a trade.

But part of the reason this specific head coach is paid $6.5 million per year is to figure out a solution at quarterback.


The Jackson decision did not fit neatly into any of the sub-categories above. I know many of you are sick of discussing it, but no evaluation of Kelly is complete without at least mentioning what has been his signature personnel move so far.

Let’s focus on the field first. There were several reasons why the Eagles didn’t stretch the field as well in 2014: shoddy quarterback play, O-Line injuries and how defenses played them. But to pretend that losing a player like Jackson, who led the NFL with a 20.9 YPR average, had no effect on the Eagles’ offense is silly.

Jeremy Maclin played great, but the offense could have potentially featured Maclin and Jackson. In a season where three of the six losses were by five points or fewer, it’s no stretch to say the downgrade of Jackson to Cooper at one WR spot could have cost the Eagles a playoff spot.

Having said that, Kelly is the coach and gets to determine which 53 guys he wants in his locker room. Jackson is no angel, and if Kelly valued culture over talent in this instance, that’s his prerogative. But it’s also perfectly justifiable to question the move.

In two seasons under Kelly, the Eagles have gone 20-12. That’s nothing to sneeze at. They have implemented new systems on offense and defense. They have added some key pieces and developed players who were already on the roster. They had the best special-teams unit in the league in 2014. And in many areas, Kelly looks like a smart coach who knows how to build a program.

But to characterize the month of December as a collapse is perfectly fair. The Eagles were 9-3 and lost three straight – two at home, one to a 3-11 team on the road. They were favored in two of those games and didn’t play well enough to win any of them.

Poor quarterback play, offensive line injuries, turnovers and big plays against the defense were the key factors down the stretch. But the coaching staff has to bear some responsibility as well.

Going forward, the Eagles need a talent boost in specific areas (the secondary stands out). They have to figure out the process for evaluating personnel and come up with a plan at quarterback. Tweaking scheme, the practice routine and other aspects of the program are ongoing.

In some ways, it seems like Kelly just got here. But this will be his third offseason as the Eagles head coach. While there is a solid foundation in place, filling some obvious gaps and coming up with solutions in the coming months will be crucial to get the arrow back pointing in the right direction in 2015.