Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip And the Execution Theory
The Eagles were 3-1 and everybody was happy.
The year was 2012 — Andy Reid’s last as steward of this franchise. With questions swirling about the head coach’s future, the Eagles pulled out narrow wins in three of their first four thanks to some late-game theatrics, capped by an Alex Henery field goal (and a Lawrence Tynes miss) that lifted the Eagles to a 19-17 win over the Giants on the night they retired Brian Dawkins’ number. They were turning the ball over at an alarming rate and injuries were starting to mount, but the record was the record and the record was good.
And then the wheels came off.
Working with an increasingly-depleted offensive line and a collection of players that just didn’t mesh, Reid’s club proceeded to drop eight straight and 11 of its next 12 games. The flaws were deep-rooted and shattered the illusion before long.
This example isn’t cited to compare the 2015 Eagles directly to the ’12 version — I believe the current team to be in significantly better shape overall – but to shine a different light on Kelly’s day-after press conference comments regarding the current state of affairs.
“The difference in this league right now, almost every game when you look up is a one-score game,” he said. “We had a touchdown called back because we lined up wrong. That’s a difference in a football game. We missed an extra point, missed a field goal. That’s a difference in a football game. We allow a completion on a third down, that’s a difference in a football game. It’s just one play here or there and it’s a different story when we’re standing here today.
“We’ve lost three games by 15 points. So you hit two kicks and we’re sitting here 3-1 and everybody’s happy.”
Follow that logic, and the solution lies simply in execution. Start making a play here and a play there, and suddenly those close losses will turn into wins.
“It’s razor thin, so you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and say OK, we’re going to change our offense, change our defense and change everything that we’re doing in our approach. We just need to settle down, take a deep breath and when we have an opportunity to make a play, we’ve gotta make a play,” said Kelly.
There’s plenty of truth in those words. The only potential problem with that line of thinking is that it presumes that the imperfections are surface blemishes rather than structural and design flaws. Repetition and attention to detail can help take care of the former; the latter requires careful inspection and reconfiguration.
The foundation of a football team lies in the trenches and it’s evident that the foundation has been compromised on the offensive side of the ball. Injuries and questionable personnel decisions have decimated this unit. The problems are compounded by the fact that opposing defenses seem to have an increasingly firm understanding of the offense’s tendencies. Kelly does not rely on deception nearly as much as he does execution when it comes to the ground game in particular. If the o-line can’t execute and the defense has a feel for what’s coming, the enemy is going to come pouring over the walls. Now you have a stymied run game and a quarterback that is likely feeling less than secure as he operates from third-and-long behind a shaky front and against defensive looks that are far from optimal.
So the offense struggles. To make matters worse, they’re struggling at an accelerated speed because the system is largely dependent on tempo. That means time of possession (which Kelly doesn’t care about) and plays run (which Kelly does care about) are racking up in the opponent’s favor. Eventually, that takes its toll on a ‘D’ that for the most part has been holding its own. Put it all together and you have a losing formula.
There is little that can be done about the foundation issues at the moment. Evan Mathis is in Denver, the tackles are banged up and a meaningful trade seems unlikely. While it is possible that the situation stabilizes, it’s seems just as likely (maybe more likely) that problems will persist throughout the season. If that’s the case, it might not be realistic to expect the playmakers on offense to make plays with any consistency. Tweaking the offensive approach to allow for the defense and special teams carry the squad, then, might make some sense.
Judging by Kelly’s comments, though, we shouldn’t expect to see much of a shift when it comes to philosophical approach. A Caleb Sturgis kick here and a caught ball there should help put the Eagles on the right side of the ledger, the reasoning goes, so the focus should be on trying to refine as opposed to redesign.
Maybe that’s the only real course of action in-season. Your personnel is your personnel and you can’t just overhaul what you’re doing at a moment’s notice and expect grand results.
But things won’t be fixed by just cleaning up a few snaps, either. There are some deeper issues at play here — a fact that would remain true whether this team was 1-3 or 3-1.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Chip Kelly claims he’s still confident in his personnel, including kicker Caleb Sturgis, on Monday.
“The Giants can dare to dream of a divisional title.” A quick wrap-around from the rest of the NFC East.
“He made a hell of a play. Strong hands.” Day-after notes from the Eagles’ defeat in Washington.
Josh takes a look at the inconsistent quarterback play of Sam Bradford through four incomplete games.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
CSN Philadelphia’s John Gonzalez writes that the Eagles tricked fans into believing in Kelly’s preseason smoke show.
At least we can all stop kidding ourselves. That’s what we were doing. Rationalizing. Making excuses. Employing sentences that started with “if” and “but” and “maybe.” That can finally stop. Sunday stripped away any remaining pretense.
The Eagles lost to Washington. That’s bad. The Eagles lost to Kirk Cousins. That’s worse. There’s no hiding after something like that. No pretending.
Tommy Lawlor weighs in on the head coach.
The first question is whether Chip Kelly is on the hot seat. No. Modern society tends to live in the moment. Sometimes perspective can be valuable. Kelly went 10-6 each of his first two years. He’s off to a slow start this year, but that doesn’t dismiss what he’s done up to this point.
Kelly has a lot of critics right now. Some are people that have hated him since day one, while others are just jumping on the bandwagon. They will put him on hot seat lists, but that is media talk and not reality. Jeff Lurie isn’t the type of owner to make rash decisions. He will let the season play out.
Lurie believes in Chip. He hired him back in 2013 and this past offseason gave Chip total control of football operations. Lurie would have to believe that Chip isn’t the man to run the Eagles and that there is another coach out there who needs to be brought in. I just don’t think that is likely when you’re in Year 3 under a coach and most of the tenure has been successful.
The coordinators speak prior to today’s 12:20 practice.