Has the League Figured Out Chip Kelly, Nick Foles?
The candidacies of Chip Kelly and Nick Foles for Man of the Year in Philadelphia took a bigger hit this week than the SRC.
Indeed, grades are being placed on Kelly and Foles — and this after the Eagles won a game last Sunday over the St. Louis Rams. The win made the Birds 4-1 on the season, and gives them a chance to build a huge line of credit with a win over the New York Giants on Sunday that would take them into their seasonal bye having won five of their first six games of the NFL season,
So here’s what the people are now suggesting: The rest of the league has quickly caught on to and conquered Kelly’s innovative ways, while Foles is no better than an average quarterback who’s playing scared and unconfident. (Somewhere, Buzz Bissinger, the journo-provocateur whose spring Philly Mag profile of Foles suggested such, is grinning and spitting out canary feathers).
While the rest of the sporting world may dismiss the Philadelphia fan base as, well, looney tunes — your team is four and one for Christ’s sake! — one has to admire the purity of thought. You can’t con a Philly fan with numbers in the standings. They can plainly see the Eagles are not playing great football right now. The team’s rushing attack, so reliable last year, is struggling behind a battered offensive line and the star halfback, LeSean McCoy, appears to be a step slower and a beat less ferocious than last year. And while the defense has provided some really valuable turnovers, they are also surrendering 406 yards per game (only four teams in the league are worse) and have yielded 13 touchdown passes in five games, MOST in the NFL.
With the Philadelphia football fan already dogged by years of frustration and yearning from not winning a Super Bowl, mixing that with such a dose of reality is a toxic cocktail of human emotions.
So let’s take Kelly first. Have defensive coordinators around the league figured out his genius after an off-season of film study? It might be so.
The Chipster’s offense is based on swiftness and setting formations designed to create mismatches with defenders. He doesn’t have a lot of sophisticated plays and in fact he will run the same plays a lot, with formation changes coming from sideline cue cards and not huddle pronouncements like “Spider 2, Y-banana.” The quarterback is responsible for hitting the play to the right mismatch. Mostly, offensive success is based on the success of the running game. And if teams are ganging up on McCoy, the head coach is responsible for adjusting to other things, which he, apparently, so far hasn’t done that well.
Now I might be out of line here, but I don’t like a lot of what Kelly doesn’t do: which is being a head coach. We learned earlier in the season that Kelly doesn’t even go into the team’s defensive meetings. And last week, McCoy admitted that its running backs coach Duce Staley who substitutes backs from McCoy to Darren Sproles. I want my head coach doing that stuff, dammit. I don’t just want him reading a chart and calling plays. Be in charge! This is the NFL.
And now, to Foles. It is truly a mystery how a quarterback who looked so good last year can look so insecure this year. He has made a few nice throws, but more often has looked shaky, throwing off his back foot and tossing balls up for grabs. The apologists for Nicky Franchise blame the depleted offensive line, and especially the loss of security blanket center Jason Kelce. Fair enough. But Foles isn’t the first quarterback in the history of the league to be asked to perform despite things upfront not being perfect. And please don’t tell me that he has mechanical problems in his delivery that can be fixed. The guy has been starting now for three years in the league. He’s forgotten how to throw a football?
There was a coach in this town named Rich Kotite who once sported a 7-2 record in the Eagles first nine games of the season. Kotite’s troops proceeded to lose seven in a row to finish 7-9. In 2012, Andy Reid’s team started 3-1. They finished 4-12.
If you’re reading this piece on Monday morning and the Eagles have beaten the Giants, pay no attention to my alarm. If it’s a loss, be afraid. Be very afraid.