The Philadelphia Eagles have officially named University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as the successor to Andy Reid.
As recently as Tuesday, the Eagles appeared to be closing in on Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. A sudden change of events led to the team reaching an agreement with Kelly. Contract details have yet to be announced but Kelly will become the 21st head coach in the franchise’s history.
Kelly will bring an unorthodox style of offense that has stirred up much controversy over the past several months. Kelly relies heavily on speed and a fast-paced tempo that will result in a high number of plays. Whether or not his offense will translate to the NFL level remains to be seen, but the Eagles won’t have a boring season in 2013.
The potential is there on offense. The defense has some work to do, but a solid defensive coordinator could get the Birds back on track. If the pieces fall into line, Kelly could be the next genius of the NFL. Then again, that’s been said of coaches before, and they’ve fallen short.
If there’s one thing the Philadelphia Eagles have, it’s speed.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the fastest wide receiver duo in the game. LeSean McCoy is an All-Pro running back with moves that rival that of Barry Sanders. Bryce Brown has shown flashes of brilliance as a backup runner.
And quarterback Michael Vick is arguably the fastest to ever play the position. Chip Kelly may try to bring back Vick and he may not. But if there’s a team Kelly’s offense will work on, it’s the Eagles.
Chip Kelly brings with him an accomplished collegiate resume that includes a 46-7 lifetime record as the Oregon Ducks head football coach.
His offense was a headache for the best of the best in the game, even causing problems for some of the nation’s best defenses. Kelly never accomplished the ultimate goal of winning a BCS national championship game, but he did make an appearance, losing a close one to Auburn.
Kelly won four conference titles in four years, and he’ll inherit a talented team that has the potential to compete for the NFC East title as soon as next season. While this doesn’t mean Kelly’s offense will carry over to the next level, Philadelphia Eagles fans have to be excited for an innovative mind like Kelly.
The spread option may be a gimmick in the NFL, but it’s worked like a charm in 2012. Teams like the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers have utilized it to perfection with running quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.
It hasn’t been a one-game success either. It’s an incredibly difficult offense to game-plan for, and the Denver Broncos even succeeded with an extent of the offense in 2011 with Tim Tebow under center.
Critics will point out that the Wildcat formation had a limited life span, which could be the result of the spread option. But it’s succeeding for now, and if Chip Kelly can find his quarterback, he could run the best version of the offense yet.
For much of 2012, the offensive line was one of the driving factors to the Philadelphia Eagles’ 4-12 season.
All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters missed the entire campaign with a torn Achilles tendon. Starting center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd Herremans each underwent season-ending knee injuries early in the season. Coupled with the ineffective play from right guard Danny Watkins, the Eagles were down four starters on the offensive line.
That won’t be the case in 2013. Peters, Kelce and Herremans should all return at full strength. Left guard Evan Mathis has quietly emerged as one of the finest guards in the business. If the Eagles draft Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the player mocked to the Eagles in many drafts, that would allow Herremans to move to his natural position of guard.
Chip Kelly likes athletic offensive linemen. He’ll love Peters, who is a natural-born left tackle if there ever was one. He will enjoy the versatile Herremans, who can play both tackle and guard. And the undersized Kelce is a much better fit than his predecessor, Jamaal Jackson, who was massive and slower moving.
Age shouldn’t be one of the deciding factors for a head coach. Five years from a head coach conceivably past the prime age of coaching can still result in a championship or two.
But at 49 years old, Chip Kelly has plenty of coaching left in him. He’s probably not going to coach the Philadelphia Eagles for the next two decades. However, he’s significantly younger than some of the other top candidates that had been linked to the head coaching job.
Brian Billick is 58 years old. Nick Saban is 61 years old. Bruce Arians is 60. Kelly’s age puts him near the middle of the pack of NFL coaches.
Since his MVP-caliber season in 2010, Michael Vick has been everything wrong with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s been oft-injured, missing significant time in each of the past two seasons. He’s thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times during that stretch. And he’s already going to be 33 years old by the start of next season.
A 23-year-old Vick would be a dream come true for Chip Kelly. But even Kelly has to know Vick is not the answer at this stage in his career. Vick struggled to stay healthy in a conventional pass-happy offense that asked him to throw the ball as many times as possible.
It’s just not plausible to expect him to play 16 games in a read-option offense that would be better suited for a young player like Colin Kaepernick or RGIII.
So does that mean Nick Foles?
Chip Kelly has actually been on record as saying Foles is one of the best in the business. It’s a little different now that Foles—who ran the slowest 40-yard dash of any non-lineman at the 2012 Scouting Combine—is his quarterback. Foles couldn’t run the read option any more than DeSean Jackson could play tight end.
Kelly likely has his quarterback in mind. It may be West Virginia’s Geno Smith, which could mean a trade up to the No. 1 overall spot to select the young playmaker. It could mean Vick, and it could mean Foles. Either way, it should be interesting.
Technically, the Wildcat formation has nothing to do with whether or not Chip Kelly will be successful in Philadelphia. Or does it?
Kelly runs a unique offense that predicates on its explosiveness, unpredictability and high-powered scoring attack. He relies on speed, speed and more speed. This could easily be a one-year wonder in the NFL, and time will only tell.
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano revolutionized the NFL with the unveiling of the Wildcat offense in 2008. Sparano used Ronnie Brown as a quarterback in the shotgun formation, and Brown accounted for five touchdowns in a breakout win over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. That led to the Dolphins going 11-5 in a surprise AFC East title.
And the Dolphins haven’t had a winning season since. The Wildcat is all but dead as well. If that’s the case with Kelly’s offense, he will have to adapt his style or he won’t last long with the Eagles.
The history of college coaches transitioning to the NFL shows success is difficult to repeat at the next level. There have been some exceptions, such as Jimmy Johnson and Jim Harbaugh.
But there are too many stories like those of Steve Spurrier, Dennis Erickson or Bobby Petrino. Even Nick Saban was just 15-17 with the Miami Dolphins.
If Chip Kelly’s offense falters in the National Football League, his name will be added to that list. And if he wins games and becomes the first Philadelphia Eagles coach in history to win a Super Bowl, he will be forever etched in Philly lore.