Chip Kelly and Nick Foles: The Start of a Long-Term Success Story in Philly?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

Getty Images/Al Messerschmidt

The NFL is unpredictable in almost every manner, including when it comes to where the next great head coach/quarterback duo might come from. 

Before they teamed up in New England at the turn of the century, Bill Belichick had a losing record as an NFL head coach and Tom Brady was not viewed as a starting-caliber quarterback. 

Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre never would have become a tandem in Green Bay had the Falcons not completely overlooked Favre's ability before trading him to Green Bay for the No. 19 overall pick in the 1992 NFL draft.

Sean Payton and Drew Brees never would have happened in New Orleans had the Chargers not essentially given up on Brees after he suffered a major shoulder injury in 2005. 

Payton and Brees will be in Philadelphia Saturday night when they attempt to take this postseason's first step toward a second Super Bowl together. Standing in the way will be a coach/QB combo that is emerging at a rate faster than Chip Kelly's offense itself. 

Kelly faced Foles when the two were in the Pac-12.
Kelly faced Foles when the two were in the Pac-12.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Kelly may have been a hotshot at the University Oregon, but his rise has still been quite sudden. The Eagles are is his first professional coaching gig in any capacity, and he wasn't even near the national sports radar until he became the Ducks' head coach less than half a decade ago.

Kelly was reluctant to jump to the pros, as evidenced by his decision to back out of a job with the Buccaneers a year ago. 

He finally caved and took the Eagles' job last January, but the general belief among fans and the media was that Michael Vick was the best option to run his offense rather than 2013 third-round pick Nick Foles. That was a misconception based on the notion that Kelly's up-tempo, option-oriented attack required the quarterback to be fast, but Kelly always insisted that wasn't the case, per Geoff Mosher of 

Like Brady, Favre and even Brees, Foles was never really expected to become a franchise quarterback in the NFL, and he didn't convince anyone otherwise by laying eggs during his first preseason under Kelly. Vick won the starting job in a landslide. 

Nick Foles vs. Michael Vick, 2013 preseason

The Kelly-Foles connection didn't exist, let alone begin to feel special, until a hamstring injury forced Vick out of the lineup one month into the season, but in the past three months, the two have become the hottest tandem in the league.

Foles has posted the third-highest passer rating and the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history, as Kelly's offense finished second in total yards and fourth in points during the regular season. The Eagles became just the fifth team in NFL history to accumulate over 6,500 total yards on offense while turning the ball over fewer than 20 times. 

NFL history: 6500 yards, 400 points, 19 or fewer turnovers
2013 Eagles668744219
2012 Patriots684655716
2011 Patriots684851317
2011 Saints747454719
2007 Patriots658058915
Pro Football Reference

LeSean McCoy's presence can't be understated, but it's safe to conclude that the Eagles wouldn't be kings of the NFC East again without Kelly and Foles at the helm.

No positions in football are as important as head coach and quarterback, and now the Eagles are, by far, the most secure team in the NFC East at each spot. 

Think about it.

Nobody takes the Cowboys seriously with Jason Garrett serving as Jerry Jones lapdog, and Tony Romo will turn 34 before he's fully recovered from his second back surgery in less than a year. 

Tom Coughlin will be 68 before he coaches another game. The league's oldest head coach has missed the playoffs four of his last five seasons, and his quarterback, Eli Manning, is 33 and coming off a 27-interception campaign. 

The Redskins don't even have a head coach right now, and their franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III, is coming off a troubling season from both performance and health standpoints. 

At age 50, Kelly is young for an NFL head coach, incredibly smart and ahead of his peers when it comes to sports science, which is a big reason why this team has been so healthy. The Eagles believe in him. They also believe in Foles, who is only 24 years old and should only get better. 

Eagles: Coach/QB tandems throughout history
Coach/QBYearsRecordPlayoff wins
Dick Vermeil/Ron Jaworski1977-198250-373
Buddy Ryan/Randall Cunningham1986-199039-250
Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb1999-200992-4910
Chip Kelly/Nick Foles20138-2?
Pro Football Reference

The Eagles dominated the NFC East for much of the first decade of the 21st century, thanks mainly to the impact that Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb made on the organization. With Kelly having replaced Reid and Foles having stepped in for McNabb after Vick provided a short buffer, it's easy to envision this team taking over the division on an annual basis once again. 

NFL: Top active head coach/quarterback tandems
Coach/QBRecord (%)Super Bowls
Bill Belichick/Tom Brady148-43 (.749)3
Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers58-29 (.667)1
Sean Payton/Drew Brees73-38 (.658)1
Mike Tomlin/Ben Roethlisberger66-36 (.647)1
Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning85-66 (.563)2
Chip Kelly/Nick Foles8-2 (.800)?
Pro Football Reference

The point is that we should probably get used to seeing these Eagles in January. The key cogs are all in place, starting with the coach and the quarterback. Because of that, the sky's the limit right here and now.

But even if the Eagles fall short against Payton, Brees and the Saints on Saturday, it would only be an early speed bump in what appears to be a long run ahead for these fast-paced Eagles.

Head coaches with no prior NFL experience (since 1983)
CoachTeamFirst-year recordPlayoffs?
Barry SwitzerCowboys12-4Yes
Chip KellyEagles10-6Yes
Dennis Erickson49ers8-8No
Mike RileyChargers8-8No
Rich BrooksRams7-9No
Darryl RogersLions7-9No
Steve SpurrierRedskins7-9No
Hugh CampbellOilers3-13No
Jimmy JohnsonCowboys1-5No
Pro Football Reference

Payton and Brees won only one playoff game in their first three years together with the Saints while Holmgren and Favre won just two playoff games during their first three seasons with the Packers.

Regardless of what happens this month, Kelly, Foles and the Eagles will likely be back next season, and the seasons after that as well.


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