The former University of Oregon coach, who had great success with his high-speed, read-option offense in the college ranks, brought his system when he took over the Philadelphia Eagles this season. His arrival created a lot of excitement for Eagles followers who had tired of Andy Reid's West Coast, pass-happy attack, which hadn't been effectively attacking opposing defenses for some time.
The Eagles entered the season with little in the way of expectations. With new schemes on both sides of the ball, most pundits didn't see anything beyond a .500 season. Then the Eagles opened the regular season at Washington against the Redskins, the favorite of many to win the National Football Conference East this year. The Birds jumped out to a 26-7 halftime lead, scoring three offensive touchdowns while confusing the Washington defense with quick play-calling and unconventional formations.
It appeared Oregon Duck football had arrived in Philadelphia. Then it disappeared in the second half and really hasn't been seen since. In ensuing games, the Eagles gained yardage consistently, but not with the lightning speed for which Kelly teams are known. They repeatedly stalled in the red zone.
Now with half the season gone the Eagles are now 3-5 and have completely sputtered offensively, failing to score an offensive touchdown in the last two games. They remain winless at home, a streak that now dates back 10 games. Some wonder if opposing NFL defensive coordinators have figured out Kelly's style. Others wonder if Chip Kelly just another hotshot college coach who couldn't cut it in the big time.
It's the curse of the majority of college coaches who sign on to be a head coach in the pros without any previous NFL coaching experience. Steve Spurrier failed with these same Redskins. Nick Saben failed with the Miami Dolphins. Heck, the great Bud Wilkinson was a mess with the then St. Louis Cardinals. Even as we speak, Greg Schiano appears to be living on borrowed time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Chip Kelly has the same background. Is he cursed?
It is abundantly clear Kelly does not have the players to operate his offense at peak efficiency. He's got a great back in LeSean McCoy and a great wide receiver in DeSean Jackson. Losing Jeremy Maclin to a season-ending knee injury in training camp really limited his passing options. Michael Vick would be ideal to direct Kelly's attack at quarterback if he were the Michael Vick of several years ago. Neither Nick Foles nor Matt Barkley will ever be able to run the ball well enough to be effective as a read-option quarterback.
Kelly's defense has played better as the season has progressed. But he needs time to make this happen, perhaps along with multiple drafts and several fortuitous free-agent signings. Maybe opposing defensive coordinators will eventually figure him out regardless of what he does. The truth is after eight games in the Kelly regime, there hasn't been much to figure out.
Now, will Kelly get the time? Spurrier, Saben and Wilkinson each lasted two years in the NFL. Unless Schiano can turn things around dramatically in Tampa, he'll be gone after two years as well assuming he lasts all 16 games this year.
Should the Eagles stumble through the rest of this season, Kelly will get a pass. After all, it is his first year. But if they stumble through next season as well, it could be a different story. Should next season go badly, how much influence will grumbling fans have on his future?
Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks are marching through an undefeated season and may play for a national championship in January. They're doing it with Chip Kelly's system.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Eagles follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards.
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