So about that Chip Kelly revolution …
An offense, hailed at the beginning of the season as transcendent, had trouble transcending midfield on Sunday, piling up three points in a 17-3 home loss to a 4-3 Cowboys team that isn't known for its defense. That's nine straight home defeats for Philadelphia dating back to last season.
Mike Vick is hurt and backup Nick Foles followed him to the injured list on Sunday, yet this isn't the juggernaut many believed would bring NFL defenses to their knees. The Eagles' fast-paced offense came into Sunday with 409 total plays from scrimmage, good for ninth in the league – two behind the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles' points per game ranked a strong fifth, but that was two spots behind the Cowboys, who took sole possession of first place in the NFC East on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Eagles' former coach, Andy Reid, started 7-0 after picking first in the NFL draft.
It's not that Kelly's system can't work; it's that the hype was preposterous and somewhat insulting to all the coaches and coordinators who get paid to come up with an edge every single week of every season. One of those coaches is Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who Kelly toyed with in the college ranks but couldn't score a touchdown against on Sunday.
Remember Week 1? The Eagles ran all over the Washington Redskins and triggered a breathless push to crown Kelly as the Einstein of the NFL. Kelly's unconventional methods became conventional wisdom overnight. In one particular early season report, an offensive coordinator predicted Kelly's offense would take all season for defensive coaches to grasp. In the same report, a leading NFL analyst said the Eagles' offense "changed the landscape of the NFL from a philosophical, schematic approach to how the game is played."
The landscape seemed pretty navigable on Sunday for Kiffin, who has been countering philosophical and schematic approaches for years. His team held the Eagles to 278 total yards. Philadelphia had 263 rushing yards in Week 1.
Kelly deserves time to bring in more talent and make his way work, but this isn't Oregon anymore. In Eugene, Kelly had talent advantages on just about every single play. It's easier to spread out a defense and create mismatches when your players are faster and stronger than the other side's. The read option turns a static 11th player (the quarterback) into a weapon much more readily when the 11th defender is a step slow. That doesn't happen in the NFL. Sure, a defense can be confused or tentative when it's not used to a faster pace, but that split-second advantage erodes quickly. The Redskins looked shell-shocked in Week 1, and so did most of those watching the game, but the only two teams the Eagles have beaten since then have a combined zero wins.
Against Peyton Manning (a true football revolutionary), the Eagles got shredded 52-20. The Jaguars scored 19 against the same opponent.
You have the makings of a potent offense in Philadelphia, but it's hardly a revolutionary one without Vick or a similar talent. Kelly was expected to run the ball in obscene volumes, but the Eagles ranked third in attempts per game – the Buffalo Bills led the league – despite having LeSean McCoy, one of the most explosive runners in football. He had 55 yards Sunday on 18 carries, with nothing more than 10 yards in a single rush.
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So the NFL's so-called "Moneyball" is, much like the original, only a partial solution without superior players. That was also the case with NFL revolutions in the past, like the Run & Shoot. And Bears coach Marc Trestman may learn how his cutting edge system works without injured star Jay Cutler. A strategy can alter football; it just can't alter football on its own.
Was it smart for Kelly to have huge butterfly wings added to training camp practices to adapt to defensive players who bat down throws? Yes. Can anyone in football bat down throws like J.J. Watt? Nope.
Kelly has a more traditional approach than most give him credit for. He has several speeds to his offense, not just supersonic, and he told Sports Illustrated's Peter King during training camp, "We don't have an ego in our program. So it's not, 'We are gonna do it our way no matter what and I don't care what anyone else thinks.' "
The fast-paced offense needs time to adapt to the NFL, not the other way around.
As for the rest of the football world? Well, it needs to slow down.