As free agency officially starts much attention will be paid to front office wheeling and dealing over the next several weeks. And rightfully so, as teams jostle to try and shore up holes and deficiencies in their roster. Closing the talent gap is one sure fire way to improve a teams performance from the prior season. Another way to aid that improvement is to have a head coach that is able to recognize his own weaknesses and address those in the off season. I believe that Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly is that type of tactician that can and will improve on his performance from 2013.
Coach Kelly’s rookie debut was phenomenal when viewed from the perspective of what was accomplished. I think the shot of energy that his hiring infused into this franchise energized the players into believing things could be different from the last few years of the Andy Reid era. There were legitimate concerns on whether Coach Kelly’s offense and new age thinking could translate to the NFL. Those concerns were immediately lagging behind (much like opposing defenses) as Kelly and crew attacked the franchise record book with a vengeance.
Though the season ending home playoff loss was disappointing, most Eagles fans were left savoring optimism for the possibilities of the future. A 10-6 record with a rookie head coach that installed both new offensive and defensive schemes is nothing short of remarkable. Coach Kelly’s handling of a dicey quarterback situation and a potential team wrecking Riley Cooper incident, showed that he had a good feel for navigating his team through troubled waters without rocking the boat or succumbing to mutiny.
There are opportunities for improvement though. Head coaches need to be able to self-scout and evaluate their staff not just to break tendencies and trends, but also to elevate expectations. If you aren’t getting better you are getting worse.
The second year in both schemes should be more comfortable for the players, but it also will be a test as coordinators get a feel for what the Eagles like to do. So will Kelly be successful in implementing more of his playbook to offset any perceived weakness discovered on film study? Will he have a better feel for clock management and when to slow down his vaunted no huddle attack to protect a lead? Will he have a better feel on when and what to challenge on replay? Will he still be as aggressive on going for fourth downs? Is his ego going to prevent him from tweaking his system to adapt to what he learned in the seven losses incurred in 2013?
The answers to these questions may be part of the puzzle of success for the Eagles. Obviously General Howie Roseman and his front office staff must address personnel needs in both free agency and the draft to even have a shot at duplicating last years run, but if Chip can provide a repeat performance with a little more coaching efficiency then the sky is the limit. The last time he was tasked with improving on a great head coaching debut, he was in his second year at the University of Oregon. He ended that season in the championship game. Here’s hoping for an encore in 2014.