Talent or scheme? Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly had a great offensive scheme last season that put up incredible numbers. However, I do not believe that Chip Kelly has a scheme that can simply make a below average player play at a high level; I do not think such a scheme exists. Kelly has always stressed that his scheme is personnel driven and without great players no scheme will succeed at a high level. Kelly was lucky because before he had even coached a single game for the Eagles they already had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. This allowed Kelly to be very creative and have a dominant run game right from the start. I think that certain Eagles players do not get the credit that they deserve simply because they play for Chip Kelly. Every player, no matter how talented, will only perform to their highest level if they are in a scheme suited to their strength and players should not be discredited for this.
One player who is overlooked by many around the league is Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Many writers around the league seemed to discount his incredible season because he plays for Chip Kelly and it is therefore easy to be a great quarterback in their opinion. Kelly’s scheme is a quarterback friendly scheme but the quarterback still has to make the correct reads and deliver the throw. The offense was not as effective when Michael Vick or Matt Barkley were starting which shows that it cannot simply be ran by anyone. Pete Prisco from CBS recently had Nick Foles as the Eagles most overrated player. He also stated that “Anyone in the league can throw 2 interceptions if they want to”. I strongly disagree with this statement and I do not agree that Eagles fans overrate Nick Foles. I have never understood why people discredit Foles’ season because he played in a quarterback friendly scheme. During Robert Griffin III rookie season with the Washington Redskins, head coach Kyle Shanahan put together a masterful quarterback friendly offensive scheme that was based on play action and running the ball. There was a lot of one read play action quick throws that Griffin executed perfectly. Robert Griffin III stole the headlines after a great statistical season and Shanahan was rarely mentioned. Discrediting what Foles achieved last season purely because his head coach was Chip Kelly is absurd. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is seen as an offensive genius but it would be ridiculous to discredit quarterback Tom Brady’s career success because he has only ever played under Belichick.
Another player who is overlooked because of Chip Kelly is Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. Riley Cooper had a great season, catching 8 touchdowns as well as 835 yards (NFL.com/stats). Cooper’s success was obviously linked to Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme putting up huge numbers on a weekly basis but it is unfair to completely discredit Cooper. When Michael Vick was the Eagles quarterback for the first 5 weeks; Cooper had a total of 8 receptions, 1 touchdown and only 93 yards. Foles started week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cooper had 4 receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. Foles and Cooper developed a great chemistry which Vick and Cooper did not have. When Vick was the quarterback, Cooper was not succeeding in Chip Kelly’s offense. It is therefore not fair to give Kelly all the credit for Cooper’s success. Foles had the biggest impact on Cooper as he trusted him to win 1 on 1 matchups and threw a lot of contested passes to him. Cooper had a great season last year and he improved hugely as a wide receiver; whilst Kelly’s scheme helped him have a career year it was not the only factor.
Nick Foles and Riley Cooper clearly benefited this year from a great scheme put together by Chip Kelly. However, it is unfair to simply discredit their levels of talent and how good they were last year simply because of this. I believe Foles would be successful in a number of systems and he showed a lot of promise in Andy Reid’s offense in 2012. Riley Cooper is also a very talented receiver but struggles with separation. Without a quarterback who trusts his ability to win contested catches, Cooper will never put up great numbers regardless of the scheme. I hope Foles and Cooper continue to show great chemistry next year and put up great numbers again.