Chip Kelly Gambles Could Doom Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 9, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (center) talks with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie (left) and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (right) before the game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 31-22. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
There have been two quarterbacks in National Football League history to win both a Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl. Hall of Fame QB Roger Staubach won the Heisman while a student at Navy in 1963, then won Super Bowls VI and XII for the Dallas Cowboys. Jim Plunkett won his Heisman in 1970 while at Stanford and won Super Bowls XV and XVIII with the Raiders. That’s all, only two Super Bowl winning Heisman awardees in league history. The term “Heisman Curse” is most often used to describe players who win the Heisman trophy then lose their Bowl games afterward. For the record, the first trophy was awarded to halfback Jay Berwanger and Heisman winners are 27-28 in Bowl games since 1935. In my mind, the true “Heisman Curse” is that quarterbacks who win the award are almost guaranteed not to win a Super Bowl. I throw out this stat because, of course, the Philadelphia Eagles now have 2008 Heisman Trophy winning former Oklahoma University quarterback Sam Bradford at the helm of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly’s offense.
I realize the fact that a Heisman QB hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1984 is just a stat, but frankly that it’s only been done twice in NFL history is perhaps a bigger gamble by Chip than any other he’s taken in his Eagles tenure. Another of Kelly’s gambles is that Sam Bradford’s substantial IR history includes a major A/C joint injury on his throwing arm in 2009, a high ankle sprain in 2011 forcing him to miss five games, a torn ACL during week 7 of 2013 forcing him to the injured reserve, then tearing the same ACL in 2014 preseason which made him miss the entire season. To recount, Kelly’s putting the reigns of his team into the hands of a QB who had surgery on his throwing shoulder and the same injury twice on his left knee.
But, trading away former QB Nick Foles who had an outstanding 2013 season then struggled in 2014 behind a tattered offensive line and eventually sustained a season ending injury for Bradford was not enough of a risk for Kelly. Entering just his third year in the NFL, Chip traded away the Eagles all-time franchise leading running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso who is also rehabbing after suffering a torn ACL that forced him to miss all of 2014. To replace the loss of McCoy, Kelly paid a substantial 5-year $40 million contract to former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray who has played every game in a season just once during his professional career.
Gambler Kelly wasn’t finished this offseason, though. He also let his top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency. Chip will look to second year wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to replace Maclin’s 1,318 yards on 85 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Kelly also let safety Nate Allen go to free agency that leaves a gap at starting safety next to veteran Malcolm Jenkins. Of all the risks Chip and his staff have taken, however, the biggest in my opinion is that of the offensive line. Guard Todd Herremans is now in Indianapolis and Kelly confirmed to reporters in Arizona this week that the team has given guard Kevin Mathis permission to seek a trade. Kelly believes converted tackle to guard Allen Barbre can fill in for the stalwart veteran Herremans at right guard, and he has no long-term plan at this time to replace Mathis if he departs. The NFC East is consistently won through outstanding offensive and defensive line play, and neglecting the O-line, assuming it is not addressed through the draft, could prove out to be Kelly’s biggest mistake.
Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said this week at the NFL Annual Meetings in Arizona “With any coach you need patience, you need vision, and you need them to be able to gamble and fail and gamble and succeed, because the last thing you want to do is make a coach risk-adverse. I just don’t believe in that.” If Kelly’s substantial gambles don’t pay off this season it is clear Lurie will have only himself to blame for placing such substantial trust in a head coach so early in his NFL career.