Why I Have A Hard Time Trusting Chip Kelly And His Plan


Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia right after the end of the 2012 NFL season; a season which saw the Philadelphia Eagles finish with a 4-12 record and the team looking like a bunch of guys who never got it together. Talent was there, but a lot of changes had to be made. Most importantly, someone had to give this team a vision and a direction to move towards.

To his credit, Kelly did all of that succesfully. He got rid of players who were not producing, no matter how big of a name they were (see Nnamdi Asomugha) or how high they were drafted (see Danny Watkins). He signed two new, serviceable starting cornerbacks and added good players in the draft. With his up-tempo, no-huddle offense he managed to turn the Eagles around and go from the bottom of the NFC East to the top in just one season.

A less than average draft class and a big number of injuries held the team from back-to-back divisional championships in 2014. To a point, his offense was also not as effective as it was 2013, as the other NFL teams now had a sample and knew what was coming their way when they played the Eagles.

Then change came. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to demote Howie Roseman by “promoting” him to executive vice president of football operations and made Chip Kelly the “boss” on all personnel issues. Kelly then went and promoted Ed Marynowitz to vice president of player personnel and put his offseason plan into effect.

Then questionable decisions were made.  In less than 50 days, the Eagles lost the following players:

Nick Foles, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, James Casey, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Nate Allen and Casey Matthews.

At the same time, the Eagles re-signed Mark Sanchez, Brandon Graham and Cedric Thornton and signed or traded for the following:

Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Miles Austin, Seji Ajirotutu, Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond III, E.J. Biggers, Brad Jones.

I’m not going to judge a move before seeing the player play for the Eagles. But two things stand out to me and these are the reason why I can’t blindly believe in Kelly and his plan for the 2015 season and the seasons after that.

The first is that Kelly brough in a number of players with injury plagued past. In five years, Bradford has just two full season under his belt and he is still recovering from an ACL injury that held him from playing a single snap in the regular season of 2014.

Same goes for DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, who have a full season each in four and five seasons as a pro player respectively. At least these two average 12 games per season each, which is not that bad for a running back, I guess.

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Let’s not forget Thurmond III too, who played in only two games last season for the New York Giants.

How can a team which was crippled by injuries in 2014 lean on players who have had multiple injury issues in the past?

The second thing that makes me skeptical regarding Chip Kelly and his plan is that despite the big number of moves made so far, the team is still missing key elements. Currently, the Eagles have no starting safety opposite of Malcolm Jenkins, unless you think Earl Wolff is going to stay healthy all season long and perform at the level he did in his rookie season or better.

The Eagles are also in need of a starting right guard, because Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner might be decent backups but they don’t look ready to take on a bigger role. Not to mention Barbre played just a handful of snaps before getting sidelined for the remainder of the season in 2014 with an injury.

Kelly will probably need to find a talented wide receiver, too. One who can have a meaningful role from day one, because outside of Jordan Matthews, the rest of the team’s wideouts are not very trustworthy. Riley Cooper was pretty bad last season (ranked as the worst WR by Pro Football Focus). We’re all counting on Josh Huff to make a leap, but this is not something to take for granted.

At cornerback, Byron Maxwell will man one spot, but who starts opposite of him? Walter Thurmond III or Brandon Boykin? Both are undersized and while Boykin has earned a chance to start there, there is no guarantee he will bring the same results he did when playing the nickel spot.

Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham is one of the best outside linebacker duos in the NFL, in my opinion. But who sits behind them on the depth chart? Marcus Smith II, Bryan Braman and Travis Long, who is coming back from a season-ending injury. The Eagles need depth at this position.

Oh, and Tim Tebow? What does Chip Kelly needs Tebow for? I get it that Matt Barkley might not be good and there is a need to get a better third-stringer but we are fooling ourselves if we believe Tebow is the best the Eagles could get.

After all, it’s not Tebow or Barkley who will be asked to win games.

As much as I’d like to see the Eagles draft Marcus Mariota, there are so many holes on this roster that I can’t see it happening without compromising other positions. This situation, if not handled correctly, could set up the Eagles to fail in the long term.

If Bradford is not the quarterback to take the Eagles to greater heights and they pass on the opportunity to get Mariota, good luck finding your franchise quarterback in the future. On the other hand, if they Eagles go all-in and draft Mariota, even a small number of injuries could leave them with players of “backup quality” as starters in many positions. In both cases, it’s hard to win anytime soon.

Will Chip Kelly be able to steer the ship in the right direction and avoid hitting the rocks? I really hope so, but I do have serious doubts.

Next: Will Mychal Kendricks get traded on draft day?