Patience or Panic for the Philadelphia Eagles?


Which side are you on? A little bit over halfway through Chip Kelly’s third season as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and a barbed wire fence has divided the fan base. Kelly’s first two years went fairly well, as the Eagles accomplished a playoff appearance in 2013 and fell just short of one in 2014. After the debacle in 2012, a season in which the Eagles finished 4-12, nobody could have predicted that type of turnaround. Kelly came to the Eagles with no prior coaching experience at the professional level, and his college-style offense was viewed as a gimmick by many. After two seasons in which Kelly showed such promise and a certain level of consistency, 2015 came with more unpredictability than ever before. At 4-5, is it time to panic? Or, is it time to finish the race strong and refuel the engine for another exciting offseason?

Finish Strong – Don’t Panic.

The Eagles are 4-5 in an NFC that features only five teams with records above .500! It isn’t the best showing of football, but the season is still very much alive. Those fans mailing it in already must not be having any fun — this is where the fun begins! The stretch of the season from mid-November into December is when a team can come alive and shock the world. It is also a time to build character and momentum heading into the following season. The 2014 Carolina Panthers finished strong after a disappointing start, and they ended up making the playoffs at 7-8-1. They’re currently undefeated in 2015. The Eagles have 3/4 games at home in December, a Thanksgiving Day game approaching and a potential “NFC East Bowl” on the road against the New York Giants in Week 17. Does it get any better than that?!


The truth is, Chip Kelly receives a ton of overly-exaggerated scrutiny for things that other coaches do not. The only difference between a Chip Kelly press conference, or transaction, compared to any other coach is reputation. Kelly dismissed Riley Cooper from the team in 2013 after a controversial video of the wide receiver using a racial slur surfaced on the internet. Cooper was accepted back to the team after he sought out therapy sessions, received support from his teammates and publicly apologized for his actions. What Cooper did was absolutely wrong, but the right steps were taken in order to restore his status with the team. However, Kelly was criticized for giving Cooper another chance and he was labeled as an advocate of the mistake Cooper made. Many were up in arms about Michael Vick joining the Eagles after serving two years in federal prison, but nobody ever painted Andy Reid as a man who was pro-dog fighting for giving him another chance. Star running back Adrian Peterson was dinged for child abuse and was forced to sit out the entire year in 2014. When he was welcomed back to the team this season, or in other words “given another chance”, no media outlets reported that Mike Zimmer was in support of hurting children. The Cleveland Browns’ front office spent the past few off-seasons fighting for Josh Gordon‘s reinstatement following positive drug tests, but has anybody called the Browns out for promoting the use of marijuana?

The same overreactions have been doled out for every single move that Kelly has made; his trades, his signings, his roster cuts. He was granted control of player personnel after a meeting with Jeffrey Lurie back in January, and he made a flurry of moves that he believed would set the Eagles up for long-term success. Fans and media alike, though, are fixed on immediate success. Kelly took a team from 4-12 to 10-6, setting his own high standard, so many don’t believe he should be given a “rebuilding period” despite the shredded state that the roster was in. An imbalance of the team’s salary left Kelly with a dysfunctional secondary and an overpaid group of disobedient skill position players that tallied a total of zero playoff wins together. The bright spot of the entire roster, the defensive front seven, is a young group that has already started cashing in on contract extensions. The others are awaiting their contract extensions; deals that are necessary to keep a respectable defense in tact. The question remains: Should Kelly be given more time to “rebuild” the roster after his most recent moves have seemingly set the team back?


It isn’t a secret that the 2014 defensive secondary was historically bad, allowing 287 passing yards against per game (2nd worst in the NFL) and 30 passing touchdowns against (4th worst in the NFL). In Chapter II of Philly Voice writer Jimmy Kempski’s article on the 2014 collapse, he revealed a horrifying statistic: The Eagles’ secondary led the NFL in giving up 72 pass plays of 20 or more yards. This was only the 6th time since 1991, the year the stat started being recorded, that a team gave up over 70.

If there is one agreed upon point, it’s that the secondary desperately needed a facelift. Bradley Fletcher, a cornerback who was last spotted trailing Dez Bryant, is now unemployed. Cary Williams was set to make $7 million in 2015, and he was just a tad better than Fletcher. Nate Allen joined the Oakland Raiders and got hurt, plus he has been thoroughly outplayed by 18-year veteran Charles Woodson.

It is safe to say that Kelly is responsible for assembling the players that have gleaned national recognition for this unit’s improvement. Early in the season, Kelly took a lot of heat for dishing out top dollar to obtain cornerback Byron Maxwell. Since, Maxwell has been a sturdy stopper on the outside in the Philadelphia defense. The safeties, Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond, are the league’s most dynamic duo. Nolan Carroll has been a diamond in the rough starting opposite of Maxwell. As for the rest of the defense, there was much to be sorted out. Brandon Graham was given an extension to start at outside linebacker, and Connor Barwin was given a pay raise for his outstanding play at the same position. DeMeco Ryans, the team’s inside backer and leader, was given an extension through 2016. The other inside linebacker, Mychal Kendricks, was given an extension earlier this season. Potential star defensive end Fletcher Cox is next in line for an extension, and nose tackle Bennie Logan will likely follow suit. If Kelly chose to keep wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, he’d be paying them both approximately $11mil/year. LeSean McCoy was due a figure north of $11mil, reaching the latter stages of his backloaded deal. The two former starting guards that were released, with a combined age of 67 and contracts of around $13mil in 2015, have been nothing but declining since their departure. It looks as if Chip Kelly’s attempt to chop salary to improve the defense worked, but it did indeed come at the expense of the offense. The compromised offense has given way to one of the ugliest, sloppiest seasons in recent memory. The complaints are justified, and the frustration is understandable. It’s hard to understand, though, how a new coach would have a better chance at finding some of these missing pieces.

"“So, rebuilding the defense may have worked. It definitely has been a treat to watch a young, hungry defense again in Philadelphia. But, with all that money tied up on the defensive side of the ball, how in the world will Kelly rebuild the offense?” – Everybody Reading This"


Breaking News: The 2016 NFL Offseason will happen. Subsequently, the 2016 NFL Season will happen. All jokes aside, there is still plenty of time to build this offense. The young group of players that Kelly has groomed will continue to develop and improve. There is also, surprisingly enough, plenty of money to acquire experienced athletes to contribute to the growth of this offense. According to Spotrac, the Eagles rank 19th in the NFL in salary cap space with roughly $21 million at their disposal in 2016. Unfortunately, the Eagles will have some of their higher paid veterans to move on from in 2016 as well. While many wish Jason Peters could play forever, he simply cannot. It could very well be time to revitalize the offensive line with youth, and with a salary close to $10 million on the books for next year, Peters could be shown the door. This notion is hypothetical, however, but if Kelly follows the trend that he did last season with declining linemen it could prove true.

Riley Cooper, Darren Sproles and Brent Celek could also be released to free around $14 million in 2016. Just for good measure, Mark Sanchez‘ $5.5 million cap number and DeMeco Ryans’ similar number could free up another $10 million or so. Even without the releases of Sanchez and Ryans, the Eagles would rank in the top five in cap space. They could keep Peters, rid themselves of Sanchez and Ryans and rank in the top five as well. The bottom line is that they’ve positioned themselves in a very financially friendly situation, with plenty of options to choose from.

First things first, the current players deserving of contracts will be awarded; Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox are the two that come to mind. But, with a whole draft to replace some of the older departures, the emergence of a few young players and free agency, this could be another successful offseason of improvement. The money is not the issue — it will be signing the right pieces to fill in. It will absolutely be difficult to replace some of these stalwart franchise faces, but that’s what the NFL comes down to often. If Kelly can do it with the defense, which is not necessarily his speciality, then why not with the offense?

Slow Down!

Looking toward the offseason is a bit premature, as outlined earlier in this very article. But, it isn’t crazy to explain why Kelly deserves another offseason of building. What would bringing in another coach do? Give the Eagles a better chance at finding the one-in-a-million quarterback? Probably not. With the right moves in 2016, this team could be positioned for long-term success. It is only right to let Kelly keep the reigns, if he still wants them. If he ends up running for the hills, then at least the next coach will be in a favorable situation. The NFC East is withering away, and an ugly playoff berth this season might just open the door for a few runs in the years to come!