Time for the Eagles to Fly

Chip Kelly has had mixed results since taking over in Philly, What things need to change for them to win?

*this article originally appeared in the January 7th issue of Three Point Stance Magazine

by Jeff Lyons | @JeffreyCLyons twitter logo | Jeff@3PSMag.com

The result of the latest drama out of Philadelphia shows a coach and front office in a power struggle. While the resolution defines roles more clearly, we must examine other issues that the Eagles have faced during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, leaving us with the question of that while he may win some games, can Chip Kelly ever win a Super Bowl?

On January 2nd, the Eagles’ front office and coaching turmoil went public. The blogosphere and Twitterverse were going crazy as to what the big announcement from the Eagles involving Chip Kelly would be. This was mainly driven from the firing of Tom Gamble, Eagles’ Vice President of Personnel, and close ally of Kelly. It became known that Gamble lost his job, because he and Kelly were plotting to have Howie Roseman, Eagles’ General Manager, removed. Instead, an enraged Roseman struck first and terminated Gamble, which upset Kelly. This caused many to speculate that Kelly and the Eagles were going to come to an agreement to part ways and allow Kelly to coach another team.

The Eagles’ owner, Jeff Lurie, has more affection for Roseman than Kelly. In fact, it seemed that if Gamble and Kelly had tried to force Roseman out, Lurie would have sided with Roseman. With Gamble out of the picture, the big announcement from the Eagles was that Kelly will oversee player personnel matters, and will hire a new executive to replace Gamble, while Roseman has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

Gamble, while Roseman has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

When talking about the state of the Eagles and why they did not make the playoffs, Malcolm Jenkins said it best: “Really the sins that we committed all season long finally caught up to us when we started playing these elite teams.” Jenkins highlighted “turnovers and big plays given up on defense,” but there were other problems, such as: Time of Possession, Penalties and Personnel Decisions.

Time of Possession – 
Keeping a team’s defense off the field by holding on to the football is a key element in winning games in the NFL. Here is how the 2014 Playoff teams compare to the Eagles (excluding overtime):

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At least the Eagles are consistent under Kelly; the Eagles average time of possession for 2013 was 26:19 minutes per game and last in the NFL as well.

Ultimately, this means that the Eagles’ Defense was on the field for 80 minutes more over the course of the year than the Lions’ Defense. In other words, the Eagles’ Defense played an additional five quarters and five minutes of football compared to the Lions. Having a tired defense on the field is what leads to coverage mistakes and big plays. Elaborating on Jenkins’ comments, the Eagles gave up 82 plays of 20-plus yards this season, most in the NFL.

Moreover, when playing in an up-tempo offense and from behind, it can cause a team to press, which leads to mistakes. The 2014 Eagles were 26th in the NFL with a -8 Turnover Ratio, compared to a +12 Turnover Ratio for 2013 (tied for 4th in the NFL).

Turnovers always put a defense in a bad position, but with Chip Kelly’s goal on offense to run a play every twenty seconds, it becomes apparent that rest is not an option for the Eagles defense. In some situations, the Eagles went 3 and out, ran less than a minute off the game clock and gave the defense less than five minutes total on the bench. All of this doesn’t even take into account Cary Williams’ comments, in week 3, that the club’s practices have left him worn down:

“I’m just a guy that’s man enough to stand up for players and just say that we’re burnt out. My legs hurt. My legs were done in the fourth quarter. My legs were done in the third quarter. My legs were done before the game started… You can’t continue to run your team into the ground and expect great results.”

If you re-watch those final 4 games the Eagles played, it is easy to see a tired defense on the field, especially during the second half of each game. Factoring in the harsh practices and poor time of possession, it is not too hard to figure out why.

Penalties – 
In 2013, the Eagles had the 13th fewest penalties in the league. However, in 2014, the Eagles incurred 20 more penalties and were the 12th most penalized team in the league. Arguments could be made for injuries and fatigue causing the penalties, but most would say that it is tied to a true lack of discipline.

Looking at the Week 16 game against Washington, a strong case could be made that the 2 roughing the passer penalties were not just stupid and undisciplined, but also cost the Eagles the game. Each penalty not only extended the Washington drive, but lead to a touchdown. In an elimination game, mistakes like this cannot occur.

Moreover, every defensive penalty keeps the defense on the field longer, which causes the defense to become more tired quicker and hurts the time of possession statistic.

Personnel Decisions – 
Besides the Roughing the Passer and other undisciplined penalties that absolutely killed the Eagles versus Washington, there were 2 missed field goals by Cody Parkey. Parkey was listed on the injury report with a groin issue, and many had noted that besides not being able to kick a 50+ yard field goal, his kickoff distance was suffering as well. In the NFL, if your kicker cannot hit from 50+ yards and consistently kick the ball through the endzone for a touchback, he is completely useless to your team.

Should it be Roseman, Gamble or Kelly that takes the blame for not having other kickers in during the week trying out as an injury replacement? Shouldn’t the head coach be able to notice and say that his kicker doesn’t look right and his injury is going to hurt the team if a long field goal is needed? Keeping Parkey in the lineup and on the field cost the Eagles at least 6 points in a 3 point game.

Taking the above into account would matter for any team, but Chip Kelly has an offensive philosophy that dictates no matter what the situation or issue, his team will overcome it and outscore their opponent. While that may have worked at Oregon against inferior talented opponents, he has quickly learned that this does not work in the NFL. Teams who were down 21 points early to the Eagles stuck with their game plan and ended up making a close game out of it (see 2014 Rams game). They knew that sooner or later, the Eagles would either turnover the ball or their tired defense would allow them back in the game.

Based on the evidence above, the answer would have to be: no, Chip Kelly will not win a Super Bowl with Eagles. Many people would say that Kelly’s biggest problems will be that the league now has 2 years of his offense on tape and he still needs the proper quarterback to run his system.

However, if Kelly can learn to keep his defense off the field more, limit the penalties and learn when to make the proper personnel moves (which ironically, is now part of his job description), the Eagles could have a chance. Right now, the bigger question is not whether Chip Kelly can win a Super Bowl, but can he swallow his pride and change his ways to conform more to the NFL game?

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