Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reality Check for Chip Kelly

If you know me, or have read some of my posts on this blog regarding Chip Kelly, you’ll know I have been fascinated and enamored by the way he does things. Going back to his days at the University of Oregon, I’ve always enjoyed watching his teams play football. When the Eagles hired him on January 16, 2013, I believed it was the right move and that he’d bring a lot of innovative strategies to the NFL and have success unlike other college coaches that tried to take the next step to the pros.
                                                    Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

Despite a collapse at the end of the 2014 season, I thought beginning his tenure in the NFL with two 10-6 seasons and an NFC East division title was a good start for Kelly. Then the craziness began. The Eagles handed Kelly the personnel department and exiled Howie Roseman. Kelly gutted the roster and remade things his way.

Questions arose about Kelly’s readiness to run an NFL franchise despite just two seasons as a head coach and no playoff wins. I hung in, willing to see his project through. Once the summer hit and the season was getting closer, I felt confident that the 2015 Eagles were going to be the best of Kelly’s three teams so far.  Many pundits predicted the Eagles would find their way back into the postseason and make some noise once they got there.

Yet here we are just two weeks into the season and it feels like it’s over.  The up-tempo offense that is synonymous with Kelly could not get anything going for six out of the season’s first eight quarters. This was against two defenses in Atlanta and Dallas that are just mediocre at best.  On Sunday, the Eagles head to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets, one of the NFL’s best defenses.

This is without a doubt the most adversity Kelly has faced in his coaching career. Skeptics of his offseason overhaul are speaking out even louder. Reports surfaced about the Eagles offense being too predictable and the Dallas defense knowing where certain running plays were going.  There’s no one else Kelly can look at and blame for the horrendous and lifeless 0-2 start the Eagles have had. The reality is these are his guys. He got to do this his way and right now his way isn’t working.

For a coach that makes plenty of snide remarks in press conferences, doesn’t seem to care about what others think of him, and seems pretty set in his ways about how he’s going to do things, this is quite a reality check.  It’s easy to just say back to the drawing table, change things up and make the appropriate adjustments. But that’s not the kind of guy Kelly is.  He believes in his way and no other way.

Now, even more so than last December when the Eagles collapsed, Chip Kelly’s way is being put to the test. The way in which he coaches and the way in which he runs a football team from a personnel standpoint. He took a lot of risks on injury prone players in the offseason.  Kiko Alonso, who he traded LeSean McCoy for, is already hurt and the timetable for his return is unclear. There’s no reason to think the Eagles offense is going to get on track and the toughest defense it will face all year on Sunday. This is a trying time for Chip Kelly, and he needs to respond because if not, this is going to get a whole lot worse.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

2015 NFL Season Predictions

We are less than 48 hours away from the season kicking off so time for some predictions. Numbers after record, if applicable, are team’s playoff seed.

NFC East

PHI (12-4)-2
DAL (9-7)
NYG (8-8)
WSH (3-13)

Analysis: The Eagles are the most well rounded team in this division.  Chip Kelly’s offseason raised eyebrows across the country but his moves improved the Eagles roster and will have them back at the top of the NFC East.  The Cowboys cannot put any running back behind that offensive line, will not go 8-0 on the road again like they did last season, and still have a very suspect defense.   The multitude of weapons the Giants have on offense will keep them at .500 while the NFL’s biggest soap opera will continue in the nation’s capital.

NFC North

GB (11-5)-3
MIN (10-6)-6
DET (8-8)
CHI (5-11)

Analysis: Green Bay is going to be there every year it seems like.  Jordy Nelson’s injury doesn’t help but there’s no one in the division that can knock them off yet.  Minnesota is coming though.  A 7-9 year given expectations without Adrian Peterson in 2014 was pretty good.  Now with Adrian Peterson back and Teddy Bridgewater coming off a solid rookie season, they’ll take the next step into the playoffs.  Detroit is like the Giants.  They’ll score points and have some exciting plays, but their defense will hold them back.  Chicago is a train wreck that is going nowhere fast.

NFC South

CAR (9-7)-4
ATL (8-8)
NO (8-8)
TB (6-10)

Analysis: This will be the worst division in football, as I believe it’s a race to nine.  Despite no Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina will do just enough to sneak by.  Atlanta and New Orleans define mediocre.  Tampa will be better and it will be interesting to see what kind of rookie season is in store for Jameis Winston.

NFC West

SEA (13-3)-1
ARZ (11-5)-5
STL (8-8)
SF (4-12)

Analysis: Seattle will not suffer any Super Bowl hangover.  The addition of Jimmy Graham helped its offense immensely and the defense is still special.  Arizona also has a talented defense and with Carson Palmer at full health will be the NFC’s first wild card.  St. Louis has a nice defense and figures to run the ball a lot but won’t win enough games to be a factor in the playoff hunt.  San Francisco had a nightmare of an offseason and is bound to struggle.

AFC East
NE (11-5)-3
MIA (11-5)- 5
BUF (9-7)
NYJ (7-9)

Analysis: Tom Brady is playing week one if you didn’t know.  His suspension being nullified puts the defending Super Bowl champs back on top in the AFC East although Miami is coming with a good defense and some young talent on offense.  Buffalo and the Jets have stellar defenses but neither is good enough on offense to crack the postseason.

AFC North
BAL (12-4)-2
PIT (10-6)
CIN (10-6)
CLE (5-11)

Analysis: Baltimore is another team, like Green Bay, that you always expect in the thick of things come December.  Mark Trestman will help the offense score more and the defense is still good.  Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will certainly be in the playoff mix but ultimately both left.  Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t good enough and Andy Dalton remains too mediocre for Cincinnati to make the playoffs.  Cleveland fans are in for a long year but at least the Cavs start in less than two months.

AFC South
IND (13-3)-1
HOU (9-7)
JAX (6-10)
TEN (3-13)

Analysis: If it weren’t for Indy, then this is by far the worst division in football.  But, the Colts are a super bowl contender and have an incredible offense.  Houston’s defense is top notch and DeAndre Hopkins is a nice talent.  Arian Foster’s return could be earlier than expected so Houston will go over .500 for the second year in a row after just two wins in 2013.  Jacksonville won’t be a laughingstock, as quarterback Blake Bortles will improve and there’s some young talent on offense.  Tennessee might have its franchise quarterback, but still has a terrible roster.

AFC West
DEN (11-5)-4
SD (10-6)-6
KC (9-7)
OAK (7-9)

Analysis: Like this division.  Denver is still going to be there, despite Peyton Manning another year older.  The Broncos have a strong defense they can rely on this season.  San Diego will be able to run the ball a ton with its first-round pick Melvin Gordon, and will play ball control on its way to the playoffs.  Kansas City will be close, Jeremy Maclin helps the offense immensely and the defense is very good, but the Chiefs will fall short.  Oakland is on the rise.  Despite a last-place finish they have some very nice young pieces to move forward with when you look at Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and Amari Cooper.


NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Luck (IND)
Defensive Player of the Year: JJ Watt (HOU)
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Melvin Gordon (SD)
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Leonard Williams (NYJ)
Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer (MIN)


Wild Card Weekend

NFC (3) GB over (6) MIN
         (5) ARZ over (4) CAR

AFC (3) NE over (6) SD
         (5) MIA over (4) DEN

Divisional Weekend

NFC (1) SEA over (5) ARZ
          (2) PHI over (3) GB

AFC (1) IND over (5) MIA
         (2) BAL over (3) NE

Championship Sunday

NFC Championship- (1) SEA over (2) PHI
AFC Championship- (1) IND over (2) BAL

Super Bowl L- (1) SEA over (1) IND