I want all of the NFL talking heads that were overly critical of Kelly eight games into his professional coaching career to apologize. Same goes for the ones out there who said he would not succeed in the NFL, before he’d coached his first minicamp. I’m probably being overly sensitive since I’m an Eagles fan and admittedly acting somewhat soccer mom-ish, but I want someone to get on the television or the internet and say they were wrong. On October 28th, Peter King, who I think has a lot of great things to say about the NFL, wrote
“I think the Eagles have to be the disappointment of the season.”
David Steele at The Sporting News believed, “[The Eagles offense] is closer to what happened against the Cowboys Sunday than the season opener in Washington.”
That same week former New York Giant and current CBS analyst Phil Simms opened his word hole to say, “I put the Eagles offense as one of my bottom five.” When Simms said that he wasn’t just saying he’d put the offense in his bottom five offenses in the NFL. He was saying it was one of the five worst units, offense or defense, in the league. He ranked the Eagles offense 60th out of 64. Just a couple spots ahead of the Jaguars’ offensive and defensive units.
And of course just a few weeks ago the Arizona Cardinals’ Kangol-hat-endorsing-scrooge-of-a-head-coach Bruce Arians took a dig at Kelly saying, “The read option is a great college offense.” I feel bad calling Bruce Arians a scrooge. I don’t know the man, but he came across as one when he gave that quote. He could otherwise be a wonderful husband and father. Plus he did a great job with the Colts last year stepping in for Chuck Pagano. However, the hat decisions are unforgivable. I’ll say this though, if Arians has the stones to wear a Kangol hat on the sideline for a game I’ll be the first to stand up and applaud the guy. That would take huge balls. I’m starting to digress so let me get back on track.
The most outlandish Kelly dig comes from NFL.com writer and former fullback Heath Evans, who decided in January he had enough knowledge of Chip Kelly, his offense, his work ethic, and coaching credentials to say, “I am going on record calling Chip Kelly one of the worst hires in pro football history.” Evans’ four reasons for making the statement were, not having a recruiting advantage, being out-coached by Stanford in 2012, and exposing his quarterbacks to too many injuries, while also wrongly comparing Kelly to South Carolina coach and one time Washington coach Steve Spurrier. Had Evans done even a minimal amount of homework before making his statement he could have saved himself from looking like a moron. Then again, maybe he wrote it just to get more clicks at the behest of his boss.
Apologies in advance to the Heath Evans fans out there, but I’m going be hard on him for a bit, which I don’t think he’ll mind since he’s a former NFL player married to a beautiful wife and currently getting paid to give his opinions on NFL.com and the NFL Network. Meanwhile the closest thing to payment I’m seeing for writing this is welcomed criticism from my friends Tanner and Steve. But before I even get into the content of what Evans said, Heath your first mistake was the first thing that came out of your mouth in the NFL.com video discussing the Kelly hire. You said, “I wrote an article quick about it.” Again if you’d just taken the time to think about it and look at Kelly’s past you might have thought differently. We already have one Skip Bayless, we don’t need another.
The Ol’ Ball Coach Comparison
As for what Evans’ reasoning behind saying Kelly would be one of the all-time worst hires said I’m going get the easy one out of the way first. Kelly has never been and will never be like Steve Spurrier. The only things the two coaches have in common are they’ve both been successful head coaches in college, are offensive-minded, and were given head coaching jobs in the NFL. It ends there. Tommy Lawlor, of the wonderful blog IgglesBlitz.com (I encourage any Eagles fan to read his posts) wrote about the two last December when the Kelly to Philly buzz started. Here’s what he said,
“Most people play the “Steve Spurrier card” in regard to Kelly. Joe College will hit the NFL and make a fool of himself. The situations could not be more different. Kelly is a workaholic. He is incredibly driven and has worked his way up from the bottom. Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winning QB at Florida. He was arrogant. He believed that he truly was smarter than others and could win in the NFL by doing things his way (work smarter, not harder). In college, Spurrier was always the smartest coach on the field. That wasn’t the case in the NFL and his inability to deal with that fact made him a failure.
Kelly is the guy with the chip on his shoulder. He wasn’t a star player. He didn’t start his coaching career in the SEC and ACC like Spurrier did. Spurrier was the OC at Duke by his 3rd year. Kelly was still a high school coach in his 3rd season of coaching. Kelly will not be out-worked. Spurrier is famous for playing golf in the afternoons. One of the criticisms that Oregon boosters have with Kelly is that he won’t attend their offseason golf outings. He sends his assistants. Spurrier plays during the season on a regular basis.
Kelly won’t come to the NFL thinking he knows more than the other coaches. Kelly has met with NFL staffs over the years. Initially it was to learn. Over time he became the lecturer so that they could learn. He still takes away whatever nuggets of wisdom that he can. Kelly loves learning the game of football and still sees himself as a student of the game.”
Anything I would have said on the topic was not going be as succinct as Lawlor, so you’re welcome for sparing you the extra 20 seconds of reading. All Evans needed to do was Google “Chip Kelly practice” to see that Kelly thinks about every bit of minutiae as it relates to his football team. Beat writers and college football analysts gushed about his practices at Oregon. Two months before Evans’ decree Chris Brown at Grantland.com wrote a long piece about Kelly’s success including this part about his practices,
“For all of the hype surrounding Oregon games, Oregon practices might be even better. Oregon practices are filled with blaring music and players sprinting from drill to drill. Coaches interact with players primarily through whistles, air horns, and semi-communicative grunts. Operating under the constraint of NCAA-imposed practice time limits, Kelly’s sessions are designed around one thing: maximizing time. Kelly’s solution is simple: The practice field is for repetitions. Traditional “coaching” — correcting mistakes, showing a player how to step one way or another, or lecturing on this or that football topic — is better served in the film room.”
It’s another excellent piece on Chip Kelly that anyone should read if they haven’t already. Ultimately Heath could have just googled “Chip Kelly” and found that successful coaches from Bill Belicheck, to Urban Meyer, to John Gruden, and Pete Carroll all found the time to pick Kelly’s brain about his offensive philosophies. All four are highly successful and confident, to be nice, arrogant, to be accurate coaches. These coaches don’t do that sort of thing for Rich Rodriguez or Dana Holgerson.
Recruiting and the over-matched, but plucky Stanford Cardinal
Heath Evan’s next reason for saying Kelly would fail was because he wouldn’t have the same recruiting advantage in the NFL that he did at Oregon. Again, had Evans just taken the time to surf the web he would have thought differently. Kelly came to Oregon as the OC for the 2007 season. Between the 1987 season and Kelly’s arrival as OC Oregon’s record was 148 wins and 91 losses, good enough for a .619 win percentage. During that span Oregon had 3 10+ win seasons, with only two major bowl game appearances. The first a loss to Penn State in the 1995 Rose Bowl and the second a 2002 Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado. Once Kelly arrived Oregon’s win percentage jumped to .731 during his two years as OC, and over his four year span as head coach it was .868. Below is a list of their win loss records. Red is before Kelly, blue is when Kelly was the OC, and green is when he was head coach.
|1997||7||5||W Las Vegas|
|2006||7||6||L Las Vegas|
|2010||12||1||L BCS Title|
Those records before Kelly hardly made Oregon a football powerhouse, which directly effects a school’s ability to recruit. The other big factor is location, and Oregon high school football is never going be mistaken for Texas high school football. Put it to you this way, a Friday Night Lights show makes sense in TX, OH, AL, LA, FL, and maybe a couple other states. Oregon would rank somewhere down there with Hawaii and Idaho. The Sporting News published a chart in September ranking the number of NFL players from each state. Oregon was tied for 31st with Massachusetts. The teams that recruit the best almost always come from states that produce the most talent. Think Alabama, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Florida State and USC. So for Evans to claim that Kelly had this incredible talent advantage is 100% false. Against the Division 1 AA schools, sure Oregon had superior talent, but against their conference opponents and other big games (LSU, Auburn, OSU) Oregon was not playing with superior talent. If anything Oregon’s talent level was slightly above average when going up against top tier programs. Oregon’s recruiting ranking compared to the other 100 plus division one schools they can appear to be elite, but a better context is where their recruiting efforts ranked compared to the other schools in their conference. Here’s what the Ducks recruiting classes looked like for players that Kelly would have coached as OC or head coach.
|Year||Pac 10 Best||National Rank||Pac 10 Rank||ESPN Pac 10 Rank|
|2009||USC (4)||32nd||5th||5th Stanford (3rd)|
|2010||USC (1)||13th||4th||3rd Stanford (4th)|
|2011||USC (4)||9th||2nd||3rd Stanford (4th)|
|2012||Stanford (5)||16th||4th||4th Stanford (2nd)|
The second columnI lists what school finished first in the Pac-10/Pac-12 recruiting wars and where they ranked nationally according to Rivals recruiting service. The third column is where Oregon ranked nationally and the fourth column is where they ranked in the Pac-10/Pac-12 both using Rivals’ rankings. The last column is where ESPN ranked Oregon in the conference along with where Stanford finished in the conference. Before 2006 ESPN didn’t really cover recruiting and up until last year only ranked the top 25 recruiting classes nationally. Over the above time period Oregon averaged the 22nd best recruiting class good enough for 4th best in the Pac-10/Pac-12.
So Heath Evans was talking out of his behind when he wrote, “In the NFL, you don’t get 10 first-round picks, and in Philly, the league’s best free agents aren’t lining up to join the Eagles.”
To be fair Heath is factually correct in that the Eagles do not get 10 first round picks each year. But the point he was trying to make was that Oregon wasn’t playing on equal footing. Maybe the best stat to illustrate just what kind of talent advantage Kelly had is to take a look at where Oregon University falls in terms of number of players in the NFL. According to Sportingcharts.com as of the 2012 NFL season Oregon had produced 36 currently playing in the NFL putting them in a tie for 18th with Arizona State and Michigan. As far as the Pac 12 goes Oregon was tied for third with Arizona State. Both USC and Cal have more current players in the NFL. USC is ranked first. As for those smart, but over-matched athletes from Stanford Evans praised, they had a total of 34 players currently in the NFL as of 2012. Kelly did get out-coached by Stanford in 2012, but a 3 point loss against a team that is evenly matched is a very flimsy reason to base someone’s future success coaching in the NFL. Also the previous year Kelly’s 6th ranked Ducks beat down a 3rd ranked Stanford squad 51-30. Again Heath avoided the details.
Evans’ third reason Kelly would fail was he believed he exposed his quarterback too often at Oregon and that it would lead to injuries in the pros. And you know what Heath was sort of right about this one. The Eagles have had to play three different quarterbacks this year. However, Vick has played one full season in his entire career and Foles’ injury was a concussion that resulted from a sack and not some QB-option keeper where he went plowing into Patrick Willis. Evans’ cited Mariota’s 103 rushing attempts in 2012 (13 games) and the 464 quarterback rushes during Kelly’s time as Oregon’s head coach. Once again Evans didn’t do enough digging otherwise he would have seen that Kelly didn’t always have his quarterbacks rushing for yards when he was in charge of the offense. When Kelly had a quarterback that could run, like Mariota, Dixon, or Masoli he used their legs. And in the case of Masoli who was the least efficient passer Kelly had he ran him more. Here is a breakdown of the starting QB rushes at Oregon while Kelly was running the offense.
|Year||Name||Rush Att||Rush Yds|
Kelly isn’t a dumby, as Evans would like you to believe. Kelly knows he can’t just run his QB 150 in an NFL season. He adjusts, he always adjusts. Through 14 games this year Eagles quarterbacks have rushed the ball a total of 86 times. Vick has had 34 attempts, Foles has had 50, and Barkley has had 2.
Kelly has the Eagles sitting at 8-6 and in control of the NFC East. He’s taken an offense that ranked 15th in total yards per game last year and turned them into the 2nd best unit this season. In 2012 the Eagles ranked 29th in points scored. This season they are currently ranked 7th. The turnaround under Kelly is impressive. What’s more impressive is that he is doing it with almost the exact same players Reid had last season. Admittedly the offensive line was banged up last year, but this year the Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin before the season even started. The changes on the line were significant. The Eagles got back Jason Kelce and Jason Peters and added RT Lane Johnson with the 4th pick in the draft allowing Herremans to slide back to guard. The skill positions though are almost identical. In 2012 Reid had Vick/Foles at QB McCoy/Brown at RB Celek at TE and Jackson/Maclin/Avant at WR. This year everything is the same except for the addition of TE Zach Ertz and Maclin being replaced by Riley Cooper, who was most likely to be cut if both Maclin and Arrelious Benn hadn’t gone down.
I’m sure Kelly doesn’t give a crap what people in the media said about his ability to succeed in the NFL. Like most people from the New England area he’s confident, so having 50 plus reporters and bloggers claim he can’t coach at the NFL level probably didn’t cross his radar. Add to that the fact that he is an NFL coach and I’m guessing the guy is borderline arrogant when it comes to his career. I don’t have that kind of confidence though, so if I were Kelly I’d be out for blood after the beating given by the media before ever coaching a game. Once the Lions game ended I think it would have been perfectly appropriate for Kelly to grab the first down chains from the ref, walk to midfield, and launch the first down chains towards the announcer booth while screaming “Are you not entertained?” as if he were Maximus from Gladiator. This is probably one of the 458,988 reasons why I’d be a terrible NFL coach.
Everybody makes mistakes. Kelly made some just last week against the Vikings. I’m 30 and had to move home, god knows I’ve made a few. So I’m not expecting Peter King, Heath Evans, or Phil Simms to be right all the time, but when you’re wrong admit it. These guys aren’t the only ones that have criticized Kelly, many “experts” did. But I haven’t heard a single one say they were wrong. The season isn’t over, but this argument is already over. Those that thought Kelly couldn’t hack it were dead wrong. He’s re-written the record books at every stop along the way including the NFL. The degree of difficulty has been raised at each stop, but Kelly continues to face standing records and look at them the same way Triumph The Insult Comic Dog looks at Cameron Diaz’s films. They’re good enough to poop on.
Part II later today.