Jun 102013
 

Chip Kelly4. Philadelphia Eagles
Head Coach: Chip Kelly
2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Offense: 280 points scored, 29th in points, 15th in yards (13th passing, 13th rushing)
2012 Defense: 444 points allowed, 29th in points, 15th in yards (9th passing, 23rd rushing)

Key Additions
Head Coach Chip Kelly, FB/TE James Casey, S Patrick Chung, CB Bradley Fletcher, DT Isaac Sopoaga, LB Connor Barwin, LB Jason Phillips, S Kenny Phillips, CB Cary Williams, RB Felix Jones, P Donnie Jones, T Lane Johnson, TE Zach Ertz, QB Matt Barkley

Key Losses
CB Nnamdi Asomugha, T King Dunlap, LB Akeem Jordan, DT Derek Landri, CB Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, G Jake Scott, DE Darryl Tapp, RB Dion Lewis

Why 2013 will be better
The injury bug took a heavy toll on the Eagles in 2012, and any improvement in this regard will increase the team’s win total. Perhaps Chip Kelly will have a better sense of how to utilize LeSean McCoy, who is one of the most talented running backs in the league, but who never seemed to be the centerpiece of Andy Reid’s offensive scheme. Perhaps Kelly will also be the coach who will get through to DeSean Jackson, and bring out his remarkable potential as well. But if 2013 is going to be more successful than 2012, it will be because the defensive additions will perform to their potentials and not force Michael Vick or Nick Foles to play from behind.

Why 2013 will be worse
Although the Eagles were 9th against the pass last season, they gave up a league high 32 touchdown passes, necessitating an overhaul to the secondary. The trouble is while they brought in Cary Williams from the Ravens, the rest of the “upgrades” in the secondary are unremarkable retreads that may not fare much better in 2013. Plus Williams has stayed away from the Eagles’ OTA’s and doesn’t seem to be off to a good start with Eagles’ management. Add this to the open question as to whether or not Chip Kelly can adapt his offensive approach to life in the NFL, and the eternal questions of how many games one can expect Vick to actually be on the field for, and how many mistakes he will make while on the field, and a repeat four win performance (or worse) is not entirely out of the question.

Outlook
On paper, the Eagles look like a team that will do better than 4-12, but how much better? Vick is not a reliable quarterback in terms of his health or his decision-making. He has fumbled the ball 32 times in the past three seasons, losing twelve of those while also throwing 30 interceptions. Toss in 85 sacks during this span of only 35 games (having missed another 13) and it is fair to say that even the most ardent Eagles’ fan should be cautious in setting on setting overly high expectations for the coming season. A final tally of six or seven wins would be a good improvement for this club as they continue to rebuild their defense and allow Chip Kelly a year to become acclimated with football beyond the college ranks. At least the days of the infamous “Dream Team” are behind them.

Jan 052013
 

not-the-droidsI’m sorry to rain on the parade of Kansas City Chiefs’ fans who think that the hiring of Andy Reid means that the team is about to experience a significant turnaround. The more likely outcome is more of the same in Western Missouri.

It’s not to say that Andy Reid isn’t a successful head coach. His resume with the Eagles is impressive… a 130-93-1 regular reason record in 14 seasons in Philadelphia, along with seven division championships, four appearances in the NFC Championship, and one appearance in the Super Bow, where the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots. If we were buying a new car and looking at the 54-year old Reid’s resume as a spec sheet, this would seem like a pretty flashy vehicle.

The trouble is that in the NFL there is no equivalent of a test drive; it’s buy or pass. And only after driving off the lot will Chiefs’ fans likely discover that the engine isn’t as powerful as hoped for, the tires leak, and the odometer has been set back so that the 100,005 miles on the vehicle now reads 000,005. This is not an experiment that is going to turn out well.

Without trying to “hate” on Reid, there were plenty of warning signs that should have made Clark Hunt pause before hiring his new head coach. His history with the Eagles’ carries a great deal of success, but also held warning signs that seem to have been ignored. Let’s start with Reid’s inconceivable decision to move offensive line coach Juan Castillo into the role of defensive coordinator in 2011, a move that improved neither the defense nor the offense. Reid then maintained Castillo in that role for 2012 despite the obvious evidence of a failed experiment the year before. Reid finally let Castillo go in October, but the damage had already been done for the 2012 season. There was also the matter of not reigning in defensive line coach Jim Washburn, whose stubbornly adhered to a defensive scheme that did not match the strengths of his players while also sowing seeds of discontent. Washburn was eventually fired as well, but the damage had already been done.

Then there is the matter of Reid’s actual coaching skills. Former Eagles’ linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who played for Reid for seven seasons, was openly critical of Reid’s coaching skills this week. “If it come down to both teams were even, talent-wise,” Trotter stated. “I think the opponent’s team would win if it came down to coaching, Andy Reid got outcoached in a lot of games man, a lot of big games.”

Proof of Trotter’s complaint? Eagles’ fans know full well that there were countless occasions where Reid mismanaged the game clock, wasted time outs, and struggled with miscommunication on the sidelines.  Philly fans have also watched as talented running backs like Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook, and more recently LeSean McCoy went under-utilized because Reid was too much in love with a gimmicky passing game. As they sometimes say in Philly, Reid loved to throw in order to set up the pass. And of course there was the poor offensive play calling in the 2004 Super Bowl, made worse by the slow march drive that squandered the Eagles’ chance to pull off the upset win. Reid is a brilliant football thinker, but he is also a slow football thinker.

Finally, Reid has final say over personnel in Kansas City. Yet his track record does not suggest that giving him this type of authority will serve the franchise well. Reid managed to turn a quarterback duo of Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb into Michael Vick. The team gave up on Kolb far too soon simply because Reid was in love with a player who has missed 17 games in four seasons due to injury, often related to Vick’s reckless playing style. But even when Vick was on the filed, the results were far from spectacular. His touchdown to interception ration of 52 to 30 while with the Eagles was offset by his 13 lost fumbles as a quarterback and another 6 lost fumbles as a runner. While I understand the chance that Reid wanted to take on giving Vick a second chance, particularly in the wake of his own problems with his sons, but was this a player really worthy of a $100 million commitment? Reid then pieced together the infamous “Dream Team” of 2011, but was unable to successfully manage personalities, or instill the discipline needed for the team (particularly the defense) to success as a unit. His 12-20 record over the last two seasons is an accurate depiction of the situation that he himself has created in Philadelphia. In 2012 Reid failed to address depth problems on the offensive line, then continued relying on the passing game with the porous line, adding to Vick’s injury woes. Only when Nick Foles took over did the team begin running the ball more consistently and utilizing screen passes to open up the passing game.

Some might be tempted to argue that Andy Reid is simply tired out in Philadelphia, and needs a change of venue, a new project to work on. And that’s where Kansas City looks like the answer. They have a talented roster that includes five Pro Bowlers in 2012, including Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Dustin Colquitt, Tamba Hali, and Derrick Johnson. All the team needs it seems to get them closer to the playoffs is a quarterback, and Reid has had success with McNabb and Jeff Garcia, had brief success with AJ Feeley and Kevin Kolb, and rescued Michael Vick’s career from the (ahem) doghouse. So, just looking at the spec sheet again, Reid looks like a reasonable answer, offering respite from the frustrating failure of Scott Pioli’s reign in the City of Fountains. Reid’s history suggests that the Chiefs will experience some success, and the talent is in place to do so. With the addition (or improvement) of a quarterback, the pieces are in place for the Chiefs to contend for a playoff spot in the nest two to three seasons. But just as I always said that Andy Reid would never win the Super Bowl coaching the Eagles, I am equally confident in saying that Reid will also never win the Lombardi Trophy as the coach of the Chiefs. While it might be enough for fans of long-suffering franchises such as the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals and others to simply make the playoffs, winning the Super Bowl is the true measure of success in the NFL.

What Chiefs’ fans are about to discover is what Eagles’ fans already know; having a team with potential doesn’t ease the pain when that potential goes unfulfilled.