Month: September 2013

What, Me Worry?

The Eagles are 1-2 and will almost certainly be 1-3 after going to Denver this weekend. The offense looked amazing in Week 1 and really good in Week 2 and then in Week 3 looked like that scene from The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes. Shit happens. The defense has been all over the place, the coaching staff is still figuring things out.

None of this is cause for concern. This is the team that we expected: capable of greatness and ineptitude, sometimes in the same game. Like I’ve said, the ugly parts of this team will be by players who largely aren’t the future. Meanwhile enjoy the good stuff by the ones who are. Mike Vick is turning the ball over, so what? He’s not the future of this team. LeSean McCoy is and he’s playing great. Riley Cooper is terrible, so what? He’s not a long term solution either. DeSean Jackson is and is playing great. Todd Herremans looks bad out there, so what? He’s not the future. Lane Johnson is and looks as good as you can reasonably expect from a rookie. The safeties look awful, so what? Allen will be gone and Chung is a stop gap measure. Brandon Boykin looks good and Bradley Fletcher has done a nice job; Cary Williams is Cary Williams. It’s not all roses of course, after a great game against the Redskins, Mychal Kendricks hasn’t looked good in the last two games.

Whatever level of panic you are at, it’s nothing compared to:

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Adjustment Disorder

After the Eagles had their way with the Redskins offense in the first half and change on Monday, I’ve seen a lot of people on the interwebs proclaim that Kelly’s offense won’t be sustainable in the long run. And that may be true. But no one gives a good reason why. They say things like “just do what Stanford did (in 2012)” or “follow Auburn’s gameplan (from 2010).” Yeah, because no one else thought of that. Jim Hasslett did yard work instead of watching those games. Silly him. The idea that suddenly NFL defenses will figure out how to stop Kelly’s offense is hilariously naive. Chip Kelly’s coached against and regularly beaten former NFL defensive coordinators for years.

USC had talent and coaching. Didn’t work.

There’s two ways to stop an offense:

One is to have the better players. But that’s never stopped Kelly. As has been documented many times, Oregon did not have a recruiting advantage. If anything, they had a recruiting disadvantage, as in terms of recruiting rankings and developing NFL players they did about as well or worse as low or unranked rivals. Since becoming head coach in 2009, Kelly’s had 10 offensive players enter the NFL. During that time, Oregon State had 8 defensive players, Cal 12, UCLA 10 and USC 12. Kelly had no advantage in recruiting and no advantage in NFL caliber talent relative to his division rivals, yet lit them up week in and week out. But now with the Eagles, Kelly does have a talent advantage. LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league, DeSean Jackson is a premiere deep threat, the offensive line is very good and Mike Vick is flawed but of course one of the most physically gifted QBs in the league. His players can stretch the field horizontally and vertically as well or better than anyone. You’ve got to have some special players on your defense to be the more talented unit on the field when the Eagles have the ball. And if you do, kudos. But most teams don’t. And even if you do, so what, being the least talented team hasn’t been a problem for Kelly.

But talent alone isn’t enough. The other way is to have superior game planning and play calling. Good luck with that. As head coach and before that, offensive coordinator at Oregon, Chip Kelly faced four current or former NFL defensive coordinators coaching Pac-10/12 rivals. And he beat them all and beat them all consistently, usually destroying their defense. Let’s take a look. I counted offensive and special teams scoring, but not fumble or interception returns. My reasoning for including special teams was that kick and punt returners, like offensive players, are supposed to have the ball in their hands. And Kelly has stressed special teams since day one, as it showed on Monday. “Ranks” is the FEI/S&P rankings of the defense, for whatever that’s worth to you. A dagger (†) indicates the game was on the road. I did not list whether Oregon won or lost because wins and losses are besides the point, this is strictly looking at how Kelly’s offenses did against former NFL defensive coordinators. I kept it to conference games because these teams saw Oregon nearly every year, so they had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and correct them. Additionally, none of the big out of conference games were coached by NFL DCs anyway. Spoiler: the Ducks did great.

Mark Banker was interim DC for the Chargers in 2001 after Joe Pascale broke his back and was unable to coach. Banker was a part of the Chargers staff the previous two years. He has the weakest NFL resume in the list that follows, but he was thought of highly enough on the Chargers staff to be the one promoted to interim DC and then Chargers head coach Mike Riley, a good coach in his own right, took him with him to Oregon State, where he has been the DC since 2003. Riley is a defensive coach as well. Additionally, the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry is one of the best in the country, dubbed the “Civil War.” In most match ups while Kelly was in Eugene, both teams were ranked, so the quality of football was very good, and the players and coaches spend a lot of time on this game, as it is extremely important to both schools. And Chip Kelly’s offenses put up 40+ points and 500+ yards in half his games against the Beavers.

Year Points Yards Ranks
2007* 24 339 1/9
2008† 54 694 58/34
2009 33 489 57/30
2010† 37 491 74/39
2011 49 670 73/61
2012† 48 570 23/26

*Double overtime

Clancy Pendergast was DC for the Cardinals from 2004-2008 and the Chiefs in 2009, before that he was an assistant coach on three different NFL teams in 9 years. Pendergast is not a good coach at the NFL level (he did get fired after going to the Super Bowl), but plenty of defenses that Kelly will face in the NFL won’t be run by good coaches at the NFL level either. Pendergast was the DC at Cal from 2010-2012.

Year Points Yards Ranks
2010† 15 317 59/37
2011 43 563 43/26
2012† 59 575 71/57

Vic Fangio is in his 27th year in the NFL, having spent 10 years as a DC prior to becoming Stanford’s in the 2010 season. After that season he left with Jim Harbaugh to coach the 49ers, where now runs the their dominating defense. He’s one of the best defensive coordinators Kelly has and will face.

Year Points Yards Ranks
2010 52 626 6/6

Monte Kiffin is, as you know, a legendary defensive coordinator in the NFL who ran USC’s defense from 2010-2012, which has helped to keep his son employed while USC’s offenses fell on their face.

Year Points Yards Ranks
2010† 53 599 41/45
2011 35 474 29/28
2012† 62 730 36/30

Notice a trend? The defenses that did do well were smoked in their next meeting. After their best performance against Kelly, Oregon State had their worst performance against him. Cal had the best game in this sample, then gave up three times the points and nearly twice the yards. USC had their best performance in 2011, which wasn’t even that good, then had their worst game. In 2010, Kelly faced all four defensive coordinators listed here. He beat them all, and went 11-2 in his career against them, averaging 43.3 points and 549 yards.

Chip Kelly isn’t the one that needs to adjust. Opposing defenses are.

Where Eagles Dare

The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.

-Richard III

Tonight, the Chip Kelly era truly begins. I’m not one for optimism for the sake of optimism or to lavish someone with praise right out of the gate, but I can’t help but be excited. It’s unusual to see a coach take over a 4-12 team with instability nearly everywhere on the roster and decide to win now rather than rebuild. But then, Chip Kelly isn’t your usual coach. I think he’s already one of the better coaches in the NFL. At the very least, he’s the most refreshing. Even if the team struggles, and it probably will, we Eagles fans have so much to look forward to.

We’re actually going to see a running game in the fourth quarter. We’re going to see DeSean Jackson get the ball a variety of ways to enable him to make plays. We’re going to see a coach with the balls to go for it on fourth down in the middle of the field with regularity. No more quirky plays built around sub-replacement level players like Chad Hall. No more wasting timeouts because they can’t get the play in quick enough. No more cute plays and formations for the sake of it. Chip Kelly doesn’t fuck around.

Clint Eastwood

There weren’t any fitting quotes from the film Where Eagles Dare, so here’s Clint Eastwood stabbing a Nazi in the neck. He doesn’t fuck around either.

Nor do the Eagles. This off-season the wrens of the NFL hired coordinators or retreads that the media liked and wouldn’t make a target, but the Eagles dared. Dared to hire a coach with no NFL experience even though the track record of coaches with no NFL experience is abysmal, though there have been successes. Dared to hire a coach with an offense considered, but isn’t, “gimmicky” or “college” as if that word is an insult, and bring it to a league that has seen concepts get imported from college and killed off within a couple of seasons. Dared to change the defense to a system that the current roster is ill suited for. Dared to give the keys of the franchise to Howie Roseman. (Okay that’s a shot at Jason La Canfora.) Dared to keep the much maligned Mike Vick and try to win as many games as possible now rather than spend the year rebuilding around or taking for a young, promising QB. Let the wrens of the league go the safe route. The Eagles dare.

It’s either going to be great or it’ll be a disaster. I have confidence in Chip Kelly, who’s impressed at nearly every turn since taking over. Sure, he’s never been in the NFL before, but every case is different. Jimmy Johnson never played or coached in the NFL and of course was massively successful. The history of a person tells us much about their future, and Kelly’s is rich.

Look at his games against former and current NFL defensive coordinators he faced every year. Against Monte Kiffin, Oregon lit up USC every time they played, averaging 50 points and 601 yards. In his two games against then-Stanford and now-SF defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Oregon scored 42 and 52 points and gained 570 and 626 yards. Interestingly, Clancy Pendergast, who was a horrible defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, had a much better showing against Oregon as Cal’s DC. Kelly was 6-1 in those games.

And he’s not just a top offensive mind for college, his offense has already worked its way into the pros. The Patriots went to a uptempo offense last year, literally learning it from Kelly. The 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins lit up the league with the zone read, impressively with coaches and players learning it on the fly. Kelly on the other hand, has been coaching it for years. He knows it even better than those coaches do, which also gives his defense an advantage in gameplanning against it. Other teams are still figuring out how to adjust to the adjustments defenses are making. Kelly’s been there, done that.

And just as importantly, if not more, Kelly has the mental makeup to succeed at the NFL that other high profile college coaches don’t. Steve Spurrier failed because he didn’t care enough, golfing instead of watching tape. Football is so much of Kelly’s life that he’s still a bachelor. Bobby Petrino never talked to his players, so he never had their respect. The Eagles roster has bought in, his players have raved about him. Nick Saban’s control freak dictatorship works great on kids who’s scholarships you control and the triple ply soft media in college towns, but that carrot and stick routine doesn’t fly in the pros. That’s not leadership. Kelly is a leader and a communicator.

Finally, he’s not a one trick pony. Kelly’s offense at Oregon was run first, but his offense at New Hampshire was pass first. His QB, Ricky Santos, finished his career as the 3rd all time I-AA passing yard and TD leader. He changed gears from a top passing offense to a top rushing offense in a season. That kind of dramatic shift, and that quickly is unheard of. I can’t think of another coach who did that, that quickly.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. But everything I’ve read about Kelly, everything he says and most importantly everything he does gives me confidence. Oregon fans called it Chip Kelly’s Big Balls. But that’s unimaginative.

I ain’t no goddamn son of a bitch
You better think about it baby

The Misfits

Chip Kelly ain’t no god damn son of a bitch. Let’s go where Eagles dare.