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.

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