Chip Kelly’s Struggles

In an offseason that no football fan will ever forget, Chip Kelly ripped the 2014 Eagles to shreds and tried to rebuild it into his ideal roster. Kelly had gotten a reputation the prior year as a coach not afraid to make a move as he convinced management that releasing Desean Jackson was a good idea. After back to back 10-6 seasons, owner Jeffery Lurie demoted then-GM Howie Roseman and gave Chip Kelly full control of football operations. The following season has not gone as planned as the Eagles have slipped to 4-7. Now the fans, analysts, and former players are calling for Chip Kelly’s job. A season that had Super Bowl hopes has turn rotten and a once buzzing fan base now is quitting on their team. What went wrong? A lot. What’s next? I’m not sure. All I know is that poor personnel decisions, stubborn playcall, and a little bit of the injury bug has ruined the building of a true Super Bowl competitor.

In my mind and the mind of many others, the personnel decisions in the offeseason put made new holes in the roster and didn’t sufficiently fill up the holes. In a blockbuster move with the Buffalo Bills, the Eagles all-time leading rusher Lesean McCoy was sent packing in exchange for former Defensive Rookie of the Year Kiko Alonso, who was coming off his 2nd torn ACL. No coincidence that Alonso went to Oregon, where it seems that Kelly wants all of his players to be from. The Eagles went on to sign former Cowboy and the reigning NFL rushing champ Demarco Murray to replace the fan favorite Shady McCoy. How’d these moves turn out?

McCoy (9 games)- 152 carries, 680 yards, 4.5ypc, and 3 TDs

Murray (10 games)- 155 carries, 545 yards, 3.5ypc, and 4 TDs

The Eagles playcalling has been based on lateral movement and getting to the outside which fits McCoy’s style more than Murray’s. I understand the issue of money, but Murray is making a figure close to what McCoy would have made. Also the distribution of that extra money has been questionable as well. As for the return in the trade, Kiko Alonso had a big first game against the Falcons, but has been ineffective/injured since then. He registered 6 tackles and an interception in the Falcons game, but since then he has a mere 11 tackles, no sacks, and no interceptions. Chip Kelly also didn’t outbid the Kansas City Chiefs for the services of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin who had a breakout season in Kelly’s offense. This depleted the an already mediocre group of receivers. Maclin’s replacement? 1st round pick Nelson Agholor. While the both have suffered through injuries and the jury isn’t out on Agholor, the initial comparisons are not on par at all with expectations.

Maclin (10 games)- 57 catches, 772 yards, 3 TDs

Agholor (8 games)- 16 catches, 163 yards, 0 TDs

Despite the awful stats, don’t quit on Agholor yet, he still has raw talent and should enjoy some successes down the line. Another big move by Kelly in the offseason was the trade of Nick Foles and a 2nd round pick for Sam Bradford from the Rams. Rams won the deal. Case closed. Nick Foles may not be a great NFL quarterback, but giving up a 2nd round and receiving an injury prone quarterback who was an unknown after two knee surgeries is not a winning deal. That pick could turn into a very talented player and Bradford could end up a free agent after this season. Speaking of free agents, Chip Kelly’s marquee signing Byron Maxwell hasn’t exactly panned out the way he wanted. Maxwell has been prone to allowing big plays and hasn’t played up to his paycheck at all. Another blunder by Chip Kelly was letting Evan Mathis go as he has played well in Denver this season while there have been struggles along the Eagles line. As negative as I have been, there were some good moves made this offseason. Walter Thurmond has played great and Eric Rowe has shown flashes of potential. JaCorey Sheppard (only training camp and preseason) and Jordan Hicks also showed promise during their rookie campaigns. Overall, the moves made by Chip Kelly the GM haven’t paid off. Chip Kelly’s personnel decisions have been almost as questionable as the playcalling this season.

Besides the obvious problems I have with his playcalling (shotgun on 4th and 1 anyone?), I have noticed a few new issues that also correlate with some of the offseason moves. Last season Demarco Murray ran wild in as a member of the Dallas Cowboys and many expected the same when he signed with the Eagles. The Cowboys ran the majority of their plays under center in 2014 and Murray would be running in between the tackles after picking up speed in the backfield. This season for the Eagles, Murray has been forced to run plays from the shotgun and rush around to the outside. According to nflsavant.com, Murray has 64 carries in which he takes it to the outside and has rushed for 218 yards (3.4ypc). When Murray gets to run it straight up the middle (45 carries), he has enjoyed much more success with 198 yards and 4.4ypc. ┬áThe numbers don’t lie, Murray can’t run to the outside and becomes a much better RB when the Eagles run it up the gut. If Chip Kelly wants to continue to run plays to the outside, Ryan Mathews is the guy he wants. Mathews is averaging 7.1ypc n carries around the edge which is double the amount that Murray averages. Elsewhere on defense, Byron Maxwell came to the Eagles having played in a zone-based “Cover 3” scheme in Seattle. Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis prefers press coverage and a lot of one on one match ups. It didn’t work before, it doesn’t work now. This has to change if the Eagles wanna maximize the skill of the top corner.

The final blow to the Eagles season came through a long list of injuries. Instead of painfully describing every player who got injured and how they did it here’s a break down by position:

QB: Sam Bradford

RB/WR/TE: Demarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Josh Huff, Nelson Agholor, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz

OL: Jason Peters, Andrew Gardner, David Molk, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson

DL: None

LB: Demeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Kiko Alonso, Jordan Hicks

CB/S: Nolan Carroll, JaCorey Shepherd, Malcolm Jenkins

K: Cody Parkey

And I’m probably forgetting someone somewhere, but there is 20 players who have missed time or played through injuries. Chip Kelly’s sports science didn’t protect these guys. Regardless, a healthier roster could go a long way to winning a few more games. Other miscues like missed FGs and mental errors have also doomed the Eagles this season. Obviously things must be fixed, but by who? Many people are already calling this the end of the Chip Kelly era and I’m not so sure I agree with that. He got the Eagles into this mess, he deserves at least one more year to get them out of it. The bottom line is that so far Chip Kelly’ control of the team has been a total failure, this season seems like a total loss despite only being one game out of the NFC East lead. Chip Kelly the coach had enjoyed some successes, but the GM has done an awful job. The moves he has made are unforgivable and would get many others fired, but give him another year because he brought in these guys with a vision in mind of the future Eagles. He still needs a quarterback, but that discussion is for another day. As Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben once said “With great power comes great responsibility” and now Chip Kelly must accept responsibility and use his power to ensure he doesn’t lose it.