Tag Archives: Bill Belichick

Countdown to Eagles Football — 42 Days: How Long Will Chip Kelly Be the Eagles Coach?

Editor’s note: This is the third installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first and second part can be found here and here. 

This makes me a bit uncomfortable, actually more than a bit uncomfortable, to the point where I almost considered not publishing it and going in a different direction, but at the same time, I felt it was important enough to discuss.

An attempt to answer this question is ultimately grounded in intuition and speculation. People have wildly floated their thoughts on this topic since 1 p.m. on January 16, 2013,  the day Kelly was hired to be the Eagles head coach. It has only become a hotter discussion point since January 2015, when Kelly gained full control of player personnel decisions in addition to his coaching duties.

Whatever number or year someone throws out is ultimately a personal notion, but there are some facts that we can use to evaluate the question holistically and venture an educated guess.

Previous Coaching Stops 

Kelly spent 13 years coaching at his alma mater, the university of New Hampshire, including the final eight as the program’s offensive coordinator. He then stayed at Oregon for six seasons, spending the final four as the Ducks head coach before taking his talents to the NFL.

Contract Length

Kelly’s contract currently runs for three more years through the 2017 season. Two scenarios could obviously change things here. A successful season could potentially net Kelly an early extension, even with a couple years remaining on his original deal. On the opposite spectrum, owner Jeffrey Lurie could fire Kelly at any point in time before the end of the 2017 season, ending the contract early, which leads to the next point.

Lurie’s Track Record with Coaches 

In his two decades as Eagles owner, Lurie has been known to exhibit patience with head coaches. Ray Rhodes held the position for four seasons, and Andy Reid, obviously the stronger example, spent 14 years running the show. Other owners may have pulled the plug on Reid earlier, who did not win a playoff game in his final four seasons between 2009-2012. Many thought Reid should have been fired after the Eagles 2008 Super Bowl dreams came crashing down in the Arizona desert, but Lurie remained loyal to Reid until it became abundantly clear that a change was needed.

Lurie showed the utmost confidence in Kelly last January when he stripped Howie Roseman, who the owner had grown incredibly close with over the years, of personnel duties, handing the head coach more power. While Kelly has theoretically turned up the heat on himself with some controversial roster decisions, it is clear his owner believes in him after back-to-back 10 win seasons.

Most Coaches Who Come from College and Succeed in the NFL Don’t Go Back

Jim Harbaugh is the exception to this headline, heading home to bring his alma mater back to prominence. Other coaches who come from the college game and prove they can cut it in the NFL do not go back. The allure of winning a Super Bowl and proving that one’s system works at the game’s highest level is too attractive to even entertain college offers. Those who crash and burn like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino return. The good ones do not.

The popular notion is that Kelly’s next coaching job will be at a big-time college football program, and that belief seems absolutely ridiculous to me. The much more likely scenario is Kelly coaching another NFL team (with less power than he currently has in Philadelphia should that experiment prove unsuccessful), which brings us to the final two considerations.

The Marcus Mariota Factor 

After a successful start to his head-coaching career in Arizona, Ken Wisenhunt is 20-44 in his last four seasons, including a rough 2-14 season with the Titans in 2014.

Picture the scenario right now. Sam Bradford doesn’t pan out as the franchise quarterback that Kelly believes he can be, and the Eagles end up just on the outside of the NFC playoff picture again. The Titans go 5-11 with Mariota having an inconsistent rookie season, and Tennessee’s brass reaches the conclusion that the right coach, his old coach, is the man to get them on track.

This is not so simple as Kelly would still be under contract with the Eagles. Furthermore, the entire scenario sounds absurd, but the Mariota connection will never fully go away so long as both are in the NFL.

New Hampshire Roots 

Kelly was born and spent much of his life pre-Oregon and Philadelphia days in New Hampshire. What NFL team is closest to New Hampshire?

While this may be the biggest stretch of them all, Kelly is close with and not so secretly admires Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Belichick is 63 years old. While the four-time champion has shown no signs of slowing down, it is reasonable to assume that he won’t coach forever.

If Belichick were to remain with the organization in some sort of consulting role and have influence in naming his replacement, it would not be surprising to see him recommend Kelly to Robert Kraft, and it is certainly fathomable that Kelly would embrace the opportunity to follow the legend.

So What’s the Verdict?

Having evaluated all of these factors, let’s make a prediction.

I might regret this, and it’s dangerous to say when someone is entering Year 3 without a solidified franchise quarterback, but I foresee Kelly with the Eagles for a long time.

Lurie trusts him, and Kelly is as driven as they come, hungry to prove that his innovative system works on the biggest football stage, ruling out the idea that he would voluntarily return to the college game. The only way he ends up back there is if 32 NFL franchises deem him unworthy of a job, and someone who wins 20 games over two seasons with a flawed roster that only had 12 victories over the previous two doesn’t forget how to coach overnight.

Marvin Lewis has lasted 12 seasons in Cincinnati despite never winning a playoff game. Kelly must aim higher than that, but all things considered, I think it’s likely that he is still wearing midnight green come the beginning of a new decade in 2020.

As for 2021? Well, that depends on if Mariota is in a Patriots jersey.

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10 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into Training Camp

If you followed on Twitter earlier this morning, I shared ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

While this isn’t considered part of our 44-day series, stuff like this is fun to do on occasion and will surface every now and then. Be it predictions or random thoughts, a post is a good way to expand on 140-character tidbits.

Below is our first edition of 2015:

  1. Cody Parkey is really good. It’s theoretically hard for a rookie to only miss four kicks and be even better in Year 2. He’s capable of it. Note: There isn’t much else to add here. It was clear that Parkey’s leg was tired toward the end of last year, never having been through a 16-game season before. Still, Parkey was 8-for-10 on field goals beyond 40 yards out while also consistently putting kickoffs in the end zone and should again set the bar high in Year 2.
  2. Marcus Smith is not. Odds may be against me, but I’ll stick to my prediction that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Note: Most roster projections will have Smith on the team, but it’s less of a slam dunk than people think. Smith doesn’t play special teams, and while part of that can be chalked up to the unit being so good last year that they didn’t need the services of a rookie, there’s no room for the first-round disappointment if he doesn’t show major strides from a pass-rushing standpoint in camp.
  3. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford will both have good seasons, but I am much more confident in Foles having one than I am Bradford. Note: Foles, in what was perceived to be a ‘poor’ season last year before getting hurt in early November, was still more productive than Bradford has been in some of his better seasons. A lot of excuses have been made for Bradford, and some of them, including a lack of skill position talent around him and a poor offensive line, hold water, but many assumptions have also been made about a career year in a quarterback friendly system that are less than a guarantee.
  4. Re-signing Brandon Graham was probably the correct decision, but I am concerned about how he holds up in a full-time starter role. Note: Graham, to his credit, has shed the ‘bust’ label that was stuck on him early in his career but has still never played more than 43% of a team’s total snaps during the season. The goal of free agency and player personnel decisions is ultimately to pay more for what you think you can get in the future and less so what you got in the past, and that’s what the Eagles did here. Let’s hope it was a wise investment.
  5. If Graham can play, this is the best Eagles front-7 since early Jim Johnson days, and it has the potential to be even better than that. Note: Kiko Alonso has a chance to be the best Eagles linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here. Consistency is a question, but this unit should be a major strength.
  6. Vinny Curry will be extra hungry this season, and if he puts his napkin on his lap, Billy Davis might even let him have a second dessert. Note: After playing sparingly as a rookie during the 2012 season, Curry has improved year-by-year, first with four sacks in 2013 and then reaching nine last year to go with four forced fumbles in an increased role on the defensive line. Bet your friend that he gets double digits this year and thank me in mid-December.
  7. There’s two NFL coaches I would take over Chip Kelly, and both coached in the Super Bowl last year. Could make a case for Harbaugh/Tomlin too. Note: Considering 15 other coaches have won playoff games and Kelly hasn’t, folks could certainly have a bone to pick with this one. Still, I think there are some who if starting a team right now would take Kelly as their coach in a heartbeat. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, by the way, won a combined 29 games in their first two seasons as NFL coaches. Kelly, by himself, has won 20 after taking over a 4-12 squad.
  8. The Eagles opener scares the shit out of me. They have really struggled against Dallas at home. Lose to Atlanta, and you’re looking at 0-2.  Note: The Eagles are 2-0 in season openers under Kelly, although last year’s was certainly far from perfect with the 17-0 halftime deficit to the Jaguars. Hopefully the record stays unblemished as playing a division opponent on short rest who you can’t beat at home recently would be a scary task.
  9. Nelson Agholor will have a better rookie season than Jordan Matthews did last year, and concern about wide receiver depth is overblown. Note: We’ll get more into this during our series. Coop Dawgy is not good and ideally will lose playing time rather quickly, but the rookie from USC should ease the pain of Jeremy Maclin’s departure.
  10. I don’t know if the Eagles are better than last season, but I’m semi-confident they’re not worse, and for the time being, that’s alright. Note: Part of me is worried that Kelly reshuffled chairs on the Titanic as opposed to ultimately strengthening a roster that needed strengthening, but I don’t believe he made them worse. That, all things considered, is not an awful situation in early August.

Sunday Morning Haiku and Trying to Stomach Rooting for the Patriots

(Screenshot via NFL.com)

Morning, folks.

As you’re well aware, the Eagles do not play today following Thursday’s Thanksgiving beatdown of Dallas. If you need a break from Sunday stress, you have a one week respite.

If you’re anxious to get back at it like me, there are other games you can keep an eye on that will impact the jumbled playoff picture in the NFC.

The two games in particular to hone in on are the Falcons hosting the Cardinals at 4 p.m., and even more importantly, the Packers hosting the Patriots slated for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The Eagles currently lead the Packers by half a game, but the Packers of course have the tiebreaker over the birds after a blowout victory in Lambeau two weeks ago.

I actually think the Cardinals could lose a few more games. They have only scored 17 combined points in their past two games and have a tough stretch against the NFC West coming up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.19.43 AM

The Packers on the other hand, have a pretty favorable schedule following their date with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick today.

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The Eagles at some point need to get ahead of them by a game in order to avoid a potential January date in Lambeau, and the Patriots might be their way of doing it.

For a multitude of reasons, it is hard to root for the Patriots, but to make the Eagles path to the Super Bowl easier, that is the task today.

Enjoy today before Seahawks week, and a fantastic matchup between my favorite coach in sports (Chip Kelly) and my third favorite coach in sports (Pete Carroll).

Past history be damned. Root for the Patriots if you can stomach it, and don’t get too used to Sundays without Eagles football. Aside from a Week 16 Saturday game in D.C., we’ll hopefully be going all the way through the first day of February.

Let’s hit the haiku:

Super Bowl champs loom

As playoff picture takes shape

Go Patriots Go

Five Things I Hope to See Tonight Before the Eagles Leave Foxboro

The real thing is less than 25 days away, but the Eagles second dress rehearsal for the big show goes down at Gillette Stadium tonight as the birds face the Patriots in a preseason tilt.

Unless Chip Kelly gets even more innovative than normal and decides to hold practice on the moon for a few days, this will be the last time the Eagles are on the road until they face the Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 2.

Unlike Chicago last week though, this wasn’t a short trip. The Eagles have been holding joint practices with the Patriots most of the week. This decision has seemed to bother a decent amount of people. Countless radio callers seem annoyed by the idea that Jeffrey Lurie is friends with Robert Kraft and that Kelly and Belichick are close, a few even referring to the latter relationship as ‘hero worship.’

It is not just limited to fans either. Two weeks ago, Cary Williams called the Patriots “cheaters” ‘cheaters, pumpkin eaters’ (H/T @BleedingGreen, H/T @BrandonGowton)

My take before we get to the meat of this post: Joint practices are becoming more common throughout the league, and I cannot think of a better partner than the Patriots. A few reasons for this:

  • Location — Obviously you’re not traveling across the country in the preseason. These teams typically play an exhibition game for this exact reason, and this rules out someone like Denver as an option for the Eagles.
  • Regular season schedule — These teams will not see each other until the 2015 regular season unless they meet in the Super Bowl. No need to worry about giving anything away.
  • The Patriots are still really freakin good — If the Eagles are going to practice with some other team, wouldn’t you prefer the Pats to a squad like the Jets or Bills? Facing Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel won’t make a young defense better. Facing Tom Brady for three days will.

Back to the actual game tonight though. Last week, yours truly made the mistake of watching the preseason opener at a local establishment. I ended up missing the first 20 minutes doing laps in my car looking for a parking spot and didn’t see a ton more from there, unable to focus. I found a replay of it the following afternoon and created a live blog, but tonight, I’ll be posted up from the comfort of my own home.

Here are five things that I hope to see before the Eagles come home from Brady and Belichick’s kingdom:

  1. A Nick Foles led touchdown drive — I’m not worried about the quarterback’s lackluster performance last week, and frankly, I think anyone who who is concerned is seriously wasting their time. I have zero doubt Foles is going to have a great season. That said, I’d like to see him walk away from this one with some points under his belt, especially because he will likely play well into the second quarter.
  2. Alex Henery to attempt a field goal — Even with the priority on the above point, a drive stalling in Patriots territory wouldn’t be the worst thing because it allows Henery to get some work in. At this point, I have no idea why Carey Spear is still here. Henery — for better or for worse — is going to be the kicker.
  3. A stop by the first team defense — Last year when these two teams met in the first preseason game at the Linc, Tom Brady carved an overmatched Eagles defense up for a pair of touchdown passes. Word out of Foxboro by just about every reporter in attendance is that Billy Davis’ unit is doing a much better job holding its own this summer. Even though it won’t mean anything tangible right away, a three and out, forced punt, or turnover would have them feeling really good about themselves.
  4. More good(e) plays from Najee Goode — The potential lack of depth at inside linebacker behind starters DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks really frightens me. Goode eased some of that fear last week with a few nice tackles in space. Keep it up, kid. (Also, thanks for following me on the Twitter machine)
  5. Hungry Vinny Curry and moar Beau Allen — Not exactly a scheme fit in Davis’ 3-4 base defense that relies on a two-gap scheme, Curry is going to have to scratch and claw for every snap he gets in the regular season. Vinny Curry is hungry, and tonight, we feed him and try to give the Eagles defensive coordinator more incentive to get him on the field to rush the passer. Another sack from Curry and a tackle for loss from the mammoth Allen who was very active in his first career game last week would be solid.

Everyone knows not to read too far into a preseason game, and staying healthy is obviously more important than anything on this list, but if the Eagles can pull off these five things — or some variation of them — I will go to bed happy tomorrow night.

Editor’s Note: Normally, I would use this space beneath a post to advertise some of my old content related to the subject, but I would be cheating all readers out of a great experience here if I didn’t link to these two excellent longform pieces from Grantland and ESPN on Kelly and the Eagles. Read them when you have a chance. If time permits, I’ll be re-reading every day leading up to the opener.

Mike Freeman’s 2013 Eagles Training Camp Preview is HiLOLarious to Go Back and Read

If you have ever read this blog previously or actually met me in-person before, then you know that I have a really good memory.

Sometimes it’s a blessing; other times it’s a curse, but I don’t forget things, so naturally, I remembered last Sunday that it was the one-year anniversary of me being blocked on Twitter by then CBS Sports and now Bleacher Report NFL columnist hack Mike Freeman.

Freeman 4

That will all be explained later for anyone who doesn’t know the story, but this memory recall led to me re-reading Freeman’s Eagles training camp preview from last summer, and holy shit, is it embarrassingly bad.

Here’s the full thing, but we’re going to go through it a few paragraphs at a time to examine just how awful this truly was.

If the Eagles can find a decent quarterback (and that’s a big if), and if they can keep that quarterback healthy (if it’s Mike Vick, that’s a huge if), and if Chip Kelly’s offense can work (gigantic if) then the player who could have a monster year is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

There continues to be talk that Jackson has a chip on his shoulder and this offseason he’s worked as hard as ever. Jackson is still an intimidating weapon and if there’s a miracle, and Kelly can reproduce a reasonable facsimile of his college offense, Jackson could be the one to benefit the most.

Man, you sure love the word “if,” Mike. Overall though, this started off not terrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that DeSean Jackson had a chip on his shoulder after missing five games due to injury in 2012, but he was correct about that. It gets better, I promise.

Key changes

For the first time since 1999, Andy Reid will not be coaching the Eagles. Think about that for a moment. This is a landmark year for the organization and it is also potentially a chaotic one. Chip Kelly is the coach now and he promises a more up-tempo style of offense. But many a college coach has promised to transform the NFL with their college-y ideas and many have failed. See: Spurrier, Steve, among others.

Ah, a Steve Spurrier reference. That’s about as lazy as you can get right there, Mike. At least drop Dennis Erickson’s name or something, makes you sound slightly less unoriginal.

Kelly does inherit a team with talent. The cupboard, despite Philadelphia’s dismal record last year, is not bare. LeSean McCoy missed four games last year but still had 1,213 total yards and five scores. What Kelly will have to do is patch an offensive line that was constantly injured last season. The quarterback situation is a mess. It’s basically an open competition that Mike Vick will likely win but even if he does, Vick doesn’t stay healthy. Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley will see playing time, maybe a significant amount.

The Matt Barkley line is the easy target, but more of that will be coming later, so let’s focus on the offensive line sentence. Can you name the starting offensive line, Mike? If you could, you would know that it was set going into camp last summer. Were there injuries in 2012? Yes, but “patch” is a pretty poor verb to describe a unit comprised of four previous starters (one of which was a five-time Pro Bowler) plus the fourth overall selection in the draft.

The most interesting thing to watch will be Kelly. He wants to run 80 to 100 plays a game, which will never consistently happen. For the past 30 years, the average number of offensive NFL plays has been in the 60s. The Patriots last season once ran 92. That was considered Haley’s comet territory. To run that many plays weekly is impossible and would lead to Kelly’s offense being physically battered. There wouldn’t be enough players to finish a season.

Alright, 80-100 plays might not be doable, but the Eagles ran 70+ plays four times and aside from Vick whose injury history predates even Kelly’s time at Oregon not once did an offensive starter miss a game due to injury.

Position battles

The quarterback spot. That’s the biggest. There are players on the Eagles who believe that Kelly will do everything in his power to name Barkley the starter.

LOLWUT. Your #sources were pulling a fast one on you here, buddy. Barkley took third-team reps just about all minicamp, and you would have known this had you done even a hint of research.

New schemes

For all of its alleged fast pace and openness, Kelly will utilize two (and sometimes three) tight ends to shore up a shaky offensive line. It’s yet another attempt by a team to duplicate the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end tandem that was the best in football until injuries and homicide charges destroyed it.

All indications are that the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Philadelphia wants to do on defense what the Eagles will try on offense — keep the game up-tempo and the team in attack mode.

All indications = Chip Kelly prefers a 3-4 base defense, and defensive coordinator Billy Davis has ran it throughout his career. Also, two mentions of a shaky offensive line doesn’t make your false claim any more true.

Bubble watch

Tight end Clay Harbor spent time this offseason practicing at outside linebacker. Jason Avant, a wide receiver, practiced several times in the secondary. When the new coach puts a player at a different position, well, that does not bode well for the future of those players.

For the sake of fairness, I’ll acknowledge that neither player is still on the Eagles roster, but Jason Avant played 841 snaps at wide receiver and zero in the secondary during the 2013 season.

Unheard-of-guy to watch

Isaac Sopoaga was a crucial free-agent pickup because he’s a ferocious run stopper.

Isaac Sopoaga was such a ferocious run stopper that he and his 10 total tackles scared the Eagles away. They traded him eight games into the season, inserted rookie Bennie Logan as the starting defensive tackle and watched him record 21 total tackles and two sacks as the defense surrendered 21.4 points per game during a 7-1 stretch compared to 26.4 in the first half.

Biggest concerns

Where to begin? Can Vick stay healthy? Can the offensive line? Can DeSean Jackson?

Most of all, will Kelly’s schemes hold up?

 

No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s move on to the best part now.

Something to prove

This is for certain: Around the league, few coaches think Kelly will succeed. Coaches are a highly cynical bunch. They think the daily rigors of the sport will beat Kelly’s schemes into oblivion and he’ll be chased back to college. It will be up to Kelly to prove them wrong.

So sneaky, Mike. Thought you could slip a cliché ‘this ain’t #college’ reference in at the end hoping no one would see it.

Upon first reading this a year ago, I was left with some questions. Which coaches? If you really did talk to coaches, wouldn’t one have fed you some anonymous quote to use? I didn’t expect to find that out, but curious, I decided to ask Freeman something else.

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He “answered.”

Freeman 6

Well Mike, that really doesn’t tell me anything. I tried again.

Freeman 7

I responded once more.

Freeman 8

Unfortunately, he never got it.

Freeman 9

Likely receiving some way less cordial reactions than the one I thought I provided, he followed up with this:

Freeman 1

Freeman 2

Please tell me which of these categories I fit into, Mike. Do I like the Eagles? Yeah. Was I high on Chip Kelly as a hire? Yeah, but if you come with some loosely sourced claim like that, you better be able to back it up and not act like an arrogant prick, especially when Bill Belichick, the best and one of the most influential NFL coaches of this generation, had picked Kelly’s brain and was on record that he would succeed.

A classic win-win situation for the columnist. If Kelly goes 5-11 last season and his offense averages 17 points a game, Freeman can high-five himself and say ‘I told you so.’ If Kelly succeeds like he did, there’s the ‘I never believed that. One or two coaches just mentioned it to me in passing’ way out.

More troubling, this is a perfect example of the ‘you need me more than I need you’ attitude that plagues part of sports media into falsely thinking readers and commenters aren’t important. He can question all he wants, but don’t you dare try to question him.

People who write about sports make mistakes all the time, myself included. I said Domonic Brown would hit 30 home runs this season. He’s lucky if he reaches 15.

When I covered Penn State football for Onward State, I wrote a piece essentially saying that former defensive coordinator John Butler would be a head coach within five years. While I still wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, he wasn’t as successful as I expected in his first — and only — season running Penn State’s defense. There are a few people who dislike both me and Butler who likely love that I wrote that article and talked him up as much as I did.

It’s one of the beautiful things about sports that despite all of the information and data readily available, we can still get stuff so wrong.

The thing is though, Freeman didn’t simply get predictions wrong. Had he wrote something like ‘Trent Cole will record less than five sacks and struggle transitioning to linebacker in a 3-4 defense after playing defensive end in a 4-3 for eight seasons,’ I could let him off the hook, but these aren’t incorrect prognostications. It’s a bunch of half-assed, uninformed, logical fallacies that could be thrown together in 15 minutes and does nothing to inform readers.

The worst part is should Freeman ever come across this, he’ll treat it as ‘Punk TwentySomething Takes Shot at Established Writer,’ and the exact same type of lazy journalism will be produced again and again.

Deep breath. We’re done, right? Nope. But Drew, that was the end of the article. What else could there possibly be to say here?

I don’t know, maybe that the buffoon DIDN’T MENTION NICK FOLES ONCE?!?!?!

Matt Barkley, a fourth round rookie coming off a separated shoulder taking third-team reps a month earlier in minicamp was referenced twice while Freeman pretended that Foles didn’t exist.

As surprising as Foles’ season was, it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Foles quarterbacked the team for seven games in 2012, and while he didn’t win many contests, he did throw for six touchdown passes to only five interceptions and completed 60.8 percent of his passes as a rookie.

Perhaps more relevant, Foles and Vick split first-team reps evenly all throughout minicamp. While Vick may have been the perceived favorite, Foles pushed hard enough that Vick requested to no avail that Kelly name a starter going into training camp.

Apparently, Freeman chose to ignore all that. I guess someone eventually clued him in on who Foles was though because we got this hot garbage after Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Raiders.

Go screw, Mike. Go screw, and I’d leave these two clips off your resume.

Freeman Resume