Tag Archives: NFC

Chip Kelly, Power, and the Trend of Increasing Expectations

The two-year anniversary of Chip Kelly’s hiring in Philadelphia is 13 days away.

For an hour or two yesterday afternoon, there was some fear that January 16 could arrive with the innovative Eagles coach elsewhere, fed up with dysfunction in the Eagles front office and friction with now former general manager Howie Roseman.

Thankfully everyone across the Delaware Valley can take a nice, deep breath.

The Eagles in their tweet used the verb “elevated” to describe Roseman’s new role. Perhaps he will get a new coffee machine in his office, a bigger desk, a shiny new nameplate, and a higher salary, but he lost control of the one thing he always aspired to do — Be an NFL GM.

Kelly wrestled it away from him, and as the coach has done so many times in his brief but eventful two years, once again raised expectations for himself and the team he coaches and now runs completely.

More than fast-paced offenses or sport science techniques, quickly raising expectations has been the overarching theme of Kelly’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons.

For as pumped as I was when Kelly was hired, a lot of folks might be surprised to learn that I envisioned a scenario where he might not make the playoffs until Year 3. As I wrote a week ago, Andy Reid left his roster in absolute shambles, and Kelly was tasked with cleaning up a mess on the fly.

I predicted the Eagles would go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2013, a very respectable improvement from 4-12 under a first year coach. I assumed they would improve by another game or two this past season, and then really make their big move in 2015.

The idea that they could immediately go from a 4-12 punching bag to a 10-6 playoff team was farfetched to say the least, and no other 2013 coaching candidate would have been able to do it, including Bruce Arians, who like Kelly has had back-to-back double digit win seasons in Arizona but also only one playoff appearance due to a deep NFC.

It happened though, of course, in another example of Kelly raising the bar faster than even most of his biggest believers could have anticipated.

When he opted for a flawed but experienced Michael Vick over a — at the time — unproven Nick Foles, expectations were immediately raised with the idea that maybe the Eagles could compete in a wide open NFC East.

When Kelly unveiled his offense to a national audience on September 9, 2013 with Vick running it flawlessly en route to a 33-27 win over the defending NFC East champion Redskins, expectations were raised again.

The following week, some reporters who had covered him at Oregon claimed he would take the league by storm and win 11 or 12 games in his first season.

They were a game off, but when Vick inevitably suffered an injury in the fifth game of the season and folks realized that Foles could play, expectations quickly shot up again.

Nothing may have increased expectations more than the division title in Year 1 though. While still a couple rungs below the Seahawks, the Eagles were tossed around as a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate this past summer, and for three months, that looked pretty spot on.

The 23-point Thanksgiving victory in Dallas raised hope even more.

Brief setbacks sometimes followed the raised optimism though. The three game losing streak in 2013 after the opening victory, the back-to-back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants last October that produced a total of three offensive points, and of course, the mini collapse this past December.

All of those slight bumps were quickly countered though, and that is what Kelly did again yesterday.

There is no more ambiguity as to who has final say on certain personnel matters. We thought we knew before, but there is no doubt now.

If the Eagles fleece another team in a trade and acquire a player the caliber of Darren Sproles or Cody Parkey, Kelly gets all the credit. If the Eagles draft another version of Marcus Smith, who cannot play, in the first round, Kelly shoulders the blame.

We know Kelly can coach after consecutive 10-win seasons. We are pretty confident he can evaluate talent based on his four years at Oregon. We will soon find out whether or not he can draft.

During his tenure so far, the Eagles have had one really good draft, which played a large role in their quick turnaround, and one bad draft, which hindered them from making more progress in Year 2.

Let’s hone in on the 2014 draft and the Smith pick for a second. No one knows who had final say on that inexplicable decision, but yesterday’s reshuffling gives me more belief that it was Roseman who made the final call there.

For as much as Kelly wanted to have his best players on the field last Sunday to win, I find it odd that he wouldn’t allow Smith to see the field a little bit if he was planning on walking into Jeffrey Lurie’s office demanding more power against one of the owner’s closest allies and had to hold himself accountable for a first round rookie gone wrong.

More than likely, Roseman, who was decent at his job but also made his share of mistakes, made the pick and Kelly realized it couldn’t happen again if the Eagles were going to take the next step from a good team to a great team.

This April, it is Kelly’s show to run. Time will tell whether or not that is a good thing, but expectations will only grow.

Be it a free agent splash, releasing a productive veteran player, mortgaging future draft picks to move up high enough to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or something else, the momentum will not stop.

Whether he will acknowledge it or not, raising expectations is what Kelly has always done — at New Hampshire as an offensive coordinator, at Oregon as first an offensive coordinator and then a head coach, and at Philadelphia as first a head coach and now in charge of player personnel decisions.

With great power comes great responsibility — and greater expectations.

Don’t Look at Mock Drafts Just Yet: Eagles Playoff Scenarios

If the NFL playoffs started right now, the Eagles would unfortunately be on the outside looking in, as the seventh seed in an NFC field that includes six teams.

Thankfully the playoffs will not become official for 14 days.

The easiest way for the Eagles to get to January is to win their final two games and have the Cowboys lose one, realistically at home to the 10-4 Indianapolis Colts next week.

A few other scenarios exist, but they are a bit less likely as Detroit, Seattle, or Green Bay would have to lose both of their final two games while the Eagles win both of theirs.

Green Bay faces the lowly Buccaneers next weekend, so let’s rule them out.

Seattle has two tough games at Arizona and home against the Rams, who play all opponents tough and beat the Seahawks earlier in the season, but it is difficult to envision them dropping two straight considering their strong play recently.

That leaves Detroit, the current leader of the NFC North by way of a tiebreaker over the Packers. The Lions will likely be heavy underdogs in the Week 17 bout at Lambeau, but in order for that game to matter to the Eagles, they would need to lose on the road to the struggling Bears next weekend.

Is that possible? You decide. I don’t trust Jay Cutler as far as I can throw him, but the Lions certainly didn’t look like world-beaters in a narrow win over Minnesota today.

Still, the Eagles easiest road remains a backdoor NFC East title with the Cowboys following a December tradition and dropping a pivotal game late.

For all of the issues that went wrong tonight, the Eagles should be far superior to their remaining opponents in the Redskins and Giants.

If help comes, it ideally comes next week by way of the Colts, but stranger things have happened (Think Week 17 in 2008 with the Raiders and Texans opening up a door for them).

Tonight hurt, but it was not a death sentence, and with the birds playing a day early on Saturday, a win will put the pressure squarely on the Cowboys who have struggled at home.

Hope NIck Foles gets cleared, beat a bad Washington team, and bite your nails on Sunday.

The Eagles need help, but it ain’t time to look at mock drafts quite yet.

Exhale: An Eagles Victory Haiku

So…That was weird.

What was on track to be a relaxing victory turned into the type of afternoon where you don’t have any fingernails left come 4 p.m.

I cannot go into a ton of observational details as I was trying to watch on a shaky live stream that didn’t completely hold up in the second half.

The only thing I do have to offer is that his type of escape act is becoming a characteristic of the Chip Kelly coached Eagles (Think both 2013 Redskins games along with the Arizona game last year), but to the team’s credit, there has not been a time where the Eagles actually lost a game after letting a seemingly buried team back in the game late.

This is a weird team. The defense is opportunistic but below average on third down. At times, Billy Davis looks like a head coaching candidate directing the defense. He makes me tweet something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.51.32 PM

And then five minutes later he reminds you why he failed as a defensive coordinator in San Francisco and Arizona last decade.

Jeremy Maclin is good. So is Cody Parkey. The secondary (aside from Brandon Boykin, who rarely plays, and Malcolm Jenkins) is not good. Neither is Marcus Smith. LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles have been inconsistent to say the least, but birds are off to their best start since 2006.

At least one person this week is going to refer to the Eagles as the ‘worst 4-1 team ever.’ I don’t believe that, and nor do I care. There are certainly issues to worry about, but this team is 1.5 yards away from being 5-0 and undefeated.

Let’s hit the haiku and look forward to Giants week:

Live stream stopped working

Defense almost did as well

Somehow four and one

Five Numbers I Would Like to See When Eagles-49ers Concludes Tonight

Conventional wisdom suggests the 49ers are set up to win today’s game, but as I mentioned earlier this morning, it eerily reminds me of when these two teams met in Week 4 of the 2011 season.

I would not at all be shocked if the Eagles lost today, and thankfully, being 3-0 allows them to drop a game on the road against a perceived tough opponent, but in my season predictions I picked them to escape with a narrow but epic victory, so I will obviously stick with that.

Here are five numbers that I hope to see in the box score when this NFC showdown concludes in about nine hours:

  1. LeSean McCoy averaging four yards per carry — This may be lofty given the Eagles makeshift offensive line, but should McCoy find room on the ground for essentially the first time this season, the offense could be deadly. The Nines held Andre Ellington and Matt Forte in check, but DeMarco Murray averaged 5.4 in the season opener. Hopefully a breakout performance from Shady is coming.
  2. Less than 45 rushing yards from Colin Kaepernick — Between Chad Henne, Andrew Luck, and Kirk Cousins, the Eagles have not exactly faced fleet-of-foot quarterbacks. They see a mobile one today in Kaepernick. Not having Mychal Kendricks won’t help their chances, but keeping him from using his legs could go a long way.
  3. At least two turnovers forced by the Eagles defense — The Niners have played two full games with zero turnovers but had four in their home loss to the Bears two weeks ago. Kaepernick has thrown some costly second half interceptions in the past. Do it again, Malcolm Jenkins.
  4. Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, and my dude Zach Ertz combining for 200 plus receiving yards — This trio combined for 227 yards last week against the Redskins, and doing it again would be something else. Should that happen, I like the chances of Nicky Foles remaining the NFL leader in passing yards. Nicky Foles
  5. One sack from Vinny Curry or Brandon Graham — This duo was fantastic in the preseason, but the numbers have not shown up after three weeks of regular season play. Furthermore, the Eagles have not had a sack since Week 1 against the Jaguars, but Kaepernick has been sacked at least once in every game. Hopefully the former trend reverses today and the latter holds true.

There you have it. We got four, 45, two, 200, one, and hopefully leaving San Francisco undefeated and rockin the best record in the NFL.