Posted on 24 October 2013.
Michael Conroy is a freelance sportswriter and Flyers fan, and a guest writer for Spike Eskin Dot Com. You can find him on Twitter @MichaelConroyPM.
It was a revelation, in more ways than one. The Dallas Cowboys saddled up and rode into the ever so inviting Lincoln Financial Field for a matinee pummeling of a helpless Philly team. During the game, two major issues concerning the Eagles became apparent; as usual, it was the coach and the quarterback.
Above the Foles
When Chip Kelly first spoke about the Eagles quarterback position, he was quick to point out that his system can be tailored to fit the skillset of any player on his roster. It took only seven games to determine that, unless you’re dealing with Tom Brady or Peyton Manning level talent, this simply is not the case.
When Nick Foles entered the game vs. the New York Giants a few weeks prior to Sunday’s thrashing, he seemed to run the offense well enough. When the sophomore quarterback carved up Tampa Bay’s secondary the following week, it seemed as if the genius of Chip Kelly’s system could prevail in any scenario. Alas, not even the vaunted Oregon offense could offer an answer to what the Eagles faced against the Cowboys on Sunday; man coverage.
The Philadelphia Eagles do not have the personnel to execute an effective passing attack against tight man coverage without a quarterback who can run. The reason this took until week seven to seem relevant is because this was the first time the opposing team game planned for a quarterback who, when every defender turned their back to run, could not make them pay.
With receivers who struggle to get off the line of scrimmage, there’s only one reason to allow the Eagles a free release. That is the threat that a running quarterback presents. So, unless Chip Kelly’s planning on drafting the next Tom Brady, (a silly thing to bank on any year) or three wide receivers who can beat NFL corners off the line, the right quarterback for this iteration of the Philadelphia Eagles is one who can run.
With that in mind, the Nick Foles era seems to have vanished, lost within the archives of “Almost Philadelphia Sports History.” At least, if Foles does manage to have a successful career in the NFL, one cannot reasonably assume it will be with Chip Kelly’s Eagles.
Below the Foles
While Foles issue is a deeply troubling development in its own right (for oh so many people), it can’t hold a candle to what’s going on in South Philly of late. Bubbling, quietly beneath the surface issues concerning the Philadelphia Eagles this season, is a volatile solution of compromised goals and withering ambition. This is the sad state of Chip Kelly.
Sunday, facing 4th and 1 on the opponent’s side of the field, I watched a grown man with a headset send Alex Henery out to kick a 60 yard field goal. The ensuing miss left Tony Romo with great field position and almost a minute to drive down and expand on his lead.
Coach is a mess. He’s simply not who many of us, including this writer, expected him to be at this point.
While some of his conservative play calling can be excused by the current quarterback situation, there are other factors to consider. The offense that Oregon made so famous relies heavily on post-snap reading of a defense. This is to say that the skill position players, out running routes on any given play, need reps too. They may need them even more than the quarterback in order to master the more complicated aspects of this offense. In recent weeks, the vanilla play calling has served nobody in that respect.
Chip Kelly’s game day coaching has also taken a shocking turn for the conventional. What ever happened to the fourth down number crunching, two-point conversion policy-having pioneer who was set to test the boundaries of this game? Maybe those ideas didn’t make it into Chip’s final cut of his 2013 Eagles’ master plan. You may even think it’s reasonable to hold off for a year on the more radical strategies a coach plans to employ.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking: Chip Kelly is now almost half of a season into what is usually a two-three year grace period that any given coach can expect to be afforded. During that allotted time, he’s been given the authority, by almost any means, to sculpt an NFL version of his system. If he doesn’t hit the lottery with his quarterback selection this off-season, and he ends up spending all of next season testing what he should have been now, Kelly will likely face a make-or-break 2015. In a flash, everything that Chip Kelly could have been in the NFL might disappear.
This past off-season, there were a number of capable NFL coaches on the Eagles’ radar. But Howie Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie flew across the country, meeting for over nine hours to recruit a very specific candidate. They chose a man who they thought added something unique to their organization. It’s hard to believe the Eagles are pleased with the return they’ve gotten on that investment so far.
We simply must hope that Chip Kelly’s belief in his system and its potential at the professional level is as firm as it ever was. If the NFL has already beaten that idealism out of the rookie coach, and he isn’t totally committed, how can he expect that commitment from his players? How can the Philadelphia Eagles expect that commitment from their fans?
This year could have been anything. It could have been a struggle. It could have been hard to watch. One thing we all were certain of, however, was that things would at least be different. What Philadelphia Eagles fans are witnessing right now is all too familiar.