Eagle Renaissance: 2013 Chip Kelly-Philadelphia Eagles Outlook

At one time the thought of having to change anything Andy Reid did in Philadelphia was unimaginable. Andy Reid was the Philadelphia Eagles. But that was then, and this is now, and whether they wanted it or not, change is upon them.

Chip Kelly, the former University of Oregon head coach, has now taken residence in Philly, bringing not only his innovative and successful offensive system, but what is surely to be a change of culture.

As always, change brings questions, and there have been many. Some believe the up tempo read option offense he used at Oregon may not translate to the next level because NFL defenses have seen this before, and are, simply, more sophisticated.

In his four year tenure at Oregon, his teams were well known for their adaptability, a quality he will instill in the Eagles organization as a whole, but more specifically in his offense focused on defeating pro-style defenses.

Let’s take a look at why Chip Kelly will silence his detractors, bring much needed change to the Philadelphia Eagles and become the most talked about surprise of the 2013 NFL season.

Winning Is Everything

Starting a new winning tradition and earning the confidence of contemporary NFL players is not an easily accomplished task. They are inspired by established winners, and getting them to buy in 100% is hugely important. Coming from a progressive college program at the University of Oregon, Chip Kelly knows how to deal with today’s NFL player. His record speaks for itself:

• 2009: Record 10-3, Winning 769%, Pac 10 Champions, Rose Bowl lost to Ohio State 26-17, Pac 10 Coach of the Year
• 2010: Record 12-1, Winning 923 %, Pac 10 Champions, BCS National Championship lost to Auburn 22-19, Pac 10 Coach of the Year, AP Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, Walter Camp Coach of the Year
• 2011: Record 12-2, Winning 857%, Pac 12 Champions, Rose Bowl beat Wisconsin 45-38
• 2012: Record 12-1, Winning 923%, Pac 12 Champions, Fiesta Bowl beat Kansas State 35-17

Bringing his college offense and winning ways to the NFL without adjustments for a higher level of talent will not be without set backs, but Kelly’s flexibility will make it more easily than a coach who has none.

So, what does this mean for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Finishing second in the NFC East in 2009 and first in 2010 seems far removed from the Eagles’ more recent past. In 2011, they started their decline and in 2012 only managed to win four games under Andy Reid which precipitated his exit.

In describing what he wanted in his new head coach, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stated, “I want to find a real smart, forward-thinking coach who is strategic, a strong leader, very comfortable in his own skin.”

Lurie hired Chip Kelly as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach on Wednesday, January 16, 2013.

Building Foundation

As new Eagle offensive coordinator, former Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur will assimilate his West Coast offense philosophy into Kelly’s fast tempo, read option, spread formation offense.

The West Coast offense utilizes shorter horizontal passing routes instead of running plays to stretch defenses hoping to leave them vulnerable for long runs or long passes. This philosophy will combine with Kelly’s inside zone read or outside zone read shotgun formations, which was the foundation of his offense while at Oregon.

However described, Kelly warns that his offense will not be “some magical offense,” never before used or seen by NFL-caliber coaching staffs. The strengths of his offense will come from being adaptable to change and getting fine-tuned to match his player strengths.

Bill Davis, who had unimpressive stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, will head the defense. Although his defenses have never ranked higher than 20th, he focuses his defense on his opponent’s offensive strengths, and like Kelly, is considered a players’ coach and a good teacher.

Said Kelly, “We’re on the same page, that’s why I hired them. It’s collaboration from everybody we put together on our staff. And everybody has a say, and we’ll all talk it through, and then we’ll, as a group, decide on what is the best thing moving forward.”

Pieces in Place

There is no offensive system in the NFL, whether tooled by Chip Kelly or Bill Belichick that will work without having the players who fit the system and can execute it correctly and efficiently.

Fortunately for our fantasy teams, there are bona fide playmakers scattered throughout the current Eagles roster that are capable of doing that.

With the Eagle’s starting quarterback job up for grabs, all eyes will be on Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and 4th-round draft pick Matt Barkley. Barkley possesses some intangibles Kelly admires which is why he drafted him and if his performance during training camp is relatively close to his competitors Kelly may choose to start the future sooner rather than later.

Chip Kelly on quarterbacks: “The job of a quarterback is simple. We want to move forward. The cardinal sin is the quarterback sack. We want the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in 1.5 seconds. That does not mean holding the ball until 2.5, waiting for someone to get open.”

Michael Vick’s strengths are athleticism, a strong arm, short-distance quickness and the ability to extend plays with his running. But this could prove detrimental in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense which requires his quarterback to get the ball out of his hands in 1.5 seconds. In contrast, Vick’s release averaged 3.07 seconds.

The 33-year-old Vick isn’t the long-term future of this offense, but he still has some quality skills and could flourish if he is able to adjust to the quick tempo and be more disciplined limiting turnovers.

Not far removed from being considered the number one fantasy pick, Vick’s ADP (average draft position) in 12 team leagues is currently 11.08, and still considered too high by some. Only time will tell if he is able to adjust so keep your ears open through training camp. If he wins the starting gig and can limit injuries, he could be fantasy relevant again and a bargain on draft day.

Misdirection plays from shotgun formation in the read option offense are designed to get running backs in a space where they can use their elusiveness to gain big yardage. LeSean McCoy is one of the most elusive running backs in the NFL, and it’s possible he could, once again, be a top 5 running back.

He’s also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield averaging 55 receptions per season. This is important in Kelly’s system which is designed to make sure defenses are burdened with having to cover not four, but five receivers at any given time.

Another very significant development for not only LeSean McCoy, but the entire Eagle offense, is that the Eagles reunited their entire offensive line during this summer’s OTAs (organized team activities). All-Pro Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans appear healthy once again after they were dismantled by injuries last season. With the addition of fourth overall selection Lane Johnson, if healthy, this unit could be considered one of the best by season’s end.

Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, tight ends Brent Celek, second- round pick Zach Ertz, and newly signed James Casey will all be utilized to spread out defenses and could be on the field at the same time giving whoever is quarterbacking plenty of weapons.

In 2012 Jackson’s YAC (yards after catch) was 45th and Maclin’s was 33rd. The bread and butter of Kelly’s system is putting receivers in position to move the chains forward after receptions. The short to intermediate quick hits should benefit Maclin, but Kelly knows, as one of his most explosive players, he must get the ball in DeSean Jackson’s hands if he’s to use his talents to the fullest.

Bottom Line:

In 2002 Steve Spurrier brought his vaunted offense to the NFL from the University of Florida. As a result of not being able to adapt or unwillingness to adjust his system, his stay with the Washington Redskins ended after two lackluster seasons.

Chip Kelly knows, and more importantly, accepts, he must be willing to adapt and evolve to succeed in the NFL. His attention to detail, creativity, ability to listen to and invite collaboration with his staff are important factors that will help him succeed and put him in position to be one of the biggest successful surprises in the 2013 NFL.

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