Chip Kelly Update: Where Do We Stand Now?

Chip nervous smile

from Video

It’s not exactly a bye week, but the Eagles’ compressed start to the season — 3 games in 11 days — has given them extra time to recover from the discouraging loss at home to Kansas City.  So this is a good time to take stock of where Chip Kelly’s renovation project stands.

Here’s the short story:
The team’s talent is great (but very thin) on offense, and on defense it’s a jumble at best (up front), weak in the middle and terrible in the secondary.  Really terrible.

The Offense is doing great, anyway

from video

The Offense is doing great, anyway.

The team’s attitude is pretty good.  Players have bought in to Chip’s approach and are playing hard.  Perhaps too hard — Tommy Lawlor thinks Mychal Kendricks is missing so many tackles (eight so far, to lead the league) because he’s playing too fast.  Whatever the reason, the Eagles desperately need the missed tackles to stop.

Special teams were vastly improved in games 1 and 2, from returns to tackling, then fell apart against the Chiefs.

The coaching has been erratic, too.  Billy Davis failed to adjust as KC’s Donnie Avery burned them throughout the game, even on an identical play (a cross under the coverage for big gain after big gain).  Chip acknowledged mismanaging the clock and not knowing the substitution rule, in crunch time against the Chargers.  More worrisome, he is abandoning much of his own approach to — apparently — play it safe, and losing in the process.

As I explained over at BGN, Kelly’s program is not just a play or even an offense, it’s a complete system with interlocking parts that reinforce — or undermine — each other.  In this case, I argue that going for it on fourth down, as Kelly did 118 times in his four seasons at Oregon, is crucial for giving the defense a break.  Obviously they get more rest if you make it, as the Ducks did 60% of the time, but even if you fail, your opponents’ drive will be shorter, whether they score or not. But with Chip kicking it 20/21 times on fourth down at Philadelphia, his already-struggling defenders face more and longer drives.

Eagles need more stout D like this

from video

The Eagles need more stout D like this.

On the positive side, the offense is succeeding as well as anyone could imagine.  Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and especially LeSean McCoy, are having career years, and the Eagles are racking up yards and points as well as at any time in their illustrious history.

Again, though, I worry that Chip is playing it too safe in a way that could cost him dearly.  Vick and McCoy are being worked hard and hit harder.  Each has already left games with minor injuries — McCoy is still limping on his sprained ankle from Game 3, and continues to run 20-30 times a game.  He’s also on a pace to set the NFL rushing record, but that won’t happen if he gets injured.

At Oregon, Chip was very diligent about playing his bench to spell the starters and develop depth, but Nick Foles has seen only one snap — when Vick was injured.  McCoy’s backups, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, have seen few and no snaps respectively.  At the very least, the bench needs to get in when the Eagles are way ahead, as they were against Washington, or way behind, as they might well be this week against Denver.  They are going to get into games one way or another — at a time of Chip’s choosing, or — if they continue to be ignored — after the starters get injured.  Let’s hope it’s the former.


Mark Saltveit’s best-selling book “The Tao of Chip Kelly” has received rave reviews from coaches, players and sportswriters since its release in June. You can find it at the Oregon Ducks Stores in Portland, Eugene and Bend, at Powells Books, at the Multnomah Athletic Club M-Porium in Portland, various bookstores in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and online at http://www.chipkelly.tv/

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Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit's newest book is "Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly's Football Revolution" (Diversion Books, NY) has been recently released. He is the author of "The Tao of Chip Kelly" (2013) and writes on science, religion, wordplay and political scandals. He is also a standup comedian and the world palindrome champion.

  • uoyeah

    Where Do WE Stand Now? WE?

    • hokieduck

      As far as I am concerned, it is a great headline. Once Chip went to Philadelphia, I became an Eagles fan. I will follow his career wherever it goes and always be a fan.

      Go Chip.

      • uoyeah

        I became an instant Eagles fan too, despite murderer Michael Vick. But I would never say “we” in referencing the Eagles or the Ducks! I’m not part of the team. Therefore “we” is inappropriate. I don’t identify with sports teams and they don’t define me.

        • hokieduck

          I see your point and it is well taken.

          However, my perspective differs a bit. While sports affiliations certainly do not define me, I do indeed identify myself as a fan of MY chosen teams. Thus, I have no problem with saying, for example, “I sure hope we beat the stuffing out of the Dawgs this weekend!” “Who do we play in the OOC games next year?” “We lost a tough one in the NCG against Auburn, but the guys played their hearts out and had a chance to win at the end.”

          I also am a fan, and consider myself a legitimate fan, of Oregon even though I went to school at VT. I have always loved college football and when I moved out here one of the first things I did was start to learn about the PAC10 and the two Oregon schools. Both sucked. But I wanted a team to cheer for and I chose the Ducks largely because I went to the campus for the Olympic Trials when I first moved out here and green is my favorite color. (Yes, my choice was that ridiculous.) So, I chose the Ducks. I was a fan through the bad, the Toilet Bowl years all the way to the present.

          I will always love and cheer for my Hokies; watch them whenever they are on. I go back for a game whenever I can manage a family thing during football season. I bummed totally out for days when Mike Vick and the Hokies lost to Bobby Bowden and the Noles in the NCG. But I am still a rabid Duck fan and don’t feel badly about that at all.

          Go Ducks. WTD. :)

          • hokieduck

            Oh and I totally agree with you about the “murderer Mike Vick.” It hits me twofold since I am also a Hokie.