Chip Kelly Update: of Eagles, Changes and Rumors of Change

We’re deep in the winter doldrums of football, unless you’re a fan of the Seahawks or the dirty, cheating Patriots.

Duck fans will remember Lane Kiffin getting caught with saggy balls too, when he coached USC against Oregon in 2012. The Trojans (look, I’m not trying to be dirty here) also illegally switched numbers on a player a month earlier. In 2012, justice prevailed. Oregon won anyway, Kiffin was fired at the end of the year, and Chip Kelly got an NFL head coaching job.

Given all these interconnections, I think the only fair thing for the NFL to do is award Marcus Mariota to the Eagles, since Chip was never recompensed for USC’s sins. Maybe punish New England too, somehow, I don’t really care.

The Eagles face — and need — a lot of big changes this year. Despite a 10-6 record for the second year in a row, the 2014 season seemed cursed between repeated OL injuries, miserable secondary play and Nick Foles’ literal regression — he kept edging backwards in the pocket instead of stepping up to throw.

There were huge steps forward for Philadelphia, like the special teams unit setting the NFL on fire, Cody Parkey making the Pro Bowl as an undrafted rookie kicker, and spectacular play by the defensive line. So why the collapse, when a strong rush should have made defending 3rd and long that much easier?

Earl Wolff in better days

from video

Earl Wolff in better days

Everyone knew that safety Nate Allen and cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were marginal — including other teams’ offensive coordinators. They picked on Fletcher so relentlessly it would constitute illegal bullying in many nations. But free agent CB pickup Nolan Carroll couldn’t even beat out the floundering Fletcher, and the retrenchment of safety Earl Wolff and slot CB Brandon Boykin was a big surprise. After six interceptions in 2013, surpassed by only Richard Sherman himself, Boykin should have feasted behind a DL that jumped from 37 sacks to 49 (second in the NFL). Instead, he faded into obscurity.

Wolff looked very promising in 2013, but came nowhere near beating out Nate Allen for the strong safety job this season. His season ended on November 18th with some “mini micro-fracture surgery.” (Isn’t mini bigger than micro? Is that like “jumbo shrimp”?)

Wolff was never really the same after the Green Bay game in mid-November of 2013, either, so we can hope that he had unresolved knee problems which will be fixed in time for training camp. But there was a skeptical note in the coaches’ comments about Wolff this year that was not encouraging.

So we know that Philadelphia needs two cornerbacks and a safety (unless Wolff comes around, or Ed Reynolds explodes into sudden awesomeness after not even making the roster last year). Oh yeah, and a franchise quarterback, preferably Hawaiian.

First though, staffing needs to be completed. The team has no GM, as Howie Roseman was promoted to VP, a post with more pay but less power, after a struggle with Chip Kelly. They’ve interviewed candidates but many are reluctant, given that coach Kelly has explicitly been given control of the roster, over any GM or Player Personnel Director who gets hired.

New DB Coach Cory Undlin (updated photo)

from video (BroncosTV)

New DB Coach Cory Undlin (updated photo)

Since our last update, the Birds’ defensive backs coach (John Lovett) was fired, not surprisingly. Here the Eagles found a great replacement, Denver’s DB coach Cory Undlin, who was released when the Broncos coach John Fox got canned. He should at least be able to coach around the secondary’s deficits better than Lovett.

For the second year in a row, Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach got promoted to offensive coordinator elsewhere. Last year it was Bill Lazor becoming the OC in Miami, where he promptly installed an imitation-Chip-Kelly offense.

This time, it’s Bill Musgrave — Oregon’s Hall of Fame QB, second only to Marcus Mariota among Ducks in career passing yards. For all his hard work (or as punishment for Foles’ retrenchment and Mark Sanchez’ same-trenchment), he was sentenced to several years as offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. He has promised to bring some of Kelly’s plays to Oakland, which was the victim of Nick Foles’ record-setting seven touchdown game in 2013.

Just as we were going to press, the Eagles announced Musgrave’s replacement — Ryan Day, the offensive coordinator and QB coach at Boston College. (That’s him at the top of this article.)

As a player, Day was also Chip Kelly’s first great quarterback at the University of New Hampshire, and no doubt some will criticize Kelly for “New Hampshire bias” on top of his much-discussed “Oregon bias.” But the hiring impressed some of the more notable national football analysts, starting with Chris Brown of Smart Football and Grantland.

Bruce Feldman of ESPN, who just published “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks”, added this:

There are tons of speculation about which players the Eagles might like, and they are checking out a lot of tall, physical cornerbacks as expected. Chip Kelly is there in person at all the college all-star game practices, talking to players and avoiding reporters, as he does. But until we know who the new GM or Personnel Guy is, I’d suggest you read all the rumors for amusement purposes only.

Which rumors? Oh, Nick Foles is on the trading block, the Eagles want to keep Fletcher and sign Byron Maxwell as a free agent, and Marcus Mariota is free falling so fast the Eagles will have to trade down to get him. Also, Chip is heading back to college as soon as possible, as reported in rumor form every single week. Have fun!

Feature photo from video

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