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Jim Harbaugh, Ray Lewis, Chip Kelly in NFL Unfiltered: Conference Championship Edition

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People sometimes accuse me of being purposely controversial.  I assure you, I’m not.  Instead, I am what you might call a thoughtful contrarian, always have been.  

I don’t swim upstream with malice in my heart, honest.  It’s just that I usually ask why and because I abhor groupthink, I often find myself on the other side of popular opinion. This is why I’ve never flourished in 9-5, corporate America.  The general lack of independent thought, creativity and imagination cripples me.  I just don’t belong.   

Now that you know how I think, I’ll explain why I don’t believe former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is a good hire.    

Kelly arrives from Oregon with a cache of offensive expertise, so I am fairly certain the birds will score points and look terrific at times.  Whether he runs a version of the up tempo style he made famous, or not.  

However, several media outlets have championed Kelly, believing the Eagles made the right choice.  But there are three reasons why I disagree.

The first, and most significant, is the fact that Kelly, like all big name college coaches who jump to the NFL, is coachphoto: Oregonlive.coming with a safety net should he fail.  

Let’s imagine for a moment the Eagles are competitive over the next two seasons but the results lead to a record of 16-16.  Are you confident Kelly, who lost a total of seven games at Oregon, will remain committed to the NFL’s rigors despite the immense pressure to win?

I certainly cannot speak for owner Jeffrey Lurie, but if it were my choice I would not hire a coach whose reputation could survive failure.  In other words, my head coach has to feel the pain of every loss and in my view, Kelly doesn’t need to succeed at the professional level, he wants to succeed.  There is a difference.  

Remember Nick Saban?  Not too long ago his results and NFL connections made him look like a great hire for the Miami Dolphins.  Go back and look at the football landscape at the end of the 2004 season.  The buzz around Saban makes Kelly’s look pedestrian.  

Still, Kelly, like Saban before him, knows athletic directors at college football factories will fawn over him should he ever wish to return.    

If the Eagles’ organization doesn’t give Kelly everything he wants, or if Kelly decides grinding against 16 opponents isn’t as satisfying as grinding against the 3 or 4 legitimate teams on a college schedule, he can simply leave for a plum FBS post.  So even if Kelly comes to the Eagles with a limited amount of power, he still holds a trump card and both parties know it.  

The second reason I think Lurie missed the mark on Kelly is because Kelly needed time to consider leaving Oregon even though it appears the Eagles wanted him from the outset.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t handle rejection well.  It’s an issue, one of many that make me flawed and a constant work in progress.  It probably stems from all those times I heard the word “no” in nightclubs.  

Apparently, Lurie’s self-esteem is just fine.  It’s the only explanation for him allowing Kelly to publicly refuse the gig only to change his mind two weeks later.

That makes Lurie much more evolved than me, but Eagles fans aren’t always so progressive.  They deserve a man who sees this as the opportunity of a lifetime.  And based on his waffling, it seems like just another high-paying job to Kelly.  

The last issue that concerns me is based on the Oregon Ducks’ struggles against big, physical football teams during Kelly’s tenure.    

Even if you dismiss Oregon’s losses to LSU, Auburn and USC, you cannot ignore his 2-2 record versus Stanford.  Yes, current 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh beat him once in 2009, but David Shaw—a guy with NFL experience that the Eagles (by all accounts didn’t interview)—beat him, too.  

Unlike many, I think everything about Chip Kelly says he belongs in college and I suspect he will tell us just that within three years.  

Kelly is a bad hire and I am a thoughtful contrarian.

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CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP OBSERVATIONS
What the pundits can’t or won’t say

Several media outlets reported former Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton didn’t appreciate being passed over for their head coaching job.  If true, he has a right to his anger.  But Horton needs to look in the mirror, literally, not figuratively.  You see, Horton is black.  He is 50 years old and played defensive back in the NFL for 10 seasons.  He has coached in one capacity or another for 19 more.  He of all people should know the league is run by white men.  This a group that is forced to interview a minority candidate whenever a head coaching vacancy exists.  It’s a good rule, one that only exists because they couldn’t trust themselves to do the right thing without it.  Ray Horton: kpho.com

Still, it’s their league, and while I support his obvious stance against bowing to the establishment, he cannot show up to interviews with a Rastafarian, long-braided hairstyle. His look is fine for producing music and coordinating defenses.  It is not good for the face of a franchise, especially in Arizona.  He needs to cut his hair next time.
  
49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh is far and away the best evaluator and teacher of the quarterback position since hall of fame coach Bill Walsh.  And there isn’t a close second.

Walsh used to say former quarterback Steve DeBerg is just good enough to get you beat.  Matt Ryan also falls into that category.  

Since we criticized Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III and head coach Mike Shanahan for Griffin III’s injury, does that mRay Lewis photo: Getty Imagesean Falcons’ tailback Michael Turner did the right thing sitting out most of the 2nd half?  Or, do we lump him in with quarterback Jay Cutler as guys unwilling to play through pain?

I’ve enjoyed watching linebacker Ray Lewis play and consider myself a fan, but I have news for him: God doesn’t care as much about the NFL as he thinks.  

 I’m amazed how mortal head coach Bill Belichick is when he doesn’t have the answers before the exam like he did in Super Bowl XXXIX. In my view, every Patriots championship is as tainted as Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France victories.

The Giants won the title last year by playing good defense running the football and clutch quarterback play.  The 49ers and Ravens are vying for a ring this season based on similar principles.  Let’s stop all the noise about it being a passing league.  Statistics be damned, football is still football.  

Top four this week (rankings disclaimer: my top four will always feature two AFC teams and two NFC teams).
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-4-1) – Colin Kaepernick is the last new-age quarterback playing.  
2. Baltimore Ravens (13-6) – Joe Flacco is playing well, but so are Ray Rice and the defense.
3. New England Patriots (13-5) – As usual, they were beaten up by a physical squad.  
4. Atlanta Falcons (14-4) – Exhibit A on why you cannot pass your way to a championship.  

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com

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Chip Kelly photo: photo: Oregonlive.com

Ray Horton: kpho.com

Ray Lewis photo: Getty Images


Comments


5:04 AM
Tue Sep 17 2013
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