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Why Chip Kelly is neither a fraud or genius: NFL Unfiltered Week 16

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The National Football League sells the idea of hope better than perhaps any professional sports league in the world.  It is the reason (along with gambling, of course) the league grows in popularity each year.  

But hope is also why many media outlets ignored the Philadelphia Eagles’ obvious flaws.  Hope is why coach Chip Kelly received the benefit of the doubt when he jettisoned a talent. Hope is why this fan base deluded themselves into thinking a 9-3 record represented more than a mirage.  And finally, hope is why the collapse of the 2014 Eagles is the worst in the franchise’s less than storied history.  Maybe even the worst failure of any team in the annals of Philadelphia sports- and that includes the 1964 Phillies.   Photo: Oregonlive.com

Yes, the Eagles lost seven straight games in 1994 after beginning that season 7-2.  But to my knowledge, nobody ever used the word “genius” to describe then-head coach Rich Kotite, or his football philosophy.  Not once did anyone see Kotite as an otherworldly visionary.  Instead, most saw Kotite as a boob, similar to everyone’s simple, but fun-loving uncle.  The guy suddenly thrust into a role of genuine influence within a family, but everyone knows catastrophe is inevitable.    

Conversely, the narrative surrounding Kelly is one of intelligence and leading innovation.  He is supposedly smarter than your average football coach and far more astute than the old boy’s network the NFL is known for.  And for the first twenty-nine games of his tenure, he made you believe.  

But this season reminds us of a seminal NFL truth; talent trumps coaching.      

Can one team beat another as the clichéd any given Sunday suggests?  Naturally, but an NFL season is four months long, plus about three months in the offseason.  And that is far too many weeks to expect any coach, even one of Kelly’s ilk, to scheme his way to success.  

To suggest Kelly is a fraud, or to say opposing coaches have figured him out is a stretch, since the Birds score, particularly against subpar defenses.  And they do so without benefit of a great quarterback.  But the fact they lack talent at myriad positions is an indictment of Kelly and his assumed genius.  

Simply put, Kelly lacks the qualifications to run every aspect of a professional football team.  It makes one wonder what he and owner Jeff Lurie discussed in the winter of 2013.  Did Kelly’s insistence on absolute power give Lurie pause?  Or, did Lurie rush to satiate Philadelphia’s football passions by giving Kelly autonomy?  

In either case, it is clear Kelly needs help now.  The kind only a competent talent evaluator provides and more importantly, he must listen to him.  Because in a matter of three weeks, the Seahawks, Cowboys and even a hapless Redskins team exposed his squad as pretenders.  

Kelly’s offseason choices and game day decisions conspired to rob Eagles fans of the opportunity to dream.  Now, he faces a level of vitriol the likes of which he hasn’t seen in his coaching career.  

It’s the kind of anger people express when hope is lost.  

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 16

-In a league with the complexities of the NFL, the Eagles business model is unrealistic.  Unless of course you believe Chip Kelly is as good as Jimmy Johnson or Bill Walsh at acquiring players.     

-The St. Louis Rams deserve more negative attention for the way they play.  They’re often involved in fisticuffs after the whistle, which is a cue from the head coach.  They play like bullies, which comes off as dumb when you’re headed for yet another losing season.  

-Speaking of Jeff Fisher, he has six winning seasons in 20 as a head coach and hasn’t finished above .500 since 2008 (he didn’t coach in 2011).  Frankly, his reverence and salary don’t come close to his results. If he manipulated opposing offenses as well as he’s manipulated the media, he’d have three Super Bowl championships.   

-There aren’t five players in the NFL more entertaining than Odell Beckham, Jr. Quarterback is far and away the most important position on the field, but a player like Beckham galvanizes an entire organization.  

-By all accounts, Jim Harbaugh is nobody’s fool, so he likely knows the 49ers give him his best chance to win a Super Bowl.  It’s a shame his ego is in the way.  

-Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the playoffs.  If that doesn’t prove the randomness of NFL head coaching, nothing will.  Tomlin is still as poor a game day strategist as any coach in the league.  Yet, there he is on his way to the playoffs again, with a Super Bowl championship already in tow.  

-There are those who say Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt is this season’s most valuable player, but a great quarterback is always more valuable than a great defensive lineman. 

 

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  and follow him on Twitter @EMyersIII

 

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Photo: Oregonlive.com