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NFL Unfiltered Week 5: Are All Head Coaches The Same?

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It turns out Eagles head coach Chip Kelly told us the truth last week.  

After losing to the team from Washington 23-20, Kelly defiantly told everyone within earshot his team needed to execute better.  He claimed his offensive linemen continually missed blocks, his receivers dropped too many passes, his kicker missed too many field goals and his quarterback missed too many open receivers. It sounded harsh, and lacked humility.    Photo: CBSSports.com

And since the National Football League is a week-to-week proposition, he infuriated fans while many in the media scoffed, calling him arrogant, even going as far as to suggest he shirked his own responsibility for the team’s 1-3 start.  

But after the Eagles’ dominant performance against the lifeless New Orleans Saints, every phase of the game Kelly mentioned a week earlier, played their best games of the season (sans the kicker).  

However, if you look a little deeper, you realize Kelly also inadvertently told us how valuable head coaches really are.  

Think about it. If winning in the NFL is really as simple as “executing better” than the opponent, as Kelly asserted, it’s safe to assume good players execute plays better than bad ones.  And if that’s the case, the general manager’s skill, not the head coach’s, is the most important factor in winning football games in the pros.  

Unbeknownst to him, Kelly actually told us his coaching didn’t matter that much.  After all, the Eagles essentially run the same plays every week, regardless of opponent.  Therefore, what really matters is how poorly and inconsistently average football players execute his plays.  And in that sense, he is absolutely correct.

Throughout the league, “execution,” not coaching is the reason teams win or lose.  

Another such example is the Cincinnati Bengals’ last-second win against the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, the Bengals found themselves depleted of time-outs, which forced them to hurry their field goal team on to the field as the clock wound down. It looked like another misstep in the long, but mostly non-descript career of their head coach, Marvin Lewis.  

Only this time, each one of the 11 players on their field goal unit did their jobs to perfection. Ballgame: 27-24.  Had their placekicker missed that kick, and the Bengals lost, Lewis could have justifiably reasoned his players failed to execute.

The point being, professional football is a player’s league, perhaps more than at any other time in its history.  And unless they drastically alter the rules, this will never change because at this level, everyone studies, everyone prepares, and everyone knows what to do once the game begins.  

The difference, is in fact the execution by the 22 players on the field and it is the general manager, not the coach, who determines which of those 22 is better equipped to decide the outcomes of games.  

Still, too often coaches try to have it both ways.  They like being known as field generals, who strategize their way to greatness.  But when things go south, it’s the players, not the scheme, at fault.  

Chip Kelly certainly struck a nerve by sounding very much like a guy incapable of accepting any responsibility for his team’s foibles.  However, as maddening as he is, he isn’t wrong.    

Though, it does make him a bad GM … not that he believes that either.       

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 5

-Maybe now, the Detroit Lions finally know the truth about quarterback Matthew Stafford.  

-It seems defenders have lowered their strike zones when tackling.  It’s made for a safer game but it sure isn’t as exciting.  

-Because it is a once a week deal, the NFL forces you to ride incredible highs and awful lows.  But if you take a more measured approach, it’s clear every head coach (including Bill Belichick) is about the same.  Except of course, Belichick’s propensity to go the extra mile for a win.  

-Let’s assume, every head coach spends between 16-20 hours each day at their team’s facility and an extra 2-3 hours at home (assuming they actually leave the office) working on trying to improve their players and beat their opponents.  If it is simply about execution, shouldn’t every player execute really well, considering the amount of time their bosses spend preparing?

-Player evaluation is the only part of pro football still clothed in secrecy.  It is also the only part opponents cannot prepare for, or anticipate.  

-You could use many adjectives to describe Chip Kelly, but stupid isn’t one of them. The only way he stays with the Eagles after this season is if he absolutely loves professional football.  The USC job is better than the one he has in every conceivable way.  

-The numbers may suggest otherwise, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made his bones in the NFL making plays while running for his life.  In other words, none of his offensive lines have been better than average and they still won.  Their roster simply isn’t as talented as previous years.  How could it be?  

-If there is any doubt Colin Kaepernick is your quarterback in 2016, the San Francisco 49ers ought to move him before the NFL’s trade deadline.

 

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@hotmail.com

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Photo: CBSSports.com