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Monday, September 30, 2013

Eagles' Fans Should be Patient with Chip Kelly

There are many reasons for this statement.

1.  He just got here.  Not everyone gets off to a great start when he changes jobs.  Not everyone inherits a great group to lead when he changes jobs.  Not everyone can effect change in the matter of months.  Give the guy a break.  As Ray Didinger pointed out in Comcast Post-Game Live after yesterday's thrashing at the hands of the Broncos, their schedule is such that they could win their next two games, go 3-3 and then have the Cowboys coming into the Linc.  Remember, they are in the NFC East, which is not the NFL's equivalent of the SEC.

2.  His offense is second in the NFL.  Along the lines of "you are what your record says you are," a corollary is that "you are what your statistics say you are."  They have a good offense.  That's what the numbers show.  The man is an innovator, and I don't recall anyone jumping for joy over the concepts of "Moneyball," the "West Coast Offense," the Spread Offense or the "Read-Option."  Yet, somewhere, somehow, all have been successful.

3.  He is an innovator.  He focuses on the small details (save, perhaps yesterday, his special teams, which were horrid), such as the tempo of practices, when to hit and when not to, what his players should eat, etc.  He also is going around the block for the first time.  He'll catch up on defense and on special teams, even if he'll need new coordinators (likely) and new players (definitely).

4.  Let's not get overly nostalgic about Andy Reid.  Reid is a good coach who did a good job in Philadelphia.  Yet, by the end of his tenure, the team had a bunch of flaws, lost its focus, and had holes in its roster that seemed to persist over the years (and which Coach Andy missed or refused to address).  That this team is not playing well should be no surprise, because in the end you either have the talent to win or you do not, regardless of the coaching (and this team has very few stars).  That the Chiefs are playing well has depended on a) the anomaly that they had five Pro Bowlers last year on a team that won just twice and c) that they have tatooed the NFC East, which is playing at perhaps its worst level in memory.  So, before everyone gets on the Andy bandwagon or negatively compares Coach Chip, let's wait a while longer.  When asked about how they thought democracy was doing, Chinese governmental officials remarked, "Let's wait 5,000 years and see."  Touche.

5.  Did you really expect this team to go to the playoffs?  There are only two possible answers to this question -- "No" and "Heck, no."  Yet, given how the fans are reacting, you'd think that many thought that with a new coach this roster would be bound for the Super Bowl in the Giants' home stadium.  Better yet, given how terrible the division is, the Birds do have a chance, and this is one of life's odd twists.  This team is not a playoff team under most circumstances, yet there remains the possibility that they could get there.  Still, they are a few years away (and a few Chip Kelly drafts and adjustments) from being a very good team.

6.  Knock off all the talk that he's "Charlie College" and that this offense will not work in the NFL.  Evolution, innovation and adaptation are a good part of what life is all about.  Yes, he is asking for a fast pace from his players, and perhaps that means that offensive and defensive linemen will have to be less obese, in better shape and better able to rebound more quickly.  Those who complain that the players get tired might be complaining because some of their favorite trench players have bellies that pour over their belt lines by too big a margin to be considered "athletic."  These guys are professionals, and it's not like professional soccer, where the players play 45 minutes non-stop.  In football, the play stops on an incomplete pass, on TV timeouts, after scores, etc., even if teams do not huddle.  That should be plenty of time for players to rest, even if the ball is in play for say only twenty-five of the sixty minutes.  Divide that by two if you want to argue hypothetically that a team plays twelve and a half minutes on offense and the same on defense (given that nothing happens during the other minutes).  Do you mean to say that NFL players can't keep up a pace for that short a period of time once a week?  Even if they are getting hit?  Really? 

Give this offense time.  Kelly knows what he is doing and might be years advanced in his thinking.  In baseball, no one wanted to look at statistics as a predictor of performance; today, math gurus populate every front office, and a guy with the "good face" and a good athletic body might not achieve first-round draft status if he cannot make the plays.  In football, fullbacks and halfbacks used to run a lot, and passing was much more rare.  Today, the game is far different.  All Kelly is trying to do is innovate within the passing game.  That's great, novel, and, yes, flying in the face of traditionalists.  In two years, these same anxious fans will greatly appreciate that Jeffrey Lurie hired him.

7.  If you have owned a dog or had kids, you realize that you have to give them time to mature.  No one said that this coach would drop in and excel from the get go.  True, he should adapt faster than your four-month old puppy or your toddler, but he and his system will need some time.  Give Chip Kelly some time.

8.  John Wooden spent 16 years at UCLA before winning the first of his many national titles.  Think about that before you are ready to jettison Chip Kelly.  (It's probably true that had Pete Newell not retired from Cal at a young age Wooden might have had a very tough obstacle to overcome, but that doesn't mean he would not have won some national titles).  At no time do I think that people wanted to push Wooden out.  He had a system, he was determined, he had a vision, and he was dignified.  It's not fair to ask Chip Kelly to win consistently with this group.  And, finally. . .

9.  Colleges are starting a unique trend of firing coaches early in the season.  USC fired its coach, so did UConn.  Meanwhile, there are calls to oust Mack Brown at Texas.  Put differently, many major-college coaching jobs will open up, and Kelly could be everyone's first choice.  Eagles' fans should support him, defend him and embrace him, so that he'll consider remaining in Philadelphia for a long time.  Otherwise, they'll push him into the arms of an elite BCS school, which would welcome him with open arms.  If we want Chip Kelly to go to Texas, let it be with the Eagles on a trip to Dallas, so that they can beat Jerry Jones' team in his own building.

Patience is a virtue. 

Eagles' fans need to remember that.

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