Forget domestic violence, CTE, and Deflate-Gate. The most controversial subject in the NFL right now is Chip Kelly’s brain. The head coach of the Eagles has designed the offense. He has picked the players to run his offense. He calls the plays within the offense.
And the offense stinks.
He is as polarizing a subject as anyone in the league, put him in there with Greg Hardy and John Q. Football-Manziel. Most desperately want him to fail. Some desperately want him to succeed. All this because he apparently represents the way football will be played in the future. Some want it to stay the same, some want it to evolve. All of that sits on that stubby, dry, fire-hydrant of a coach in an Eagles visor.
There is great glee being taken by NFL people (and fans/media) that Chip’s early returns this season have been awful. Former Pro Bowl linebacker Bart Scott (and Hall of Fame talker) told me, “He banked his future on a bunch of (his) guys, his program, his science. Like he created the wheel. Like he’s smarter than everybody.”
“If anyone deserves to get fired, he can fire himself first as a GM, then he can fire himself as a coach… I’m so happy to watch that, because I can’t support somebody that devalues the players. That makes it more about (him). Chip Kelly is making it about him. He’s trying to be the star. I don’t know if he ever played football, but looking at him, if he did he wasn’t very good. Looks like he ate the football.”
That last sentence was rapidly retweeted and cackled at by the social media masses. People are really enjoying watching Chip fail.
It’s interesting to watch this mob come for Chip’s scalp, laughing all the way to the gallows, because one would think we’d be rooting for him. His offense is pretty damn fun to watch, and boy do we love offense. But clearly we don’t like the egomaniacal coach that knows it all. We want a dose of comeuppance, a humility that this is a difficult game, that takes years to master, and that 100 years of football can’t be wrong. You still hear these old adages thrown around every season.
“You need to run the ball and stop the run.”
“Defense wins championships.”
“Super Bowl teams have to have a style that travels.”
I guess parroting these phrases gives comfort to us, the idea we know the secrets of football even from the couch. We want an inherent wisdom that comes with watching countless hours of football, and sitting through decades of light beer and pick-up truck commercials. So we enjoy watching new-fangled approaches die quick deaths (read: the Run n’ Shoot, the Wildcat). But Chip changing the game would actually be a good thing, if only people could step back.
Kelly’s offense at Oregon was undoubtedly the most dazzling in college football. In Chip’s final year with the Ducks (’12), the offense averaged 49.6 point and 537 yards per game. They never scored fewer than 42 points until a November clash against Stanford, their only loss of the season. The Ducks scored 40 points four times, 50 points four times, 60 points twice, and 70 points once.
Would that not be fun in today’s NFL? We gush over Aaron Rodger’s passing numbers, and devote entire channels to fantasy stats. The NFL wants as much offense as possible, so it moves back the extra point, prevents corners from playing tight, allows the quarterbacks to personalize the footballs. Is this not what we want? Because the NFL has never been more popular.
But we are rooting against Chip Kelly for some reason. We just don’t like him. If the Eagles offense soars, we get a pretty good show. We would also get other coaches trying to implement the same concepts (another tired piece of jargon: “It’s a copycat league”). We would have GMs more open to looking at new ways to build rosters, and implement modern medicinal approaches. New is usually more interesting than old.
Admittedly, it’s pretty fun to rip the arrogant guy who’s been finally kicked in the ass by life. So maybe that’s the crux of it. If Kelly was more personable, more humble, waxed poetic about the guts and soul of his players, maybe we would root for him a little more. Rex Ryan loves his guys. He’s openly emotional. We love that. He’s a brazen, boisterous grunt. We hate that.
The problem is this is Chip’s mess, wholely and fully. He bought the groceries, cooked the meal, blew up the oven, flooded the kitchen, and the dinner guests are leaving. Quickly. So if it doesn’t work, it’s a referendum on how he did it, and thus no one will be allowed to do it like him again. And make no mistake, it’s a mess. Chip is even questioning the makeup of his own roster (the one he assembled) after two weeks.
“I think guys are grasping at excuses to be honest with you.”
Well, you may want to stop giving them so many excuses. Because the world can’t wait for the fall.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.