Vick, Foles, whatever: Chip Kelly's offense still succeeds
When Bum Phillips died the other day, this quote was in a lot of the obituaries. Phillips was the coach of the Houston Oilers, and he once said this about Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. It remains the greatest compliment a coach has ever been paid, in any sport.
Phillips said it in the King's Homespun, but you get it. Of Shula, he said, "He can take his'n and beat your'n, or he can take your'n and beat his'n."
Bum, meet Chip Kelly.
The truth is, the Eagles have not won anything. They are 4-5 and still alive in the NFC East race, and that is about it. If they are ever going to challenge for a championship, it is going to be about the players -- more players and more talented players. I really am not missing that fact, or getting ahead of myself here.
But if you look at the Eagles' offense, and look at how productive it has been so far this season, and look at the fact that it has been very productive with two different starting quarterbacks -- two different quarterbacks with two wildly different skill sets -- you cannot help but recognize the success of Kelly and his coaching staff.
They make it work with Michael Vick, who has a great arm and great legs but who is slow to make decisions sometimes, often looking for the home run. They make it work with Nick Foles, whose arm and legs are not as impressive as Vick's but whose decision-making and whose embrace of the rhythms of the up-tempo offense are superior. This is not nothing. These are very different players, but both have thrown for 400 yards in a game this season.
With Vick, they gave him a lot of one running back, one tight end and three wideouts. With Foles -- at least last week at Oakland -- they gave him a lot of one running back, two tight ends and two wideouts. Whatever. When Kelly says the offense is designed to work with any quarterback and can be tailored to what they do well, we all nod and wonder. But we are seeing it play out.
There are still tons of people in the business who seem to be actively rooting for Kelly to fail -- which says a lot about them, and about him, and about the fear of change that can be universal. We don't know where this will end, not even this season, and can only predict with some safety that there is likely to be a series of unfortunate events in the future, events to which Kelly will have to react.
But what we have seen so far, with multiple quarterbacks, has been instructive. There should be little doubt anymore that this guy can coach.