THE NOVELTY is gone. The honeymoon over. Eight games into Chip Kelly's first season as an NFL head coach, his highly touted offense has gone from breathtaking to gassed, has gone from an unsolvable system of options and complexities to one as dull as an Andy Reid news conference.
"I don't think people have figured it out," the first-year Eagles coach said the day after his offense failed for a second straight Sunday to reach the end zone. "I mean, you can turn the tape on and watch six games of whoever you've played, and I can tell you what they're going to do. I mean, I can tell you what Peyton Manning is going to do, but you still have to stop them. And they still have to execute them. I watched Aaron Rodgers last night and his first touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, where he whizzed it past the kid's head before he had a chance to turn around, and put it right on the money, so the only thing he could do was catch it."
Peyton Manning. Aaron Rodgers. Any offense would look good with either of those two at the helm, including Kelly's read-option one. That seems obvious, as obvious as this: Any offense that has been forced to play a third-string rookie 2 weeks in a row would likely struggle as Kelly's has.
Quick, can anyone even name the third-string quarterback in Green Bay or Denver?
"We were successful for six games," Kelly said at one point yesterday. "If you look at the last two and just analyze what the situation is, in both games, we got to our third quarterback. I think that's a difficult proposition, you know, especially when you don't have a lot of reps for those guys to go around at practice."
Matt Barkley will get those reps this week. But the Eagles' problems on offense seem to extend beyond quarterback, and the scheme is at least a suspect. Even before Michael Vick pulled up lame, they struggled to put the ball into the end zone. Even before he officially was knocked out against Dallas, Nick Foles was hurried and tackled by one of the league's statistically inept defenses.
Tight ends have been underemployed or underwhelming, depending on what minute of tape you dwell on. Again, depending on the game and the offensive series, either holes are not being created for LeSean McCoy or McCoy is not running through the holes created for him. No one is open or everyone is open, again depending on who's looking and who's talking and who the opponent is.
And as shaky as he's been, that wasn't Barkley bypassing a field goal or calling for an onsides kick with more than 4 minutes remaining Sunday or running sideways a yard short of a first down on a critical third-down play, or running to the wrong hole on another third-and-short.
"It's not all on the quarterback," Kelly said. "I said it earlier. It's on all of us. We have to do a better job as a total group."
The troubling part about Kelly's recurring and largely ineffective unorthodoxy is that it harkens to the previous regime here, and to the same kind of maddening obstinacy that ultimately chased Reid.
Kelly argued again yesterday that he would have been left with the same amount of time on the clock after a kickoff and a defensive stop as he would with the unsuccessful onsides kick. That is debatable for a couple of reasons. There are fewer plays an offense, leading by one score, would be willing to try from inside its own 30 - especially one as challenged as New York's. The Giants might have been reluctant to pass on third-and-8, for example, as they did from the Eagles' 46.
The bigger issue, though, is that your defense was as functional this game as your offense was dysfunctional. How's that for irony? Eight weeks in, and Billy Davis seems to be the coaching find, not the Chippah. I suppose Kelly could flip that argument on me and say that's exactly why he did have to try the onsides kick, to give Barkley less field and more time, but that would contradict his contention yesterday that he has "the right guys" on offense to make plays and take some pressure off Barkley.
"I have confidence in the group," he said. "It was the same group that for six games we were on track to set records. It's not like we're going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and start over again and say we're going to do something new here."
No, that's what he was supposed to have already done, the something new part. Lots of points, lots of plays, lots of electricity coming from the top of the stands even if those windmills on top aren't spinning.
He gets a couple of mulligans so far because of his quarterback situation, and because his roster is a work in progress, no matter what confidence he professes. But if he wants to keep that faith, and keep our faith, he might think about draining some of the murky bathwater around that baby, just to give his latest quarterback and his supporting cast of suspects a fresh start.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon