Grading Chip Kelly (So Far)

Posted: February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageIt has been about a month since the Philadelphia Eagles secured Chip Kelly as their 21st head coach in franchise history. A lot has already been made of his early tenure and the moves he has orchestrated in the short time he has been in Philadelphia. Below is a grading of Coach Kelly’s notable transactions so far:

Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur – B-

The radio waves were sizzling with disdain when news of Shurmur’s hiring became public. After all, this is a former Andy Reid retread who failed in his two seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Of course, who hasn’t failed as coach of the Browns? Since Bill Belichick left following the 1995 season, the Browns have only one playoff berth and two winning seasons. Not to mention the fact that two seasons is not long enough to judge anybody, and there is a reason that Cleveland has been so bad for so long.

Shurmur is a knowledgeable coach with loads of NFL experience. He will act as a liaison to Kelly more than a typical offensive coordinator would. Instead of running the offense (which Kelly himself will do), Shurmur will be a glorified quality control coach with hopes that any success that Kelly has will eventually lead to another head coach job elsewhere for Shurmur.

Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor – C-

It is not a huge deal. But, Lazor has hardly had success everywhere he has gone. He played QB at Cornell (hardly a QB factory) from 1991-93 before latching on as QB coach of the Redskins (06-07) and Seahawks (08-09). During that time, both teams had trouble at the position, although one can argue that Jason Campbell had the best years of his career under Lazor. Still, his resume is not that impressive. As the offensive coordinator for the Virginia Cavaliers from 2010-12, he helped lead a team that went 3-9 in 2009 to an 8-5 record and a Chick-fil-a bowl appearance in 2011. Still, one could hardly say that he turned Michael Rocco into a superstar during his tenure.

Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell – C-

A former BC Eagle like myself, Bob Bicknell gets extra points for being a genius as evidenced by his alma mater. Still, his post-collegiate resume is inconsistent. He loses points for starting his career as an assistant coach at Boston University, a hated rival. He then worked his way up through the NFL Europe ranks in Frankfurt (1998-99), Berlin (2000-03), and Cologne (2004-05). After that, he spent a year as Temple’s offensive line coach before finally moving to the NFL with Kansas City with the same title. In fact, it was not until last year that he even became a WR coach with Buffalo. Not very good when you consider that, outside of Stevie Johnson, few could name another Bills receiver.

Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis: C+

This was a hot topic recently. A lot of talking heads viewed this as a bad hire based on his recent lack of success as a coordinator. Still, Davis has been an assistant for some pretty good defenses in Atlanta, New York, Arizona, and Cleveland. However, once he became the DC, things went downhill.

Davis was a ball-boy for the Eagles during the Dick Vermeil era, and that is in fact how he started in the game of football. A QB and WR at Cincinnati, Davis was an offensive performer up until he took his first professional job under Bill Cowher with the Steelers. From that point on, it was all defense, all the time for the 47-year old. As the LB coach for the Carolina Panthers, Davis oversaw tremendous seasons by Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon. He then learned under Wade Phillips in Atlanta and Tim Lewis in New York before getting his first coordinator gig under Mike Nolan in San Francisco.

Those are some impressive defensive minds that Davis has worked with. It just goes to show you, it does not matter who the coach is if the players cannot play. We saw that last year under Andy Reid. Davis will succeed if the Eagles get some players.

Bringing Back Mike Vick – D

Listen, I understand why they did it. There really were not many better options out there. Alex Smith might be available. But, his price tag is high and the 49ers are unlikely to let him go for nothing. Besides, he is hardly a sure thing. Other than that, what options did they have? Matt Flynn is nothing special and does not fit the mold of a Chip Kelly QB. You could have ridden it out with Nick Foles. But, what did he really prove last year? His deep ball was erratic, his decision making was suspect, and, for all those who say Vick cannot stay healthy, neither did Foles.

Vick is not going to win you a Super Bowl. The only way that possibly happens is if scientists discover a way to transplant Tom Brady or Joe Flacco’s brain into Vick’s head. He has the physical skills to succeed. But, the mental aspect of the game has always been fleeting to Vick. As a one year stop gap, he is not the worst thing in the world.

However, from a PR standpoint, this was the worst move Kelly could have made. I honestly think that people would have preferred he gone out and signed former Oregon QB Akili Smith to bringing back Vick. He just reeks of the failed final seasons of Andy Reid. We’ll see what happens. But, I am going to go out on a limb and say that he will be injured by week six and that this guy below will take over the starting spot…

Agreed to terms with QB Dennis Dixon – B+

For anyone who remembers Dixon’s college days, there has to be some level of excitement. At Oregon, Dixon thrived in the Chip Kelly offense. His senior season was truly one to behold. After graduating with a 3.27 GPA in June, the 6’3 signal caller led Oregon to an 8-1 record and a top-5 national ranking. This included a three-touchdown, 368 yard performance at the Big House against Michigan in week two.

For Dixon, overcoming adversity has long been his mantra. In the team’s 35-23 victory over #6 Arizona State, Dixon left with a knee injury. It was later revealed that Dixon had torn his ACL. Still, he decided to play on it two weeks later against Arizona. In the first quarter of that game, Dixon ran for a 39-yard touchdown on a torn ACL. A few plays later, his knee buckled and he left, never to return to collegiate sports.

Dixon was a fifth round pick of the Steelers in 2008. But, never got much of a chance to shine. When he did start (three games between 09-10), the team used him in the conventional West Coach offense instead of his preferred zone-read option offense. Will Dixon become a superstar under Chip Kelly? It is doubtful. But, this is one tough football player who knows the offense, knows how to play through pain, and knows that this might be his last shot to ever fulfill his NFL dream.

We will continue to review Chip Kelly’s offseason moves all the way until Training Camp 2013 in July!

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