Kelly’s offense is a mystery only to his own players

Alan TruexGranted, the Philadelphia Eagles are a difficult team to coach.  For starters, they haven’t had a quarterback anybody wanted since Donovan McNabb and his mom were making millions selling Chunky Soup.

They have the worst wide receivers north of St. Louis and Nashville. And a running back, DeMarco Murray, who dives like a quarterback instead of stiff-arming a tackler.

They have the most merciless fans since Rome’s Colosseum was matching up gladiators.  Philly will be forever famous for booing Santa Claus.

Now the fans are vocal with disrespect for the Eagles’ current head coach, Chip Kelly, after Sunday’s feeble appearance at Lincoln Financial, a 45-17 drubbing at the neophyte hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rookie Jameis Winston passed for five touchdowns against a Billy Davis defense that’s as wrinkle-free as a starched shirt.

Meawhile, Kelly clings to the hyperspeed offense that was supposed to revolutionize the sport of football but turns out to be too fast for its own good.  All the haste produces a procession of turnovers: 14 interceptions in 10 games.

In order to train players for a system foreign to them, Kelly requires an extra day of practice, Tuesday, when other teams are off.  So he has a tired team, more broken-down than most.

Kelly is so convinced of the inherent superiority of the Up-Tempo that he never varies it, just recycling the same script of  trap runs and screens.  His players are unimpressed.  Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said Tampa’s offensive scheme was superior to Philly’s.

That’s a damning charge, to be outcoached on offense by Lovie Smith.

How about being outcoached by Jason Garrett?  Eagles receiver Josh Huff said that in a September game he could hear Dallas coaches yelling out the play the Eagles were about to run.

In Sunday’s game, Tampa linebacker LaVonte David anticipated a screen pass to Darren Sproles and swooped in for a pick 6.

“It’s play recognition,” David said.  “It’s the same thing they were doing all day.  On the drive before that they were hitting us with a lot of screen passes.”

After David sprinted into the end zone, Sproles stared a hole through quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Soon the two were engaged in a heated argument over who was at fault, Sproles for ending his route prematurely or Sanchez for throwing to the wrong space.

Some media observers saw this exchange as a sign of discord – among many such signs.

Others commended Sanchez and Sproles for caring, while most of their teammates appeared unconcerned about the pillage and plunder by the Buccaneers.  

The Eagles’ retired Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook complained that “this team shows no emotion.”  Appearing on radio 97.5 FM, Westbrook said, “I saw players laughing, joking.  They were having a good time.”

Westbrook played on Philly’s last Super Bowl team, in 2004, and he expected an inspired rebound from a team that blew a 16-3 lead to Miami on the same field the previous Sunday.

Instead of taking out your frustrations on the next opponent, the attitude now is walk right into our house, the door is always open, make yourself comfortable.

In a Monday morning chat with Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP, Kelly was confronted with the view that his Ben Carsonlike demeanor creates an unemotional football team.

“If people want a screamer and a yeller,” Kelly said, “let’s hire you ’cause you’re really good at it.”

In true Philadelphia style, Cataldi fired back: “I’m not sure I’d be worse than 4-6.”

Westbrook expects a head coach to establish a culture of professionalism, of storm-the-fort passion.  He doesn’t see that from Kelly’s heroes.  He said one of the off-season acquisitions, former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso, “looks like he wants to get blocked.”

Why are the Eagles so passive? Westbrook suggested “the relationship Chip Kelly has with the guys.”  What he means is there’s not much of one.

Kelly, like most football geniuses – or geniuses of any kind – is an introvert who often appears lost in thought.

Players tell of his ignoring them when he passes them in the hall.  The same behavioral flaw has been attributed to Hall of Fame basketball coach Phil Jackson. 

Bill Belichick is hardly a great communicator – more stoic even than Kelly.  But he makes correct personnel decisions most of the time, finding undervalued players who fit his system and altering his system to facilitate the players he has.

When Kelly became head coach of the Eagles three years ago, he took over the remnants of the worst team money could buy – overpaid fading stars Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and such.  Andy Reid, who had been one of the top two or three coaches in the league, had gambled hugely in free agency and come up with a junk-pile of ill-fitting parts.

Kelly’s first two seasons in Philadelphia brought promise, 10-6 back to back, as the NFL wasn’t ready for his tempo.  But now the defenses have adjusted.  The Eagles’ very fast three-and-outs put an unreasonable burden on their own defense.

With a dominant offense, like he had in contending for national championships at the University of Oregon, Kelly can be successful on both sides of the ball.  But when his offense malfunctions, he can’t win with defense, the way Carolina, Seattle, Kansas City, Denver or Houston can.

Nor can much be said for Kelly’s roster-building.  Reid did leave him some talented young players, which he proceeded to lose: receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, running backs LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis, defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Kurt Coleman.

Compare those to the players he’s brought in – and what he’s done with them.  It’s understandable Philly is weary of Kelly and his offense of the future.  He’s beginning to look like Mouse Davis with his Run & Shoot or Steve Spurrier with his Fun & Gun.  Kelly is finding, as they did, that college football is a very different game from the NFL.

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