Chip Kelly isn’t the nicest or most humble guy in the room but he’s probably the smartest.
Just ask him.
After all, you don’t go from New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator to NFL head coach and general manager in eights years by being stupid.
Kelly took over as general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles in early January. His first few months on the job have been anything but quiet. A flurry of personnel moves have drawn the ire of just about everyone around the sport.
What’s that guy doing in Phily?
Here’s the thing. Kelly knows exactly what he’s doing.
After just four seasons as a head coach at any level, he took a 4-12 Eagles team to back-to-back 10-6 seasons and the playoffs with one of the least-talented starting quarterbacks in the league.
NFL free agency kicked off this week with a whir of personnel movement that would make a Kelly offense look slow. But Kelly’s plan was being implemented well before the start of the new league year Tuesday afternoon, as the Eagles have made weekly headlines, leaving most fans and experts scratching their heads.
Relax, Kelly knows what he is doing.
He traded fan favorite LeSean McCoy to the Bills who proceeded to sign the seven-year veteran to a long-term (and very expensive) new contract. He shipped Nick Foles — who was 14-4 as a starter under Kelly and 1-5 under Andy Reid — to St. Louis for Sam Bradford. He let Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency to Kansas City.
This, just one season after punting DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick and Jason Avant off the roster as well.
How could anyone get rid of so much proven offensive talent?
His plan isn’t nearly as complicated as people think. He is investing in defense and the offensive line while devaluing positions he thinks he can fill with his system — also known as the offensive skill positions.
Why pay a running back who is 5-foot-10, doesn’t like to practice, has touched the ball 706 times over the last two years and has constantly dealt with injuries when he can draft a starting tailback in the third round for a fraction of the cost?
Instead, he’s bolstered a linebacking corps that was a liability last year with a rising All-Pro who will cost less than a $1 million per season and is just 24 years old.
His plan seems pretty clear. Kelly’s first personnel move as GM was to re-sign linebacker Brandon Hepburn. Then he signed linebacker Brad Jones from Green Bay. Then he agreed to terms with linebacker Brandon Graham. Then he traded for Kiko Alonso. Then he signed defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond to revamp the secondary.
Last offseason, he re-signed left tackle Jason Peters to a massive five-year extension and center Jason Kelce to a seven-year deal while four of his six offseason acquisitions came on defense. The year before that he drafted offensive tackle Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick. In two drafts, 10 of his 15 picks have come on defense.
The blueprint is obvious in Philadelphia. Invest heavily in the defense and the offensive line and then allow Kelly to work his magic with the guys who actually touch the football and score the points.
Trade a fifth-round pick for Darren Sproles. Acquire two former first-round picks at quarterbacks on the cheap in Mark Sanchez and Bradford. Draft future stars in Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews in the second round. Kelly even found a world-class kicker in a preseason trade last year when he shipped running back David Fluellen to Indianapolis for Cody Parkey. Parkey was third in the NFL with 32 made field goals and second with 54 extra points. (For the record, Fluellen has never played a down in the NFL.)
Are there kinks to work out on defense? Certainly. But his offensive system is a proven commodity and the fans need to let his strategy play itself out.
There is a reason that only the Denver Broncos have scored more points (1,088) and gained more yards (13,763) than the Eagles (916 and 13,024) over the last two seasons.
The Patriots (912) and Packers (903) are third and fourth on the scoring list. What is it that those other three teams have in common that the Eagles are clearly lacking? That’s right, Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Kelly is working minor miracles in the City of Brotherly Love so let’s all just let it play out before judging the plan.
Clearly, Kelly knows what he’s doing.