Last weekend the Eagles slipped to 4-6, allowing rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and his mediocre Tampa Bay Buccaneer supporting cast to rack up 521 yards of total offense, en route to an abysmal 45-17 pounding. As an Eagles fan, I loved the Chip Kelly hire and was a supporter from the start, especially after he lead the team to consecutive 10-6 seasons in 2013 and 2014. I became skeptical of the situation once Kelly was named the team’s General Manager this January though, which effectively gave him total control of personnel operations and draft choices. Much like having a dictator control all power in a governmental situation, I was wary of giving Kelly full control of the team, even though he is qualified to do so. The Eagles wouldn’t have given Kelly total control if there was any doubt on his job status, so I think Chip will remain the Eagles’ coach and GM, no matter how this season turns out.
Obviously, it is much easier to judge offseason transactions in hindsight, but very few of Kelly’s big moves in his inaugural summer of having full power seemed to pay off. Chip knows his system best, but it seems as though Kelly is trying to push his offensive system on players who do not fit.
I did not like Kelly’s trade for Sam Bradford at all. I wouldn’t have minded it as much if it was straight up Nick Foles for Bradford, maybe with one late draft pick included; it would have been trading a mediocre quarterback for another mediocre quarterback who was formerly a number one overall draft pick, and I like Bradford’s upside better than Foles’s. But, it wasn’t. The deal was Foles, a fifth round draft pick, AND a second round pick for Bradford and a fourth round pick. That is giving up way too much for a guy who has torn his ACL twice, has only played two injury-less seasons since he was drafted in 2010, and doesn’t even fit Kelly’s up-tempo system.
Kelly also released former starting offensive linemen Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis this offseason, widely considered a very strange decision. To make matters worse, Kelly didn’t replace Herremans and/or Mathis in the draft or through free agency. Very few teams can release two all-star caliber linemen and replace them in-house without signing or drafting any additional players. Those draft picks that were traded away for Bradford could have been used to shore up the offensive line.
To be clear, I fully believe in Kelly’s offensive system; I think that a fast paced, hurry-up offense can be extremely effective in the NFL. But, Kelly just doesn’t seem to have the personnel to deploy the system he wants to. I believe a few additions must be made for Kelly’s system to truly be effective.
It’s a no-brainer that the Eagles need more depth on the offensive line. They don’t need a stud here; their starting offensive linemen are pretty good and the line has seen success when healthy this year. There is just no depth, and when a couple guys got injured this season, the whole line had to be reshuffled. A few more decent big bodies could make a huge difference up front.
The only taste we have ever gotten of an NFL version of Kelly’s up tempo offensive system with a true dual-threat QB was with a washed-up 30 plus year-old Michael Vick for about one full season. At Oregon, Kelly’s quarterbacks were all dual-threat; Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, and Marcus Mariota all saw successful careers as Ducks. For some reason, Kelly seemed to abandon that dual-threat narrative once he joined the Eagles; Nick Foles and Sam Bradford are not capable of running like any of the quarterbacks Kelly had at Oregon. The Eagles must go after a dual-threat quarterback this offseason. Colin Kaepernick, please!
I’ve always been a huge Kaep fan… from his days in college at Nevada to his time with the 49ers, I have loved his game. I think he would fit Kelly’s system perfectly. Him and Chip are a match made in heaven. This season, after Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco, Kaepernick began to struggle. He is currently on the Injured Reserve with a torn labrum and is expected to be either traded or cut before next season because of poor results so far in 2015. There were rumors that the Eagles were trying to acquire Kaepernick from the 49ers this offseason, but those obviously never came true. If Kaep is on the trading block or is a free agent, Kelly must inquire and try to get a deal done. It is too perfect; Kaepernick is the archetype of the dual-threat quarterback that thrived in Kelly’s Oregon offense. The Eagles have other weapons; running backs DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, and Darren Sproles, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews, and tight end Zach Ertz are certainly enough to give Kaep viable offensive options. Add a QB who has a strong arm but is also capable of rushing, potentially out of designed quarterback runs or zone-read plays with the Eagles’ talented running backs, and this team can be really fun to watch.
Will Chip Kelly go all in on Kaepernick? We probably will not find out until this offseason, but I would absolutely love to see Kelly’s prolific offense reunited with a capable dual-threat quarterback.