By Rob Ellis
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was one play but it spoke volumes. And it should scare you if you’re an Eagles fan.
The play occurred in the second quarter of their game against the Broncos. Believe it or not it was actually still a contest of two teams that looked like they belonged on the same field at that point. The Eagles trailed the Broncos 21-13 with three minutes and change left in the second quarter. Eagles possession, 4th down and 6 at the Denver 37 yard line.
Chip Kelly had three options: try to get a first down, kick a 54 yard field goal in the Colorado altitude (a mile above sea level), or door number three, punt. Chip Kelly chose the latter. He played scared. That kind of coaching is a far cry from the non-conformist, balls-to-the-wall “College Chip” that Jeffrey Lurie hired this offseason. His team entered the game as 11 point underdogs, against a team that has scored more often than Leo DiCaprio on singles night. The dye was cast on the game right then and there. Forget about the fact that any kicker worth his salt or a roster spot, should make that kick. That decision told you all you needed to know about Kelly’s faith in Alex Henery, who may be looking for employment elsewhere soon. But if you’re not going to try to get three.
You have to go for it there.
Kelly wasn’t brought here from Eugene to play by the rules of conventional wisdom. He’s clearly got a short deck on the defensive side of the ball. The Eagles will have to outscore their opponent virtually every week. But especially against one that was averaging 42 points per game coming into the contest. Odds are the avalanche that Peyton Manning unfurled in the second half would have taken place anyway, but that could have been a tie game at the half if they play with guts and punch it in the end zone. The vibe could have been completely different. Not to mention Kelly’s confused body language on the sideline during the sequence.
The point is Kelly cannot change who he is. Perhaps the failed two-point conversion early in the Chiefs game scarred him. But if you’re going to go all faster than the speed of sound, a man of science, smoothies for the house, loud music, no-hitting, ten-hours of sleep, etc… carry that to the field, when it actually counts. Stay outside the box Chipper. Don’t bail 13-plus quarters into your rookie season as an NFL head coach. Stay true to yourself. Going for it there, would have sent a message to your offense that you still believe in them, despite how pedestrian they looked versus Kansas City and throughout most of the first half Sunday in Denver.
Let’s face it, the bigger issue by a landslide is the defense. And the special teams play made you long for Bobby April. But this offense must be good and you have to try to capitalize on every opportunity. The head coach did not. We’ve already seen the growing pains. Not knowing the rules. Questionable clock management. You are going to have to live with some of that. He is a newbie to this pro thing. But don’t play someone else’s game. Whether it’s the two-point conversion or bigger picture if the 1-3 start and struggles that he is not accustomed to ar already coloring his decision making in ways like Sunday, that is a bad thing for the Eagles. Better to go out swinging than turtled up in the corner. This may be part of the learning process. Kelly may reflect back at the call and decide that’s not him. But the pressure of the NFL can do funny things to a coach’s psyche. Succeed or fail on your own terms.
Be Chip, leave that Charlie guy in the thin air of Denver.
Rob Ellis hosts evenings on 94WIP, and you can follow him on Twitter @robellis94.