By Kevin McGuire
They said his offense wouldn’t work in the NFL. They said the Eagles were destined for a last place finish in the NFC East. They said he would be just another college coach in over his head in the NFL, waiting to get back to coaching on Saturdays as soon as possible. They said Nick Foles couldn’t be a good fit for his coaching style. Maybe everyone was wrong about Chip Kelly. On the cusp of a potential NFC East division championship, Kelly has proven he may have just what it takes to be successful in the NFL.
It is a small sample size, of course, but the job done by Kelly this year has been remarkable. He has been thrown a number of issues to handleand he has done so with confidence and intelligence. He is mentally tough to handle the job of an NFL coach.
The Eagles started the year with a 1-3 record marred by three consecutive losses to the San Diego Charges, Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs and a road blowout loss to the Denver Broncos. It was all a bit of a learning experience for the team, and for Kelly. A lesser coach would have caved so early in the year, but Kelly kept sticking to his game plan and picked up two wins on the road the following weeks against the Giants and Tampa Bay. The wins came with a quarterback change with Vick injuring himself and Foles coming in to get a shot. The Eagles then lost their next two games with a combined 10 points scored. The losses also came with more quarterback drama, with Foles getting knocked out against Dallas and Vick once again getting injured against the Giants a week later.
It was not until midway through the season that Kelly had his quarterback situation figured out. Foles made it easy with an NFL record day in Oakland, tossing seven touchdowns in his return to cement himself as the team’s starter for the rest of the year. Foles was never thought of as a player who could handle or lead Kelly’s offense to the coach’s desires, but he has handled it just fine. It also has shown just how good of a coach Kelly can be, adapting to game plan around the players he has. Foles never would have been a good fit at Oregon under Kelly, but this is different. Kelly has figured out how to put Foles in a position to win football games, and together it has put the team one win away from a division championship few predicted at the start of the season.
More importantly, Kelly has shown an ability to not let one game wear on a team. A week after losing 15-7 to the Giants, the Eagles flew across the country and put up 49 points with Foles having a career day. A week after being upset by Minnesota on the road the Eagles fired back against a team contending for a division title with a 54-11 blowout of the Chicago Bears. This team has adopted Kelly’s attitude and mindset as a head coach.
There are a number of factors that go in to determining the NFL’s coach of the year. Sometimes it goes to the coach who has the best team, but more often it goes to a coach who has surprised the league the most. Few coaches have been as much of a surprise this year as Kelly, who has transformed a 3-5 team in to one of the hottest teams in the league at just the right time.
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.