PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Only three NFL coaches have complete control of all personnel decisions: New England’s Bill Belichick, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, and Philadelphia’s own Chip Kelly.READ MORE: Brotherly Love: Wheels Of Change Bringing Help To Families In Their Own Neighborhoods
That’s desirable company for Kelly to be in, considering the success of the other two. Kelly, of course, isn’t quite there yet.
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Hired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft to be head coach in 2000, Belichick was given full control over all personnel decisions. Coincidentally, the head coach of the Pats the three years prior, was Carroll.
Belichick, who did have plenty of coaching experience in the NFL—including head coaching experience with the Cleveland Browns—restructured the team’s personnel department that offseason.
In his first season as head coach the Patriots went 5-11, but more importantly, Belichick drafted a guy named Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. The following season, in 2001, Belichick controversially went with Brady as his starter over Drew Bledsoe. Since then, Belichick, Brady, and the New England Patriots have been the NFL’s most successful franchise, winning four Super Bowls in 14 years (2001, 2003, 2004, 2014).
Belichick’s philosophy was to build to a program, where essentially any player is replaceable, except maybe for the quarterback. However, when Brady missed the the 2008 season after tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 1, Belichick turned to no-name backup Matt Cassel. Cassel had the best season of his career, leading the Patriots to a 11-5 record, throwing for 3,693 yards in 15 starts with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
The leading rushers for the last 11 Super Bowl winners averaged 965 per season, or 60 yards a game, and Belichick understands this. The Patriots have had three different running backs for their four Super Bowl victories: Antowain Smith in 2001 and 2003, Corey Dillon in 2004, and a committee of LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen in 2014.
The Patriots’ running backs in 2008, when Brady was hurt, consisted of Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, and Sammy Morris.
Belichick will move on from anyone. Most recently, Belichick and the Patriots decided not to pick up the option on 33-year-old and five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
Kelly is from Dover, New Hampshire and studies Belichick, mimicking him in many ways. In fact, the Eagles and Patriots have held joint practices in Kelly’s first two training camps as head coach. At this year’s NFL scouting combine, Kelly joined Belichick as one of only three coaches who did not address the media.
Here’s Belichick on Kelly from an interview back in August of 2013, during the teams’ first joint practice.
“I have so much respect for Chip [Kelly] and what he’s done,” Belichick said. “We’ve been friends for a while and I know he does a great job with this football team and the program that he’s run in Oregon.
“He’s a very innovative, creative guy. He’s got a great mind, he’s smart, and I think he’ll take advantage of whatever resources he can. We’ll see what that is. I’m sure he’ll give us plenty of trouble.”
The Seahawks hired Carroll from the University of Southern California in 2010. Immediately, Carroll, who also had some NFL experience despite spending the previous nine seasons as head coach at USC, was named executive vice president of football operations, giving him full control of personnel decisions.
So, what did Carroll do? Oh, nothing, besides make a ridiculous NFL record 284 transactions in one season, revamping the entire roster.
In his first two seasons as Seahawks head coach, Carroll went 7-9 and 7-9. In 2012, Carroll drafted a guy named Russell Wilson in the third-round (a player the Eagles passed up on, yes I’m still bitter), and went 11-5 beating the Redskins on the road in an NFC Wild-Card game.READ MORE: New Jersey Native, Who Lost Daughter In Parkland Shooting, Fighting To Protect School Children Across Nation
Carroll, like Belichick, shares the philosophy of building his program where players are interchangeable. Midway through last season, Carroll stunningly traded one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers in Percy Harvin for just a mid-round draft pick.
In 2013, as we know, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and then came a mere yard-short from repeating the following season—against, Belichick, Brady, and those New England Patriots.
Seattle’s starting receivers last year were Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse.
And then there’s our guy, Kelly, hired by the Eagles in January of 2013 to be the head coach. Just, the head coach. Kelly had to defer to then general manager Howie Roseman on personnel matters, who was reportedly a guy no one wanted to work with.
Despite losing his respective starting quarterbacks to injury in each of his first two seasons, Kelly has combined to go 20-12. In his first season as NFL head coach Kelly accomplished more than Belichick and Carroll ever sniffed, as the Eagles hosted the Saints in an NFC Wild-Card game, losing on a last-second field-goal.
Kelly believes in the same philosophy as Belichick and Carroll, establishing his culture and building a program. When starting quarterback Nick Foles injured his shoulder in Week 9 of last season, Mark Sanchez stepped in and had the best stretch of his career under Kelly. Sanchez completed a career-high 64.1 percent of his passes, while obtaining a quarterback rating of 88.4, also a career best.
Prior to the 2014 season, the Eagles sent shock-waves around the nation by releasing their star wideout DeSean Jackson, who happened to be coming off the best season of his career. For Kelly, he didn’t fit.
Fast-forward to today.
Kelly, finally, has complete control of all personnel decisions and he certainly isn’t afraid to act on it.
Furthermore, in the first real “Big Balls Chip” move, Kelly reportedly traded star running back LeSean McCoy and his absurd $11.9 million 2015 cap hit to the Buffalo Bills for 24-year-old rising star linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is coming off an ACL injury.
Currently, that gives Kelly about $46 million in cap space to play with once free-agency starts (Tuesday, 4:00 p.m.), to sign, only God knows who.
Oh, and many analysts expect Kelly to trade every draft pick he owns in order to move up in the 2015 draft, to take his former quarterback at Oregon—the reigning Heisman Trophy winner—Marcus Mariota.
And this craziest thing is—this is totally plausible. In fact, the odds of it happening are 4-1!
For some reason, Philadelphia is divided, not excited. A large part of Eagles fans are scared, nervous, and worried. “In Chip We Trust,” a social media driven slogan created by the fans, is now mocked.
Many are quick to point out the abrupt release of Jackson for no return, the questionable first-round selection of Marcus Smith (even though that was reportedly Roseman’s pick), and now the McCoy trade, along with in-game goal-line errors, as mistakes Kelly has made. Thus, conveniently leaving out all the success he has had in his short tenure as Eagles head-coach.
The question often asked is, ‘How do we know Kelly really knows what he’s doing?’
And to be honest, we don’t. But with everything concrete that we do have, I ask, how do we know Kelly doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing?
Philadelphia sports fans, Eagles fans more specifically, have continuously had their hearts broken time and time again. Naturally, like a girl frightened of having her heart-broken, Philly is reluctant to fall-in love.
When it comes to Philadelphia sports, faith is hard to come by, championships even harder, and Super Bowls, well forget it. Finally, we’ve got a guy willing to go against the grain and do whatever it takes. Don’t be afraid to fall in-love, Chip isn’t going to break our hearts.
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