Chip Kelly And Nick Foles Are Putting The College In Pro Football And It's Awesome
The Philadelphia Eagles are the most fun team to watch in the NFL. Their hapless first half approach makes you nibble your nails and consider turning off your television. But just at that moment, Darren Sproles ducks behind some massive, freakishly athletic lineman, and Sproles rips off a huge touchdown catch-and-run. The Eagles are zooming at college speed. They go all Oregon Ducks on everyone's ass.
They're here to put the College in NFL. Admittedly, there's no "college" in NFL. But that's what is so awesome about it. People thought that Chip Kelly would be out of a job last year. They thought he couldn't put college in NFL. But he's done it anyways.
His system won't last, they said. It's too strict for NFL players. It's college ball. That's where it should stay.
Well it was too strict for some players. But he (who-should-not-be-named) can go play with some shitty franchise (that-should-not-be-named).
Then Kelly went out in 2013 and proved them wrong with the help of LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, who was a nobody. This year, Kelly's winning again, and he's doing it with a dramatic flair. On Monday Night Football, his team finished a comeback over the "King of Comebacks" (Andrew Luck). In two weeks, they've overcome deficits of 17 and 14 points. They’ve won ESPN’s gold medal for some weird stat the network's researchers (or Stats Inc) pulled out of their ass. They became the fourth team in the last 30 years to win back-to-back games when trailing by 14 or more points after halftime. As a wise man named Borat once said, "Very nice!"
Admittedly, they should never have let the Jaguars dig them into a 17-point hole. As CSN Eagles columnist Josh Gonzalez writes, all that matters is that they're 2-0. If the Eagles continue to beat good teams, no one will remember the 17-point lead the Jaguars held over them in the first 30 minutes of the season.
Kelly's approach is eccentric but effective. He believes in self-governance. "If you have self-governance, I think the individuals have more invested in what's going on because they have a say, and they have a stake in it," he told USA Today back in June. There are other oddities. He makes his coaches wear catchers mitts when catching passes from quarterbacks, and he makes his running backs do drills through 5-foot-6 doorway.
It's a funhouse at Eagles' practice -- and game time is a series of smoke and mirrors.
Teams were supposedly going to "figure out" the Chip Kelly offense. For the first 30 minutes of these last two games, it seemed they were right. The NFL had adjusted to them. Instead, defenses lose their grip on the offense like an electric eel, wiggling relentlessly until it bursts into motion. Once it's gone, you're never getting it back.
Who's the grease of the eel? Easy: Nick Foles.
Foles and the Eagles attack have the second most passing yards per game in the NFL (303 ypg). He's got a healthy Jeremy Maclin, which is a rare luxury. Riley Cooper has developed from Tim Tebow's favorite target on the Swamp to a legitimate NFL receiver. And Darren Sproles is the perfect toy for Chip Kelly's offense. He is the NFL's best hybrid player. He doesn't have a position, because it would be like placing a circular block into square hole and saying it fits. You're right -- but not exactly.
Once Sproles arrived in town, Kelly clearly started devising plays for his new hybrid player. They're paying off. Sproles is suddenly making the NFL's self acclaimed "best running back in the NFL" play second fiddle. McCoy is still getting around 20 carries a game, but he's got one touchdown and a 3.7 yard rushing average to show for it.
Foles is what helps the Eagles' offense slip out of control. He can handle the volume -- the 35 to 50 high pressure decisions that he has to make every game. Because every NFL pass is difficult, and Chip Kelly is asking Foles to perform 10 to 20 more of them than a quarterback like Russell Wilson, who was in Foles' 2012 Draft class. So while the Seahawks are codling Wilson, Foles is the offensive steward.
It hasn't been pretty the whole way though, but when it's good it can appease the most ADD of football fans.
The Eagles play that aforementioned shitty franchise (that-should-not-be-named) this Sunday, where their not shitty offense will be on full display.
Photos via Getty
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