In their never-ending quest to pump out as much content as possible, NFL.com released an article that ranked the top "offensive nuclei" in the league. This was done by asking the question, "If I am the best head-coaching candidate on the market, which offensive personnel would I most want to take over?"
I was slightly amused by the premise, mostly because I wanted to see where the Eagles landed after Chip Kelly essentially unlocked all of that potential Andy Reid failed to harness in his last years in Philadelphia. You can imagine my surprise when the article's author, Chris Wheeling, had the Eagles ranked tenth.
Here was the top ten, if you don't have the time to look at the entire article:
So now, the question becomes, is ten too low? My initial gut reaction was, "Hell yes," but I have calmed down a little to think. We'll break things down here to see if my gut reaction is correct or if I'm just letting my fanaticism get the best of me.
I'll start by picking out the teams that definitely have a better offensive nucleus than the Eagles. The immediate ones that jump out to me are Denver, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Chicago. I'm not going to go into detail on why those offensive units are better, but I'll be willing to offer my thoughts in the comments should you disagree.
What's the score? If we assume the Eagles are better than the other teams on the list, that puts them at sixth. But I'm going to taker a deeper look at the teams I haven't mentioned yet and make a decision on each one from there.
Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson has certainly been a pleasant surprise coming out of the third round, and I think overall you'd have to give him the edge over Nick Foles. He has a similar body of work but has done it over more games. Marshawn Lynch is probably the hardest runner in the league, but I trust LeSeaon McCoy to break an ankle before I trust Lynch to break a tackle. Riley Cooper's emergence puts the Eagles receiving corps on par with Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin, and Golden Tate (although Avant brings them down a little bit), and Brent Celekjust edges out Zach Miller. When you compare offensive lines, it's no contest: Philadelphia wins that one by a mile. Overall, I'll take the Eagles.
New England Patriots. I won't insult Tom Brady by comparing him to Nick Foles. But other than Brady, what else do they have on their team? Aaron Dobson? Julian Edelman? Shane Vereen? Yes, they have Rob Gronkowski, but he's never healthy. I will concede that since Dobson is a rookie he has a lot of upside. The Patriots have a better offensive line than the Eagles, but I would take Philly's receivers and backfield over New England's any day. Even with all that said, a coach is going to find it difficult to pass up having Tom Brady on his roster. I'll cheat a little bit and call this a push.
Detroit Lions. We're all ready to call Nick Foles the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Matthew Stafford is still more talented. He has a stronger arm and has thrown for around 5,000 yards in the previous two seasons. I realize that he turns the ball over, but I blame that on their incompetent coaching staff which has clearly failed to utilize this team's potential. Reggie Bush may be having a good year, but McCoy is still better. As far as receivers go, the Lions' are extremely tall and physical - and they have Calvin Johnson - so they get the advantage there. The Lions' offensive line has played as well as anybody's and have a nice mixture of experience and youth. This is a tough call, but I'll take the Lions on this one.
Indianapolis Colts. Yes, everybody is anointing Andrew Luck as the second coming of Peyton Manning. It is for this reason why I imagine they were ranked above the Eagles. And while both he and Nick Foles have shown some great intangibles, Luck is still above Foles. In only two seasons, Luck has engineered ten game-winning drives, seven of which involved fourth quarter comebacks. But then I look around at the rest of the roster, and it's similar to the Patriots. They do have Reggie Wayne on the outside, but he's getting old and T.Y. Hilton is good, but not great. Coby Fleener has emerged as an extremely reliable asset for Luck with fifty-one receptions, but his other numbers aren't eye-popping. The running game doesn't even compare to what the Eagles bring to the table and the offensive line is more or less average. If the Patriots were a push with Tom Brady, the Colts are not with Andrew Luck. Give me the Eagles here.
So, let's re-rank the offensive nuclei, giving Tom Brady the benefit of the doubt considering his track record. It now looks like this:
Here I have the Eagles at eighth, which I think is a little more fair than tenth, even if it's not a big move. The biggest factor here is, as expected, Nick Foles. Most of us get the feeling that he will be the quarterback of the future. But the truth is that you cannot make a call like that on a quarterback after one season, no matter how historic. If he can play at a similar level for the entirety of next season and stay healthy, then that would be enough to push the Eagles above teams like Detroit and possibly even New England. But at the present time, it's not realistic to put Foles ahead of other quarterbacks with a much more accomplished body of work.
Overall, I think the original ranking of tenth shows that Chip Kelly still has a long way to go to prove to outsiders that he will be a successful NFL coach. While one season does not guarantee long-term success for a coach, it's hard not to believe in what Kelly is doing for the franchise. Major media outlets that cover all the teams have not been able to see the little wrinkles that Chip has introduced to bring the team forward, so it will take them more time. Beating the Cowboys on Sunday would certainly do wonders for his credibility. Then again, Kelly doesn't really care what other people think, so maybe neither should we.
However, I thought this might be a fun thing to ponder and alleviate our anxiety over the play-in game on Sunday. So, what do you think? Was ten just right to begin with, or was it too low like I originally thought and reasoned? Is eight too low? Was ten too high? Get on your soapbox and let your voice be heard!
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