Chip Kelly Ranks as One of the NFL's Best Head Coaches

Brian Bahr

Not bad for a rookie.

It's no secret Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has earned the near-unanimous support of Eagles fans. Take a look at Kelly's standings in this January BGN approval poll: only 15 voters out of a 2641 total said they did not approve of the job Kelly is doing. And the truth is, those 15 were probably Cowboys fans.

Kelly's approval in the media has changed in short time. When Kelly was hired by the Eagles last year, the media reactions were mixed. Some were very high on Kelly's innovation; others were very skeptical of his lack of NFL experience. Kelly silenced his critics and led the Eagles to a successful season which hardly everyone saw coming. Kelly's first year success earned him a fourth place spot in the AP Coach of the Year voting, which I argued wasn't high enough:

Eagles head coach finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting. That seems low. I'm not sure any other NFL coach did more with less in only one year than Chip Kelly did with the 2013 Eagles. He took an Eagles roster that went 4-12 in 2012 and shaped them into 10-6 team that won the NFC East Division Championship and made it to the 2014 NFL playoffs. Under Kelly, the Eagles broke a number of records including one by the coach himself. Kelly became the second head coach ever to win a division title in his first season on a NFL coaching staff.

Kelly's lower-than-anticipated-finish made me wonder: how high does he rank among the NFL's best head coaches? Patrick Daughtery of RotoWorld unknowingly addressed the answer to my question in a recent column where he ranks all 32 NFL head coaches.

6. Chip Kelly
Kelly has spent exactly one of his 50 years on this earth roaming an NFL sideline. As recently as 2006, he was the New Hampshire Wildcats’ offensive coordinator. He earned his first head-coaching job at the age of 46. So how could he possibly be so high on this list? Because he has something nearly all his peers lack: Clarity of vision. From what kind of offense he runs to what kind of music he plays at practice, Kelly knows exactly what he wants to do as a football coach. Others might think they know, but others spend nearly as much time scapegoating assistants as they do winning football games. And unlike say, Greg Schiano, Kelly is not only a man with a plan, but a man who treats his players like men. He’s not a dictator, but a leader. Maybe Kelly will wind up the flash in the pan many are still certain he is. But if he does, it will be on his terms, doing things no one else has done before. He's literally changing the way the game is played. How many coaches, in any era, can say that? In a copycat league, Kelly is himself. It’s a philosophy more should abide by.

The five coaches to finish ahead of Kelly include: Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton, and John Harbaugh. That's hardly bad company. All of those coaches are Super Bowl winners, except for Jim Harbaugh who lost to the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. Funny enough, Kelly finished one spot of former Eagles head coach Andy Reid. All of the other head coaches hired in 2013 finished lower than Kelly: Bruce Arians (8), Marc Trestman (13), Mike McCoy (15), Gus Bradley (18), Doug Marrone (22). Other NFC East coaches finished: Tom Coughlin (9), Jason Garrett (25), Jay Gruden (6th out of the 7 new hires in 2014).

Kelly isn't one to care about these kind of things, but I think it's very interesting to see the kind of respect he draws despite his brief NFL career. If Kelly can keep up the kind of success he displayed in his first season as Eagles head coach, it might not be long before he could be considered solely as the NFL's best.

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