I know there are not a whole lot of similarities between basketball and football, but last night watching the Spurs soundly beat the Heat for the second straight game, I couldn't help but notice the number of times that Mike Breen and Mark Jackson referred to San Antonio's dominance as being "a team effort" with a bunch of guys who have a "pure heart." While I'm not exactly sure what a pure heart is supposed to mean, there are definitely a number of similarities between what that team is doing and what the Chip Kelly is trying to do with Eagles.
Gregg Popovich is, in my opinion, one of, if not the greatest coach in this generation of the NBA, and he was able to construct a team that has won its division twelve years out of the nineteen years that he has coached there. He did this by building a team where everyone is forced to buy into the program that he installed there. Yes it helps to draft three great players in Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker, but this year, it is clear that the Spurs have great players from top to bottom of their roster. It really is a pleasure to watch them play, and while I am not a Lebron hater, I don't think the Heat stand a chance against San Antonio next game.
You just don't see any selfish basketball when you watch them play: the ball is constantly moving at a head-spinning rate so that every player touches the ball on every possession, and the Heat just can't keep up. You don't see the wild emotions or complaining to the refs after every foul that goes the other way (except for the occasional plea from Tim Duncan, but he's a Hall of Famer so we can let it slide) because everyone has bought into the program for the greater good of the entire team.
Now we get to Chip Kelly, who, thus far, has made it clear that he wants the whole team to buy into the program that he has installed, and if you don't, oh well, you're no longer on the team. Every player impacts the team as a whole, which is why Chip, like Popovich, is handpicking all of the high-character guys like Jordan Matthews and Marcus Smith while getting rid of the detrimental players (you know who). Additionally, the versatility that Chip is looking for goes hand-in-hand with what the Spurs team has. There were games last season where Foles would have completions to almost every receiver on the roster which obviously allowed for the Eagles ability to scheme against every defense they played against. Similarly, in building through the draft, I think we are really going to be looking at a full team defense once they get the personnel in place. We're not there yet, but if Chip and Howie can continue to draft well over the next year or two, I think we'll have a really, really complete team.
And what I think what truly makes this team and system unique is the fact that every player does play a huge role on the team. There's a reason that the Eagles are so selective with who they choose to stick with the team, each player is important and the team can't function without all of the correct personnel. That's why I don't see a team like the Dolphins being able to replicate anything we're trying to do, and why I think all of the people who call the Eagles a "gimmick" really don't understand all of the depth of thinking that goes into constructing the team. It's why NBA teams, which almost always rely on a couple of good players to carry the team would not be able to replicate what the Spurs are doing either.
It's still too early to tell just how good of a coach Chip Kelly will be in this league, but all of the signs are pointing in the right direction, and it's really fun to see the team taking shape over the past year. All of the players seem to trust Chip, so there's no reason why we shouldn't either. I don't think anyone will be complaining if Chip emulates what Popovich has been able to do over the past two decades in the NBA, so just sit back, and enjoy the wild ride.