Chip Kelly is halfway through his first NFL season. Things haven't gone as smoothly as some may have liked.
Take a look at the current situation. The team is 3-5. Kelly's offense has bogged down in recent weeks after a hot start. Kelly has now made a number of questionable decisions for which he is to blame. The recent ones in the Eagles' loss to the Giants stick out the most. Expressing issue with Kelly's mistakes is not a problem. What's important is to keep Kelly's rookie mistakes in perspective.
Kelly didn't enter an ideal situation here in Philadelphia. Coaches hardly do. There was no franchise quarterback in place. The team was 4-12 the year before. The roster lacked talented due to poor drafting. New schemes on were installed on offense and defense, along with new players and a new coaching staff. This was never a one year fix. One issue still stands out the most among the rest.
In this quarterback-driven, pass-oriented league, it's no surprise Kelly's offense is struggling. Quarterback is the premium position in the NFL and the Eagles lack premium talent at that spot. To make matters worse, the Eagles' best options on their current roster are suffering from injury and poor play.
The notion that Kelly's offense has been "figured out" is silly. Any offense can look terrible when there is no quarterback in place. The "figured out" assumption also seems to imply Kelly relies on "hiding" what he does. That isn't the case. He's aware that other people will study his offense. It's not a secret. Look at Fishduck - an Oregon Ducks fan site that has detailed Kelly's scheme during his time in the college ranks. It's not about hiding what he does. A lot of the offense is based on fundamental execution. It's about executing better than the opposition. Kelly even says as much:
I don't think people have figured out. You can turn the tape on and watch six games of whoever you play, I can tell you what they're going to do. I can tell you what Peyton Manning is going to do. You still have to stop them. They still have to execute.
I watched Aaron Rodgers last night, his first touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson where he whizzed it by the kid's head before he had a chance to turn around, put it right on the money where Jordy, the only thing he could do is catch it.
It's still about executing. I think everybody kind of knows going into the game plan, you're not going to surprise people eight games into the season. We have to run the right depth on our routes. We have to catch the ball when it's thrown to us. We have to put the ball on people when people are open. We have to hit the hole when the hole is there. We have to create a hole if the hole is not there. That's just executing football.
Part of the reason the Eagles can't execute well is because they lack adequate personnel, such as quarterback. Upgrading personnel, which will take place through acquisition and development, will require time. Think about what the Eagles are working with at wide receiver outside of DeSean Jackson. Consider how much the tight end position could be improved upon. And so on.
On the other side of the ball, Kelly was originally heavily criticized for his hire of Billy Davis. The Eagles' defense still has a long way to go before they are a top ranked unit, but for now they have showed improvement.
Speaking of improvement, The700Level put up a good post about how some of history's best coaches didn't just walk into the NFL and dominate from day one. Bill Walsh, Don Coryell, Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, and Tom Coughlin are just a few examples of successful coaches with slow starts.
For additional perspective, consider the following. 8 games into his Giants tenure, Tom Coughlin was 5-3. The Giants lost the next 7 consecutive games. 8 games into Bill Belichick's tenure with the Patriots, the Patriots were 2-6 and had given up 30+ in back-to-back games. 8 games into Andy Reid's tenure, the Eagles were 2-6 and he was starting Doug Pederson over the #2 overall pick. [H/T @Noah_Becker]
Kelly is responsible for his fair share of mistakes. He is not blameless. That said, he deserves time. Given the chance to prove his doubters wrong, I think there's a good chance he will. The Eagles hired Chip Kelly because they knew he was going to be something special. They didn't hire him because they knew it would quickly fix a team that had so badly fallen apart. It wasn't only about winning right out of the gate. The goal was to create a new Eagles culture and build a successful program.
And to do that, it's going to take time.