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Chip Kelly Gets Outfoxed

FJM Style.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

***Editor's Note: The following piece is written by a friend of the site, Trev223, who happens to contribute to Philadelphia Phillies SB Nation site The Good Phight. Trev reached out to me when he saw a certain ESPN column regarding Chip Kelly's decision making on one specific play in the Eagles 24-21 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. You can read the referenced column by clicking here.

This post is done in an FJM style. If you're unfamiliar with how that works, you can see examples here. The way I see it, Trev really hits the mark on this one. Enjoy.***

Hey, did you guys see that Eagles game on Sunday? Did you see how great the offense looked early on? Okay, okay, I'll admit: they looked kinda gassed in the end, and they made it a little more exciting than it needed to be against a sloppy Cardinals team. But hey, a win's a win, right? Gotta be feeling pretty excited if you're an Eagles fan with Billy Davis' defense finally catching on in stride and Chip Kelly's offense thriving even without proper personnel. Who could be upset about four straight wins?

Chip Kelly Shouldn't Outsmart Himself

Oh. Uh, well, maybe [ESPN NFL columnist] Ashley Fox simply has written an inflammatory headline. Maybe she even wrote this before she saw th-

Rookie coach has Eagles at 7-5, but unnecessary risks might cost team in long run.

Nope, this is a hatchet job. Let's see what super good reasoning she has.

The Philadelphia Eagles' head coach is smarter than everybody else, apparently.

Raise your hand if you think you're a smarter offensive mind than Chip Kelly. Okay, now put down your damned dirty liars' hands. In a world where head coaches are routinely rewarded for following an outdated status quo *cough*BruceArians*cough*, any coach who simply says that he's going to do what works is "smarter than everybody else" in my book.

That's the only explanation for why Chip Kelly took the ball out of the hands of his hottest player inside the red zone Sunday. It made no sense to run a trick play against Arizona, locked in a 7-7 tie looking at first-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

Oh good. It seems as if, just in case you did not get enough reactionary hand-wringing from Sunday's announcing crew, Fox is here to tell us just why Chip Kelly's maverick ways might spell doom for our favorite football team. But unlike Dierdorf and Albert, she's not going to be focusing on time of possession (thank god). She's going to be focusing on that one red zone play with Brad Smith (god no!).

By the way, if you were wondering what Ashley Fox would have written about the alternate reality in which this play worked, Smith didn't get a botched snap, and he threw a touchdown, worry no longer! Ashley Fox would have still utterly disappointed you.

It made perfect sense to have Nick Foles, the man who entered the day with a 121.9 passer rating in the red zone, to lob a pass to a tight end, as he had earlier in the game to take a 7-0 lead on his 17th touchdown of the season.

God! It's almost like Chip Kelly wanted to try something different than he'd tried so far in the game in an effort to keep the Arizona Cardinals' formidable defense guessing! What a dope! Just doesn't get football. Now had he thrown a bubble screen to a tight end? Brilliance.

But Kelly thought better of it. He slid Foles to wide receiver, opposite Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, and put wide receiver Brad Smith in at quarterback.

"It was not a Wildcat play," Kelly said after the Eagles held on to beat the Cardinals, 24-21. "It's just Brad Smith plays quarterback."

I am not exaggerating when I say that this style of writing confuses me more than anything else in sports reporting. Why does Fox describe the play in such straightforward terms here? It totally cuts the heart out of her argument that this was some wacko crazy plan by Kelly that just barely didn't end up torpedoing the Eagles' season in the 2nd quarter of the 12th game. Instead, the play sounds fairly standard, almost dull. Smith in at QB, Foles as decoy to Peterson. Sounds like it could work; maybe not. Who knows?

OK. It wasn't -- wink, wink -- a Wildcat play.

And this isn't - wink, wink - a Piece of Serious Journalism. It isn't - wink, wink - worth any of our time to dissect this passive aggressive attempt to court false controversy. It's a good thing I - wink, wink - don't have anything better to do with my terribly sad life.

It was a dumb play.

Debatable, but probably not; if Smith can throw to a target (and he is a former college QB), then the Eagles have successfully eliminated Patrick Peterson by lining him up against non-target Nick Foles. Don't see why that's dumb on its face.

It was a play that didn't work.

So are most Hail Marys, punt returns, lateral plays, trick plays, and returns from missed field goals. But you don't see anyone getting all pissy about the times it didn't work when Auburn is rescuing us all from a Bama threepeat.

It was a play that lost yards.


It was a play that likely cost the Eagles a touchdown.

Okay, this is a legitimate bummer, but it's not like it cost them th-

And it was a play that could have cost them the game.

Oh for god's sake. They won by three. How could it possibly have cost them the game on its own?

If they kicked a last minute field goal, then sure, I'll grant you that. If they held off the Cardinals and had to go to OT, fine. But that they had to settle for a field goal here has little do with the fact that the 2nd half offense forced the defense to make do with a 17 point lead. You could point to a half dozen other stalled drives, missed defensive cues, and odd run plays on 3rd and long if you wanted to make the "cost them the game" point. But instead you focus on a play that just happens to stand out to you? Why, Ashley Fox; will you tell us why?

Haha, just kidding, she obviously won't. But, in the effort of adding some clarity, two thoughts: a) Fox definitely started writing this "article" before the first half was over, and b) she is an unapologetic hack. Makes you think.

Thinking you're smarter than everybody else doesn't win you games. In the National Football League, it costs you games.

I'm sorry, but isn't this literally the exact opposite thing people have been saying about Bill Belichick and his various disciples for the past decade and change? Does being an egotistical jerk only help your winning percentage if you're rocking a sleeveless hoodie and a disregard for your fellow man?

And if the Eagles are going to do something special this season -- and they are poised to make the postseason for the first time since 2010 -- they can't have their head coach making mistakes born of hubris.


Too bad that Chip got all power mad after his seventh win and started implementing mandatory prayer meetings to his visage, and making the players all live in communal housing and harvest beans on their offtime. And while the matching uniforms of a plain white shift with the words "OBEY CHIP" stitched on the front were fetching, it all did seem a bit culty. And boy, if we only knew what was to come...well, I wish someone like Ashley Fox would have warned us about Chip's hubris, or his arrogance approaching the false belief that he himself is a divine being.

Oh, what, haha, no, there weren't mass suicides. Yeah, they just missed the playoffs. What do you mean "overdramatic?"

Kelly has done an admirable job in 11 months in Philadelphia. He has altered a culture that had turned toxic in the last two seasons of the Andy Reid regime.

Ostensibly by being smart about his coaching decisions.

Kelly has been able to get the players to buy into his way of doing things, to the sports science and the Tuesday practices and the altered weekly schedule.

Again, just spitballing here, but maybe this is because he made some smart decisions and has some solidly intelligent ideas. Maybe people think those ideas are good?

Everyone was all-in from the jump, even though Kelly had never coached a minute in the NFL before the Eagles hired him.

Haha, you ever just feel like a broken record, saying the same thing, like "Chip Kelly is a smart coach and I do not know how you can be so un-self-aware to write these sentences and still focus your article on how he is going to ruin this football team, Ashley Fox, you monster?" Just a weird feeling!

A year after finishing 4-12, Philadelphia is 7-5 and tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East with four games to go. It is December, and the Eagles are relevant. That is because of Kelly. Philly has won four straight and its past two at home with an unpredictable Detroit Lions team coming to town next weekend.

[NOTE: Hey, note to me, go back in after you have finished editing this and come up with something new to say about how great Chip Kelly is. I don't know how Ashley Fox does it, but she just keeps coming up with great new ways of pointing out what a dream of a coach he is. Guess that's why she makes the big bucks!]

Kelly rightfully stuck with Foles this week despite the fact that Michael Vick finally is healthy. Foles has been lights out. He threw three more touchdown passes against the Cardinals, all to tight ends. He again threw zero interceptions (although Peterson had one negated by a defensive holding penalty on teammate Tyrann Mathieu late in the game). Foles finished with a 112.0 passer rating -- his fourth straight triple-digit rating -- and withstood the punishment from one of the league's most aggressive defenses.

You might notice that this paragraph is written like an eighth grade essay. The reason is because the sentences are all simple and directive. The other reason is because there are a lot of repeated words. The reason this might happen is because this article was not carefully edited. Another reason could be bad writing. The best thing to do to spice up prose like this is to throw in a grammar trick - like an em dash with cool information in it - to fool your readers into thinking that you know how a sentence works.

-The Worldwide Leader in Sports and Sports Journalism.

(Also, why does Fox love to talk about tight ends so much? Is there something implicitly good about throwing touchdowns to tight ends? Don't the Cardinals just cover tight ends poorly?)

Incredibly, if Foles throws one more touchdown pass before he throws an interception, he will tie Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to start a season with 20 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Foles already shares an exhibit with Manning at the Pro Football Hall of Fame for most touchdowns thrown in a game (seven). He has a very real opportunity to share another record with Manning as well.

Lot about Foles in this article about Kelly, huh? Almost like...almost like the article didn't need anything about Kelly, but just needed a snappy header so people would read another paean about unheralded wonderboy Nicholas K Foles (the K stands for Kant). Nah, that can't be it.

Kelly deserves credit for that.

Here, Ashley Fox maybe gives Kelly too much credit. Nick Foles actually deserves most of the credit, as he, and not Chip Kelly, is doing the things we are impressed by. The coaching matters too, but I'm not sure Chip deserves top billing here.

Also, I am not sure that Ashley Fox knows how to write a good hatchet job. I'm worried for Ashley.

He has Foles playing loose, playing well and making, as teammate Jason Avant said, good mistakes.

If you ever have to convince someone that the NFL is basically just a massive collection of people who hate intellectualism, remind them that someone can write a publishable article that chastises coaches for being "too smart" and compliments players for making "good mistakes."

When Foles misses a receiver, he usually misses him long. He doesn't throw behind receivers. And the receivers are doing their part on 50-50 balls, as Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson did when he knocked the ball out of Peterson's hands in the end zone.

I'll remind you this is the same Nick Foles who routinely over and underthrew guys today, who was constantly sacked, and who did in fact throw an interception (albeit one that was erased entirely by technicality). I've grown quite fond of Foles, but let's not pretend he was blameless in some of the missteps today.

Ah screw it. Golden God Nick Foles can never make a mistake. Run with it.

Kelly had a wise game plan against Arizona. Given the Cardinals talented secondary and linebackers who are stout against the run, Kelly employed two- and three-tight-end sets to maximize mismatches. And it worked, with rookie Zach Ertz catching two touchdown passes and Brent Celek catching one.

*Shuffles signs and catchy chant sheets around awkwardly*

I was told this would be an anti-Chip Kelly meeting? W-When will the anti-Chip Kelly meeting begin?

But Kelly was not able to adjust to the Cardinals' blitzing on running plays.

Oh thank goodness.

After opening the third quarter with an impressive 13-play, 80-yard drive to take a 24-7 lead, Philadelphia managed just two first downs on its next four drives. The Eagles were trying to run the ball to eat clock and give their defense a rest, but it was not working. Not with LeSean McCoy. Not with Bryce Brown. Not with Foles.

Well, that's certainly true. But let me quote admitted Chip Kelly apologist Ashley Fox by noting that the Cardinals' defense is "stout against the run." We should, Ashley, with Ms. Fox, probably have expected a somewhat diminished run game against the Cardinals.


On third-and-long, Kelly would put the ball back into Foles' hands. Twice during those four drives, Foles was sacked. Once he threw incomplete.

But...but you said that at an earlier point in the game:

"It made perfect sense to have Nick Foles, the man who entered the day with a 121.9 passer rating in the red zone, to lob a pass to a tight end, as he had earlier in the game to take a 7-0 lead on his 17th touchdown of the season."

So what is Chip Kelly supposed to do when Foles can't complete passes? Is Kelly always supposed to trust in Nick Foles, even when he doesn't trust in Nick Foles? Is this some kind of riddle? Are my ears supposed to be leaking gray liquid? Why is everything getting hazlkjlsa;;s;;;;;;;;;;;sa;;;;;;

...that's weird. Kind of lost those last few paragraphs. Oh well, let's keep moving.

Kelly did not have a viable alternative after the Cardinals took the run game away. It was the second consecutive game in which the Eagles were unable to bury an opponent when holding a double-digit lead.

Probably because the Eagles' personnel is still fairly lacking in a number of different areas and Chip and his staff, not to mention Howie Roseman, need to build the team to perform in the way that it has been designed. The success of various options and the consistency of the offense will improve as people begin not only to buy in, but to perform to the level of that offense.


"We're learning," Avant said. "We have a lot of young players. We have a new coaching staff that hasn't been in the National Football League, all those types of things. We're learning. As the year goes on, we're constantly getting better. We're learning how to win in close situations. That's the No. 1 thing, and also we're learning how the game in the NFL works. So, all of it is a learning process."

"But Ashley," Avant added, "and I can't stress this enough, Coach Kelly needs to learn as well. He has holed himself up in his office with his books. He has constructed a small sculpture of a man scoring a touchdown. He has written a great tome that attacks the very concept not only of time of possession, but of time itself. There are lamentations we dare not translate that come during halftime. We are doomed if Coach Kelly does not adhere to the morays of the NFL, or, more importantly, to the morays of physical existence and rationality as we know them."

Kelly is clearly learning, too.


He has had his slips, but he has won over a football-loving town because he has made the Eagles relevant again. And Kelly has found a quarterback. That's a good thing.

I just want to let you know - these are the third and second to last sentences in this entire article. If the grounds for Fox's critique have not become clear to you, don't worry: this just means that you have a working brain and functioning eyes with which to read this article. You can still lead a normal life; you just will never be able to write for ESPN dot com.

Moving forward, he needs to remember to leave Foles in at quarterback in the red zone, because given Foles' red-zone efficiency, that's by far the smarter play.

But what do we do at the times when Foles is bad (see above) and Kelly has no "viable alternative" (see above again). What should Kelly do then? Why should Kelly stick with Foles? How did he outsmart himself in the third and fourth quarters with a move he made in the second quarter? What did the Brad Smith play have to do with the Cardinals' run defense? And why did I read this mess so carefully?

Truly, this is the epitome of bad sports journalism. I mean, I guess someone has to write up the game recap for ESPN, but why did Fox feel any need to include a Chip Kelly critique? The answer, of course, is pageviews. But not only is the critique devoid of any plausible argument, it has no content. The logic basically boils down to "Always play Nick Foles, unless Nick Foles is struggling, in which case keep playing Nick Foles." You don't need to have read Aristotle recently to know that that doesn't make any damn sense.

In the end, what Fox had was an observation - the play involving Brad Smith didn't work - and square-peg-round-holed that into an article that failed on literally every rhetorical level. If you want the shorter, more readable, but no more correct article, here it is, excerpted for your pleasure:

The Philadelphia Eagles' head coach is smarter than everybody else, apparently.

That's the only explanation for why Chip Kelly took the ball out of the hands of his hottest player inside the red zone Sunday.

Moving forward, he needs to remember to leave Foles in at quarterback in the red zone, because given Foles' red-zone efficiency, that's by far the smarter play.

God bless us, every one.

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