"The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch." - William Shakespeare
Two years ago on a Monday night all eyes were on the Eagles. Would Chip Kelly’s methods work? They said it wouldn’t. Not everyone did, but those with the tallest soap box, the largest megaphone or the biggest lung capacity shouted it. They said a college offense couldn’t work in the NFL. They said a college coach with no experience in the NFL was destined to fail. They said anyone who tried would be run out of the league. They said Chip Kelly would fall flat on his face, doomed to a fate somewhere between the abject failures of Bill Peterson, Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino and the mediocrity of Chuck Fairbanks, Ron Meyer and Dennis Erickson. They said the Eagles were taking a huge risk, that they should have taken a safe hire such as Gus Bradley.
They were wrong. Not just wrong, hilariously wrong. Chip Kelly’s offense didn’t just work, it excelled. Career seasons from star players and average ones. His offense got copied, perhaps the greatest compliment that can be given in the NFL. Two teams have ex-Kelly assistants as their offensive coordinators. Even more have replicated some of his packaged plays into their playbooks. The cyclical use of the no huddle is very much en vogue because of Kelly, and the groundwork for its return was built by the Patriots, transparently and directly from him before he arrived in the NFL. Kelly’s devotion to advanced medicine has seen the Eagles be one of the healthiest teams over the past two seasons. His methods may not be perfect, but they work. The Eagles, a team in shambles when he took over, are firmly a good team. Turns out, he knew what he was doing.
By the standards of coaches with no prior NFL experience, this makes Kelly already one of the few successful coaches. But by the standards of NFL coaches, Kelly has only been moderately successful. Two winning seasons in his first two year is good but not rarefied air; one playoff appearance and no playoff wins is better than most coaches achieve in their first two years, but by no means a great success.
The Eagles are firmly aware of this. Chip Kelly isn’t interested in merely being good. Nor is Jeffrey Lurie. The goal is to win a championship.
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Elliot
Having already gone against the grain and succeed, the Eagles again dared to do things differently to attempt to progress. Lurie gave Kelly total control of the team, something few coaches have and even fewer actually succeed at. Kelly wasted no time reshaping the team in his image. His moves have many proclaiming the Eagles to be a Super Bowl favorite.
So here we are again on a Monday night with all eyes on the Eagles. Will Kelly’s methods work? Having quieted the doubters on his coaching, the focus now turns to his abilities as the man calling all the shots, and the risks the Eagles have taken to win a Super Bowl. Sam Bradford, he of three significant injuries and zero top level seasons in five years, is a risk. Can he stay healthy? Can he finally deliver on his promise? DeMarco Murray, constantly injured in years past is coming off a high workload. Can he too stay healthy? And productive? Will the rebuilt secondary cure the ills?
It's a daring plan. But every season is different, and there are few guarantees in football. One of them is that those who sit idly by get left behind. Those who are bold and smart enough to realize their limitations and change may fail, but that's the inherent risk. And that's what makes this season so exciting before it's even started.