Chip Kelly: Genius or Idiot?

More than a few people were ready to declare Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly a genius after one half of football, and now many of those same people have decided he is a failure.

The truth, as always, is more complex than that, and while the Eagles have struggled the last two weeks, the offense has certainly been impressive the first half of the season.

Consider:

  • Through eight games the Eagles are fifth in the NFL in total offense per game and seventh in yards per play.
  • Philadelphia is one of just four teams since 1940 to put up at least 400 yards of total offense in its first six games of the season, the others being the 1983 San Diego Chargers, the 2007 New England Patriots, and the 2013 Denver Broncos.
  • The Denver Broncos (8 games) and the Eagles (6 games) are first and second in the NFL, respectively, in games with 400 yards or more of total offense. No other team has more than four such games.
  • Last season the Philadelphia offense had six games with 400 or more yards of total offense, a figure it has already matched this season.
  • The Eagles had 431 yards of total offense against the Kansas City Chiefs. No other team has put up more than 340 total yards against the Kansas City defense.
  • Philadelphia is eighth in the NFL in first downs per game despite its quarterbacks posting the league fifth-worst completion percentage (56.7 percent).
  • Last season the Eagles scored at least 30 points in just one game, but this season Philadelphia already has four 30-point games.

That’s not to say the Eagles haven’t had problems in 2013. Despite its prolific yardage, Philadelphia’s offense is just 19th in the NFL in points per game, due in part to the league’s 11th-worst giveaway rate.

Philadelphia’s offense has also been putrid the last two weeks, gaining just 278 yards of total offense versus the Dallas Cowboys in week seven and 200 yards against the New York Giants last week.*

* Although to be fair, that was with third-string rookie quarterback Matt Barkley taking a majority of the snaps in those games. Barkley, to put it nicely, has looked overmatched thus far.

And while the offense has generally been good, the defense has been terrible, giving up over 400 yards of total offense per game while allowing opponents to gain an average of 5.6 yards per play.

The reality is that Philadelphia — a 4-12 team last season — has already won 3 games this season, and has a much improved offense without any significant personnel changes. Kelly deserves a lot of credit for that.

On the other hand, the defense has been bad as the offense has been good, and as head coach Kelly is ultimately the one who should take the blame for those shortcomings.

Kelly has also made some questionable strategic decisions and admitted to not being entirely familiar with the NFL rule book, and even though those missteps have not cost the Eagles a game they will in the future if they continue.

The truth is, Chip Kelly is neither a genius nor an idiot. An eight-game sample isn’t nearly enough to determine if he’s the next Jimmy Johnson — who made a hugely successful transition from the college game to the pro game — or the next Nick Saban — who did not.

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