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Thursday, January 16, 2014
Maxwell award marks Kelly anniversary

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA -- It was an eventful year for Chip Kelly.

On Jan. 16, 2013, Kelly accepted the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching position.

On Jan. 16, 2014, Kelly was named Pro Football Coach of the Year by the venerable Maxwell Football Club.

Chip Kelly
Jan. 16 has been kind to Chip Kelly the last two years.
In between, Kelly hired a staff, oversaw a quarterback competition, won 10 games and the NFC East title and got his first taste of the NFL playoffs. He jokingly gave himself a "58.8 percent" grade, his winning percentage based on 10 wins and seven losses, but Kelly obviously deserved high marks for his first season with the Eagles.

Coach of the year? Well, there were some other strong candidates. The Maxwell Club, whose president is ESPN's own Ron Jaworski, is Philadelphia-based. It’s worth noting that the Kansas City-based Legacy of 101 gave its AFC coach of the year award to the Kansas City Chiefs' Andy Reid.

Reid took the team with the worst record in the NFL in 2012 to an 11-5 record in 2013. Bill Belichick managed injuries and controversies and has the New England Patriots back in the AFC championship game. Ron Rivera, the 101 winner in the NFC, turned the Carolina Panthers around in-season and won the NFC South.

Among other first-time head coaches, San Diego Chargers' Mike McCoy and the Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians had pretty good seasons, too.

None of that is meant to diminish what Kelly did with the Eagles. He inherited a team with some offensive talent and an utter lack of direction, a team that had gone 4-12 in Reid’s final season, and changed the culture. Kelly’s Eagles played hard and played smart, for the most part.

Quarterback Nick Foles' emergence was one of the NFL stories of the year. A third-round pick in 2012, Foles took over the starting job in October and led the Eagles to a 7-1 record in the second half of the season.

Foles’ seven-touchdown game in Oakland was one of the epic offensive performances delivered by Kelly’s team. LeSean McCoy's 217-yard rushing day against the Detroit Lions was equally dominating. Foles tied an NFL record, McCoy broke a franchise record.

Almost as impressive was the evolution of the Eagles defense from the mess of 2012 to a solid unit with an entirely new scheme. Coordinator Bill Davis made a lot of spare parts fit and work well together.

It was certainly an excellent start to Kelly's tenure. As he said, though, laying a foundation matters only if you build something upon it. In 2014, the Eagles will face a first-place schedule and won't have the element of surprise in their favor. Defensive coaches will have an entire offseason to break down Kelly's scheme and Foles' game. The Eagles will have to adjust and get better in an NFC East that almost can't be as bad as it was in 2012.

So the Maxwell's Greasy Neale award is a nice anniversary gift for Kelly. It should serve as a reminder how much further there is to go rather than a reward for getting where Kelly and the Eagles are today.