- Phil Sheridan, ESPN Staff Writer
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PHILADELPHIA -- There’s no debating Chip Kelly on this point. His Philadelphia Eagles are indeed “unstable at the quarterback position” due to Michael Vick’s hamstring, Nick Foles’ concussion and Matt Barkley’s inexperience.
So it is all the more important for the Eagles to be stable at another position: head coach. We’re not talking about security -- Kelly has the full confidence of Eagles owner Jeff Lurie -- but rather stability in the sense of a reliable relationship with reality.
Kelly’s offense did not produce a touchdown in two home losses to NFC East rivals Dallas and the New York Giants.
“It’s the same group, for six games, we were on track to set records,” Kelly said. “So I don’t think we’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say we have to do something new here.”
The early success and the recent lack of it suggest NFL defensive coordinators have figured out Kelly’s offense to some degree. And perhaps the trend suggests Kelly’s uptempo approach to everything from practice routines to offensive play is not sustainable with 53-man rosters after all.
Again: These are possibilities worth considering.
“I don’t think that people have it figured out,” Kelly said Monday. “I can tell you what Peyton Manning’s going to do, but you still have to stop that. ...It’s still about executing. You’re not going to surprise people eight games into a (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 when the hole’s not there. That’s just executing football.”
Translation: Kelly’s offense is as good as ever. The players are messing it up.
By that reasoning, Kelly’s play call on first-and-goal at the 2-yard line was flawless. It was the players that botched it. Specifically, it was Barkley that botched it.
“He made a bad decision at the end of the first half,” Kelly said. “He knows he made a mistake and we’re going to chalk it up from there.”
No doubt Barkley made a poor decision. He should have thrown the ball out of the end zone instead of trying to outrun an NFL cornerback while also seeking an open receiver and setting up to throw.
But is it surprising that a rookie who had barely practiced would have a poor sense of just how fast things happen in the red zone against NFL players? It shouldn’t be. Kelly put Barkley in a terrible situation there. That’s the relationship with reality that Kelly has to establish, and quickly.
He also pointed out that kicker Alex Henery had executed onside kicks very well in practice and then kicked it too far in the game.
That’s what happens in games -- the things you draw up on the whiteboard don’t go exactly as you imagined. Kickers mis-hit the ball. Defenders go unblocked. Running backs cut inside when there’s more space outside.
“We were successful for six games,” Kelly said. “If I look at the last two, just analyzing what the situation is, in both games we got to our third quarterback. That’s a difficult proposition.”
It is. But the reality is that Foles played three brutal, scoreless quarters before being injured in the 17-3 loss to Dallas. And Vick was ineffective in the passing game in both games against the Giants, before he was injured and before he was reinjured.
And the reality is the run game has stagnated. It could be that LeSean McCoy simply forgot how to run through a hole, as Kelly implied. Or it could be that defenses have figured out how to slow McCoy down. Or it could be that the early workload and fast pace have taken a toll on McCoy, as well as the offensive line.
The Eagles' offense has problems beyond a bad decision by a rookie quarterback or a poorly run route by a receiver. If Kelly is going to fix them, the best way to start is by acknowledging them.