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Are Nick Foles, Chip Kelly, and the NFL a Match?

Dec 27, 2012, 5:38 AM EDT

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They have yet to conduct so much as one formal interview, or
even fire Andy Reid for that matter, but it sure sounds like the Eagles have a great
deal of interest in Chip Kelly. The rumor reached fever pitch over the past few
days since CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported the Birds are expected to be among
the first NFL teams to call the University of Oregon head coach about their new openings.

I imagine this front office will be among the first to
contact many of their potential targets. After all, they had to be plotting this
search for almost two months now – Howie Roseman probably built an itinerary he’ll
follow right down to the 15-minute interval – and naturally they wouldn’t limit
themselves to one candidate, either. (Technically, they couldn’t because of the Rooney Rule.)
My own best guess is the Eagles move quickly, but proceed thoroughly.

In other words, Kelly is certainly on the radar if these
rumblings are to be believed, although whether or not he emerges as the so-called
favorite remains to be seen. Two possible impediments immediately spring to
mind, and those happened to be discussed by John Boruk and Ray Didinger on
Wednesday’s edition of Daily News Live:

1. Will his
spread offense translate to the NFL?

2. Is Nick Foles a fit for that
style of offense?

First, that presumes Chip off the Oregon block is going to
arrive from college football and instantly install a replica of the Ducks’
offense. Second, if Foles isn’t the quarterback in Philly next season, then who
is?

Bear in mind, any head coach works inside of two fairly
simple constructs: what is successful in the National Football League, and
the talent on their roster. And to keep both issues as boilerplate as
possible: 1. the spread offense Oregon presently employs resembles no other NFL
offense, 2. the Eagles don’t have many other options under center, especially
good ones.

Both of which suggest Coach Kelly would be forced to evolve.

Is that to say he would not be the hire? Not
necessarily. As La Canfora wrote, Kelly is going to be a hot commodity this
January. Besides the Eagles, the Carolina Panthers are also rumored to be
serious about testing the waters. Last year, it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
who all but snagged the guy until he suddenly thought better of it. But no
matter where he goes, the expectation will be he immediately adapt to
the pro game.

Even if Kelly wanted to run a variation of his current scheme here, the
Birds don’t possess the personnel to do it, couldn’t easily come across it,
either – unless of course they decided to stick with Michael Vick. Hm… great
idea, putting Vick in a system that exposes him to more hits.

There are no big-name free agents, no supposed can’t-miss prospect
in this year’s draft. So then, which is more likely: an organization hires a
head coach to build around an unorthodox, soon-to-be-33-year-old quarterback who
has never experienced sustained success, or it hires a head coach willing to
develop a player entering just his second season who shares more attributes with the traditional pocket
passers that have won Super Bowls in the past decade?

Not to keep running in circles, but that still should not automatically preclude Kelly from consideration. Actually, it might be unreasonable to
assume he plans to port Oregon’s scheme to the Eagles anyway. That thought sure didn’t prevent the Bucs from getting involved, and QB Josh Freeman isn’t exactly the fleetest of foot.

That’s the one thing I absolutely am not hung up on – the spread attack being the sole quality Chip Kelly has to offer. If he were strictly attached to such an unconventional gimmick, would he be generating so much
buzz around the league in the first place? I don’t think so. He’s going to run an offense that is designed to beat an NFL defense, constructed for the talent he has to work with.

Kelly said as much himself over the summer:

“No one can be married to one thing, because it’s all personnel-driven,” Kelly said, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “It’s like the Denver Broncos. What John Fox did in Denver with Tim Tebow was outstanding because he looked at what he had for a player and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to run this.’ Now, all of a sudden, they have Peyton Manning and they’re not going to run the same plays. . . . It’s a personnel-driven game and I think the coaches that are the best at it can adapt their systems to the NFL.”