Today in Predictable Columns: Is Chip Kelly’s Offense Too Fast and Efficient?

For three months, all anyone wrote about (rightfully) was Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense and how great it was (and still is). But lose a game because said offense is too good, too efficient… well, it’s time to question that strategy, because there are columns inches to fill, old sport!

Bob Brookover cast the first stone:

We live in a world in which we’re constantly bombarded by messages that tell us faster is better. The truth is that sometimes slower is better, especially when faster means you’re going to have to count on the leaky Eagles defense to win the game. We all saw how that worked out during Sunday’s loss in the final seconds to the San Diego Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field.

Kelly was asked if the offense should have slowed down on its final possession of the game.

“Yeah, when you look at it in hindsight, we didn’t score,” he said.

That’s another insight into the rookie coach’s mind. The Eagles actually did score. Alex Henery’s 32-yard field goal tied the game at 30-30, but Kelly’s offensive mentality is all about touchdowns. Field goals are a defeat, and this one certainly led to Sunday’s loss.

No… the Eagles’ terrible defense led to the loss. So did DeSean Jackson taking a dumb penalty on the previous drive, which led to the Chargers getting great field position.

The Eagles offense being too good is not a real problem. Could they have gone slower, more rhythmically with a focus placed on her pleasure? Yes, in fact they could have. But they didn’t. They did what they do best and the drove the field for a game-tying field goal in a pressure situation.

We should really talk to the players about this, Bob. Get their thoughts. Oh, good:

His players didn’t feel that way. They have been programmed to go fast, and it made no sense to them to slow down when they were down by three points.

“Why would we milk the clock when we’re not winning?” wide receiver Jason Avant asked. “We’re a firm believer that you win games in this league. You don’t try not to lose. The teams that play scared, they usually lose.”

Astute observation by Avant. Agree, old sport?

The Eagles were playing to win, and you really shouldn’t be thinking too much about the clock when you’re behind. It would have been different if the Eagles were tied as they embarked on that final drive.

You do agree. So… then… why write a column questioning the Eagles for scoring too quickly on Sunday if that’s what they should have done?

At some point, going slower is going to be better for the Eagles because they’re going to need to drain those precious final minutes from the clock when they do have a lead. They weren’t very good at doing that in the season opener at Washington, but Kelly said it will not be a problem for an offense that loves to go fast.

“It’s not difficult at all,” he said.

Time will tell.

I’m convinced that no football coach will ever succeed in this town precisely because of stuff like this. This an entire column questioning a strategy that is widely regarded as a strength. In this particular case, the author himself agrees with it. The Eagles were losing. You can’t run down the clock when you’re losing, save for perhaps when there’s under a minute remaining and a game-winning field goal is in range. If the Eagles would’ve slowed things down and not scored, you know how this column would’ve read. You also know how it would’ve read during the Reid era, because Reid couldn’t muster a late-game drive if a box of helpless doughnuts stranded on a lone counter depended on it. People would have been (rightfully) killing Reid because he has no idea how to draw up a successful two-minute drill.

Kelly admitted that he could’ve, perhaps, been more situationally aware, and Brookover made a good point about how if Reid admitted to not knowing a timeout rule that would’ve allowed Michael Vick to come back into the game during a crucial play, which Kelly did at his press conference yesterday, there would have been pitchforks at the NovaCare Complex. But focusing on whether the Eagles are too efficient for their own good is crazy. They put up over 500 yards of total offense and drove the field in the final minutes to tie the game. You can’t complain about that.

Complain about the defense.

Which Brookover did on Monday. But he again focused on the clock management issues, which slightly misses the mark:

Kelly routinely dismisses time of possession as an important statistic, but on this day the Chargers had the ball twice as long (40:17 to 19:43) as the Eagles.

“Yeah, but I think it’s also our responsibility to get them off the field,” he said. “You can’t just sit there and say we were on the field too long. Part of our responsibility is we’ve got to get them off the field.”

If you can’t, then there is some relevance to time of possession whether Kelly wants to admit it or not. The Chargers went 10 for 14 on third-down conversions, excluding their final possession, when they simply used third down to place the ball where Novak wanted it for the game-winning kick.

It’s not about the time of possession– it’s about the snaps. Indeed there is usually a strong correlation between the two. And indeed the Chargers smoked the Eagles in that department on Sunday– 79-58. But merely looking at the time of possession figures will not always be telling. Kelly knows that he’ll often lose that battle but win the snaps battle thanks to his up-tempo offense. That’s what matters. The Eagles are built to score a lot and score quickly. They’ll be successful doing that as long as they A) don’t squander opportunities, like they did on Sunday, and B) FORCE MORE THAN ONE PUNT IN A GAME! But you can’t change the offense to compensate for the defense.

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15 Comments

  • sinisalo September 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

    So, we got rid of one offensive guru with no clock management skills and who decides not to run the ball for another one? At least Reid had the good sense to hire Jim Johnson and not Billy Davis.

  • ThePhillyFlash September 17, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Well, if the defense continues to be godawful times five, unable to stop teams from scoring, then Chip might not have a choice but to compensate on offense, especially late in games when he needs to keep the ball away from the opposition and keep his dogmeat defense off the field, and the only way to do that is to kill the clock. Chip’s going to have to learn he can’t go warp speed ALL the time, that there’s nothing wrong with going slow when necessary if it produces the desired result—-WINS!

  • Jeff September 17, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Kyle, as someone who constantly posts close up pictures of Andy Reids pecker, and as someone who said this week that youre going to bring up every negative thing you could about Andy Reid so we can all “rage hate” him, youre in no position to bitch about column space or pontificate on how we treat our head coaches.

  • DS September 17, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Um….yeah. Its a gimmick offense that will eventually fail because it hurts the team over all. Playing defense for 40 minutes a game, even if your defense is great, will ultimately expose said defense and break it down.

    The team itself is run by an arrogant idiot who thinks all being a head coach entails is running an offense and delegating everything else….oh, and kissing the ass of a morning talk show host so all the vocal idiots in this town go along with calling the coach a genius after one NFL win.

    I love how all of these apologists don’t fault Kelly for the loss saying it’s all on the defense. Well is Kelly the head coach or just the Offensive Coordinator? Because last time I checked his title is head coach, He makes a head coach’s salary and head coaches run the whole team. Not a third of it.

    If the defense sucks its ultimately the head coach’s fault. He had a major say on the talent, he hired the defensive coordinator, he signed off on the new 3-4 defense.

    Maybe game plan it, learn how to manage the clock and actually run an NFL offense, maybe that will help. Or, maybe they can’t because Mike Vick can only function in some crazy ass gimmick offense now.

    I’m sure Oregon will welcome Kelly back with open arms once the sanctions run out.

    • Cartman September 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      … after two games. You’re calling out the head coach after two. games.

      Newsflash: everyone knew the defense would be bad. Like, abysmally bad. Yes, Kelly has control over the defense as well as the offense, but you can’t put together a good NFL defense in one offseason. Not when it is in shambles due to the old regime. It will take time to acquire enough talent for the defense to be respectable. That is not- and was not ever- going to happen this year.

      If you thought this might be a Super Bowl team and now hate Kelly because it’s not… well, you’re the idiot.

      • Anthony Gargano's Stupid Laugh September 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Thank you, Cartman.

        Defense is horrible, and Billy Davis is trying to do what he can with what he has. Nevertheless, he can’t blitz on every single play, it takes away the mystery of who is coming from where. AND Chip does need to control the clock with a lead (although 30 points in < 20 minutes is impressive)

        Luckily there are enough play-makers on this offense (even with the loss of Maclin) that we can focus the next draft and off-season to upgrade this defense.

      • DS September 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        Not calling him out after two games. Called him out after he took the job after originally rejecting it, then realized sanctions were coming his way so he fled to the NFL.

        The guy is an arrogant, two faced liar who runs a stupid gimmick used to beat up on the poor sisters of the NCAA.

        Has Oregon ever had a great defense? Does this guy even care about defense? No. In his arrogance he thinks running 756 plays in 5 minutes of playing time is the way to win.

        Against two baaaaaad defenses so far this “powerhouse” offense has put up an average of 31.5 points. Wow. Call the people at Guinness. We may have a new record for the book.

        • Anthony Gargano's Stupid Laugh September 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm

          Lol. Considering the “Dream Team/Dynasty” squad scored a whopping 17.5 points per game last year, 31.5 points is a welcome change. One of those bad defenses happens to be in our own division.

          And if I’m not mistaken, you have to fucking score to win, no?

          Unless you’re Seattle/San Francisco/Chicago/Cincinnati, your defense pretty much sucks. Only time will tell if this defense can get better under Billy Davis. Better timed blitzes and getting to the QB will help, but only if the offense can learn to use the clock to its advantage, too.

  • BrianG September 17, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Yes he made some mistakes, however consider if the defense would have forced MORE THAN ONE PUNT we would have won. Watching Andy Reid’s Eagles last year was like watching paint dry. Who cares if we lose every game at least the team is fun to watch. You really think we were going to the playoffs with a bunch of Reid’s bad draft picks?

  • KMC285 September 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Dumbest column ever. The offense is too efficient? If the defense made San Diego punt the ball more than once we would have won.

    And to the people here saying Chip had say on the defense. That’s true but it’s also impossible to rebuild a crappy defense in one offseason. If we don’t see improvement on the D next year then it’s time to start wondering if Chip’s the guy.

  • Maxie September 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I have a feeling Chip is soon going to be sorry he took this gig. The press adores him one week, hates him the next – even his new F-buddy, Angelo Cataldi,had a negative column about him this week in that free paper (Metro). If Reid wins on Sunday, Chip will be packing his bags and telling Lurie adios because the backlash will be monumental. Cataldi promised he would be in intensive care if that happened, but I doubt anyone will be that lucky.

  • Shen September 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I think we are forgetting that the defense practices against the offense. So, the defensive players are in as exceptional shape as the offensive players. More importantly, just because the other team had “possession” for 40 minutes doesn’t mean that they were running around getting worn out for 40 minutes! Those guys aren’t getting worn out while they wait 30 seconds for Philip Rivers to snap the ball. They’re resting! That’s why time of possession is a stupid, misleading stat. The defense is tired and worn out because they are just not good yet. They couldn’t get off the field on third down. Any defense that let’s the opponent go on full-field drives all day is going to struggle. It has nothing to do with the offense being too efficient.

    That being said, we must also remember that it’s a completely new scheme with completely new coaches and it will take time to get things right.

  • Fuck all this hype September 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hiring an offensively brilliant coach is cool. Hiring him from college and expecting a playoff season is silly. Hiring him for a team that has had one of the worst defenses in the league the last few years is fucking stupid. All this hurry up offense just means our fucktarded defense will just be on the field more. There is a time and a place to play at such a high speed… it’s not the end of the game. And the time outs?!?! I think Chip’s huge balls are cutting off the blood supply to his brain. It’s been hard to be an Eagles fan, watching teams with no heart and sitting next to people who just want to deep throat Michael Vick’s athleticism the past couple years. I for one hope Andy Reid shits all over the Eagles (with a real quarterback) and all you super hyped up lunatics choke on your own words and shut the fuck up.

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