Eagles get the right guy ... we think

Posted: January 18, 2013

UP OFF THE FLOOR, then. A splash of cold water on the face and away we go. Chip Kelly is the new coach of the Eagles. The Gus Bus has left town, replaced by what Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie believes will be the laser-quick offense of the future.

You know it took a big bag of money to pry Kelly away from the clutches of the University of Phil Knight. So this is where the Eagles-are-cheap narrative goes to die an overdue, deserved death.

You know, too, that the Eagles are not settling here, and that they did not bungle their search, and that pretty much everything said and written in the last week about this process has been conversation in search of reality. Well, this is the reality: The guy they wanted all along - or at least one of the guys, along with Penn State coach Bill O'Brien - is now theirs.

People who loved the idea of Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley - mostly because they heard him say "[bleep]" and yell at his player on a YouTube video - could very well hate this. People who carry a fondness for old-style NFL football - who wanted to rekindle something they last felt when Buddy Ryan coached this team - and who disliked the way Andy Reid spent 14 years trying to outsmart people on offense, could also be in for a disappointment. Because if there is one thing you can surmise here, it is that Kelly plans to innovate on offense, and then he plans to innovate some more.

But in a league where you need to score 30 points even to think about winning most playoff games, and where the Patriots' fastbreak offensive attack has helped to make them the even-money favorite to win the Super Bowl, the Eagles have grabbed as their coach the most prominent practitioner of hurry-up football in the nation (and the guy who schooled both O'Brien and Pats coach Bill Belichick on the concept).

We do not yet know the details about what happened. We do not know why Kelly walked away from the Eagles after a long interview right after Oregon played in the Fiesta Bowl, or why he has had this change of heart, or how much the Eagles intend to pay him for the privilege.

What does this mean for Nick Foles, the immobile kid quarterback who seems miscast if Kelly wants to play read-option football to go along with the hurry-up? Don't know. What does it mean for Michael Vick, the expensive, aging quarterback on the roster who moves better than Foles but not as well as he used to move? Don't know.

There are a million unanswered questions here. The answers will come when they come. Critics will see risk - in the offense, and how it might translate to the NFL, and in the fact that Kelly has never worked in the league. It is fair to wonder. But to deny the potential upside is to ignore the trends that have been so evident in this NFL playoff season.

The truth is that the hiring of every coach involves a leap into the unknown. Would Bradley have been good at all of the making-the-trains-run-on-time stuff that successful NFL head coaches need to master? Would Mike McCoy have had enough of a commanding personality in a big media market? Would Ken Whisenhunt have been able to develop a quarterback after being dealt a bad hand in Arizona and probably making it worse? Would Brian Billick have been able to muster the enthusiasm after five seasons in the broadcast booth? Or Jon Gruden, for that matter?

You just don't know. There are plenty of things you don't know about Chip Kelly; again, granted. As with any new coach, there are no certainties here, except one: that a franchise that had grown stale has just placed an enormous bet on the future.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Columns: philly.com/RichHofmann

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