They got their guy. Nearly three weeks after ending the conflicting era of Andy Reid, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, General Manager Howie Roseman, and Team President Don Smolenski convinced Chip Kelly to be the 21st head coach in Philadelphia Eagles history. They interviewed practically everyone on the planet who could even spell the word football, but in the end came up with the man at the top of their list all along.
While many Birds fans want to immediately jump into the question of who Kelly will have under center come next season, the question of who will be running his defense is the true jugular on the neck.
Firstly, lets halt the speculation that this spread offense won't succeed on the professional level; it already has. The Washington Redskins, the very team that swept the Eagles last season and won the division on a seven-game winning streak, implement parts of the Kelly offense. The New England Patriots, who know a thing or two about offensive innovation, implement aspects of the Kelly offense as well. To ponder the success of Chip Kelly from an offensive standpoint is as pointless as trying to predict the ending of Zero Dark Thirty.
Where the eyebrows should be raised when evaluating the prospective success of the Iggles new head honcho is on the defensive side of the ball. And anyone who owns a PSL at Lincoln Financial Field should be on Red Alert after reading the following quote from Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, via Les Bowen:
Chip has not said one word to me on the headset in four years as a head coach... He's never been in a meeting, he's never questioned a call. He's never said anything when we've played badly. He doesn't say a whole lot when we've played well. He's left me completely alone. It's been unbelievable autonomy.
So not only does Kelly have zero professional defensive experience... he has zero defensive experience at all! When it comes to defensive resume, Kelly finds himself out-qualified by Juan Castillo.
Talk about leadership and innovation all you want, but as the old saying goes, it's defense that wins championships. Kelly could turn out to be Napoleon Bonaparte and Steve Jobs reincarnate, it won't bring a Lombardi down Broad Street if he can't produce an above-satisfactory defense.
The legacy of Chip Kelly is suddenly, blatantly, and supremely tied to whomever he picks to be his defensive coordinator. Pick right, and the Birds should be in pretty good shape. Pick wrong, and Kelly seems doomed to suffer the same fate as the mustached man he just replaced.
Currently, a plethora of above-satisfactory defensive minds stand reading magazines in the unemployment line. Rod Marinelli. Dick Jauron. Rob Ryan. Even Lovie Smith could probably be coerced, with the right (financial) motivation. And don't sleep on Ray Horton; even though he looks like Allen Iverson's long-lost grandfather, if the Birds had given him the gig two years ago, Andy Reid probably wouldn't be renting a condo in Missouri right now.
Speaking of ol' Uncle Andy, the fact that his brightest achievements came when he had the legendary Jim Johnson running his defense is a point that has been hammered home pretty hard in this space, and it shouldn't be forgotten. Also worth noting is that while Reid's Eagles were the NFC East team of the decade, it was the New York Giants and that dangerous D that ended it all with hardware for the trophy case.
The three-headed monster that was the Eagles head coach search committee has given themselves a pretty big pat-on-the-back since the hiring, as they well should. Nabbing Kelly was a suave move, the kind of headline-grabbing signing that should result in offensive success like this franchise have never experienced.
The next step is finding someone who can equal that success on the defensive side of the ball, because Kelly doesn't appear to be that guy. Whether they do or don't could define this chapter in Eagles history.