Is Chip Kelly Running Out of Answers?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - When it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles. 'Tis the season for buyer's remorse.
The only question is who is suffering more after Sunday night's 40-17 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals, Jeffrey Lurie for assuming that Chip Kelly was the better head-coaching option than Bruce Arians or Kelly himself for signing off on a $21 million dollar check in the offseason for a third-string running back.
Lurie will get his say at some point down the road but Kelly tripped up a bit Monday after his team's latest embarrassing setback and unveiled a troubling narrative.
"I'm disappointed in everything we are doing on the offensive side of the ball from a consistency standpoint," the coach admitted. "I'm not singling out any single player. I just don't think we have been as consistent enough as we need to be on the offensive side of the ball for us to be successful."
Fair or not, DeMarco Murray, the NFL's rushing champion in Dallas last season, has become the poster boy for the Eagles' offensive struggles and perceived flaws.
And Murray's exile continued against the Cardinals as former Cowboys star didn't get into the contest until 21 minutes of game time had elapsed and ended up carrying the football just two times for three yards.
Yet, despite what's plainly obvious to most, Kelly spent far too much of his time Monday deflecting what's going on with his high-profile, free-agent signee as his team's season reached the brink.
At 6-8 the Eagles either win their final two games, at home against Washington on Saturday, and in Week 17 at MetLife Stadium against the Giants, or they're off for the rest of the winter.
And when it comes to the former All-Pro running back, Kelly's words are contradictory when weighed against his own actions.
Murray was demoted from his starting job back on Dec. 6 against New England and his playing time has continued to be curtailed in the ensuing weeks.
“We’re not going to run it for the sake of running it,” Kelly commented when pressed on Murray's lack of touches. “Average two yards a carry and say, 'At least we ran it enough, at least everyone got touches.' It’s not about getting touches. It’s about winning.”
Murray has actually averaged 3.5 yards per carry this season, but Kelly’s frustration and embellishing of the ineffectiveness of the running game as a whole highlights his mindset.
“We’re not running the ball consistently enough with anybody -- whether it be Ryan (Mathews), whether it be DeMarco, whether it be Darren (Sproles) -- for us to be successful in the offense,” Kelly said. “Our concern is beating Washington. That’s what it’s always been on a weekly basis. All of those guys are going to play this week. Hopefully, as a group, we get more than 19 carries we can distribute.”
And then Kelly figuratively threw up his hands and admitted he has no answers for the final two weeks.
“We don’t have any thoughts or plans going into it,” Kelly explained. “That’s how the season has expressed itself. We would hopefully have enough carries to distribute to everybody."
The Murray signing itself, a last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants move spawned by Frank Gore leaving the Eagles at the altar in free agency, was evidence that the Kelly regime has no real vision and is often grasping at straws.
In fact, Philadelphia is now a purely reactive organization instead of a proactive one, cloaked by the red herring of innovation.
And NFC East title or not, that has to change in there is going to be any long-term success for the organization in its current form.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.