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Innovative Kelly Still Has Much To Learn With The Eagles

No matter how “smart” Chip Kelly is, his players are not going to win if their energy wanes in the middle of games.

Chip Kelly

The honeymoon is over in Philadelphia between Chip Kelly and his Philadelphia Eagles.

It is now prove-it-to-me time for the Eagles’ head coach.

Make no mistake about it, Eagles fans definitely love Kelly, now in his second year of leading the Green and White. However issues raised by defensive back Cary Williams a few weeks ago are real.

“A lot of guys coming in here had no legs,” Williams said after the Eagles’ Week Three 37-34 victory over the Redskins. “We’ve got to start taking care of our guys throughout the week in order for us to be productive and have more energy on Sundays. You’ve got to be smart, as a coaching staff and as players.

“I’m just going to be honest with you. It’s hard to go out there and fight for 60 minutes when you’re fighting throughout the week to make it through one practice. I’m not the only one. I’m just the only one that’s man enough to stand up here and talk to y’all. It’s obviously, in my opinion, an issue in our starts.”

Williams is not the only Eagle who has been “man enough” to talk about Kelly’s hard-nosed ways. Running back LeSean McCoy brought it up during training camp as well. “Coach pushes me to the max more than any other coach I’ve been around,” McCoy said.

Kelly is a demanding football coach who works his team very hard in practice, because that’s the way he has always coached football. “We ask our guys to run,” Kelly said. “We ask them to go at it hard. There’s a reason for it. The more times they get reps, the better they get as players.”

Kelly has an involved and detailed offensive gameplan, and he makes sure all his players know what they are doing every time they step onto the field.

He also likes to know how they are doing as they prepare, and he does it in innovative ways. Kelly’s players often wear heart monitors and GPS devices in practice, and he also tracks their hydration.

His high-speed practice sessions are unlike any other team in the NFL. Bill Belichick will pick up the pace on occasion and so will Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy, but those coaches will go at warp speed for a finite period of time – usually no more than 15 minutes.

But with Kelly, he pushes hard for a full practice session – and he doesn’t back off. When Williams complained after the Eagles had come from behind to beat the Redskins, he had a talk with Kelly. Williams got the definitive word to keep any issues in house and not bring them up to the public again.

Kelly will give some older players accommodations, like a day off at times, or a few series off in practice, but he is going to push the majority of them.

That could prove to be an issue sooner rather than later. In the Eagles’ 34-28 victory over the Rams in Week Five, the Eagles were outscored 21-0 during a 10:22 span bridging the third and fourth quarter. While some of that could be attributed to a letdown after Philadelphia built a 27-point lead, fatigue was clearly an issue.

No matter how “smart” a coach is, his players are not going to win if their energy wanes in the middle of games. He needs to learn that there is a time to back off if he wants his team to peak in December and January.

The Eagles certainly overachieved last year when they won the NFC East title with a 10-6 record and were second in the NFC in points scored as they lit up the scoreboard with 442 points.

Kelly earned a lot of respect around the league as he developed Nick Foles into an emerging star at the quarterback position. Kelly got a ton of credit for helping Foles turn into a quarterback who had a 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The Eagles have gotten off to a sharp start, but now they face a defining moment. The New York Giants are getting close to the form that made them a perennial contender through the 2011 season. While they were off their game last year and in 2012, the magic appears to have returned to New York with three consecutive wins.

Head coach Tom Coughlin runs an old-school team in the Giants with an established quarterback in Eli Manning. However, Coughlin started winning championships when he stopped being a dictator, showed his players that he had a more humane side and he backed off on his demands.

No, Coughlin did not become an easy man to work for, but he eased off the throttle enough that his team became cohesive and started winning championships.

Kelly has not had his pivotal moment yet as head coach of the Eagles. The confrontation with Williams was an indicator that Kelly does not have the full control over his team that he thinks he has.

If the Giants come into Lincoln Financial Field and Manning torches the Eagles’ vulnerable defense and Foles can’t keep up, the Eagles will have a significant home loss on their record.

Kelly is a sharp coach who has a lot going for him when it comes to strategy, innovation and getting results. But a winning regular season and a quick turnaround does not a championship team make.

Kelly still has quite a bit to learn, and he won’t be able to avoid that lesson if the Giants leave the Link with a victory that pulls them into a tie with the Eagles.

At some point, Kelly is going to have to hear his players and make an adjustment to his coaching style. He may be much better off if this happens sooner rather than later.

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