The 2015 edition of National Football League free agency has been crazier than anybody imagined back at the start of the month of March. Superstar tight end Jimmy Graham has been dealt from the New Orleans Saints to the Seattle Seahawks in a move that made the rich even richer. The New York Jets are being praised by fans and analysts alike for the moves that the club has made, most notably bringing shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis back home. Pro football’s existing punchline the Cleveland Browns are, depending on what reports you believe, being trolled by players in contract negotiations. What a show.
No team in the NFL has made more news since the new league year opened up on March 10th than the Philadelphia Eagles, and there is one man to thank for that. Philadelphia head coach Chip Kelly was handed full control of the franchise following the 2014 regular season, and he is, seemingly on a daily basis, actively working to turn the roster into one that reflects what he wants to see on NFL Sundays. It is his vision that is admittedly lost on the majority of observers, which is why Kelly is being bashed on local sports talk radio and on national television broadcasts.
Kelly is apparently going out of his way to show that he is the smartest person in the room as it pertains to running a NFL team. He is going against the grain and making roster transactions that are leaving some in the league downright baffled. It is possible that Kelly does, in fact, know what he is doing, and he could be on the verge of revolutionizing how executives build teams. Maybe, just maybe, Kelly has lost his mind, and he could find himself out of work and out of the NFL entirely if he fails to lead the Eagles to the first Super Bowl championship in the history of that franchise.
10. DeSean Jackson
Allegations of Kelly possibly losing his mind arose in the spring of 2013 when, out of nowhere, the Eagles released play-making wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Jackson was coming off of what was statistically the best season of his NFL career, but a story posted in March of that year claimed that he had links with gang members. The wide receiver has, to his credit, denied such claims, and he has kept himself out of trouble as it pertains to the league’s rules. Kelly has failed to replace Jackson since releasing the player, and his offense could utilize such a weapon for 2015.
9. The Oregon Ties
Perception is reality in the eyes of sports fans, and the perception among Philadelphia football fans is that Kelly is merely stocking up on former Oregon players and doing so without having any real plan for building a winning football team. The coach who made his name and reputation while working for Oregon is bringing players who attended the university to Philadelphia and doing so at the expense of talented athletes who have, in the past, helped the Eagles win games, and that is understandably rubbing some in the Philly area the wrong way.
8. Kiko Alonso
Alonso is unquestionably a talented linebacker, a player who was nominated for the Pro Football Writers of America Rookie of the Year award and who was named the PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year for his play in 2013. He is, however, coming off of a torn ACL that kept him off of the field for all of the 2014 regular season, but that fact did not keep Kelly from trading for him in March 2015. Kelly must have faith that Alonso will be as good as new coming off of surgery and rehab, especially considering who Kelly sent to the Buffalo Bills in order to acquire the defensive player who, you guessed it, attended Oregon.
7. Marcus Mariota
Kelly has publicly claimed that he believes Marcus Mariota out of Oregon to be the best quarterback of the 2015 NFL Draft class. Apparently Kelly does not get footage of college football games in Philadelphia, because just about everybody who has evaluated the athletes based on talent alone knows that Jameis Winston out of Florida State, and not Oregon, is the top quarterback entering the NFL in April. Winston will, so long as he keeps himself out of trouble, be the No. 1 overall pick, while some are speculating that Mariota could fall all the way down to pick No. 20 and the Philadelphia Eagles.
6. Brett Hundley
There are two to-be rookie quarterbacks worthy of being selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Kelly reportedly is considering using a first-round selection to grab QB Brett Hundley out of UCLA. The head coach of the Eagles is seemingly living in March of 2014 and a time before Hundley’s draft stock plummeted. This is not to suggest that Hundley could not be a serviceable or even a good NFL quarterback. Kelly and the Eagles could probably wait or even move up in the second round of the draft to obtain Hundley.
5. Nick Foles
It was a warm summer day in July 2014 when a person with knowledge on Kelly and the Eagles texted me to inform me that the Philadelphia head coach was over quarterback Nick Foles, who had a spectacular campaign in 2013. The story was that Kelly favored New York Jets outcast Mark Sanchez, and that report has been proven true by the fact that the Eagles shipped Foles to the St. Louis Rams at the start of the current free agency period. Those running the Rams believe they now have a franchise quarterback, while the Eagles have a player that St. Louis was happy to get off of the club’s payroll.
4. Mark Sanchez
I like Mark Sanchez. I think that the Sanchize can be a winning quarterback in the NFL if he is put in the right situation that includes a team going all-in on him being the leader of an offense. That is not what Kelly did upon re-signing him, however, as the coach has instead paired Sanchez with St. Louis castoff Sam Bradford. We saw what happened when the New York Jets gave Sanchez competition in the forms of Geno Smith and Tim Tebow. It did not end well for player or for club. Why would Kelly think things would be different this time around?
3. LeSean McCoy
When you can trade the man who is your undisputed top offensive weapon and play-maker for a defensive player who is attempting to make a return from a torn ACL, you apparently just have to do it. The idea of Kelly getting rid of McCoy made sense on paper in that the team was dumping payroll that could have been spent filling glaring holes on the roster of the Eagles. Instead, Kelly chose to invest heavily on a different running back, one who is not as physically gifted as is McCoy and one who could prove himself to be more of a liability than a help for the Eagles.
2. DeMarco Murray
Instead of choosing to go with a “running back by committee” method for his offense, Kelly decided to replace the previously mentioned McCoy with the Dallas Cowboys running back who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2014. The Eagles invested $21 million guaranteed in Murray, a player who has a history of injury problems and also one who puts the ball on the ground far too often. Murray ran behind the best offensive line in the league last season, but that won’t be the case in 2015. The NFL is a passing league more so than ever, Mr. Kelly. Awarding Murray with the contract that you gave him is silly.
1. Sam Bradford
Kelly sent Nick Foles and draft picks to the St. Louis Rams to acquire Sam Bradford. Yes, that is the same Sam Bradford who suffered a torn ACL twice in under two years. The same Sam Bradford who hasn’t played a meaningful game of football since October 2013. Kelly has stated that he wants to make Bradford his starting quarterback moving forward in a system that does not benefit an often-injured QB with Bradford’s skills. All indications, based upon other transactions he has made, point toward Kelly naming Bradford his starting quarterback for 2015. That is nutty when you read Bradford’s injury history.
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