The Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia opened with much promise on opening night against the Redskins, but the first-year coach has made many troubling decisions since. Photo: Philadelphiaeagles.com
Don't look now, but the Philadelphia Eagles are quickly morphing into a franchise in crisis mode.
Now officially crossing the midway point of Chip Kelly's first season as head coach, the signs of trouble are growing more evident by the week.
In the wake of Sunday's 15-7 loss to NFC East arch-Nemesis the New York Giants, Kelly's offense has now been kept out of the end zone at Lincoln Financial Field since the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 19th.
What's more troubling, is the offensive wizard's unit hasn't crossed the goal line in eight quarters of football.
While this year's team can only be held partially responsible for the scattered carcasses of nine consecutive home losses in South Philadelphia, the mounting defeats in front of the home crowd are aikin to toxic storm clouds hovering over the locker room that inexplicably can't be shaken.
Michael Vick has regressed each week since the Eagles dynamic first half on opening night September 9th against the Washington Redskins.
The 33-year old's future has never been more in doubt than it is now after pulling up lame just nine plays into the game Sunday, three weeks to the day since pulling his hamstring in the first place. But injury aside, Vick was just 5-19 passing in the red zone when healthy and had thrown the fewest completions for first down on third down of any quarterback in the league.
Now he is injured, Nick Foles is concussed and in spite of completing 65 percent of his passes Sunday Matt Barkley has been underwhelming in his one quarter in relief of Foles and three in place of Vick.
“Right now we’re unstable at the quarterback spot," Kelly said after Sunday's game. "And we’re not playing well at the quarterback spot, and we lost our last two games because of it.”
A seasoned NFL coach may not have played Vick in the first place at less than 100 percent with his mobility clearly compromised Sunday.
It's easy to point the finger at inconsistent quarterback play and the overall uncertainty at the position that few teams in the league would be able to function through, but that only masks the problem.
The quarterback didn't call for the rookie Barkley to roll out on first-and-goal from the two-yard line after calling a timeout on the previous play with the league's leading rusher LeSean McCoy in the backfield. That decision led to a disastrous fumble recovered by the Giants and worse yet - a squandered opportunity for points.
“That was the play I called,” Kelly said, one of his weaker justifications after the game. “You can go back. It didn't work. But we know in that situation we're 1st-and-goal and we talked about it. If we don't have it, let's throw it away and we'll go the next time.”
It wasn't poor quarterback play that led to the first-year head coach to go for it on fourth and ten rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal early in the third quarter, just one week after asking Alex Henery to try a 60-yarder against the Cowboys.
“Yeah, there was pretty good wind there,” Kelly said. “That was a tough wind, that's why we went for it on fourth down, down there.”
That may be true, but trailing 12-0 at the time if Kelly doesn't trust his kicker to make a 50-yard field goal, he simply shouldn't be on the team.
Then there was perhaps the most puzzling decision made by a coach who's making a habit of dubious calls this season, calling for an onsides kick with 4:07 remaining in the game after pulling within one score at 15-7.
“I only had one timeout, so it didn't matter if we kicked it deep, it was still the same amount of time on the clock,” Kelly said. “In terms of the time off the clock, [it's] going to be the same exact thing.”
The onsides kick sends a clear message to the defense that their head coach does not trust them, in spite of allowing a whopping total of 12 yards in the second half leading up to that point.
Kelly's clock management in the fourth quarter of the San Diego Chargers loss, inexplicable two-point conversion decision against the Chiefs the following week, and Sunday's multitude of missteps paint a troubling picture of the first-year head coach.
Growing pains were to be expected as Kelly implemented his scheme in year one. However, his track record has been that of a coach who is learning the NFL game on the fly and it is costing his team very winnable games.
In spite of having zero NFL coaching experience before taking the Eagles job Kelly had to know the coaching manuel from first word to last letter and through eight games he's shown that he is simply overmatched at this level and has been outcoached time and time again this season.
Matt Lombardo is the Editor-In-Chief of Eagledelphia and also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.
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