To some, Chip Kelly is a genius, to others, he’s just insane. He made so many head-scratching moves this offseason that no one really knew what his plan was or what his proverbial finish line looked like. People, namely fans and the media, tried to explain everything how they saw it. After all, this was a building process, it was incomplete. Sure some of the moves seemed questionable at best but if you were looking at the bigger picture, you could see where Kelly’s mind was at.
It was along these lines that the best analysis of Kelly’s offense came. I first heard the sentiment from a caller on one of the local sports radio shows. It was so simply put, so elegantly stated, that it needed no further explanation.
“Chip Kelly is playing chess while the rest of the league is playing checkers.”
It was brilliant in its concise nature and quite accurately, the perfect metaphor. Kelly wasn’t thinking in terms of one move at a time. He was thinking about the larger equation of the game. While his moves were being judged in an isolated context, Kelly was mapping out a strategy. Every player, every extension or release, every trade, it was just a step. It was the art of maybe having to lose a few pawns in order to set up for victory.
We won’t know until the dust settles on the 2015-16 season, if the strategy was successful but we will know, come tomorrow, it’s final piece. Tomorrow, whether it be the coveted Marcus Mariota, or a physical, explosive receiver, or a high-leaping, route-interrupting, safety, or some other player entirely, Kelly will be able to move his pieces forward confidently. The puzzle, to utilize another metaphor, will be completed.
And for better or worse, we can all finally make a sound judgment on the offseason. We can finally look at the team as it stands and say that yes, it all makes sense now, everything Kelly did makes sense OR it doesn’t. But until the team is on the clock and the pick is in, all we can do is speculate on what it all means.
- Was Sam Bradford really just a trade chip after all despite Kelly’s insistence to the contrary?
- Was letting Jeremy Maclin walk a precursor to drafting his replacement?
- Was Kelly being truthful when he said he would not be moving up or mortgaging the future to go get his man?
- Was improving the defense really a priority?
We’ll know the answer to a lot if not all of these questions as early as the first of the team’s eight picks. And we’ll definitely have an idea as to the direction this team is going in by Sunday’s end.
In a lot of ways, this is the most exciting lead-up to a draft that the Eagles have had in some time. This is in large part because no one and I mean no one, really knows what Kelly has up his sleeve. He has been the architect of this team all offseason, getting rid of the Andy Reid guys and really putting together his own roster. By his own admission, this will be the first year he has full control of the players drafted as well, which in and of itself, is huge.
Mock drafts have ranged in speculation from wide receivers to offensive linemen to quarterbacks to safeties. No single report has the Eagles taking the same player either, which also shows just how hard it will be to try to guess Kelly’s plan.
Personally, I would be shocked if the Eagles somehow managed to get Mariota. Yes, there has been talk that the Cleveland Browns are still interested in Bradford and coupled with the fact that they have been examining a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the second overall pick, does have the Mariota talk back on the radar. I wouldn’t have expected anything less today though honestly, given how ‘Mariota to the Eagles?’ has been a topic of conversation ever since the day Kelly’s former recruit first declared for the draft back in January. But for Kelly to pull off the stunner, especially when he has given every indication he isn’t willing to give up what it would take to get the top prospect, it would be quite the coo. Although, I do have to say, I think it is the blockbuster that the NFL media is clamoring, perhaps even begging for.
Mariota would be the perfect fit and the franchise QB this team has missed since the Donovan McNabb era. But is he really worth what it would take to move up from 20 to two? That would be this year’s picks, 1st, 2nd and 3rd, likely next year’s first too. The Eagles would probably have to throw in a few veterans as well, like a Malcom Jenkins or the recently signed Darren Sproles or Bradford or all of the above and then some. That’s quite a haul but then again, maybe that’s why Kelly signed and traded for who he did this offseason. It’s chess after all. No one move is ever insignificant.
There is also the matter of how interested the Eagles are in Mariota. That could be a problem. Teams know Kelly wants his guy and they’ll use that to get the biggest possible package of assets out of him. There’s no Mariota-based trade that sees Philly with the upperhand and without it, there’s no telling just how badly the team could get fleeced.
In theory, Mariota to the Eagles is great but when you actually look at what it would take to get him here, it’s not the best answer. Especially when there are needs to be filled and when there are other QBs in the draft, namely Brett Hundley out of UCLA, another player Chip recruited, although unsuccessfully, that can be had at a much cheaper price.
If this offseason has taught us anything, it’s that Kelly is unpredictable. So whatever you expect him to do later today, ignore that and know he’ll probably do the opposite.
So while I can’t settle on which direction Kelly will go in with the 20th pick, I will say this. Regardless of who he drafts, Eagles fans are probably going to like it.
Just sit back, relax and enjoy the next chapter. Under Kelly, no matter who the newest addition is, it’s bound to be exciting.