Ray's Replies: Why so critical of Chip Kelly?

986013.jpg

Ray's Replies: Why so critical of Chip Kelly?

Q. Why are you so pessimistic about Chip Kelly? I saw you on Comcast SportsNet last week and I heard you on WIP Saturday, and you made it sound like Kelly was a terrible hire for the Eagles. Why so negative?

-Harry W.Warminster, Pa.

A. I received a number of e-mails saying the same thing that I was writing off the Chip Kelly hire as a foolish move that is doomed to failure. Just to set the record straight, I said no such thing.

I did say I was skeptical, which only means I have some doubts. Other analysts, such as Heath Evans of NFL.com and my old friend John Clayton at ESPN were far more critical of the hire. John used the term disaster in projecting Kelly as an NFL coach. I did not say anything close to that.

What I said, basically, is lets wait and see. I know thats an unsatisfying answer in an age of media punditry where opinions are expected to be immediate and absolute, but it is best I can do. It isnt meant to be negative.

My biggest concern with Kelly is his lack of NFL experience. It is a huge factor and it cannot be dismissed. It doesnt mean Kelly cant overcome it and be successful, but it is an issue. Look at the history of coaches who tried to make the same leap. See how many crashed and burned.

Marc Garber, a frequent e-mailer from Marietta, Ga., was kind enough to research all the head coaches who were hired with no pro experience since 1970. Kelly is the 15th coach to try it. Of the previous 14, only two won a Super Bowl and they are Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, who rode Johnsons coattails in Dallas.

The others could be divided into the following categories:

Successful Don Coryell (St. Louis, San Diego).

Somewhat successful John Ralston (Denver), Chuck Fairbanks (New England), John McKay (Tampa Bay, made it to an NFC title game).

Unsuccessful Dan Devine (Green Bay), Tommy Prothro (Rams, Chargers), Bud Wilkinson (St. Louis Cardinals), Daryl Rodgers (Detroit), Dennis Erickson (Seattle, San Francisco).

Disasters Bill Peterson (Houston, went 1-18), Lou Holtz (didnt finish one season with the Jets), Bobby Petrino (didnt finish one season in Atlanta).

You can toss in Steve Spurrier, who had pro playing experience but no pro coaching experience when he made the jump from the University of Florida, where he was the hottest coach in the land, to the Redskins, where he fizzled out in two seasons.

Every situation is different, and it is impossible to compare Chip Kelly to, say, Lou Holtz, but it would be nave to pretend this history doesnt matter.

Pro football is a different game. The athletes are older, wealthier and more independent. They are as likely to listen to their agent as their coach. In college, the coach is king. He runs everything. He calls every shot from practice times to the pre-game meal. The NFL is a billion-dollar business with more layers and more people to answer to.

Some coaches are smart enough and slick enough to adapt. Others never figure it out. Where Kelly fits, we dont know just yet.

I have two concerns: One involves the frenetic tempo of his offense. I know thats what has many people, including Jeff Lurie, excited. But to play at that pace on Sunday, a team must practice at that pace during the week. It isnt that hard to do in college with more than 100 players including scout teamers who will run reps forever. But it is more of a challenge in the NFL, where you have half as many players, many of whom are older and more battered and may be unavailable for days at a time.

That is why it is critical that Kelly hire assistant coaches with pro experience, guys who understand the rhythms of an NFL season as well as the restrictions put in place by the players union regarding practices, training camp, contact drills, etc. Kelly needs time to build his team but that time will be dictated, in part, by things beyond his control. He is not in Oregon anymore.

The other concern is his level of commitment. Kelly has been a college coach. He has enjoyed enormous success and made a lot of money as a college coach. He knows he can thrive there. For him, pro football is a leap into the unknown. What happens if it doesnt go well? How long will it be before he starts getting a wistful take me back to campus look in his eye?

Holtz and Petrino didnt make it through one season before deciding pro football wasnt for them. Spurrier gave it two years. The point is that they knew they could go back to college and pick up where they left off. The NFL would be just a footnote in their resume, a fling that didnt work out. They landed on their feet. It was their franchises that took the fall.

In time, well get a better read on Chip Kelly and well have a better sense of whether this marriage will be a success. Im not saying it cant work. Jimmy Johnson proved it can work. Don Coryell, even though he never won a Super Bowl, proved it can work.

Im just saying lets wait and see.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

Sixers fail to take care of business against Denver Nuggets

It really felt like we could've gotten this one. The Denver Nuggets are hardly pushovers, but they came into this one a 7-13 team that'd lost their last three games, and even last night they seemed fairly beatable, even for a Philadelphia 76ers team still missing Robert Covington (in additional to our usual mini-roster of absentees). But Philly's energy sagged in the third quarter as Denver caught a second wind, and they spent the final frame hitting shots that the Sixers couldn't answer. Final score: Nuggets 106, 76ers 98. 

The most sobering part of the loss was that Joel Embiid finally played what would best be described as "a bad game." Not that bad, of course — even at his worst, Joel still managed 16 points and notched career-high five blocks. But he only shot 5-15 from the field, turned ball over three times, grabbed just four boards and played a large part in the sinkhole offense that the Sixers played in the late third and early fourth that ultimately cost them this one. JoJo still has trouble reading double teams and knowing when not to attack into traffic, and his frustration was extremely evident as he kept trying to do too much and paying the price for it. 

Nonetheless, even with an off Embiid night and a still-slumping Sauce — officially down to Left in the Car Overnight temperature after a night of 4 points on 1-7 shooting in 35 minutes — Philly probably still coulda gotten this one. Sergio Rodriguez appears to have swiped Nik's swag at least temporarily, with a season-high 17 points on 7-14 shooting to go with seven dimes and three steals, while Dario Saric and Ersan Ilyasova also poured in 17 and 8 each, and the Nuggets wings were largely kept quiet for two and a half quarters. But even while struggling, the Nuggets paraded their way to free-throw line — 34 FTAs for the night, including 12 for Danilo Gallinari alone — and once they caught fire late, the Sixers just couldn't keep up. 

A bummer for a team that's now lost seven in a row, and has to face the Grizzlies tonight in Memphis — their fourth game in five nights, and the first of a three-game road trip — without Embiid and also without Jahlil Okafor, out with illness. Even with the Grizz missing their own big names (no Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, Zach Randolph or Vince Carter lately) and likely suffering from fatigue of their own after a double-OT road win last night in New Orleans, the 4-17 Sixers are gonna have a tough go matching Memphis' grit and grind tonight. Anytime you feel like Supermanning in and saving the day now would be cool, Nerlens Noel. Just sayin'.

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Sixers name Elton Brand as Player Development Consultant

Elton Brand is back with the Sixers, albeit not on the court.

The Sixers agreed with the former NBA forward to name Brand Player Development Consultant. In a press release, the team said Brand will be working with Sixers players in 'every facet of their on- and off-court development' while also working in the front office.

“We are extremely excited to bring Elton Brand back into the organization where he will be a valuable resource to our young and developing team," Bryan Colangelo said in the release. "Elton’s leadership and character displayed throughout his playing career as a player align perfectly with our vision, direction and culture of this basketball team, coaching staff and management group."

Brand retired during training camp after 17 NBA seasons, including five with the Sixers over two stints. The 6-foot-8 forward came out of retirement last season to provide a veteran presence for the Sixers and eventually played in 17 games when the team was snakebitten by injuries. 

He will now continue to be an influence on the Sixers' young core thanks to his new role with the basketball operations department.