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

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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

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

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Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg entered the game at the perfect time.

With his club holding the man advantage as a result of Jimmy Medranda’s second yellow card in the 57th minute, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Alberg off the bench to replace Fabian Herbers in the 65th minute. 

Two minutes later, the Union took the lead. From the left side, Fabinho found Alberg at the top of the box, where he teed off a shot at that ripped past Alec Kann to open scoring in the eventual 2-0 Union win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

It was Alberg’s ninth goal of the season.

The Union now have wins in back-to-back games for the first time since March, pushing their record to 11-9-7 and temporarily jumping them over the New York Red Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. SKC falls to 11-12-5.

Facing Sporting Kansas City at Talen Energy Stadium for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup title game, the Union, who lost that game in penalty kicks, wanted to dictate tempo. However, the club was unable to break down SKC’s stout midfield until the red cards started flying.

Already down a man, things began to unravel for SKC in the 87th minute, when Roger Espinoza was shown a straight red for tossing what appeared like an inadvertent elbow to the midsection of Alberg. 

In stoppage time, up two men, the Union put the exclamation point on the win. Alberg found Tranquillo Barnetta in an open pocket of the SKC defense, and with space, the Swiss veteran placed his shot to the right and in, sealing the 2-0 win.

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Joel Embiid says he's '100 percent' back from foot injury, excited to play with Ben Simmons

Avalon, N.J. -- Joel Embiid has been waiting since 2014 to make his NBA debut. Two years later, the former third overall pick is nearing that day.

“I feel a hundred percent,” Embiid said Saturday at the Sixers Beach Bash. “I’m ready to get started. My summer has been great. We’ve been working out a lot this past summer, just getting some runs in. I’ve gotten a chance to play a little bit against the guys.” 

Embiid’s pro career has been sidelined by injuries, undergoing two foot surgeries in as many years. The first was to repair a stress fracture in his right navicular bone. The second, a bone-graft operation on the same bone. 

The 7-foot-2 big man has been rehabbing since then, traveling as far as Qatar in the process. This offseason Embiid was cleared for monitored, five-on-five drills. He joined the Sixers during the Las Vegas Summer League to continue his recovery away from game competition.

“It’s been really tough,” Embiid said. “The main thing is, I haven’t gotten a chance to get on the court and play, or help my teammates, or play in front of Sixers fans. I look forward to it and I can’t wait.”

Embiid said he “definitely” plans to be a go for training camp. He expects there will be a transition period once cleared to play given the length of his rehab, but notes he is a quick learner. Embiid also anticipates having restrictions, but has not discussed the specifics with the Sixers. 

“Probably,” he said. “But I think the restrictions would probably be about the fact that I haven’t played in two years. It’s not going to be about because people are worried that I’m going to re-injure myself, which I don’t think is going to happen.”

One player who is eager for Embiid’s return is rookie first overall pick Ben Simmons. The two have been friends since high school. They easily gel off the court, and plan to do the same in games. 

“He has great footwork, he has great touch, so I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Simmons said, continuing, “Off the court, we’re like brothers. We have fun.” 

Embiid has been present with the Sixers for games and practices. He has had numerous conversations with head coach Brett Brown about his days on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff and how the organization achieved success with fellow big Tim Duncan, one of Embiid’s basketball role models. 

With an abundance of bigs, the Sixers will have to determine how they share the floor. For Embiid, who can also knock down long-range shots, he plans to fill whatever role the coaches outline for him.

“I think I’ll take a couple threes, but I’ll do what’s best for the team and whatever I’ll feel comfortable doing,” he said. “Obviously they’re going to need my presence inside and that’s what I’m going to do. But when I’m open, I might fire some threes.”

After a series of setbacks, Embiid is enthusiastic about the thought of making his NBA debut. 

“It feels great,” he said. “Especially after the past two years, I haven’t been able to do what I love. It just feels great.”  

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

A.J. Ellis still adjusting, learning names as he joins the Phillies

NEW YORK – It wasn’t easy leaving the only professional organization he’d ever been part of, but new Phillie A.J. Ellis, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade Thursday, is coming to terms with it.

“To find out that the trade went down, it was hard,” Ellis said upon reporting to his new club Saturday. “It was so immediate and sudden, really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade.

“But the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing.”

Ellis, 35, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003 and rose to the majors with them in 2008. With the Phillies, he will serve a similar role to the one he played with the Dodgers – backup catcher. Ellis wasted no time getting to know the pitching staff he will now work with. He arrived at Citi Field early Saturday afternoon and caught Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff in their between-starts bullpen sessions.

Ellis said “Eichorn” when referring to Eickhoff. He’s forgiven. It’s been a whirlwind week.

“See?” he said. “I’m still learning names.”

Ellis, who served as the personal catcher for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw, was blindsided by the trade.

“When I was summoned to the ballpark, that’s never really a good thing, especially when the front office wants to meet with you as far as where you’re at with the club, you know some kind of transition is happening,” he said. “The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest.

“But to arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I’m starting to feel re-energized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I’m excited about that.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill. Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the void.”

Manager Pete Mackanin thought about putting Ellis in the lineup Saturday night then had some mercy when he figured facing hard-throwing Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard might not be the best indoctrination for a guy who just flew cross-country. Ellis is likely to start Sunday afternoon’s series finale and catch Vince Velasquez.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t asked to make a contribution to Saturday night’s game. Mackanin said he wanted Ellis to speak with the Phillies hitters about the weaknesses the Dodger pitchers tried to exploit.

“We talk to them about this stuff all the time, but it might help to hear it from an outside source,” Mackanin said.

Ellis left a first-place club for a rebuilding team. That’s not easy. He has come to terms with that. He likes the young talent on the Phillies’ roster and hopes to help it come to flower.

“Guys are playing for their careers,” he said. “Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. 

"You see the talent, you see their desire to learn, their desire to get better. You just know the youth on this staff, the talent level on this staff. And if I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I’ve picked up from some great mentors I’ve had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from what all has been given to me.”

Ellis hit just .197 with a .285 on-base percentage in 53 games for the Dodgers this season. That’s one of the reasons the Dodgers acquired Ruiz – to get more production from their right-handed-hitting backup catcher. Ruiz had a .369 on-base percentage at the time of the trade.

Phillies’ general manager Matt Klentak was “adamant” that Ellis come back on the deal because he wanted someone who could fill Ruiz’ void on (behind the plate) and off (with clubhouse leadership) the field. Ellis’ time with the Phillies might be short. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and his playing time might be scant as September unfolds. The Phils will probably add prospect Jorge Alfaro to the catching mix sometime during that month. Management seems eager to get a look at him while still getting No. 1 catcher Cameron Rupp the game reps he needs.