Want to know what makes Chip Kelly smarter than a lot of other bosses around the NFL? He knows he doesn’t always have all the answers and is willing to take good advice—even when it comes from a player.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ offense was stranded in a ditch somewhere off of I-95 until cornerback Cary Williams offered a few suggestions. Once Williams told Kelly which routes the Lions wide receivers were running were giving him the most trouble in the snowy conditions at Lincoln Financial Field, the Birds’ fortunes changed.
The Eagles converted just one first down on their opening five possessions. They were scoreless at halftime. Foles looked completely ineffective, connecting on just four of 13 passes for 35 yards and throwing his first interception of the season. The team had just fallen behind 14-0 with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Next thing you know, Foles hit a few big passes, and Philly was back. A 12-yard rope to DeSean Jackson on 3rd-and-11. A 44-yard bomb over the top of the Detroit secondary to Riley Cooper. And finally, a 19-yard prayer to Jackson in the back of the end zone to complete the sequence.
Chip was asked about Foles’ turnaround sparking the offense, and the 44-yard pass to Cooper in particular. He was happy to explain, as transcribed by PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
It was a big play, a real tough catch. That was almost a little bit of confidence that we can get some throws off. We felt like with our receivers felt ‑‑ it was funny, Cary Williams was the one who came up to me, and he was like, ‘Coach, this is what you've got to do because you can't make up speed if the guy makes a stick move on you just because of the footing.’ And Cary was kind of the one, and it's coming from a defensive guy saying, hey, if you have an opportunity to either throw a post or throw a corner route, it's hard to make up. Finally we hit Riley on it, it was almost like that kind of got us going, got our confidence back a little bit, and then we got rolling there.
Williams expressed a ton of approval and support for Chip as well after the game.
"You raise the ground up six, seven, eight inches maybe. It was difficult to turn and get your movements. And then on top of that, if you did turn, it was hard to get that foot in the ground, so you were sliding."
"I just kinda told Coach, 'Hey man, let's go with the post and fades even, because guys can't turn and run in these particular conditions. The field is elevated in some areas. And then you get the ice up under you in your cleats. You step and you may slip. Some of the things that I was going through -- I relayed the message to him and tried to take advantage of the situation.
"It was great that a head coach had confidence in a guy that has nothing to do with offense."
Granted, some of their problems early were completely weather related. Whatever Williams told Kelly, it obviously worked. Foles had only connected on four of his initial 13 passes for 35 yards before that drive, throwing his first interception of the season in the process. From that drive on however, Foles was 7-of-9 for 144 and a touchdown.
Foles also ran one in, and would’ve tossed another had Brent Celek not selflessly slid short of the goal line so the Eagles could kneel out the final seconds.
Give Cary Williams credit for being able to provide Chip Kelly a player’s perspective on the impact of the conditions, but good on Kelly for having the common sense to listen and apply that knowledge. It seems so obvious, yet when it came to previous regimes, obvious often seemed to fly out the window for the Eagles when it came to gameday decisions.