As first impressions go, Chip Kelly has done well. He’s acquitted himself nicely in his brief time as the Eagles’ head coach.
In his introductory press conference, he mentioned Tommy McDonald, Chuck Bednarik and Reggie White. He scored points for that. He scored some more when he referenced, and later attended, the Wing Bowl. He told some jokes. People laughed. So far, so good.
Of course, he hasn’t coached a game yet. Or presided over a draft. Or made any major roster moves. There’s a lot left to do. Here’s some helpful advice for Kelly as he moves forward into an uncertain future:
Overhaul the defense: You’re an offensive coach, Chip. People are excited to see how your system performs in the NFL. That’s great and all, but you have serious issues on the other side of the ball. Perhaps you heard, but the Eagles were not a good defensive team in Andy Reid’s final season -- which had a lot to do with the coordinator, the defensive line coach and one of the defensive ends getting cut loose during the season.
The Eagles allowed 27.8 points per game last season. Only two other teams –- the Saints and Titans -– were worse. They couldn’t get pressure on the quarterback and they didn’t make plays in the secondary. You could make a strong case for getting rid of a lot of defensive players. Start with Nnamdi Asomugha and go from there. And read this. It will help.
Tweak the offense: You have some solid skill players on offense. Provided that the offensive line is healthy, you’re looking at a minor operation rather than major surgery. And read this. It will also help.
Draft defense first: That fourth pick is attractive, isn’t it? You should get a top-notch player, someone to help you and the franchise for the next decade.
There are a lot of holes on both sides of the ball, but you need pretty much everything on defense -– particularly pass rushing ends and secondary help. Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama) would look awfully good in midnight green.
Join the Kelly Green Gang: While we’re on the subject (re: looking good in midnight green), you and your guys would look a lot better in the old Kelly green uniforms. Read this impassioned plea, then pass it along to Jeffrey Lurie. Champion this particular cause, Chip, and the fans will love you forever (or at least for a little while).
Keep Vick for another year: You need a quarterback. (Expert analysis). Maybe you like Nick Foles. Maybe not. There has been a lot of speculation about what you’ll do at the position. Dennis Dixon has been mentioned. So has Alex Smith. Ho hum. It’s hard to get excited about any of those guys.
It would, however, be interesting to see what you could dream up with Michael Vick under center. He’s older and slower than he used to be, but he’s still more talented than anyone currently on the roster. Keep him around for another year, if only to serve as a bridge to whichever quarterback you eventually bring in.
Announce your coaching staff: What’s the holdup? Senate confirmation hearings don’t take this long.
Reboot DeSean Jackson: You’re an offensive genius, right? That’s what we’ve been told. So grab your grease pencil and draw up some sort of football equation that solves the Jackson problem.
Last year, Jackson had just 700 receiving yards. He was hurt toward the end of the season, but it was his second straight year with fewer than 1000 yards. It was also his second straight season without returning a punt for a touchdown. Jackson -- who said he’s excited to play in the new offense -- has been underutilized lately. That needs to change.
Keep Shady off Twitter: He’s grounded indefinitely. No internet privileges.
Balance the offense: The aforementioned Twitter twit? He made a really bad decision that played out in public, and it forever tarnished his image. But he’s still one of the best running backs in the NFL. You need to get him the ball. Handing it off -– something the previous regime liked about as much as children enjoy vegetables -– would be a good way to do that. If you noticed, and I’m sure you did, the two teams that reached the Super Bowl were two of the most balanced offensive teams in the NFL. That wasn’t an accident.
Don’t take it personally: Things are good for you right now. Enjoy it, because the criticism is coming. It’s unavoidable.