Can Chip Kelly Win Games in the NFL Without Stars?
An NFL coach establishing his system
Comments by the recently traded star running back LeSean McCoy, brings to the forefront the focus on Chip Kelly building his offensive system at the NFL level. McCoy's comments suggested that he believes Chip Kelly does not like the attention being on a team's star players, rather than a successful system that is put in place. With McCoy having to look out for himself as a top priority rather than the team, it makes sense that the Eagles' former star would feel this way. For Chip Kelly, trying to establish success at the NFL level will require him to manage the egos of his stars with success. They are going to get credit for some of their individual accomplishments, even though the accomplishments were made possible by teammates and the offensive system in place. Chip Kelly as a coach, understands the importance of having stars to help his system be successful. This is evident by the team going out and signing DeMarco Murray to replace LeSean McCoy at the running back position for the Eagles. A further look at this situation will help to determine if Chip Kelly is placing proper value on his stars, and if he can win in the NFL after replacing the star players who would not fit neatly into his system.
Transition to a downhill running game
LeSean McCoy's comments may have been fueled by resentment for the way his Eagles' career ended by being traded out of town. Whatever the case, Chip Kelly decided to take the Eagles' running game in a different direction after trading away LeSean McCoy. After two seasons of watching McCoy pass up narrow running lanes in favor of trying to get free on the perimeter, Chip Kelly decided to bring in running backs that will take on contact in order to follow the design of the blocking scheme. The running backs he brought in for the Eagles to establish this downhill running game, are DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews. Murray was the Cowboys' star player last season, while Ryan Matthews was somewhat of a star for the Chargers after being selected in the first round by San Diego in 2010. While LeSean McCoy may believe that Chip Kelly does not respect his stars, these signings make it evident that Chip Kelly sees the need for impact talent and respects what those players bring to the team. This indicates that Kelly has plenty of respect for his stars, as long as they are willing to work with his system, rather than trying to create plays on their own.
Why get let go of star players?
The most recent star player to leave Philadelphia, was wide receiver Jeremy Maclin after accepting a free agent contract offer from the Kansas City Chiefs. This happened just one offseason after the team released star receiver DeSean Jackson, following a season in which he gained over 1,000 receiving yards. With LeSean McCoy being traded to Buffalo this offseason, that leads us to the question of why let go of these star players? In each of these cases, the cap number of each player was taken into consideration before making the decision on whether or not to let that player go. The rising cap figures for these players, along with DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy not playing to the strengths of the system, made this decision easy. In a league where salaries have to be managed in order to stay under the cap, Chip Kelly determined that he could find players that would run his system more effectively at a lower cost than the team was paying some of the stars already in place on the roster. This leads to the conclusion that Chip Kelly is not disrespect his stars by getting rid of them, but rather he is helping the team to make the right financial decisions in order to have the highest number possible of quality contributors on the roster.
Is Chip Kelly trying to win without stars?
Chip Kelly is not trying to win in the NFL without star players on his roster, and it would be extremely difficult for him to coach his team to victories without star level talent to help run his system. Kelly is trying to put a system in place that is styled after the one Belichick has established in New England, where all the individuals put the team first on the field and when talking to the media. Stars are needed in New England to keep the system running smoothly, but as soon as one of them steps out of line or gets too pricey, the Patriots do not hesitate to let them go. Chip Kelly joined the NFL coaching ranks with the goal of establishing a winning culture that leads to multiple championship victories. In order to do so, Kelly needs his best players to buy into the system enough that they trust their teammates to help them create the plays necessary for ultimate success. By creating strong team stability, Chip Kelly can put the system in place that allows stars to play to their strengths without having to do too much. This is how Chip Kelly will be able to create success at the NFL level even after having to get rid of some of the stars that were in place on the Eagles' roster when he took over as the head coach.