Chip Kelly is Playing Fantasy Football
Whenever old-school NFL coaches, execs or sportswriters want to insult someone who they don't think knows anything about football, they inevitably say, "This isn't fantasy football. You can't just trade everybody and sign whoever you want." Well, I don't know about anybody else, but it sure looks to me like Philadelphia Eagles head coach and head of player personnel, Chip Kelly is playing fantasy football these days.
Player for player trades are incredibly rare in the NFL, yet Kelly has pulled off two such trades this week. First he traded RB LeSean McCoy for LB Kiko Alonso. Then he swapped quarterbacks with the St. Louis Rams, when he sent Nick Foles packing and got Sam Bradford in return. Yes, there were some draft picks involved in the QB swap, but still, this simply is not the way things work in the NFL. Not for most people anyway.
Kelly has a reputation as somebody who doesn't exactly follow the rules and we're finding out it's not just about how fast he practices and runs his offense without huddling. No, Kelly seems intent on proving that he is a genius by taking a 10-win team and gutting half of the roster.
Gone are Pro Bowlers Foles, McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, who was allowed to sign with Kansas City for a total of $5 million over five years more than the Eagles were willing to offer. Soon to follow them out the door is LG Evan Mathis, who had the audacity to ask for a raise after his Pro Bowl season in 2013. I'm betting they trade him to Miami in exchange for OLB Dion Jordan. Why? Jordan is a former Oregon Duck. Kelly also dumped RG Todd Herremans due to his high salary and declining production. So to recap, Kelly has jettisoned his starting QB, RB No. 1 WR and at least one, if not both, of his starting guards from the 5th ranked offense in the entire NFL last season.
That leaves Kelly with a QB coming off two consecutive ACL injuries, who hasn't played since Week 7 of 2013. Most likely, no guards with any real NFL experience. Possibly the worst WR corps in the entire NFL, with Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff. And a new stable of running backs. Darren Sproles returns as the change of pace back, but Kelly replaced McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing in 2013 and finished No. 3 in 2014, with free agents DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. You'll excuse me if I'm confused.
Bradford has missed 41 of his last 93 games if you go back to his college days, when he was also injury-prone. And even when he has managed to stay healthy in the NFL, he has never put up great numbers. Bradford certainly never approached the record-setting 2013 season Foles had with 27 TDs, 2 INTs and the third best QB Rating (119) in NFL history. Did I mention that Bradford makes $12.9 million, while Foles will only make $1.3 million this season? And everyone who says Bradford never had any receivers to throw to, might just want to check out what he's got on this Eagles roster now.
Murray signed a five-year, $42 million contract, while Mathews signed a three-year, $11.5 million contract. That's almost the same exact amount that the Eagles decided they had to get rid of by trading McCoy's salary. And if you ask me, I'd much rather have McCoy than the combination of Murray and Mathews. First of all, Kelly only uses one running back, so rotating all three including Sproles, is not going to be easy. Of course, with the injury history of Murray and Mathews, that problem might just sort itself out. Mathews has only played 16 games in a season once in his five-year career and missed seven games last season. Murray missed 11 games in his first three seasons, before starting all 16 last season. But that isn't necessarily a good thing for Murray.
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The Cowboys abused Murray last season by giving him 392 carries during the regular season, which tied for seventh-most in NFL history. That's the most since Larry Johnson had in 2006 with the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson was never the same after that one monster season. Murray added another 44 carries in the playoffs along with 57 receptions. Those 449 touches rank sixth all-time. That kind of workload adversely affects running backs the next season. Add in the fact that Murray had a bit of a fumbling problem last season, with five, and that he was showing some wear even during last season. Murray averaged 5.4 yards per carry in September, 4.9 in October, 4.5 in November and 4.0 by the end of the season. Plus Murray was running behind a great Dallas offensive line last season. Now he'll be running behind, well, we don't know, since Kelly might just trade all five offensive linemen before training camp if he keeps this up.
Do you like all the moves Chip Kelly is making?
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But let's look at the positives. Let's look at the other side of the ball, where the Eagles were downright putrid last season, ranking 28th overall and 31st against the pass. Kelly did the smart thing and didn't re-sign free agent CB Bradley Fletcher or safety Nate Allen and cut overpaid, underachieving CB Cary Williams. To replace them, Kelly signed the premier CB on the market in Byron Maxwell. The Eagles paid a ton for Maxwell, but he should be worth it. If he turns out to be the second coming of Nnamdi Asomugha, then we will know for sure that the Football Gods hate the Eagles. The McCoy trade brought back Alonso and Kelly finished up by also signing CB Walter Thurmond. Alonso is coming off an ACL that cost him all of last season and Thurmond missed 14 games last season and missed 42 of his last 62 games overall since 2011, but both are former Ducks and that matters more than anything to Kelly. Or so it seems. Kelly also cut OLB Trent Cole and his huge contract, but surprisingly re-signed OLB Brandon Graham, even though everyone, including Graham, thinks he is a better 4-3 DE. Got all that?
While all of this is wildly exciting, it is also wildly unusual in the NFL.
No team has ever done anything even remotely close to the Extreme Makeover: NFL Team Edition, that Kelly is doing this offseason. I understand that every team needs to turn over their roster somewhat every season, but this is ridiculous.
Not to mention that most of the players the Eagles received back in trade or signed as free agents have extensive injury histories. Maybe some of those TV remodelers will be joining Chip's coaching staff to help when the training staff can't keep up with all the spackling needed to fill in the cracks that inevitably will occur in those brittle bodies.
Chip Kelly has always had a different way of doing things, but this is really a departure from the norm in the NFL.
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Kelly's confidence that his system producing results, no matter who he has to run it, is surely going to get tested this season. He shrewdly added some missing pieces to his suspect defense, but instead of just a tune-up on his offense, Kelly went with a total rebuild. I have no idea why, but something about all those star players he either traded or let go just didn't make them part of what Kelly envisions as a championship team going forward.
I have no idea if this will all work out for the best or not. How could I? Hell, by the time you read this, Kelly may have released three more players, signed two more free agents and made yet another one of those player for player trades that never happen in the NFL.
Yes, Chip Kelly might be crazy, but then again, he might be a genius. The only thing we know for sure is that Chip Kelly is treating the Philadelphia Eagles roster like some beer-guzzling schmuck sitting on the couch in his basement, who can't stop tinkering with his fantasy football team. The only difference is that the trophy he's going after is a bit more impressive than your average fantasy league trophy.