Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday Night Football

As a rule, yours truly has long scoffed at the stats from hell the sports geeks have visited upon us in recent years. Baseball is probably the worst. They have acronyms like WAR and OPS that the average fan is clueless about, and likely couldn't care less. And excuse me for still thinking the term "Sabermetrics" is better suited to a Star Wars movie than baseball games. I know good pitching and good hitting when I see it, and don't need to be bombarded with worthless trivia to put my already feeble brain on overload.

But this is about football, in particular the game between the Philadelphia Eagles visiting the Indianapolis Colts last night. A couple of interesting stats jumped out.

In his brief (two year+) NFL career, Colts' QB Andrew Luck had never lost back-to-back games. He has now. For that matter, he didn't lose many games while he was in college at Stanford. But a couple of them came against Oregon, then coached by one Chip Kelly, who BTW happens to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles these days. It seems Chip has Andrew's number.

But the more interesting stat was the Eagles became the first team in NFL history to rally back from 14 or more point deficits in the second half to win their first two games. That's a lot of history.

More times than not, even highly successful former college coaches struggle when they make the jump to the NFL. It's a whole different deal. Amongst others, people like Lou Sabin and Steve Spurrier are evidence of that, though former USC coach Pete Carroll seems to be doing rather well in Seattle.

But the Peter Principle, whereby one rises to their own level of (in)competence -- and stays there -- doesn't seem to apply to Chip Kelly either. He's turned the Eagles around in a big way -- quickly.

Much like his Oregon teams, Kelly and his staff have the Eagles in a high-speed, no-huddle, shoot-em-up offense, often featuring weird formations. Two running backs, three tight ends, and no wide receivers? Get outta here. Nobody does that. But it seems to be working.

And here's the thing about the Eagles. Under Kelly, they seem to have more gas in their tanks than other teams. In other words, they eventually wear them down, hence their second half superiority. Sure, every team rotates personnel on a lot of plays but, overall, the Eagles appear to be a cut above when it comes to conditioning and stamina over the course of an entire game.

They may not have the most talented players across the board on their team (though they collectively aren't too shabby), but if the other team is gasping for air in the fourth quarter while the Eagles are like the Energizer Bunny -- it certainly works to their advantage.

Granted, Oregon never won a national championship under Kelly, and the Eagles could fairly be called a semi-long shot to win the Super Bowl.

But hats off to Kelly for having his team supremely conditioned and bringing his own brand of innovation to an NFL team with looks, formations, and plays that have never been tried before. So far, so good.

And just think, Lions' fans. A couple years ago, when Jim Schwartz was obviously crashing and burning, your geniuses in the front office (as always) were slow to pull the trigger. It's entirely possible you could have had Chip Kelly. Can you imagine how much more explosive your offense would be with Kelly and company calling the shots? Now you're stuck with Jim Caldwell for the next few years, and likely going nowhere.

To borrow a line from the immortal Walter Cronkite -- that's just the way it is. Most other NFL teams have gone up and down, and back up again, but the Honolulu blue and silver seems forever stuck in a mode somewhere from mediocre at best, to just plain bad. And they're not going anywhere this year either. Or next year, or the one after that.

They've long been mired in their old ways, and the hiring of retread Caldwell is just the latest example. Of all the head coach possibilities in the latest merry-go-round, the Lions sat on their hands while the others were snapped up, then finally said Caldwell was the guy they wanted all along. Please. Funny, or maybe not, how no other team was clamoring for his services. Caldwell's record as a coordinator serving under other head coaches is outstanding. But when given the reins himself -- not so good.

Like Schwartz, in 4-5 years, he'll be gone too, never to hold another NFL coaching position. That's another interesting stat. In the entire history of the Lions, NONE of their head coaches has ever gone to another NFL team to be a head coach again. An assistant here, and a coordinator there? Yep. But never allowed to be the head man again. By anybody. Ever. The Lions are where head coaches come to get rich, but then die.

Caldwell will likely face the same fate in a few years. He brings nothing new.

It's guys like Kelly that make things interesting......

1 comment:

  1. Caldwell will do a better job than Gym Shorts. Nough said.