Of course, the way he prevailed in that improbable 30-27 comeback against Indianapolis on Monday night is what fans are talking about – gushing over, really – right now, especially after all of the strange twists that led to the victory.
In the end, Kelly found a way to win by ignoring the philosophy of the previous administration – which also happens to be the most successful in Eagles history – and even his own basic principles. He took an undersized 31-year-old running back and blew right past the tired Colts.
Darren Sproles would never have been an Eagle if Andy Reid were still in charge because Reid and ex-president Joe Banner had a bias against players over 30, let alone aging running backs. However, when Kelly acquired Sproles last winter, the coach didn’t see an old player; he saw a new opportunity.
Sproles accounted for 178 yards of offense catching passes and running the ball in Indy, and many of those big plays came when the Colts were gasping for breath in the final quarter, thanks to Kelly’s exhausting offense. In the first two games this season, the Eagles have outscored opponents in the second half, 58-10.
There’s pure genius behind Kelly’s fast-paced approach, and that’s just the beginning of his brilliance. Remember when he said “big people beat up little people,” last season? Well, what he never bothered to point out is that little people absolutely destroy tired people at the end of close games. Sproles is 5’6” – hard to see and even harder to catch.
Kelly has already demonstrated an uncanny knack for doing the unconventional, and making it work. For example, his third-and-15 run call that set up the tying touchdown late in the third period was the unlikeliest of decisions, until LeSean McCoy burst into the open for 21 yards and a game-changing first down.
And then there’s the kicker Kelly has entrusted with the fortunes of his team. Cody Parkey is totally unproven, an undrafted free agent who didn’t even join the club until the last few days of training camp. When Parkey’s game-winner was nullified by a late timeout, Kelly pointed the rookie back onto the field and calmly told him the to do it again.
There is no panic in Chip Kelly, nor in his teams. Nick Foles has been erratic at times, but not in big spots. The young quarterback delivered the throw of the game to Zack Ertz to set up the deciding field goal. Meanwhile, the defense has been unpredictable, too, but not when facing Andrew Luck in the final minutes on Monday. How many people expected the three-and-out that gave the Eagles the ball for that final drive?
Chip Kelly saw it – just as he envisioned the huge comebacks in the first two games, the stunning impact of Darren Sproles on his offense, the big plays that Malcolm Jenkins is already providing and, inevitably, the evolution of his team into a champion.
What is happening with the Eagles right now is not complicated at all. Chip Kelly is winning. That’s what he does. He wins.