Chip Kelly will be most-scrutinized NFL coach we've seen in long time

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Chip Kelly is going to the Eagles, in the stunning news that dropped on Wednesday afternoon. And he's about to become the most-scrutinized NFL coach we've seen in a long time.

That's not to say that Kelly deserves the scrutiny or that he can't handle the scrutiny. But all eyes are going to be on Kelly in Philly for a number of reasons.

System

Kelly runs a fast-paced offensive system that is wrongly perceived as a "gimmick," when in reality it's rooted in an old-school rushing attack. Kelly's system will -- or, at least, can -- work in the NFL, particularly with the personnel he has in place.

LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown are both explosive "air" backs with the potential for ripping off huge chunks of yardage and precisely the sort of athletic running backs who provide killer home-run threats in Kelly's offense. Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are a versatile pair of wideouts, with Jackson particularly providing a deep threat for Philadelphia. The offensive line was the Eagles biggest issue in 2012, but Jason Peters (All-Pro) and Jason Kelce (athletic) should return from injury in 2013. Evan Mathis stepped up big time in 2012 at guard. Danny Watkins is, um, young?

None of that matters though: lots of people will inform you that Kelly has to change his offense or that Kelly's gimmicky offense won't work in the NFL. They're wrong, but that won't stop them from waiting to pounce on the new Eagles coach as soon as his team doesn't hang 50 on an opponent in the earlygoing.

Location

Everyone talks about the excessive coverage the Jets got in 2012, and it's an accurate assessment. But let's not act like people weren't all over Philly the entire season. Philadelphia is a great sports town, but it's also a high-profile sports town with, um, energetic fans.

They're thrilled that Andy Reid, the man who appeared in four straight NFC Championship Games, is gone. Two bad years, and the Eagles fans soured on an all-time great coach.

What will it take for the city of Brotherly Love to sour on Kelly? He'll be well-regarded from the outset, one would hope. But if Kelly and the Eagles struggle in the early going, would it be that big a shock if the Philly fans busted out the boobirds?

And then there's the media coverage. Reid, despite not attempting to draw attention to his time outside of some big signings, still had cameras in his face and on his field 24-7 during his tenure. It was only magnified when and if he struggled, and the same will hold true for Kelly.

Hype

The idea of Kelly leading an NFL team is fascinating, whether you think it'll work or not. Watching Oregon was a thrill regardless of what you think of Kelly. And the expectations for Kelly will be high by both those who love Kelly (hello, Internet!) and those who don't (hello, newspapers!)

Those who root for Kelly want his offense to succeed and want it to succeed quickly in order to quash any heavy criticism from those who are rooting for Kelly to fail. And those people are going to root for Kelly to crash and burn hard -- nothing would make a Kelly doubter happier than seeing his offense come out sputtering in the NFL and struggling to score.

Whatever happens, it's going to create a lot of debate, it's going to create a lot eyeballs on Kelly's teams and it's going to create a ton of scrutiny as he prepares to unveil his offense at the professional level.

The Flop

Kelly initially spurned the NFL, deciding to remain at Oregon. Or so we thought: Wednesday brought a stunning revelation when Kelly decided to bounce back to Philadelphia and take over the Eagles.

That sort of flip-flopping has folks wondering whether Kelly's willing to stick with one spot, particularly if (when?) things get tough for him in Philadelphia. History isn't exactly kind when folks remember high-profile college coaches coming to the NFL: Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino all leave a bad taste in the mouth of those who remember the way those left.

I don't think Kelly necessarily qualifies and, again, I believe he'll succeed in the NFL. But the way in which he was hired is going to provide plenty of fodder for those who want him to fail and create plenty of speculation about how long he'll be willing to stick around if the going gets tough.

-----

As I've noted, I think Kelly succeeds. He liked the Eagles gig initially and thought about taking it in the first place; Kelly met with the Eagles for nine freaking hours following his Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State.

His offense isn't the gimmick that everyone thinks it is, and he clearly has a good eye for personnel. For those who question whether or not his recruits play at the NFL level, well, go ahead and question away: if talented players who work in his system are undervalued by the NFL as a whole, that's only going to make them easier to acquire. (And for those who doubt innovation with respect to personnel, the Tampa-2 defense would like a word.)

But no one can be 100-percent sure Kelly will succeed or fail. He isn't a sure thing. But there's some wild-card nature with every hire in the NFL. Just like everyone else, Kelly can succeed if he hires the right people and finds the right players.

Whether he can do that remains to be seen. It's going to be fun to find out if Kelly can pull it off, and there's going to a lot of debate and more scrutiny on Kelly than we've seen in a long time.

 
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