As you’ve probably heard by now, Chip Kelly was fired by the Philadelphia Eagles for a variety of reasons ranging from “hard to work with” to “maybe racist”. Kelly ends his tenure as an Eagle Head Coach with a record of 26-21, which was heavily mired by this season’s 6-9 SU stretch where he also finished 6-9 ATS. His reign will not be remembered without its severe blemishes.
It wasn’t that Kelly’s play calling, personnel assessment or attitude where the problem – it was the total package. It just didn’t work and his ex-players have basically laughed him out of Lincoln Financial Field. That’s never a good sign.
The good news for Philadelphia is that they had a singular, and easily definable problem that also served as the most scapegoat-able position in the NFL.
The easiest thing to do in the professional football is to blame the coaches, but there are always other factors to blame. General managers are bad at putting together winning teams. Some coordinators are probably more at fault. Owners are irresponsible with their spending habits. It goes on and on and gets worse and worse. Very few teams can do what the New York Jets have done this season and totally reinvent themselves.
It’s also very easy to point at a head coach and create a personal opinion about him that ignores what the franchise and its players may feel. I despise Lovie Smith as a head coach because of his lacking personality and unheralded results as the lead signal caller, but everyone in Tampa seems enamored with him. He’s not going anywhere. It goes for guys like Jeff Fisher in St. Louis and Jim Caldwell in Detroit too. It’s almost frustratingly pointless to stream off a thousand-word article calling for them to be beheaded.
I’ve already written extensively about quarterbacks in this league, which is why you’re not going to see me ranting about Jay Cutler or Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton. Those guys are really good and they’re not replaceable given the scrap heap of quarterbacks that’s out there. They’re not going anywhere.
Other franchises have problems at the very top. San Francisco is probably the worst run franchise in the league outside of the San Diego Chargers. Both of those teams just need new ownership groups, but none of that’s happening any time soon unless Los Angeles gets a big, belated, Christmas wish.
Then there are young teams like Jacksonville and Oakland who are trending in the right direction, or outright contenders like Denver and Kansas City. There’s not a whole heck of a lot that needs fixing.
As for these other teams? They can start by identifying the true problem, just like the Eagles did.
The Real Problem For The Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have a flurry of big questions to ask themselves in the offseason. They took a chance on Joe Philbin who couldn’t connect with his players, and then gave Dan Campbell the old college try. None of it panned out, but the problem may not be with the coaching staff.
There have been a lot of reports that the Dolphins’ players actually hate Ryan Tannehill. There was the allegation that he told the practice roster guys to, “Enjoy your practice squad paycheck, enjoy your practice squad trophy” after they picked him off too many times. Then there was the offensive line refusing to block for him in the final play of their game against Indianapolis last weekend…on the goal line…where a touchdown could’ve won the game.
The Dolphins can’t get rid of Tannehill without taking a huge hit to their cap next season, and it’s unlikely that there will be any takers in the trade market for the 25th ranked passer in QBR this year. Of course, we didn’t think that anyone would trade for Sam Bradford either.
There will be a taker for Tannehill, and he’s the biggest piece that needs to disappear from South Beach. Until then, it doesn’t matter who they hire as a head coach.
Don’t Blame Matt Ryan for the Falcon’s Woes
You can’t blame Dan Quinn either. The history books will show that the Falcons finished with a record at or above .500 for the 2015 season, while the asterisk next to the team’s name will note that they suffered an epic collapse. Remember when they started the year 5-0 SU? Well 91-percent of teams that win their first five games make the playoffs. The Falcons are in that other, awful 9-percent.
One of the biggest reasons it’s not fair to point the finger at Dan Quinn is because he’s a first-year head coach who inherited a broken team from a broken Mike Smith. The next option is to point fingers at Matt Ryan, the team’s quarterback. That would also be foolhardy.
Unlike Tannehill, the Falcons can actually get out from underneath Ryan’s contract by releasing him outright this offseason and shed the remaining $50,750,000 off their books without a severe cap hit. As brutal as Ryan has been in the past two years, he’s still one of the better quarterbacks out there. He just feels like the next Jay Cutler these days instead of the next Aaron Rodgers.
That’s fine. You can stay competitive with a guy like Matt Ryan if he has the right pieces around him, and that includes giving him a better offensive coordinator.
Kyle Shanahan is the real problem in Atlanta, and perhaps the only singular wart that the team can cut off without creating too much of a fiasco.
There are lots of other pieces they need to find, but those can come via the draft where Quinn can finally have some say. Shanahan’s career as an offensive coordinator has led to his team’s averaging out as the 21st or 22nd ranked scoring team in the league over the past 7 years. That’s gross. You can’t possibly have a high scoring offense – or at least maintain one – if that guy is scheming up plays for your players.
The problem with this is that it forces Atlanta to ask Ryan to learn a brand new offense for the third time in his career. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know, but with $50 million at stake for Ice Cold, he can probably afford to memorize a new playbook.
Johnny Football Needs A Fresh Start Far Away From Cleveland
It’s the most obvious answer to one of the league’s most discussed issues. For what it’s worth, Mike Pettine should also be looking for new work. The major issue you have with Manziel isn’t his skillset or talent: it’s the magnitude of his personality and the fixation the public has with him.
What it inevitably does is rob this team of any specific identity. You don’t have this issue with any other team. The Patriots are still the Patriots, and the Broncos are still the Broncos. But the Browns feel more like the Cleveland Johnny Footballs.
Cleveland will have its pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and they need to start right away in a team rebrand (hot buzz word alert!). There are a lot of fun pieces here between Joe Haden, Joe Thomas, Isaiah Crowell and Travis Benjamin. The franchise just needs a fresh start.
As does Johnny Manziel. I’m rooting for Manziel. I don’t know why. I just am. I think every player deserves a fair shot at being something special, and making a living. I’m also in the minority that believes that Manziel has been unfairly scrutinized by the media.
But I can’t ignore that he’s at the core of the problem in Cleveland, for better or worse.
What’d I miss? Let me hear it in the comments.