During his 21 months as coach of the Eagles, Chip Kelly has taken a four-win roster to the playoffs, has helped a young quarterback post historic numbers and has energized a dormant fan base in Philadelphia, but he saved his finest work for Sunday night. The Eagles won more than a game against the Giants; they won overdue acceptance for their unconventional coach.
To the NFL establishment, Kelly has been a curiosity since arriving from Oregon. With Andy Reid’s leftovers and a sprinkling of new talent, Kelly has won 12 of the last 14 regular-season games – a record made all the more impressive by his 46-7 mark in college. The man rarely loses.
And yet, the undercurrent of skepticism has remained undeniable. The naysayers keep yammering: Wait until teams face him more than once. Wait until he goes up against a great coach. Wait until he has to deal with a smart veteran quarterback. Blah, blah, blah.
Well, all of those scenarios played out simultaneously at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, and here’s the result: Eagles 27, Giants 0. Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl champion coach, got humiliated on national television. His team got annihilated.
Chip Kelly is not like any coach Philadelphia has ever encountered. He truly doesn’t care what anybody says or does. He wasn’t upset that the oddsmakers rated the Giants higher than the Eagles before the game, or that many of the media people who cover his team were predicting a loss against the revitalized New Yorkers.
Instead, Kelly addressed the immediate needs of a club that was winning games while impressing no one. Somehow, during the whitewash of the Giants, Kelly managed to fix everything that was wrong.
He started with LeSean McCoy, the star who had been running his mouth more than his feet. Kelly didn’t hand the ball to McCoy with a chance to beat San Francisco, and then benched him in the final moments the following week. McCoy responded with a new sense of purpose and 149 yards on the ground.
Nick Foles refocused against the Giants, too – with the exception of two ill-conceived interceptions. Kelly has never really coached a quarterback whose legs don’t move, and yet Foles keeps making the big throws, right after Kelly dials up the right plays.
The defense – never Kelly’s forte – was the biggest revelation against the Giants. Connor Barwin had three sacks in a hellacious pass rush that amassed eight. Eli Manning, the smart old pro with the new offense, later admitted that his coaches had no answers for what Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis had devised. They got outsmarted.
And that’s the real moral of the story so far for Kelly. He is brighter than the brightest coaches, more creative and committed than the best in the NFL. He has done a remarkable job in his first 21 months here – and Sunday night was his first masterpiece.