For one painful afternoon in Arizona, Chip Kelly morphed into Andy Reid. Suddenly, the brilliant Eagles coach was cranking out one bad play call after another, floundering in the red zone, misusing referee challenges, botching the end of a close game.
The only thing lacking from Kelly’s abysmal performance was Reid’s signature line, “I’ve got to do a better job,” after the heartbreaking 24-20 loss to the Cardinals. Yes, Kelly’s effort Sunday was that bad. It was reminiscent of Reid’s worst work in his bumbling final years here.
Not only did Kelly have an extra week to prepare for the overrated Cards, he also found nothing in the desert that should have surprised him. Carson Palmer is not Peyton Manning, Andre Ellington is not LeSean McCoy and Larry Fitzgerald is no longer supposed to be Larry Fitzgerald. At 31, he’s just another good receiver now.
But Kelly and his well-rested Eagles played a stupid football game. Under their innovative coach, the Birds are designed to overcome their roster holes by always winning the IQ matchup. Well, they lost the battle of wits on Sunday – and the coach himself was the main culprit.
Palmer totally overmatched Nick Foles in the pivotal final minutes, Ellington also made some big plays late, and Fitzgerald gashed the Eagles defense for 160 yards on seven catches. Meanwhile, Kelly had no answers at the end, when the Eagles needed them most.
For example, Kelly failed to challenge the spot near the goal line with three minutes left. Chris Polk may not have gotten into the end zone as he burrowed through a mass of bodies en route to the go-ahead touchdown, but he most definitely had the first down.
Kelly said after the game – and again yesterday on my WIP radio show – that his replay assistants couldn’t find indisputable evidence of the bad spot. Somehow, the rest of the world saw the mistake just fine. Twitter lit up like the Fourth of July sky when the coach kept the challenge flag in his pocket.
Then came an even dumber moment. The fastest player on the field, John Brown, zoomed past cornerback Cary Williams and safety Nate Allen for a 75-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 81 seconds left. The one play that could beat the Eagles did beat the Eagles.
Yesterday, the coach said Brown made a double move that sucked in Allen, who had responsibility for the receiver deep. Kelly made it sound entirely plausible for Allen to abandon basic football strategy – don’t let Brown get behind you – in an effort to make a big play. Well, it wasn’t logical. It was idiotic.
One game is not going to dismantle the foundation of good will that Kelly has earned in his 21 months as Eagles coach, but he should not ignore the lesson of Sunday’s loss. Even smart coaches can have a stupid game every once in a while, but they shouldn’t make a habit of it.
Just ask Andy Reid.