I THINK WE ALL can agree that Chip Kelly is a pretty good football coach. He proved that at the University of Oregon and has proved it again in his first 2 years with the Eagles, resuscitating a four-win team and racking up back-to-back 10-6 seasons.
What we don't yet know, but are about to find out, is what kind of talent evaluator Kelly is.
Many people assume that a good coach also is a good judge of football flesh. But the two don't necessarily go hand in hand. They're two very different jobs, two very different talents.
Everyone is familiar with Bill Parcells' line, "If I'm going to be asked to cook the meal, I'd like to be able to pick the groceries." But it should be pointed out that a significant chunk of the Hall of Fame coach's success - including his two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants - came when he wasn't picking the groceries; when someone else was making the personnel decisions (general manager George Young).
For every coach/personnel czar success story like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, there have been many more instances where it's been an absolute disaster.
In the early 2000s, thanks largely to the persuasiveness and influence of a high school history teacher-turned-agent by the name of Bob LaMonte, more than half the teams in the NFL had head coaches who also had final personnel say. But that changed and now, there are only four - the Patriots with Belichick, the Seahawks with Carroll, the Saints with Sean Payton, and, as of last month, the Eagles with Kelly.
Belichick, Carroll and Payton have combined for 374 regular-season wins, 36 playoff victories and six Super Bowl titles. So, if you're looking for a reason to believe it can work here with Kelly, there it is.
A couple of things: Kelly has considerably less NFL experience than Belichick, Carroll and Payton did when they were given absolute power. He's been in the league just 2 years.
Belichick had spent nearly a quarter-century in the league, including 5 years as a head coach with the Browns, before being hired by the Patriots.
Carroll logged 16 years as an NFL assistant and head coach before taking the Seattle job. Payton had been an NFL assistant for 9 years before New Orleans hired him.
Each of them also had an experienced personnel lieutenant to assist them. Kelly has decided to go with 30-year-old Ed Marynowitz, whose NFL experience includes 3 years with the Eagles and 1 year as a scouting assistant with the Dolphins.
"Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of giving coaches power over personnel," an AFC general manager said. "I just don't think it's a good setup. Checks and balances are important in everything, especially in this business where egos can run rampant. Somebody's got to be able to put their hand up once in a while [and disagree]."
When owner Jeff Lurie hired Kelly in January 2013, he said the coach and then-general manager Howie Roseman would both report to him and that they would "collaborate" on personnel decisions. Said Lurie: "Howie's job and his staff's job will be to find the players at every position that Chip is looking for."
It became pretty clear last offseason that Kelly enjoyed the scouting process and was going to take a proactive approach in finding "his" players. No coach in the league attended more predraft Pro Days than Kelly.
What isn't clear is how much influence Kelly let those "shorts and shoes" Pro Days have on the Eagles' draft decisions. Roseman was big on building the draft board before the combine and Pro Days based on what he and his scouts saw in the fall and then making minimal changes to the board in February, March and April.
But there have been reports that Kelly wasn't hesitant to move players up or down based on Pro Day performances and/or discussions with their college coaches.
"Everybody does some of that," the GM said. "But when you start doing that on a regular basis or you do it too much, your scouts start to think it doesn't mean a damn what they think or do because you're completely disregarding the work they did in the fall. That can start an erosion.
"I remember guys in the Rams building back in '02 with Mike Martz when they took [Nebraska quarterback] Eric Crouch. Martz just came in and took somebody else off the board and put Crouch in there in the third round. Did the same thing with another guy. And nobody could stop him.
"That's where Chip could get in trouble if he puts too much emphasis on what he's seeing at the Pro Days rather than what his scouts saw in the fall."
Martz drafted Crouch, an option quarterback in college, and wanted to move him to wide receiver. Crouch, who wanted to play quarterback, never signed with the team.
Kelly interviewed several other personnel candidates with more experience before settling on former La Salle quarterback Marynowitz, who was hired by Roseman in 2012 after four seasons as Nick Saban's director of player personnel at Alabama.
"Ed's one of those guys where you'd walk out of his office at Alabama and say he ought to be somewhere [better]," an NFC scout said. "He's an extremely bright kid.
"From what I've heard about how Chip is going to use him, it'll be perfect for him. He may be young, but young doesn't mean you can't do it. He'll get a chance to grow in that role. I don't think Chip will ever have to say, 'I couldn't get the answer or couldn't get the information I need.' "
Said another NFC scout: "[Marynowitz] essentially will be an organizer. He'll get the scouts organized. He'll relay to them what Chip wants. He'll make sure the [scouting] reports are done right. He'll walk through the players with Chip. Who do I need to be looking at at the combine, those kinds of things.
"I think they're going to be OK. We'll have a better idea after the draft, obviously. If Tom Gamble were still in the building, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion. But because of Ed's age and inexperience, there are going to be some initial questions. But he's a smart kid. And they've got other experienced guys there. They've got [senior football adviser] Tom Donahoe."
Ultimately, it will come down to Kelly and the decisions he makes. This is a critical offseason for the Eagles.
They are entering their third year under Kelly. Despite consecutive 10-6 seasons, it remains to be seen whether this team can be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2015.
The Eagles have some big holes on defense. They don't know if they have their long-term quarterback. Their offensive line is getting up in age. And their best wide receiver is an unrestricted free agent.
They need to be aggressive in free agency. And they need a solid draft. They can't afford another first-round snafu like last year when they reached for Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith.
"If Chip is not as good at [evaluating] personnel as he thinks he is, this could be a recipe for disaster," an NFC personnel man said. "But Chip's football smart. He knows talent. He knows what he's looking for. I'm not saying he's going to replicate Belichick. But I think he has a chance to do a pretty good job. I think it can work."
Said an AFC personnel executive: "Chip knows how to utilize talent. He figured out how to get to 10-6 last year with [Mark] Sanchez and Bradley Fletcher and Nate Allen and an offensive line that had a lot of guys hurt for much of the season.
"Because he knows how to utilize talent, he's really at an advantage, because whoever he picks [in the draft], he'll know how he wants to use them and play to their strengths. That's why I really would like to know who made the decision on Marcus Smith last year. Because Marcus didn't have any special attributes. He was just a guy. I would really like to know the dynamics of how they settled on him [in the first round]. Was it Kelly's decision? Was it Roseman's?
"Belichick has won with guys you can't even name at wide receiver and running back. It's like he says, 'OK, give me 53 players. And if they're the 53 I want, I'll figure out how to utilize them and carve a team out of them.'
"I think that's what Chip can do. If it were Dan Quinn or Todd Bowles, I'd say no way. And I have tremendous respect for those guys as coaches. But Chip is different. He's innovative. He's creative. As a guy on the outside looking in, I'm not as concerned as I would be if it were some other third-year head coach and first-year young [personnel] guy."
On Twitter: @Pdomo