Brookover: Birds may have been better off with Chip Kelly’s guys
We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the swiftest kick Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has ever given to a head coach that he hired. It was Dec. 29 last year when Lurie stunned us all by firing Chip Kelly with one game remaining in the coach's third season.
We are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the swiftest kick Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie ever gave to a head coach that he hired. It was Dec. 29 last year when Lurie stunned us all by firing Chip Kelly with one game remaining in the coach's third season.
Kelly was 10-6 in his first two seasons, made the playoffs once and had two years remaining on his contract. But his boorish behavior inside the walls of the NovaCare Complex so repulsed Lurie that the Eagles owner decided to remove the fast-talking New Englander.
We know the rest of the story. Howie Roseman was restored as the chief of football operations and immediately rearranged the deck furniture, opting to throw almost everything overboard that had Kelly's fingerprints on it.
So how'd it work out for all the parties involved?
Not so well, of course, for Kelly. He landed a job as head coach in San Francisco, where he has led the 49ers to exactly one victory. It's quite possible that could also be the number of seasons Kelly spends with the 49ers and it's unlikely he'll be able to land a head coaching job anywhere other than with a college team after this season.
The 49ers have by far the league's worst passing offense and are also ranked last in total defense. The Kelly NFL experiment can now be classified as a failure.
That does not mean everything Kelly touched or tarnished needed to be discarded, which was mostly the direction Roseman decided upon, albeit in a most peculiar way.
It would have been interesting to see where the Eagles would stand right now if they had opted to keep quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray, cornerback Byron Maxwell, and linebacker Kiko Alonso, the four primary additions that Kelly made during his one season of being the general manager in denial.
Even though the consensus inside and outside the locker room is that rookie Carson Wentz is a strong foundation to build upon, it's still fair to say that the Eagles would have been a better team with Bradford at quarterback this season. That's because right now Bradford is better.
The numbers strongly support the case. In one fewer game, Bradford has thrown one more touchdown (14 to 13) and nine fewer interceptions (13 to 4) than Wentz. Bradford has a higher completion percentage (71.6 to 62.8), more yards per game (249.6 to 241.8) and a higher passer rating (97 to 78.5) than Wentz. Would the Eagles have been a playoff contender with Bradford? It's possible simply because he is better at protecting the football.
It might have been probable if the Eagles also kept Murray. Nothing is clearer now than how badly Kelly mishandled the man who led the NFL in rushing in 2014. Had the Eagles kept Murray and molded the offense to his strength of straight-ahead power running, Bradford would have had the best season of his career this year in Philadelphia.
Instead Murray went to the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round draft pick that the Eagles used in the deal with Cleveland to acquire the second overall pick they used on Wentz.
Roseman dealt Maxwell and Alonso to Miami so he could move up from the 13th overall pick to the eighth pick, which was the first move in his quest for Wentz. It was all "about value," Roseman said. He wanted Wentz and he wanted to free up salary-cap space.
The cap space was used on guys like Rodney McLeod, Leodis McKelvin, Brandon Brooks, Ron Brooks, Chase Daniel, and Nigel Bradham. Not one of them had more value than Murray this season. Titans coach Mike Mularkey will tell you the main reason his team is in contention for its first playoff appearance since 2008 is Murray, who is second in the NFL in rushing.
It could also be argued that the Eagles would have been better with Maxwell returning for a second season at cornerback. At the very least Maxwell has had a fascinating first season in Miami. He was benched in a Week 4 game against Cincinnati and ripped by his defensive coordinator for "soft coverage" and "missing tackles."
An injury got him back in the lineup the following week and since then Maxwell has been a playmaking machine, coming up with two interceptions and four forced fumbles for a Dolphins team that has won eight of its last nine games. Roseman did not sign anybody as valuable as that in free agency either.
Alonso, after starting just one game a year ago following his trade to the Eagles from Buffalo for star running back LeSean McCoy, has had a nice bounce-back season with the Dolphins. He has started 13 games at middle linebacker and picked off two passes, including one he returned for a touchdown. Could he have been more valuable than Mychal Kendricks? Do you really need to ask?
To steal a line from our old friend Chip Kelly, maybe Howie Roseman threw out the baby with the bath water.
Larry Fitzgerald, at 33, leads all NFL receivers with 98 receptions, although his yards-per-catch average is at a career-low 9.7 and the Arizona Cardinals are in the midst of their first losing season since 2012. The nine-time Pro Bowler has been asked a lot recently if he's considering retirement after this season and he has pretty much evaded the question by saying he's focused on Arizona's two remaining games. Here's hoping he stays at least another year because he has always been the polar opposite of a receiving diva, even though he'll go down as one of the greatest ever.
The biggest oversight I could see on the Pro Bowl rosters was the omission of Dallas middle linebacker Sean Lee. Seattle's Bobby Wagner and Carolina's Luke Kuechly were selected as the NFC's two inside linebackers and both are great players. Kuechly, however, has been limited to 10 games this season and Lee, who has a chance to play all 16 games for the first time in his career, is the primary reason Dallas has the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL.
Top games of the week
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Atlanta at Carolina
The Falcons can clinch a playoff spot and their first NFC South title since 2012 with a win over the Panthers and a Tampa Bay loss at New Orleans. Carolina is 5-3 in its last eight games after a 1-5 start. The Panthers' only regular-season loss a year ago was to Atlanta, so Cam Newton and company would love to spoil the Falcons' bid for a division title. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has thrown 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions while posting a 116.1 passer rating in his last seven games.
Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
The Steelers can win the AFC North with a victory at Heinz Field, but they have lost six of their last seven against the Ravens and are 3-5 at home against Baltimore in this decade. The 169 rushing yards the Ravens surrendered to the Eagles last week were a season high and dropped them to second in the NFL behind Dallas against the run. Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell has rushed for 143 yards per game during the Steelers' five-game winning streak.
Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Denver at Kansas City
A Ravens loss and a Chiefs victory will guarantee Andy Reid's team a third playoff berth in four seasons, but Big Red's squad may have squandered its opportunity for a first-round bye with last week's fall-from-ahead loss to Tennessee. The Chiefs' 10-4 record defies their statistics. They are 23rd overall in offense, 23rd in rushing offense and 22nd in passing offense. They are 29th in overall defense - 28th against the run and 19th against the pass.
Detroit at Dallas
Matthew Stafford had 16 touchdown passes, four interceptions and a 103.4 passer rating after eight games, but the Lions were only 4-4. He has six touchdowns, four interceptions and an 86.3 passer rating in his last six games, but the Lions are 5-1. Detroit is 29th in the league in rushing and has had just one game over 100 yards since Week 2. The Cowboys have allowed 56 yards or fewer on the ground in four of their last seven games.