Once the clock clicked down the Birds got their 10th win of the season with a 34-26 win over the New York Giants, the questions began to swirl. They concerned primarily Chip Kelly, Nick Foles, NFL free agency and the 2015 NFL draft.
Will Chip Kelly be satisfied with Nick Foles as his quarterback? Will he try to go after his franchise quarterback in the draft? Will the Eagles be able to replace most of their secondary in the draft or free agency? Will DeMeco Ryans be able to return after the Achilles tendon tear? Is Kelly happy in Philadelphia or will he consider exiting in the near future? How happy is he with GM Howie Roseman and the Birds front office?
The 2015 Eagles off season, regular season and hopefully post season will answer some of those questions and they will have an enormous effect upon the future of Jeffrey Lurie’s NFL franchise. The success of failure of the Birds in the next 13 months will shape the look of the Eagles for the next decade.
We know how “hot and uncomfortable” it can get in the Delaware Valley for an Eagles head coach when the Birds aren’t winning. Kelly has never experienced anything like during his coaching career in Oregon and New Hampshire. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs in 2015, he will see a side of Philadelphia fans that he never dreamed of seeing. I doubt that he will like or appreciate the criticism he will hear. Kelly was quite combative in his last news conference after going 10-6 and failing to make the playoff. The heat is not very intense right now on the Eagles head coach, but it’s likely to get hotter throughout the offseason.
Kelly has proven himself to be a skilled game planner, innovator and play caller. He’s done a tremendous job of designing an offense that puts points on the board despite the inconsistent quarterback play of Foles, Michael Vick, and Mark Sanchez in his first two seasons. At times, his offense hasn’t been as effective in the red zone, but he’s proven to the NFL that he knows how to put points on the board.
Unfortunately, Kelly with Tom Gamble by his side, hasn’t proven himself to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie as a NFL talent evaluator. The former Oregon coach and Gamble oversaw the release of Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the selection of Marcus Smith and the rest of the “so far” awful 2014 Eagles draft class. The poor 2014 draft class left him vulnerable and led to the firing of Eagles Player Personnel Director Tom Gamble.
It’s pretty easy to see why Jeffrey Lurie was okay with the Gamble departure at the urging of Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman. Roseman, whom Lurie gives a great deal of credit for the outstanding 2012 Eagles draft, was able to tie Kelly and Gamble to the “so far” awful 2014 Eagles draft.
When given a choice of going with Roseman or Kelly and Gamble, Lurie chose Roseman. That surely didn’t please Kelly, so he can’t be thrilled about the situation he finds himself in, in Philadelphia. He’s got to win in 2015 with Foles, a quarterback he’s not in love with and Roseman, a General Manager, whom he’s currently battling with in the Birds front office.
Winning is the only thing that will give Kelly more power in his situation. If the team has a big year 2015, he will have the option of staying in place with the Birds, moving on to coach another NFL team or heading back to college. If Kelly goes back on the market, he will have a bevy of teams, both Pro and College fighting to acquire his services.
In all likelihood, Kelly’s future and the team’s future will rest on the play of Foles, which makes Kelly and the Eagles 2015 hopes, uncertain.
If Foles plays great in 2015 in much the same way that he played in 2013, he could get a huge contract, Kelly might be confident that he has the quarterback he needs to make a Super Bowl run. We could wind up watching Kelly and Foles here in Philadelphia for the next six years.
On the other hand, if Foles played like he did in 2014, question marks will continue to surround him and Chip Kelly’s program. The Eagles will still be forced to make a decision about Foles and their quarterback situation. At the same time, Kelly will have to make a decision about whether he intends to continue coaching an Eagles team while lacking the quarterback he feels he needs.
Free agency is the first option for the Eagles to improve their football team. I want to see them sign Seahawk cornerback, Byron Maxwell, who was drafted by Seattle in 2011 in the sixth round. Maxwell’s blanket coverage on the Bird’s slot receivers prevented the Eagles from converting five or six third down plays when the team’s met in December. Maxwell is an outstanding coverage corner and tremendous tackler.
He’s got good size at 6’1” and specializes in playing man-to-man in press technique. Add him to the Birds outstanding front seven and Billy Davis will have the tools for a very, good defense.
I also expect the Eagles to address their secondary needs early in the NFL draft in May. I could see them grabbing a cornerback and safety early on. You may think that’s a lot, but remember the Birds will face the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant, the Giants’ Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz, as well as the Redskins’ DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
They could also use help at the inside linebacker position with veteran middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans trying to come back from an Achilles tendon tear.
The offensive line is getting up there in age, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted an offensive lineman or two. They may try to add some speed to their wide receiver group in the mid to late rounds.
In addition, there may be a quarterback in the mid to later rounds that they grab, but I don’t see them doing anything regarding the quarterback position early in the selection process.