Chip Kelly shouldn't outsmart himself


PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles' head coach is smarter than everybody else, apparently.

That's the only explanation for why Chip Kelly took the ball out of the hands of his hottest player inside the red zone Sunday. It made no sense to run a trick play against Arizona, locked in a 7-7 tie looking at first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. It made perfect sense to have Nick Foles, the man who entered the day with a 121.9 passer rating in the red zone, to lob a pass to a tight end, as he had earlier in the game to take a 7-0 lead on his 17th touchdown of the season.

But Kelly thought better of it. He slid Foles to wide receiver, opposite Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, and put wide receiver Brad Smith in at quarterback.

"It was not a Wildcat play," Kelly said after the Eagles held on to beat the Cardinals, 24-21. "It's just Brad Smith plays quarterback."

OK. It wasn't -- wink, wink -- a Wildcat play. It was a dumb play. It was a play that didn't work. It was a play that lost yards. It was a play that likely cost the Eagles a touchdown. And it was a play that could have cost them the game.

Thinking you're smarter than everybody else doesn't win you games. In the National Football League, it costs you games. And if the Eagles are going to do something special this season -- and they are poised to make the postseason for the first time since 2010 -- they can't have their head coach making mistakes born of hubris.

Kelly has done an admirable job in 11 months in Philadelphia. He has altered a culture that had turned toxic in the last two seasons of the Andy Reid regime. Kelly has been able to get the players to buy into his way of doing things, to the sports science and the Tuesday practices and the altered weekly schedule. Everyone was all-in from the jump, even though Kelly had never coached a minute in the NFL before the Eagles hired him.

A year after finishing 4-12, Philadelphia is 7-5 and tied with the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East with four games to go. It is December, and the Eagles are relevant. That is because of Kelly. Philly has won four straight and its past two at home with an unpredictable  Detroit Lions team coming to town next weekend.

Kelly rightfully stuck with Foles this week despite the fact that Michael Vick finally is healthy. Foles has been lights out. He threw three more touchdown passes against the Cardinals, all to tight ends. He again threw zero interceptions (although Peterson had one negated by a defensive holding penalty on teammate Tyrann Mathieu late in the game). Foles finished with a 112.0 passer rating -- his fourth straight triple-digit rating -- and withstood the punishment from one of the league's most aggressive defenses.

Incredibly, if Foles throws one more touchdown pass before he throws an interception, he will tie Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to start a season with 20 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Foles already shares an exhibit with Manning at the Pro Football Hall of Fame for most touchdowns thrown in a game (seven). He has a very real opportunity to share another record with Manning as well.

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