Chip Kelly making case as elite coach

— -- Watching Mark Sanchez help put up 45 points on the Carolina Panthers Monday night gave me more of an appreciation for Chip Kelly's coaching skills.

His system might be so good that it doesn't matter who is under center. From Michael Vick to Nick Foles and now Sanchez, each Philly quarterback has experienced success within the scheme. No matter who he plays, there doesn't seem to be much of a drop-off.

So often you hear fans question quarterbacks' salaries. Many think it's ridiculous for top quarterbacks to get more than $20 million a year, and others such as Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, to receive $16 million, paralyzing the team's hopes of building the roster around said QB. In a quarterback-driven league, there is no choice. You pay the quarterback, and the prices for the good ones are steep.

Kelly might be the one coach to change that thought process. The danger is other franchises copying the Kelly formula. Copying it might not work unless you have a Chip Kelly creating the scheme.

The interesting decision will come in the next couple of years. Do the Eagles pay Foles $16 million or more, or does Kelly find another quarterback? Give him credit if he chooses the latter; he knows what type of quarterback will flourish in his system. Vick was going to be successful in Philly because of his mobility and strong arm. Injuries and turnovers were his only problems.

While Foles hasn't come close to his 2013 performance this year and his turnovers were high before suffering a broken collarbone, the reality is the Eagles were still winning.

Sanchez looks to be good enough in this offense to lead the Eagles in the playoffs or hand things back off to Foles with 10 or maybe 11 wins and a postseason berth clinched.

Normally, offenses lose about six to seven points a game when a backup takes over. Give Sanchez a few weeks to see if he can sustain what he did Monday night, but I suspect he will be fine. Kelly keeps chipping away at being one of the better coaching hires in the past few years.

From the inbox

Q: Am I the only one thinking people are a little too skeptical of Ryan Mallett? Yes, Bill Belichick traded him pretty cheaply, but I question the idea that Jimmy Garoppolo was drafted because he was so much better. Mallet is due a new contract soon and it's unlikely he'd have been willing to take as little as the Patriots would offer (not to mention a seat on the bench!). Doesn't this just seem like Belichick getting what little value he could for Mallet while staying cheap at backup?

Chris in San Francisco

A: Ron Wolf, former Green Bay Packers GM, used to think it was a good idea to draft a quarterback every year. At the time, he had Brett Favre. Like the Patriots, who have Tom Brady, the Packers didn't have to worry much about the backup unless Favre suffered an injury. Both franchises have been blessed to have great quarterbacks for so long. For cap purposes, it's not a bad idea to draft a quarterback to be a backup, hold on to him for three years of his four-year deal and then replace him with a fresh draft choice. To do that, though, the team has to draft well at the other positions because the team is allocating a pick to a backup. The key to success in this cap era is getting starters out of the first three rounds. Mallett wasn't going to re-sign in New England unless he had no market value in free agency.

Q: Looking strictly at the standings, with every team at least two games over .500, one could easily jump to the conclusion that the AFC North has made the leap from a very average division to the best in the league almost overnight. Is that actually the case, or are they reaping the benefits of playing half of their games against the two worst divisions in football -- the AFC and NFC South? With the AFC West benefiting from the same situation last year (playing against the AFC South and NFC East), it seems to me that, more often than not, divisional strength of schedule is a bigger factor than the actual quality of the teams in determining who earns wild-card berths. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see three AFC North teams playing in January while other teams that might be just as good, if not better, are sitting at home.

Bryan in Danbury, Connecticut

A: You are completely correct. Three AFC West teams made the playoffs last year going 11-1 combined against NFC East teams. Playing weak divisions could help teams improve their records by two or three games. Instead of going 4-4 against strong divisions, the AFC North teams could go 6-2 or better against the AFC South and NFC South. Go back to 2008: the AFC East played the NFC West and AFC West when those divisions were at the worst. The Patriots went 11-5 without Brady and didn't make the playoffs because the Miami Dolphins did a better job of taking advantage of the weak schedule. AFC North tams might be nine-win squads talent-wise. But the schedule could help the division winner finish in the 11-win range.

Q: Let's take a look at the last three years. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have had to go to Foxborough during the regular season to play an away game against the New England Patriots. These games are obviously critical in determining playoff seeding. Do the schedule makers hate Manning, or like the Patriots that much to schedule them a home game for the last three years? Shouldn't there be more regulation in schedule making to ensure this doesn't happen?

Adam in Tempe, Arizona

A: It's nothing personal -- the scheduling isn't done randomly. It's done on a predetermined scheduling format. The AFC East plays the AFC West every three years. Under that format, the Patriots would host one game and the Broncos would host the next. Peyton Manning went from Indianapolis to Denver, so he's on a new team's scheduling format. Last year's game was from the non-common schedule, where the matchup is based on the order of each squad's finish. The Patriots and Broncos were first-place finishers in 2012, and the Patriots had the home game. This year, the AFC East and AFC West teams were matched against each other, and the Patriots happened to get the Broncos as one of their two home games against the division. Next year, the Broncos should get a home contest in its non-common game against the Patriots.

Q: I saw your comment on the sad state of this year's NFC South and there is a real possibility that once again a sub .500 team might make the playoffs, sparking the debate that a really good wild-card team will have to go on the road against the NFC South winner. While it would be too much to exclude a division winner, there is something to be said in penalizing a team which got in merely by being "the best of the worst." How about allowing the division winner with an overall losing record for that season into the playoffs but make them go on the road? The standard would be in order to host a game you must finish at least .500. Seems fair; in most years a 7-9 or worse team doesn't even make the playoffs. Allowing them to also host a game is too much of a reward and extremely unfair to a 12-4, 13-3 wild-card team that simply had to contend with a juggernaut in their division.

Paul in Las Vegas

A: That really isn't a bad idea. I am totally against giving wild cards a better seed because of their record. The AFC North is playing an easy schedule so you could end up with two potential wild-cards that have inflated records because of their weak opponents. Easy schedules shouldn't reward wild-card teams with home games in the playoffs. What I like about your idea is the exception for division winners with losing record. Not a bad thought.

Q: Watching the 49ers at Saints, it's clear San Fran has a lot of talent. With so much speculation on Jim Harbaugh leaving after this year, it seems they should draw a lot of coaching interest. Would this be a talented enough team to draw Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher back to coaching?

Daryl in Richmond, Virginia

A: If Gruden and Cowher were to leave broadcasting, the 49ers are the type of franchise that would entice them. But I'm not sold they are going to coach again anytime soon. The team is loaded with talent, young and old, and has a solid QB in Colin Kaepernick. Plus, it's a great franchise with a new stadium. All of that would attract any good coach. Personnel control could be an issue and both would probably want to bring in their own front office people, which also could be a problem. From the interest standpoint, everyone would be all-in on the 49ers.

Q: Why does the NFL have a double standard on pass-catchers versus runners? Many times a runner loses control of the football after crossing the plane of the goal line, and it is ruled a touchdown. Whereas, a pass catcher has to control the ball throughout, even if he has control as he crosses the goal line. Yet the runner is not under the same standard. I believe it should be the same for both.

Boston in Orlando

A: Interesting question. When you are talking runners, a back heading into the end zone has established control of the football because he took the handoff from the quarterback. For a receiver, he has to complete the process of gaining control of the football. That requires the receiver to control the ball until he hits the ground or the sidelines. You can't have the same standard because the receiver hasn't yet established he has possessed the football.