March 24, 2016
BOCA RATON, Fla. – A few weeks after his Super Bowl run with the Broncos, former Eagles offensive guard Evan Mathis offered a blunt, harsh criticism of Chip Kelly to Mike Klis of 9NEWS in Denver.
“There were many things that Chip had done that showed me he wasn’t building a championship team,” Mathis wrote in his e-mail to 9NEWS. “Two of the main issues that concerned me were: 1. A never-evolving, vanilla offense that forced our own defense to play higher than normal play counts. 2. His impatience with certain personality types even when they were blue-chip talents. The Broncos team I was on would have eaten Chip alive. I don’t think he could have handled the plethora of large personalities.”
At the NFL owners meetings, Kelly was asked about Mathis' comments and whether he felt his offense had gotten vanilla over the course of his three years with the team.
"When I look at the statistics, I don’t think so," said Kelly. "Where’d we finish, twelfth this year? We were one (in 2013), five (in 2014) and 12 (in 2015), so I don’t think that’s the case."
Note: The Eagles finished second in total offense in 2013, not first. However, Kelly is certainly correct that the Eagles, according to yardage output on the season, finished twelfth overall in the NFL in 2015.
Except, "total yards" is an absolutely useless measure of Chip Kelly's offense when compared with the rest of the NFL.
In 2014, because of the fast pace with which they ran their offense, the Eagles ran 1127 plays, which was the most in the NFL. In 2015, they ran 1102 plays, which was second-most. Despite that enormous advantage, they were only 12th in yards per game, and only 13th in points per game despite getting an additional seven touchdowns from the Eagles' defense and special teams.
The defense's numbers, meanwhile, were predictably awful because of the number of snaps they had to face. They were 30th in yards allowed per game and 28th in points allowed per game. Certainly the Eagles defense deserved their share of the blame at times, but they far outperformed the offense.
The Eagles' offense had the advantage of running 1.5 games' more worth of plays over the course of a season than the average NFL team. The defense has the extreme disadvantage of facing almost two games' worth more. Therefore, "per game" stats are useless measuring sticks for a team that operated with the fast pace that Kelly's did.
And Kelly knows it.
During the season, both Eagles coordinators - offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator Bill Davis - said that they measure their offensive and defensive efficiency on "per drive" stats, not "per game" stats.
In 2014, the Eagles were third in points per game and fifth in yards per game. However, they were only 13th in points per drive, and 14th in yards per drive.
Conversely, in 2014, the defense was 22nd in points per game, and 28th in yards per game. However, they had the misfortune of facing more drives by the opposing offense than the typical NFL team. In terms of per drive stats, the D was 15th in points per drive, and 7th in yards per drive. By that measure, the defense outperformed the offense in 2014.
In other words, Chip Kelly's offense scored a lot of points and racked up a lot of yards because they had more drives than the typical NFL team. In the process, it put the defense in extremely unfavorable situations, as Mathis noted.
In 2015, Kelly's offense objectively stunk.
When asked about being evaluated on "per drive" stats versus "per game" (or overall) stats, as well as the fact that his offense was on a downward trajectory since his arrival in 2013, Kelly offered up excuses.
"I look at the overall stats," he said. "I also look at where we were from a personnel standpoint. One thing about our first year was that we were extremely healthy. I don’t think we put a player on injured reserve the whole year. We had the same offensive line that played every single game. With the exception of the quarterback position, we had great continuity when that wasn’t the case in year two and year three.
"That second year we had some games, we went out and played San Francisco and the only guy we had in his original position was Jason Peters. We had a new center, a new left guard, a new right guard. Herremans had to bump out to right tackle, so I think you have to look at from a personnel standpoint it was a different group. When we had an opportunity to be healthy, especially upfront, that was a key component to our success. It’s very rare you can play all five games with the same guys for every single snap."
• One, of course Kelly looks at "overall" stats, because they don't expose his offense for being the inefficient mess that it was.
• And two... Injuries? The Eagles were among the healthiest teams in the NFL for the entirety of Kelly's tenure. Here's a chart showing team health in 2013 and 2014, via reddit NFL:
In 2015, Eagles opening day starters on offense missed a grand total of 21 games, 13 of which were by Andrew Gardner.
The notion by Kelly that his offense last season was good is 100% delusion, and his excuses don't hold water.
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski