There’s a phrase that’s as good as a death sentence when describing players just shy of the NFL draft: “He’s a system guy.” Translation: good athlete, good kid, nothin’ special. The scheme makes him a winner. Line him up anywhere else and he’s average at best.
Ask Tim Tebow about being a system guy. Wait a couple years (maybe not that long) and ask Johnny Manziel. But what about coaches? Is there a legit argument that a head coach -- he who installs the system -- is any more transferable from the college game to the pros than an athlete? That he’s any more capable in the NFL absent the system he ran at the NCAA level against far less talented athletes?
Chip Kelly, we’re looking at you.
Kelly is the NFL’s ultimate system guy, a coach whose power, personnel decisions and future success or failure will all be directly attributable to his devotion to a style of play. So far it’s worked. The Eagles are 20-12 since Kelly came to town. They now have more than $50 million in cap space to work with.
In less than a week, Kelly cut Trent Cole, the Iggles' second-best sackman in history behind the late, great Reggie White. He cut Todd Harremans, a solid offensive lineman who was about to be due a big payday in free agency.
And in the move that people outside Philadelphia actually care about, he traded his best cow for a handful of beans Shady McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Excuse us: Kiko Alonso? No hate, but Kiko Alonso?
Alonso is a beast in his own right, yet nobody believes Philly got the better end of that trade. Meanwhile, is there any coincidence in the fact that the Bills and Eagles seem to have exactly the pieces each other wants? Kelly, more concerned about installing his system than whatever discord he might be breeding in the locker room, gives up McCoy to the same Bills team from which he tried to acquire another running back, CJ Spiller last year. Instead of that deal, the Eagles got Darren Sproles from New Orleans in a trade. But now, ever so conveniently, McCoy is being shipped to the Bills, just as Spiller is set to hit free agency. We’re not saying there’s
an evil, Illuminati-like alliance back-channel between the front offices but it does make you go, “hmm,” don’t it?
Spiller's not trying to hide it. “I’m pretty sure that Chip [Kelly] has my agent’s phone number so I’m pretty sure we might have to make a call over there,” he told the NFL Network on Monday. “I've never been in that type of system before, but I don’t think I’d have any problem adjusting to it.”
There it is again. The System.
Kelly, as we learned from his days at Oregon, and as we’re now reminded, is more about system than personnel. System made him push out DeSean Jackson in his prime two seasons ago. System was behind his grab for total control of personnel decisions in Philly. What better way to implement a college-style offense in the NFL than to have final say over players? Who needs a GM in the way?
It’s all about Chip Kelly’s system. For his sake, that system better never break down.