No coach faces bigger challenges in 2013 than Chip Kelly.
The new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles must overcome so many hurdles that Edwin Moses himself would fear the race ahead.
The offensive mastermind and former University of Oregon coach must:
- Prove that he can make the jump from successful college coach to successful NFL coach, a leap that has tripped up countless great coaches before him
- Install his up-tempo system in a league that resists innovation and then attempt to execute it against NFL defenses
- Find a quarterback who can execute that or any other system, without whom nothing else in the NFL really matters.
- Win over a famously frustrated fan base that last enjoyed an NFL championship during the Eisenhower Administration.
Oh, and one other thing: this professor of pigskin must also re-educate the dumbest team in football.
The Eagles fielded plenty of talent last year, especially on offense. It was certainly enough talent to win more than four games. But Andy Reid’s final team went 4-12 because it executed poorly in situational football and repeatedly suffered mental mistakes.
It was, in other words, the dumbest team in football.
The Eagles did plenty of big things right. They ranked 15th in both total offense and total defense last year – production that should have been good enough to make Philadelphia a wild-card contender.
But the Eagles did all the little things wrong.
The same team that ranked 15th in both total offense and total defense ranked 29th in scoring offense and 30th in scoring defense. So the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles were remarkably inefficient on both sides of the ball.
We know the Eagles were the dumbest team in football because we have the Quality Stats that put an empirical figure on team intelligence. They are called Scoreability and Bendability.
Scoreability measures offensive efficiency in terms of what we call Yards Per Point Scored – how effectively teams turn yards into points. Smart teams need only a few yards to score a lot of points; dumb teams, like the Eagles, produce plenty of yards but few points.
Bendability measures defensive efficiency in terms of Yards Per Point Allowed – how effectively opponents turn yards into points. It measures, in other words, the “bend but don’t break” phenomenon. Smart teams might give up a lot of yards but surrender few points; dumb teams, like the Eagles, surrender few yards but a lot of points.
The 2012 Eagles sucked at both: they ranked No. 31 in Scoreability and No. 32 in Bendability.
Scoreability and Bendability are great indicators because each takes into account so many different factors – special teams proficiency, field position, red zone efficiency and turnover differential, among others – and then spits it all out in an easy-to-understand number.
Smart, well-coached teams that play well in “situational” football rank high in both Scoreability and Bendability. Dumb, poorly coached teams that play poorly in “situational” football rank low in each indicator.
The 2012 Philadelphia Eagles ranked low in each indicator. Hence, they earn the dishonor of dumbest team in football.
Here’s a look at each NFL team ranked from smartest to dumbest based upon a very simple equation: the difference between each team’s Bendability (Yards Per Point Allowed) and each team’s Scoreability (Yards Per Point Scored). A high Bendability number is good: it means opponents must work hard for points. A low Scorebility number is good: it means teams score points very efficiently.
| ||NFL average||15.26||15.26||0.0|
Seattle, New England and Atlanta were the smartest teams in football in 2012. All three were well-coached teams that went deep into the playoffs.
The Kansas City Chiefs were the only team to challenge the Eagles for title of dumbest team in football. They ranked No. 27 in Bendability and No. 31 in Scoreability. And Kansas City's spread of -10.79 between its Bendability and Scoreability was the largest of any team.
But the Chiefs were also a bad team low on talent. The Eagles were a bad team that had plenty of talent – at least in the eyes of almost every NFL observer and analyst.
The Chiefs lost because they sucked. The Eagles lost because they were stupid.
The futility of the Eagles is evident when we look at Scoreability and Bendability in terms of the yards it takes to score seven points in an NFL game.
The average NFL team in 2012 required 15.26 Yards Per Point Scored or Yards Per Point Allowed. In other words, the average NFL offense needed 106.8 yards of offense to score the equivalent of a touchdown and extra point.
The Eagles produced 20.24 Yards Per Point Scored, or the equivalent of 141.7 yards of offense to score the equivalent of a touchdown and extra point.
Here’s how Philadelphia stacked up in terms of Scoreability against the top-ranked Patriots and the league-wide average. It was an abysmal performance by Philly:
Yards Per TD + XP
Defensively, the Eagles were the cheapest date in town, forcing opponents to march just 12.37 Yards Per Point Allowed. In other words, opponents needed a mere 86.6 yards of offense to score the equivalent of a touchdown and extra point.
Here’s how Philadelphia stacked up in terms of Bendability against the top-ranked Seahawks and the league-wide average. Again, it was an abysmal performance by Philly:
Oppt. Yards Per TD + XP
Think of how frustratingly inefficient that team was in 2012: statistically speaking, the Eagles had to march up and down the field nearly one and a half times to score 7 points; opponents needed less than 87 yards of offense to score the equivalent of 7 points.
The Eagles worked way to hard for way too few results on the scoreboard; conversely, opponents racked up plenty of cheap, easy points.
Scoreability and Bendability are not simply offensive and defensive indicators. They measure how well each unit of each team works together to put the other unit in a position to succeed. It’s tough for teams with dumb, inefficient defenses to rank high in Scoreability; and tough for teams with dumb, inefficient offenses to rank high in Bendability.
Different units in football do not play in a vacuum. Each is dependent upon the other to succeed.
And if you look at any of the individual components that make a team efficient and make life easy for other units on the team – special teams proficiency, turnover differential, red-zone offense and defense, etc. – you’ll find the Eagles were one of the worst teams in football.
Chip Kelly can make the jump from college to pros, install his exciting new offense and turn either Michael Vick, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles or Dennis Dixon into an elite NFL quarterback.
But he won't hand frustrated Eagles fans their long-awaited first Super Bowl victory if he fails to re-educate the dumbest team in the NFL.