Kelly vs. Belichick

Erin Steffe, Guest Writer

“Good is a four-letter word when you’re reaching for more, when you’re working for greatness” – Former Philadelphia Eagle Brian Dawkins.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick strive to be best. Every day the game of football changes, and the NFL evolves. Every day adjustments need to be made. And (almost) every day, Belichick and Chip personify forward-thinking. The NFL has caught a glimpse of how Kelly has what it takes to win, and Belichick has not suffered a losing season since 2000. Both of these talented coaches have world-renown, similar game-plans: “The Patriot Way” and “Culture Beats Scheme”. As of now, Belichick is clearly the better coach — but some say Kelly, a coach whose NFL tenure is strikingly similar to Belichick’s, could become the next Belichick.  

Bill Belichick, a proven intelligent, superior coach has changed the NFL with his experience, rare source of power, and effective playbook. Belichick quickly came to dominance when he became a member of the Patriots’ coaching staff in 2000. Before joining the Patriots, Belichick held positions for multiple NFL teams for 25 years. Belichick has won “Coach of the Year” three times with the Patriots, and his first season with the “Pats” is his only losing season. Within his first three seasons with the Patriots, Belichick won a Super Bowl (2001). Since then, the Patriots have finished with consistent winning records. Currently, the Patriots sit undefeated with a 6-0 record (Biography).  

Chip Kelly shares similar playbook systems, control, and history with Belichick, but he still has much to prove. A man known by his dominance coaching at the college level with the University of Oregon Ducks, Chip began his NFL experience with the Eagles in 2013, marking a new era. With the Eagles coming off with a 2012 losing season, Kelly turned heads by making a 4-12 team a 10-6, NFC East Championship team in just his first year as an NFL head coach. Before joining the Eagles, Chip coached for multiple colleges including Oregon. Under Kelly, the Ducks won a Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Similar to Belichick, Kelly won various “Coach of the Year” awards, and most recently won “Maxwell Club Coach of the Year” in 2013. Like Belichick, Kelly has led the Eagles to have back-to-back winning seasons during his first three years as head coach (Chip Kelly). Currently, the Eagles sit with a 3-4 record, which is a bad record generally speaking. However, approximately 21 of the 32 NFL teams have a 3-4 record or worse so far this season. Also, the Eagles’ NFC East division is terrible this season; only one more win will tie them for first place at the moment. So, despite the rocky start, there is still hope for a victorious season   

Despite the difference in records, an area of similarity between the two is their immense power. Most of Belichick’s success can be credited to his extensive power of becoming Head of Football Operations for the Patriots, which gives him the title of general manager, on top of being the team’s head coach. Belichick, the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll, and Chip Kelly are the only head coaches to be given the title of Head of Football Operations. Ever since Belichick gained power to manage the Patriots, his success rate has only increased. With this power, Belichick became a four-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, recently winning this past season. Furthermore, Belichick drafts thriving players, and makes effective trades. Back in 2010, Belichick even traded some of his best players, which turned out to be successful (Murphy). These things have propelled him to be an elite figure in the NFL.

During the 2015 offseason, Kelly also became the Head of Football Operations for the Eagles, promoting him as the team’s general manager. As the new general manager, Kelly made controversial decisions similar to Belichick in 2010, trading star running back LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, a player coming off an ACL tear. Quarterback Nick Foles was traded for Sam Bradford, who suffered two torn ACLs, and has not played a full season in the NFL. Kelly also let play-maker Jeremy Maclin walk, and did not re-sign two key offensive lineman. Although too early to judge, these decisions have not reached full potential. This season is a test for Chip, his coaching ability, and his managerial skills.

Throughout their tenures, Belichick and Kelly have both faced adversity — but in different situations. While Kelly has been faced with challenges on the field, scandals — both on and off the field — have put a black mark on Belichick’s resume. The infamous “SpyGate” and “DeflateGate” scandals plagued the Patriots. SpyGate refers to 2007 when the Patriots were caught and disciplined for taping the New York Jets’ practices, and possibly their defensive signals. Allegedly, the taping could have been going on for years. DeflateGate refers to the 2014 AFC championship game, when the Colts accused Tom Brady and the Patriots of using deflated footballs during the game. Deflated footballs can give an advantage, because they are easier to grip. The NFL originally suspended Brady, but it was overruled by a judge. Although Belichick never admitted to knowing about these acts, opponents and fans often refer to him and the Patriots as cheaters.

Despite these controversies, Belichick has become one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. He is the only coach to have an undefeated season, and is the winningest coach in the Patriots’ franchise. His championships, awards, and adjustment-making reflect his success. In 2012, Belichick instituted a hurry-up offense, which influenced other teams to follow in his footsteps, including the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles, led by Chip Kelly (Rosenthal).

Perhaps the greatest similarity between Kelly and Belichick is their progressive thinking. Both coaches have created new philosophies, and have constantly made adjustments in the NFL. Kelly brought a new meaning to a hurry-up offense, and the sports science philosophy when he became the Eagles’ head coach. The “innovator”, the “offensive genius”, the “mastermind”, Kelly adapted his up-tempo, no-huddle offensive scheme from his Oregon team, and possibly Belichick’s 2012 Patriots. After 2013 practices with the Eagles, Belichick praised Foles and Kelly. Then this past offseason, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins compared Belichick’s system to Kelly’s, “Look at New England. They plug people in and out, because they have a way that they do things. I think that’s what Chip is trying to do here” (Murphy). The Eagles finished their 2013 season with the shortest average time-per-drive in the NFL, averaging two minutes and four seconds. Kelly’s innovation has been a major success in the NFL; teams including the Giants are following in the Eagles’ footsteps. Kelly also believes in the sports science philosophy — living a healthier life — to prevent injuries. This offense and his philosophies are progressing the way football is played in the NFL, in much the same way as Belichick pushed new schemes.

Without these two figures, the NFL would not be where it is today. Because of them, football has become more open-minded in how the game is played. Both are progressive thinkers, and are able to adapt on-the-fly, something that has created success. Their football backgrounds and recognition allow for accomplished philosophies. Both coaches have taken each other’s advice and game-plans, and have developed them into their own systems. Furthermore, a coach cannot be marked as “great” without taking risks– and having them pay off. Belichick and Kelly have both made controversial decisions during their tenures, and the NFL is beginning to see the outcomes of their decisions. Until we know for certain how the rest of the “Chip Kelly Era” will work out, we can only look at the facts and ponder if Kelly will become the next Belichick.