Right now, there isn't a more fascinating, polarizing person in sports than Chip Kelly.
It's the beauty of Chip. You are either in or you're out. You either think the Eagles have improved this offseason ... or you think Chip is out of his mind. The third-year coach is either the smartest guy in the room, or he won't last past 2015 due to an epic collapse.
Chip Kelly press conferences count as BREAKING NEWS. He speaks, and the sports world is entranced. He's unique. He oozes confidence. Of course, if this doesn't work, it's going down in flames.
All of this is great if you are in the opinion business, where my bread is buttered.
Personally, I'm on Team Chip.
I think Chip Kelly is a fantastic, rare football mind. And now, with full autonomy, he's going to build the team in his image.
Last Thursday, Kelly was asked if this team is better than last season's outfit was at this point in the year. The cocksure coach didn't hesitate: "1,000 percent."
I love it -- and he's right. The Eagles, in my opinion, will enter this season as the team to beat in the NFC East.
The LeSean McCoy-for-Kiko Alonso trade was, as I wrote back in March, a brilliant move for Philly. Alonso is a young, dynamic playmaker at linebacker. And the deal freed up a bunch of money, which helped allow Kelly to add Byron Maxwell to a secondary that desperately needed assistance. For a defense that ranked 28th in yards allowed and 31st against the pass last fall, Alonso and Maxwell represent major upgrades.
I had no issue with Kelly's handling of Jeremy Maclin's free agency. According to multiple reports, Philadelphia offered him a deal, but it didn't acquiesce to the receiver's financial demands, so the Eagles allowed him to walk. That's smart management -- Kelly refused to go crazy and overpay. Maclin, of course, ended up signing a five-year, $55 million deal with Kansas City, returning to his home state and the coach who drafted him (Andy Reid). Chiefs receivers totaled zero -- zero -- touchdowns last year. Kansas City was desperate. Chip Kelly doesn't do desperate. Instead, he calmly drafted Maclin's replacement, Nelson Agholor, a legit No. 1 receiver who will be in the mix for Offensive Rookie of the Year in Kelly's system. Well, assuming someone can get him the ball ...
I'm on board with everything Kelly is doing -- except at quarterback. Admittedly, that's kind of an important spot.
Sam Bradford is still in rehab mode, which, sadly, has become the norm. He was walking with a limp last week, and while he participated in 7-on-7 drills Tuesday, we can't exactly be sure where the quarterback is at in his recovery from his second ACL surgery in as many years. Kelly said last week that the rehab's "right on schedule," but he refused to really elaborate on a potential time table. Will Bradford be completely ready to rock in Week 1? Tuesday's participation was a positive sign, but we'll have to see how things progress over the summer. Long story short: I didn't understand this trade in the first place -- and understand it less and less with each passing day.
Of course, as with everything Chip Kelly, it was a polarizing move. Some believe Bradford -- who ran an up-tempo spread offense at Oklahoma -- is a great fit in Kelly's system. Former NFL quarterbacks/current NFL analysts Phil Simms and Steve Beuerlein raved about this marriage on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports." In fact, Beuerlein touted Bradford as a candidate to be the Comeback Player of the Year.
I continue to have a hard time seeing it that way. I joke that Bradford is NFL's Big Foot -- I've heard rumors that he's a franchise quarterback, but I've never seen it with my own two eyes. And if Bradford is invisible -- or injured -- that means Mark Sanchez is your starter.
What kind of world are we living in?
Last season, Eagles fans eventually saw what Jets observers already knew: Sanchez is not the answer. He played his worst when it mattered the most, struggling in key losses to Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas and Washington. His combined numbers from those games: six touchdown passes, nine turnovers (six picks, three fumbles lost) and 12 sacks taken.
But Chip believes in him, so ...
Wait -- what's wrong with me?! I know how the Sanchez movie ends. I've seen it before. Yet, I'm conflicted. And I'm not alone.
One NFC general manager told me Monday via text, "I like Chip a lot, but I'm not sure what direction they are going in. Sam Bradford? Does he fit? Can he stay healthy? I have to think the offense will take a step back. I would bet against them if I had a vote."
Another NFC GM texted, "I'm with you. I think the team is better. But Chip better know what he's doing at QB."
It's impossible for me to look at the Eagles' QB depth chart -- Big Foot/Butt Fumble/Tebow -- and not raise an eyebrow. But I remain a steadfast Kelly guy.
Maybe Mike Trout, MLB superstar and noted Team Kelly comrade, put it best with a tweet right after the QB swap in March: In Chip We Trust!!!
His X's and O's are incredible. His pace is breathtaking. I love the accountability. And this past week, he admirably responded to unfair comments from McCoy, who essentially labeled the coach a racist for trading him. The truth is, Kelly replaced McCoy and Maclin with African-American players. McCoy was just bitter over being dealt. Kelly handled the situation with aplomb -- "I've got great respect for LeSean -- however, in that situation, I think he's wrong" -- and added that he's attempted to reach McCoy multiple times without getting a response. Telling -- and cowardly -- actions by the running back.
Kelly impresses at every turn.
The NFC East isn't very strong. Philly will take advantage.
I'm on Team Chip, despite what I know about the depth chart at quarterback.
The Eagles are primed to take the division and win a playoff game. And we're sure to continue talking about the NFL's most fascinating figure.