The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
Would you take Chip back? How close is Mark Helfrich to earning that lifetime contract?

Down to their third team quarterback, banged up and undermanned on both sides of the ball, Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles fell to 3-5 after a 15-7 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday. The Eagle offense didn’t score a touchdown, the Birds’ lone score coming on a fumble return by linebacker Najee Goode late in the fourth quarter.

Bird droppings: With two Eagle quarterbacks down and rookie Matt Barkley struggling, the Philadelphia offense is in dire straits (USA Today/Sports Illustrated photo).


It was a thorough show of ineptness. They fumbled five times, losing one, and Matt Barkley and a battered Michael Vick combined to throw a pair of interceptions. In all Kelly’s no-huddle spread attack managed just 200 yards, and murmurs are growing louder that pro defensive coordinators and big, mobile NFL linebackers have figured it out quickly, that it won’t be long until CK takes his visor back and his death stare back to college football.

The Eagles travel to 3-4 Oakland next Sunday, and Vick is doubtful. Backup Nick Foles suffered a concussion against Dallas. Barkley hasn’t quite figured out the range and closing speed of NFL cornerbacks, and he’s a miserable fit for the Kelly offense. There’s even a rumor the team will sign Tim Tebow; he was spotted at the Philadelphia airport. Maybe he just wanted a cheesesteak.

It’s not surprising that Chip and his innovative offense would have trouble in his first season coaching in the league. The Eagles were a woeful team when he got there, full of mismatched parts, plagued by a bad defense and a losing culture, 8-8 and 3-13 in Andy Reid’s last two seasons. So far this year they’ve pulled out three wins, looking like world beaters in the opener at Washington. They’re 0-4 at home, however, and patience is uncommon virtue among Philadelphia sports fans. Talk radio is getting chippy. Meanwhile Reid is 8-0 at Kansas City.

The travails of Kelly and the Eagles invite an intriguing hypothetical. Suppose Jeff Lurie pulls the plug. Vick and Foles don’t mend, Barkley doesn’t improve, the defense continues to leak, and the losses mount, the once-vaunted offense stalling and sputtering. Fans show up to December games with bags over their heads, holding up signs that say “Hire Monte Kiffin” or “Fire the Belly.” And suddenly, Chip Kelly is available, his agent shopping him to USC or Texas.

Kelly deserves more time to iron out the mess in Philadelphia. But suppose through some combination of circumstances he doesn’t get it. Would Duck fans, seeing what Mark Helfrich has done through 8 games, want the old coach or the new one? Suppose Kelly were available to take over tomorrow, which coach would you want to take over the rest of the season, provided it was possible? How about Phil Knight? Would he want the genuis who elevated the program, or the Oregon native who’s sustained it?

Regardless of how his current team has struggled, Kelly is one of the most innovative minds in football, a proven winner at the college level. He could win multiple national championships with his gift for organization, culture-changing energy, and the intensity and commitment he inspires in a team. Kelly belongs in college coaching, show-cause penalty notwithstanding. 

Who would you rather have running the Oregon program, if both were available? Is Helfrich a placeholder and program manager, or a great college coach in the making? Do the Ducks have a better chance of completing this dream season with the staff they have right now, Frost calling the plays and Helfrich leading in the locker room, or the staff that won 36 games over the previous three seasons?

At what point should Rob Mullens tear up Mark Helfrich’s deal and award him the lifetime contract, or at least a raise and an extension? Suppose, for four or five or six or eight million dollars, the Ducks could have Kevin Sumlin, Nick Saban, or Pete Carroll?

Do the Ducks have the coaching staff and the players to complete a perfect year?