Saturday night, several members of the Eagles roster and coaching staff were in attendance for the NFL’s annual year-end awards ceremony. The yearly event is dedicated to highlighting the most notable individual performances of the NFL season on the eve of its championship game. After finishing 10-6 and winning the division, Philadelphia had a strong representation among nominees for several of the marquee honors.
The Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly, was one of the nominees for the league’s Coach of the Year position. Kelly’s team did not have the best record of the nominees, or playoff success to his name following this past season. That said, the former Oregon coach with zero NFL experience in any capacity probably had as much working against him than any in the NFL. Given that he was taking over for one of the most respected names in coaching, Andy Reid, and installing what many felt to be an approach more suited to the college level Kelly had his work cut out for him.
I did not expect Kelly to win the award. More of the benefit of Kelly’s first year was a promising sign that he could make the necessary adjustments to fielding a winner at the NFL level. Given the fact that he had never spent any time on a professional sideline and was adamant that he would not stray too far from the philosophies that helped his teams excel so much at the NCAA level, I was far more impressed from a big picture standpoint than being too caught up with the 2013 season. Kelly has some nuances to the position he still needs to figure out and there are certain areas that exposed his lack of experience. That being said, I was genuinely surprised when the news of the results of the selection came down.
Surprised Chip Kelly, Pete Carroll, and Bruce Arians only combined for 8 votes out of 50. It went Rivera-Reid-Belichick
— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) February 2, 2014
Rivera deserved the award. The Panthers went 12-4 and won the NFC South. Rivera was definitely on the ‘Hot Seat’ after a few weeks into the season and managed to steer his team toward one of their best seasons in franchise history. His young quarterback, Cam Newton, rebounded from a disappointing second season and the Carolina defense was among the top units in the league. ‘Riverboat Ron’ dealt with a lot of animosity before reaping the benefits of guiding a talented Carolina squad to a division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
As far as Reid and Belichick go, their performances were as admirable as any other nominee. Belichick led the Patriots to an AFC Championship game with Tom Brady and a ragtag supporting cast. Andy Reid inherited a talented, albeit underperforming roster and, after starting 9-0 finished 11-5 and earned a wild card spot. The three top finishers for the award seem to be the quintessential ‘Old School’ NFL coaches. All three have long, decorated resumes in the league and have payed their dues.
Kelly, who officially finished 4th, probably could care less about winning the honor. I would hope he takes a lot from his first year in the NFL, but realizes he cannot rest on his laurels. If Kelly does eventually win the award, that would be tremendous. That said, it is by no means a crime that he did not in his first year. I would still take him over every new hire from last season and have a feeling it won’t be too long before Kelly is mentioned in the same breath as some of the NFL’s top coaches.