A Measured Response

Rob Carr

Chip Kelly's debut was a strong beginning, but, as longtime Redskins fans can attest, it was merely that: A beginning.

The shiny, new coach, fresh off of a much-lauded collegiate tenure, exploited a mediocre defense to lead his team to a season-opening victory in his NFL debut.  He used a pro offense adapted from the ultra-successful version he used in college to ring up over 30 points and 442 yards of offense on 72 plays. The performance seemingly put to rest any remaining fears over whether his system could work at the NFL level.

That coach's name?

Steve Spurrier.

It's hard to remember now, but, on September 8th, 2002, the Spurrier-led Redskins triumphed over Arizona 31-23 in what appeared to be a vindication of the curl-flat-centric "Fun n' Gun" offense.  That 1-0 start turned into a 7-9 finish over the next four months.  A 5-11 encore in 2003 led to Spurrier's dismissal and the shocking announcement of the return of Joe Gibbs, causing most of the details of Spurrier's forgettable NFL coaching career to fade away.

Chip Kelly's debut Monday night was surprisingly similar in some respects.  His team racked up 443 yards of offense on 74 plays and scored 33 points (Spurrier, as mentioned, had 442 on 72 and scored 31).  Social media sentiment over Kelly's offense quickly progressed from "Let's see if this gimmicky stuff will work" to "OMG!  IGGLES ARE GOING 19-0!" to "Ok, pretty good, pretty good.  But Chip Kelly is here to stay!"

As usual, my own response is a measured one.

Chip Kelly has at least done this much: He has afforded the Eagles the luxury of beginning to turn the page on a new era in franchise history.  That's especially important in a week when old friend Andy Reid's Chiefs team scored a dominating 28-2 road win.  Even though that triumph came against the hapless Jaguars, the simple fact that Reid was so successful in his Kansas City debut would have heightened media and fan pressure on Kelly---had Kelly not also gotten off to such a positive beginning.

On top of that, Kelly has added something else.  Whether we want to admit this or not, "watchability" is an important facet of an NFL team---particularly when the team in question isn't good enough to be a serious Super Bowl contender.  Ask any Redskins fan about watching the 2012 team (even during losses) compared to sitting through games like this one or this one or  this one or this one.  The Eagles will have that valuable excitement factor: If nothing else, they'll at least be entertaining, even in weeks when Philadelphia doesn't win.

But will Kelly make it as an NFL coach?  No one can say for sure, despite whatever we may have learned Monday night.  Our desire to rush to judgment aside, it will take a full season (or more) to make that call.

Speaking of Monday's lessons, my response from the Redskins' perspective is likewise measured.  Robert Griffin had a poor first half, but that was to be expected from someone who hadn't taken a single snap in preseason.  All things considered, he righted the ship pretty quickly.

The defense has the weak links most of us thought it did, but, to Jim Haslett's credit, the Redskins put together a vastly superior second half on that side of the ball.  The ability of the offense to string together some first downs obviously helped in that effort.  However, a league-leading 14 missed tackles can't be the start of a trend (to put it mildly).

Despite the setback against the Eagles, the only real reason to worry is that Washington must now go on the road to face a good Packers team that is also stinging from a loss.  An 0-2 start for Washington is looking more likely than not at the moment.

But, as those of us who recall 2012's 3-6 start or Steve Spurrier's successful debut can attest: It's a long season.  For now, we remain calm.  Fear not, though.  There will be plenty of opportunities to panic, rejoice, or otherwise freak out in the weeks to come.

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