The third meeting in as many seasons between Chip Kelly and Bruce Arians will take place on Sunday night as the Eagles host the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field.
Both coaches’ current tenures began in 2013 with their respective clubs. Before the first meeting in Philadelphia, Arians had labeled the Chip Kelly offensive system, which was then new to the NFL, as a "great college offense." That offense prevailed in an 24-21 Eagles win.
The two would meet the following season at University of Phoenix Stadium in another tight game. This time, it was Arizona getting the win by a score of 24-20.
Kelly’s Eagles teams are predicated on an offense that is putting up 23.2 points per game this season, ranking 14th in the league in total offense. That is a dip compared Kelly’s career average of 27 points per game and having a total offense that has never ranked lower than fourth.
Kelly came to the Eagles with no pro football coaching experience, but had revolutionized the college football game at the University of Oregon. His resume was built on a fast-paced offense that earned him a 46-7 record, including a National Championship Game appearance while coaching the Ducks.
The offense has led to Kelly having some early NFL coaching success with the Birds, as he stands with a 26-19 record through parts of three seasons. Even though Kelly is having some early NFL success, many believe that there is a need for a mobile quarterback for his offense to be ran to its full potential. The likes of Nick Foles and Sam Bradford, who aren’t exactly fleet of foot, have been in at quarterback for parts of 32 of Kelly’s NFL career games.
Kelly has been accused of being predictable and not being one to make big adjustments. Kelly has proven that is not the case in recent weeks. He didn’t allow the dollar signs to get in the way of limiting DeMarco Murray’s playing time two weeks ago in the New England win. The majority of the carries were split between Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner which was a successful strategy, as the two combined for 115 yards on the ground.
At home against Buffalo, Bradford attempted several deep downfield throws, including a 53-yard bomb to Nelson Agholor for a touchdown. Kelly is starting to show tweaks here and there and they are beginning to pay off.
Bruce Arians comes from an offensive background as well. Arians’ coaching career began in 1975 as a graduate assistant for Virginia Tech and has led to various coaching roles in the college and pro levels. His most notable stops on his coaching journey before landing in Arizona were head coach at Temple University, offensive coordinator for the 2008 Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and interim head coach with the Indianapolis Colts leading them to a 9-3 record in his 12 games of work.
Arians’ all-time record as coach of the Cardinals is 32-13. Ironically his teams have had a reputation of playing a defensive style. His defenses have only given up a career total of 19.4 points per game and currently rank seventh in total defense this year. But it appears this season the offense is starting to break out. The Cardinals have scored 405 points in the first 13 games this season. That is already good enough to be Arians’ highest single-season point total.
There is much at stake for both coaches, but there is more for Chip Kelly. Kelly’s unconventional ways have yet to earn the entire football world's respect, while Arians is viewed as more of an old school coach who is doing things the "right way."
Arians and company have locked up a playoff spot, but would like to clinch their division title and pursue a first-round bye. Kelly’s Eagles were once pronounced dead to some, but have climbed out of the grave into serious contention for an NFC East crown. A victory for the Kelly and the Birds would be another benchmark victory over another legit Super Bowl contender this season.
Despite the records of the teams being staggered, expect to see a great contest. Expect the game to be very similar to the previous two meetings. We shall see which coach will get the upper hand in what will be the third episode of the continuing saga between Kelly and Arians.
Ryan Shute is a contributing writer for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @ShutemUpSports.