Eagles coach Chip Kelly sees things for what they are, and he usually has a flair for explaining it.
For the NFL, things currently are being called tight, with a renewed point of emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding. Seven such penalties were called on Friday night during the Eagles-Patriots game, along with nine for illegal use of hands. In all, 21 total flags were thrown.
“Those are the rules, and we’ve got to play by them,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “And whoever ends up being the most disciplined team in this league is going to win, but the rule is not going to change. And that’s what I told those guys in the locker room. I think we had 10, and they had 11, and it seems like it’s like that overall, but I don’t think on tomorrow or Sunday, Roger [Goodell] is going to say, ‘Hey we’re going to change it.’ We’ve got to learn to not get our hands in people’s faces, and we’ve got to understand that after five yards it’s illegal contact. And if you can’t play within the rules, you can’t play in this league.”
The official remain confident that, by the time the regular season begins, the players will adjust. Kelly agrees.
“If you can’t play within the rules, you can’t play in this league,” Kelly said. “That’s just the bottom line. You’re just handing people first downs. We better figure it out, and as I said earlier, whichever team ends up being the most disciplined team from that standpoint is going to have a big advantage in this league. It’s a challenge to everybody. We all have to figure it out. That’s the deal.”
Still, some teams will dare the officials to bog down regular-season games, counting on an ultimate unwillingness to lengthen games and alienate fans, especially since it’s the officials and not the players who get the public blame for a flag fest. Kelly seems to be intent on getting ahead of the curve, finding ways to get his players to avoid drawing a flag.
Whatever he has done so far hasn’t worked. But Kelly showed last year that he knows how to adjust. If his players can’t or won’t, he’ll find new players.