Poor Philly fans. Once more they’ve been sold the dream project by a snake oil salesman only to find out they bought, well, snake oil. Chip Kelly’s departure moments after the Eagles finished season 2015 took no one by surprise, putting an end to a tumultuous season that promised much but delivered little. Now owner and chairman Jeffrey Lurie is left holding the rubble and charged with fixing the mess he helped to create.
They might not be loved too much outside the City of Brotherly Love, but even the most one-eyed NFL supporter has to have a modicum of sympathy for those long suffering fans at Lincoln Field. Without a championship trophy to cherish since 1960, the Eagles always seem to be held in a pattern of transition – going from one coach and one quarterback to the next while never making any serious headway in the competition.
It has to hurt all more with Andy Reid going to Kansas and turning the Chiefs into a serious football outfit. The man with the bushiest moustache in football took Philadelphia to the playoffs in 9 seasons during his tenure, not too shabby given the turmoil they’ve found themselves in.
Kelly’s experience at New Hampshire and Oregon gave him a reputation for being an outside-the-box thinker. Noted for his tactical work, Big Chip was supposed to give the Eagles that extra edge to make them a formidable outfit. Instead they finished the NFC East with a 7-9 record and blowing a crucial game against the Redskins.
Plenty of coaches have fallen by the wayside since the playoffs begun in earnest. From the New York Giants to the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns, the casualties of the head position are swift and ruthless. But for a franchise with the history and ambition of the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly’s reign is an embarrassing and forgettable chapter in the club’s quest to Super Bowl glory.
These are the top 10 decisions that got Chip Kelly fired.
10 Missing Out On Frank Gore
Admittedly Frank Gore didn’t pull up any trees at Indianapolis in 2015 but neither did any of the Colts players. The 32-year old 5-time Pro Bowler was waiting for calls of interest when he ended his time at the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 and Chip Kelly was keen. As the newspapers, radios and websites ran countless stories over an agreement being reached between Gore and the Eagles to join forces, allowing the franchise to fill the void left by LeSean McCoy in the process, he got cold feet out of the blue and went to the Colts. This was an asset that fell through Kelly’s grasp and with the benefit of hindsight was a costly mistake.
9 Sam Bradford
Since he burst onto the scene with the St. Louis Rams in 2010, quarterback Sam Bradford has been trading on past glories. That’s why his mooted $18 million a season contract seems undeserved, yet the franchise doesn’t seem to have a lot of other options. Bradford’s 2015 passing rating ranked 26th in the NFL, falling short of the likes of Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and countless others. If the next head coach is left with a starting quarterback who is coming off a season that poorly, then they will need to either work miracles or pull a rabbit out of the hat in the trading period.
8 Cutting Evan Mathias
Maybe put it down to greed or just a conflict of interest, but the Eagles seriously missed out on Evan Mathias this season. The story goes that the 34-year old offensive guard wasn’t over the moon about the franchise sitting on his $5.5 million base salary and wanted to renegotiate a superior deal. Having been a stalwart for the Eagles during the 2012 and 2013 seasons in particular, the salary cap pressure meant they would have had to make cuts elsewhere to satisfy his demands. Evan Mathias isn’t the reason Philadelphia had an awful season, but it’s cuts to tried and trusted players like this that explains their current predicament.
7 No Open Receivers Without DeSean Jackson
Maybe because of some strange twist of fate DeSean Jackson could be reunited at Philly because of an uncertain future at the Redskins, but the wide receiver was seriously missed at Lincoln Field this season. The elite NFL teams have wide receivers that pull off extraordinary catches in clutch moments. Watching Jackson make the playoffs with divisional rivals Washington would have been a low blow, all the more remarkable when they backed the likes of Austin, Cooper, Huff and Agholor to fill the breach.
6 Putting All Eggs Into DeMarco Murray Basket
The DeMarco Murray camp is talking a good game about finding a new lease of life under new coach TBD, but only he can control his game on the field. 702 yards in 2015 is a poor return for the former Cowboy and depending who comes in to fill the hot seat at Lincoln Field, they will be charged with making the most of out the talented 27-year old running back. Kelly’s tenancy to go to Murray time and again became predictable and without the depth on the roster to change things up, the Eagles became a soft target too often.
5 Letting Jeremy Maclin Go For Nothing
There is no other way to cut it – Jeremy Maclin was Chip Kelly’s best receiver. The call to move him on in order to free up more cap space looks idiotic now. In 2014 he posted 1318 yards for 85 catches in Philly, great stats by any measurement. Allowing him to move to Kansas City where he’s thrived in an attacking environment, Maclin posted 1034 yards and 84 catches. To put that into some perspective, Agholor, Austin, Cooper and Huff managed 1123 yards and 82 catches combined. The Chiefs can’t believe their luck.
4 Trading LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso
All of these trade deals under normal circumstances come under the responsibility of other people in head office and not the coach. But Chip Kelly clearly orchestrated the moves and wanted full control. So in that respect, these errors are on him. The controversial LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso deal blew up in Kelly’s face with linebacker Alonso tearing his ACL as McCoy left for the Bills. The running back posted decent numbers in 2015, but it was the yards he racked up in Philly that couldn’t be replicated. Another dumb Chip move.
3 Going Over GMs Head
When the friction began to leak through at Eagles HQ, it was touch-and-go whether or not Kelly would survive the fight behind closed doors. The internal rumblings between him and general manager Howie Roseman resulted in a promotion of sorts for the head coach and a demotion for Roseman. Kelly went straight to the source to convince owner Jeff Lurie that his “my way or the highway” approach would reap rewards. Of course it didn’t and Chip exhausted all of the goodwill he had immediately. If he gets another chance in the NFL he will need a far more conciliatory tone with GMs.
2 Prioritized Short Term Choices Over Long Term Success
This might sound like an odd criticism given the amount of experience heading out the exit door at Lincoln Stadium, but Kelly’s drive to change things as quickly as possible meant that he put all of his chips (pun not intended) on his gut picks. When he arrived in 2013 he started with Michael Vick at QB and moved through all of Andy Reid’s options before going on a one-man culling mission. As opposed to working with the Eagles on a strategy beyond the next season or two like the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Carolina Panthers have done, Kelly searched for the quick fix.
1 Selling Himself To The Eagles
The saying often goes “fake it till you make it.” In that instance, Chip Kelly still has a lot more faking to do should he get another shot at an NFL franchise. Given how season 2015 panned out that seems more than unlikely. He sold the project in the preseason that the Eagles were a team on the march, selling a bold target for the future with everything laying on his shoulders. He used his leverage to get the front office to buy into him and when the deck of cards came crashing down, only one man could be blamed for the whole fiasco.