Chip Kelly was a successful college football coach for the University of Oregon who came to the Philadelphia Eagles with a lot of anticipation. Known for his superior offensive system, Philadelphia embraced him as the man who would bring them their first Super Bowl.
In his first year, Kelly went 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. In the second year he went 10-6 again, but missed the postseason. In year three, Kelly’s season ended after 15 games as Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie decided a 6-9 record was unacceptable. Lurie fired Kelly days after they were eliminated from the playoffs in Week 16 thus ending the experiment centered on culture, sports science, and everything else the proclaimed football genius Kelly brought to the NFL.
Perhaps the biggest mistake made during Kelly’s time with the Eagles wasn’t even as a head coach, the job he was originally hired for. After two years employed by the Eagles with Howie Roseman working as the team’s general manager, Lurie handed over duel duties to Kelly and gave him all of the power. Kelly came into the 2015 season with all of the responsibility falling on his lap. Questionable moves had already been made in his first two seasons before he became the official general manager. However, now with the title on his business card, Kelly made sure to continually make errors in spite of his best efforts. Kelly cut the wrong players, signed free agent busts, and made bad trades among other memorable bad transactions.
We may have only gotten just short of three seasons of Kelly and one as the GM, but it was more than enough for many poor moves. We can also question his decisions on the field during games countless times. For right now, let’s focus on what he did to the roster and scold him for these top 10 worst transactions he made.
10 Signing Byron Maxwell
The Eagles were in need of a defensive back and Chip Kelly did what he could to get them the best available guy on the free agent market prior to the 2015 season. This title belonged to Byron Maxwell, formerly a member of the Seattle Seahawks’ awesome defense that took the team to back-to-back Super Bowls. The Legion of Boom graduate appeared to be a strong signing, butMaxwell failed to live up to the hype. Statistics don’t do his less than impressive debut season with the Eagles justice. Quarterbacks have thrown to receivers he’s covering a lot more frequently as they've figured out how greatly he benefited from having strong players around him in Seattle. Thankfully he has put together a few solid games to save the signing from becoming a total bust. On a $63 million deal with $25 million guaranteed, the Eagles should have gotten a lot more out of him.
9 Including the Eagles 2016 Second-Round Pick for Sam Bradford
One of Chip Kelly’s more controversial moves was trading quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for Sam Bradford. In retrospect, Bradford probably performed a little better, but not by enough to make this deal make sense. The mistake made here was the inclusion of draft picks. Along with Bradford, the Eagles also got the Rams’ 2015 5th round draft pick. At the same time, they sacrificed their 4th round pick in 2015 and, more egregiously, their 2nd round pick in 2016. This is the kind of trade that must mean Bradford is far superior to Foles, which he is not. As we’ve learned, and many believed from the start, this was giving up too much for Bradford, who will become a free agent this summer. Those who predicted this can proudly pump out their chests today.
8 Cutting Evan Mathis
Left guard Evan Mathis was looking to make more money prior to the 2015 season, which is a normal feeling when you've done your job extremely well. A strong component of the offensive line whose job it would be to protect the injury-prone Sam Bradford, Chip Kelly preemptively cut Mathis when the veteran lineman was rumored to possibly hold out for more money to be added to his existing deal. Mathis later confirmed he intended to show up to mandatory minicamp without any issues. This led to a weaker offensive line for the Eagles throughout the year and another flub to Kelly’s resume.
7 Cutting DeSean Jackson
Cutting wide receiver DeSean Jackson was a very public decision Chip Kelly made without any true cause. Considering it occurred shortly after news broke that he was possibly connected to gangs, many assume this was the cause. No proof ever came out other than a few pictures of Jackson with some friends in Los Angeles that looked a little “thuggish.” Certainly there are suspicions surrounding Jackson’s personal life, but the same can be said about many NFL players. During his time with the Eagles, Jackson was a huge weapon able to provide them with a deep threat. Once he left, the threat was gone and the offense wasn’t nearly as potent as it was with him on the roster. Unable to get anything return for Jackson, it became even worse when he helped eliminate them from the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 with late season victories as a member of the Washington Redskins.
6 Not Re-Signing Jeremy Maclin
Although DeSean Jackson gets a lot of the attention when it comes to discussing Eagles skill players that Kelly let go, Jeremy Maclin was equally as important. After missing all of 2013 due to injury, he returned in 2014 and had a career year, with 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. When he became a free agent in 2015, Chip Kelly didn’t re-sign him. This was a huge mistake by Kelly, as they didn't have the pieces to replace Maclin in their offense. Instead Maclin reunited with Andy Reid in Kansas City and had another stellar year, which will include a trip to the postseason.
5 Settling with Miles Austin at Wide Receiver
After losing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in consecutive years, the Eagles needed to find some veteran wide receivers to join their young group of wide receivers. Sadly, Austin Miles was their choice. Signed after coming off a mediocre season with the Cleveland Browns, Miles barely started in 2015. He only 13 receptions before Chip Kelly cut him in early December. The Austin signing was an example of Kelly not going all-in for a position where there was clearly an upgrade needed. Had he simply re-signed Maclin, this may have never happened.
4 Drafting Marcus Smith
With their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Chip Kelly and the Eagles selected Marcus Smith 26th overall. Whether this was a decision by Kelly or former general manager Howie Roseman is not completely clear, as there were already some head-smacking going on between thm. Regardless, it hasn't worked out and, after two years, Smith has not started a game. The drafting of Smith was possibly even worse as it was an ineffective trade back in the draft from the 22nd spot that was used by the Cleveland Browns to take quarterback Johnny Manziel. Of course, had the Eagles selected Johnny Football, it may have been worse for the franchise. However, at least Manziel has actually started a few times.
3 Not Releasing Riley Cooper
Wide receiver Riley Cooper’s had a horrific outburst at a Kenny Chensey concert in 2013, where he dropped the N-Word while drunkenly yelling at an African American security guard, that went viral. There was a lot of speculation that the Eagles would release him. They didn’t, which led people to claim that Chip Kelly was racist. Although the organization acted like Cooper’s teammates had forgiven him, clearly the locker room was torn. On the field, Cooper also hasn’t been a particularly good player either, regressing from 835 yards in 2013 to 577 yards in 2014, before bottoming out at 327 yards during Kelly’s 15 games in 2015. Along with not releasing Cooper, Kelly made a mistake by re-signing him long-term following the incident.
2 Signing DeMarco Murray
The Eagles got in bed with their enemy when DeMarco Murray, formerly of the hated Dallas Cowboys, signed with them before the 2015 season. Coming off a career year where he rushed for a league leading 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns on 392 attempts, it was apparent to some that Murray would come into 2015 a bit more worn-down than the average running back. During Chip Kelly’s time with the Eagles, Murray averaged only 3.5 yards per carry in the 14 games he's played. He also lost a bulk of the carries to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, as their supposed three-headed monster at running back regressed into a pairing.
1 Trading LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy was ideal running back for Chip Kelly’s offense and plenty of statistics back this up. He led the league in rushing with 1,607 yards in 2013 and followed it up with another phenomenal season in 2014 when he went for 1,319 yards. Despite two strong years under Kelly, the Eagles’ head coach/general manager decided it was best to move on from McCoy. He was shipped to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, a guy we can argue still hasn’t reached his ceiling. McCoy has since responded like a spurned lover, accusing Kelly of racism, among other things. If the trade never happened, then the terrible DeMarco Murray signing wouldn't have happened either. If Kelly had released Riley Cooper, McCoy’s accusations may have also never happened. And if they had kept DeSean Jackson, they could have parted with Cooper. Instead, the Eagles now have less talent than they did three years ago.