So, Chip Kelly got fired. The move itself wasn’t completely shocking, the where and how of his firing was what shocked people. First of all, he was fired with one week left to go in the NFL season. That’s how much the Eagles wanted him gone, they could not even wait one more week. They also fired him at night, meaning he would not get a chance to address the team about his firing. Hell, next Monday is black Monday for NFL coaches because several will be fired. But Jeffrey Lurie just wanted him gone. The Eagles players were also not informed of the move beforehand. According to Jay Glazer, Eagles coaches and players were trying to piece together what happened. Basically, Lurie made this move without informing anyone, which shows how much he wanted to make it.
Kelly got fired because he supposedly refused to give up personnel control. This part of the story honestly should not shock anyone. If you were Kelly, why give up personnel control once you already have it? What’s the worst that could happen? Losing your job is the answer to the second question, and as I’ll discuss later, Kelly should have no trouble landing on his feet. Why would you go from calling all of the shots, to not having control over the roster you coach? You don’t, that would be foolish.
Kelly has made some fascinating personnel decisions, namely getting rid of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and LeSean McCoy. He replaced McCoy with DeMarco Murray, who was signed to a $40 million contract, although he can be cut with some ease after only two years. However, these moves caused a lot of publicity surrounding how Kelly was running the Eagles, and not a whole lot of it was positive. A couple of his former players openly wondered if Kelly was a racist, although many were quick to defend him. Murray, who was the league’s top rusher a year ago, did not have a great encore performance. He was competing for touches with Darren Sproles and fellow free agent signee Ryan Mathews. Murray supposedly told Lurie in a private meeting earlier in the season that he had no confidence in Kelly as a coach. That had to have had a decent amount of pull in Kelly’s decision.
The problem is that once Kelly got full control of the roster, the pressure to win raised exponentially. The Eagles won 10 games in each of Kelly’s first two seasons, and looked poised to do so again this year. Sam Bradford, who came over in a pretty big offseason trade from the Rams(its the NFL, that was one of the biggest trades of the year), looked stellar in the preseason. People wondered if the Eagles were the best offense in the league, despite impressing in just the preseason.
Bradford turned out to not be as good as his preseason showed. The Eagles struggled to run the football, and that made them an early season disappointment. They are going to miss the playoffs for the second straight this year, but it appears the blame falls squarely on Kelly, as he will probably be the only one to feel any real consequences, and at least players like Bradford and Murray will still get paid. The Eagles will likely make more moves this offseason as they try to clean their hands of Chip Kelly. Don’t be shocked if the Eagles look 75% different within two years.
As for Kelly, he will land on his feet. He should get a coaching gig fairly easily, but he will not have roster power. Many will link him to the Titans gig, especially since his former QB Marcus Mariota is the starter there. There could be as many as eight head coaching jobs open for next season, so Kelly could have plenty of chances in the NFL if he wants. If its a college gig he wants, he could have many teams that are in power five conferences lined up for his services. Even if he does not have a head coaching job for next season, a year from now he is all but assured to be a top candidate for jobs that will be open then. Kelly will land on his feet somewhere, while the Eagles may have to wait a year or so to be back in contention.
All in all, the Eagles this year have been a disaster. Initially expected to be a playoff team and Super Bowl contender, the Eagles came out of the gate slow and could not even manage to win the division despite no team actually showing an interest in winning the division(Washington did the last few weeks). This version of the Eagles team is nearly all Kelly’s. He was the architect, he got the roster control, and he made moves. Its failure this season rests on his head. It felt coming into this season that Kelly and Lurie had reached an impasse. If the Eagles flopped this year, that would be it for Kelly in Philadelphia. If he succeeded, he basically was guaranteed an extra year at the helm. Well, the Eagles failed this year, and now Kelly will be looking for work in 2016.
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports NFL Analyst