Why Firing Chip Kelly was a Bad Choice

by Frank Ross

Some context

Once upon a time with Andy Reid, the Eagles were title contenders with Pro-Bowl players such as Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook.  Over the years as time went on, the team got different players that were still decent, such as LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin.  The best record they had was 10-6 and they never won a playoff game. After that 10-6 season, they went 8-8 and 4-12.  Ultimately, the 4-12 season got Reid fired, which is fair, after all, he had more than 10 years to win a championship and could never do so.

After Reid, Philadelphia picks up this college coach, Chip Kelly, who’s known as running speedy, unique offenses.  The first year, he proved to everyone that he wasn’t a “gimmicky” college coach. He took the same 4-12 team that featured Reid’s guys and took them to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.  Nick Foles somehow had a touchdown to interception ratio of 27-2.  LeSean McCoy was the leading rusher of the NFL with more than 1600 yards.  DeSean Jackson looked good. Everything was swimming.

The 2014 NFL Offseason rolls around.  DeSean Jackson is cut.  Not traded, but cut.  What?  How?  Why?  He had posted a career high in yards.  As days went by, words spread of how DeSean “didn’t trust the system” and that there was a feud between Kelly and DeSean, and thus was cut.  While DeSean had always caused trouble in the locker room (the 2011 Eagles, the 2014 offseason, the feud with RG3), it was certainly offputting to see someone so good at their position go to a rival team, let alone a different one.

However, during the 2014 NFL season, Jeremy Maclin made sure to step up for the loss at WR.  He did so magically.  LeSean didn’t have as good of a season, but he still finished with 1300 yards. Nick Foles declined significantly and got injured (Eagles still finished #5 in total yards and #3 in points, thanks in part to Mark Sanchez looking somewhat decent).  At 9-4, looking to secure the division, they lose to the Cowboys and then the Redskins because the secondary can’t contain Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson (poetic justice in a sense). They finished the season 10-6, but missed the playoffs. The offense still looked good, but the defense (particularly the secondary) let them down big time.

Now enter the 2015 offseason.  Kelly meets with the owner, Jeffrey Laurie and tells him he wants full power.  Laurie decides Chip has done a good enough job as a coach and decides to give him power as a GM, making him the Jew in Philly.

Then all hell breaks loose and bizarre, bizarre things happen.

The Wackiest Offseason No One Except Chip Kelly Understands

The 2015 Offseason happens.  Bizarre stuff happened.  Ultimately:

  • LeSean McCoy is traded dirty up for Kiko Alonso, promising young player from Buffalo and former Oregon player with Chip.
  • Nick Foles, who had a rapid decline, is traded along with a 2nd round pick for Sam Bradford and a late round pick.  This confuses many.
  • Jeremy Maclin tests free agency out and Chip decides to let him walk.  Maclin rejoins Andy Reid in Kansas City.  More are confused.
  • Evan Mathis was cut, later signed by Denver.  People become angry.

There were a lot of people saying that McCoy didn’t buy into the system that Chip had.  

So why not get a player who knows how it works, and shore up a defense that played below average (22nd in points allowed, 28th in yards allowed).  Plus, McCoy had seemed to be on a decline, and with a big contract, there was some sense to getting rid of him.  However, this makes two players who feuded with him.  For what it’s worth though, one was known as trouble in the locker room.

Jeremy Maclin signed with the Chiefs after the Eagles offered him a smaller contract than what he wanted.  Have no fear though!  Jordan Matthews looks promising, and there are plenty of good young WRs from the draft like Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff, everything is gonna be okay (ultimately, this proved very, very false).

Evan Mathis, while still one of the best at his position, was somewhat expensive and getting up there in age.  Perhaps it’s his time to go?  That’s the way Chip decided it was.

The Bradford thing is very, VERY interesting.  Personally?  I don’t think Chip wanted Bradford at all.  I think he was using him to get more picks, and then use him as leverage to trade up for Mariota.  There were rumors surfacing that the Browns would trade their 1st round pick for him, but it never went through.  Ultimately, Chip did not get Mariota, he was stuck with Bradford, who was actually relatively healthy for once (but still had a mediocre year overall).

Ultimatly, Chip made 4 HUGE gambles.  It was go big or go home.

The Result of the Wacky Offseason

At the end of the day, the result were poor at best, Chip got fired and the Eagles seemed lost in disarray.

Not all was as bad as people make it seem.  The Eagles had a much better secondary (they no longer were 2nd to last in terms of passing yards given up), but their defense was still suspect in other areas.  The Wide Receiving corps had a tough year, but Nelson Agholor is 22, Jordan Matthews is 23 and Josh Huff is 24.  Drops come with young receivers, but over time it gets better.  Sam Bradford was healthy for the first time in years and would have had 4000 yards if not for the concussion he got in the middle of the year.  Fletcher Cox shone as an elite DE.  They even beat the Pats in New England.  That’s an accomplishment in itself.

However, there were some things that were just… bad.  DeMarco Murray looked absolutely awful and wasn’t being used right.  He was from a power scheme trying to succeed in a system that utilized west-east running.  Sam Bradford was inconsistent and frustrating.  The team gave up A LOT and it was clear the team didn’t buy into him just like Jackson and McCoy.  The defense still had some shoring up to do.  An offense once high powered was mediocre.  Apart from a few guys, talent seemed to be either young and needed time to grow (the WRs) or just flat out not there. Most coaches would probably struggle the same if they had that team.

That’s how it goes in the name of a rebuild.  

Chip was thinking long term and not short term, but it was clear some of the frustration lies with going into a rebuild and more or less starting a new team from scratch after being a playoff level team.  That was why though, they were playoff level with Shady, DeSean and Maclin.  They were never championship level, not even with Reid.  The core has never even won a playoff game. Ultimately, I believe that is why Chip did Chip things is because he knew all he’d ever get with that squad was to the playoffs, but never contenders like the McNabb Dawkins Westbrook days. That isn’t to say some of his moves weren’t ridiculous (letting Maclin and Mathis walk are the biggest examples and overall pretty bad).  Some  were absurd but in a way, justifiable (The Bradford move was a gamble blown up in the face and I’d still argue the Shady trade is justifiable due to his age and the contract).

In a true rebuild, time is needed.  The roster was questionable, the games frustrating and the motivation vomit inducing, but there needs to be more time than 15 games to see if it’s truly irredeemable.  The Seahawks had a 7-9 record topped off with “one ugly draft” according to analysts.  Some of the league’s top teams this year (Panthers, Vikings) made questionable moves in the beginning and were given time to see the results.  There should have been more time given to Chip to see if the results would be as awful and terrible as people saw it this year.  Even the worst of GMs get a few years before they get canned (Gene Idzik was given two years).

The other thing that is bothersome more than anything is not giving him a full year.  It’d be one thing to fire him at the end of the year, but at that point in the season before it’s over it is unfair and leaves the team not only in a worse position for the week 17 game, but for the next few years. Who would go to the Eagles if after a rough year you were fired not even a full season into the year after 2 successful seasons?

The same people that go to the Browns.

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