A lot of times in sports, personnel decisions come down to your body of work. It’s a what have you done for me lately type of business.
On Tuesday night, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s decision to fire head coach Chip Kelly seemingly came down to exactly that. Falling to a 6-9 record on the season, while getting eliminated from the playoffs 38-24 Saturday night at home to the Redskins is as bad as it gets.
“I have made a decision to release Chip Kelly this evening,” Lurie said. “I spent the last three seasons evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team. As I watched this season unfold, I determined that it was time to make a change.”
Kelly’s overall record of 26-21 was commendable during his nearly three year tenure as coach of the team. He took a 4-12 Eagles team in 2012 under Andy Reid and turned it into a 10-6 NFC East title team in 2013 with virtually the same roster. His coaching decisions had the team riding high on Thanksgiving night last season, ousting the Cowboys 33-10 while improving to 9-3 on the year.
This was all done by Kelly the coach – the offensive innovator who was supposed to take the Eagles’ high powered offense to a Super Bowl one day.
But these feats are not what Kelly will be remembered for. His tenure in Philadelphia will likely be remembered for are the questionable decisions he made off the field and stubbornness he showed on it.
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Under Kelly, nine starters from a year ago were either traded or let go by Kelly, after he was given total control of the team’s roster moves in January. The list included former Pro Bowlers LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Foles, Trent Cole and Evan Mathis. Many also look to the team’s decision to sign wide receiver Riley Cooper to a five-year, $25 million contract over DeSean Jackson as another move spearheaded by Kelly.
The moves have turned a team that averaged an NFL leading 6.3 yards per play in 2013 into a team that averages just 5.2 yards per play in 2015, good for 24th in the league.
Kelly talked a lot about culture over scheme, but it was becoming more and more evident as the season unraveled that there was a locker room filled with uncertainty over culture.
The NFL’s rushing champion from a season ago and prized free-agent signing, DeMarco Murray, was glued to the bench as Kelly was too stubborn to adjust his coaching schemes to his talents. Instead of owning up to his receivers league-leading 35 dropped passes this season and addressing it through a trade, Kelly would rather say, “I just need to put my players in a better position to succeed,” and move on.
The inability for Kelly to adjust to NFL coaching from his incredible success at the University of Oregon is ultimately where his legacy sits now. He never built a bridge between talent and personality and instead created an exit ramp from his own vision.
He told Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer Tuesday night that, “[he’s] disappointed how it ended but knows it's a results-oriented biz. Insists he wants to remain in the NFL, not college.”
But it’s hard to imagine Kelly running the show of an NFL team in the near-future. Maybe he’ll team up with his former recruit, quarterback Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. Maybe he’ll revive Nick Foles’ career as an offensive coordinator in St. Louis.
Or maybe he’ll go back to culture building where it’s comfortable, in the friendly confines of a college campus near you.