Chip Kelly is gone. In the biggest and most surprising move of NFL season, owner Jeffrey Lurie of the Philadelphia Eagles fired Coach Kelly before the end of his third season. This shocking news followed multiple reports that the embattled coach would return for a 4th season. The current rumor states that Lurie wanted to remove Kelly’s personnel decision authority and the coach balked at this. So the man dubbed Machine Gun Chip, who came in and amazed the football world to the tune of two 10-6 seasons, and one of the fastest and highest scoring offenses the game has ever seen is gone.
The word shocked is very usable here. Not that Chip was fired. Let’s be honest, that in itself isn’t shocking. But that it happened before the last game of the season. It will be fascinating as more information comes out as to why Lurie made this move at this point.
So the first question is, was this a mistake? This is a fascinating question. On one hand, this season has been a disaster for Kelly. After electrifying the fan base with wild moves this offseason and a high-powered preseason, nothing went right starting Week 1. His 3 biggest moves of the offseason did not pan out. Kiko Alonso has looked like a shell of his former self and spends most of his playing time looking completely lost. Sam Bradford, who has gotten markedly better late in the season, has struggled mighty and dealt with injuries again. And DeMarco Murray is playing less the 4th stringer Kenjon Barner at this point. There are also a plethora of other moves that haven’t panned out for the GM/Coach.
Beyond his personnel moves, Kelly has struggled with in-game play calling and adjustments. His lack of time of possession seems to have worn out a decent defense by midseason and his affection for Mark Sanchez doomed the team half way through the season.
So how can one defend Chip Kelly? First, he has had incredible success before this season. One cannot overlook just how dominate his offenses were. In the Kelly heyday, the Eagles offense got better as the game went on. Running backs flew through wide open holes and wide receivers looked like no one was covering them. Everything Chip touched turned to gold. I don’t think many questioned Chip Kelly’s coaching and scheme abilities.
Also this season Kelly dealt with a number of underrated injuries. First, he lost his rising kicker Cody Parkey early in the season. This may not seem like much, but Caleb Sturgis, Parkey’s replacement, missed multiple big time kicks that cost the Eagles at least 2 wins this season. Parkey also missed two kicks early in the season that cost the Eagles games. If the Eagles had pulled out even one of those games, they would still be in the playoff hunt today. Kelly also dealt with injuries to his offensive line, wide receiver core, running backs, quarterback, linebackers, and secondary.
The last positive for Kelly is that his team, mostly on the offensive side, seemed to improve enough to make the 2016 season seem hopefully for the Philly faithful. But a terrible, mistake-ridden game against the now-NFC East Champion Washington Redskins seemed to have sealed Kelly’s fate.
So in conclusion was it right for Kelly to lose his job? I believe it was a poor move and a rash decision by a usually calm and conservative Jeffrey Lurie. The best franchises in the NFL have one common factor: continuity. The Patriots, Steelers, Packers, Ravens, Giants, and Seahawks are all great examples of this. One average season after a high-turnover offseason should not cost a coach with two previous 10-win seasons his job. Lurie overreacted and let the media and the fans make a decision for him. Now the future is very unknown.
Stay tuned for Thunderblog 29 of 29: The Chip Kelly Saga Part 2 for who will replace the exciting coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.