The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t even let Chip Kelly complete his third season with the team, firing the once promising head coach with one game left in the 2015 season, and the Eagles already out of the running for the playoffs in the NFC East. What started out as a successful love affair turned into a mess on and off the field.
The bottom line from this ordeal? Probably not giving one person who has very little experience in the NFL so much power. Kelly might be an offensive genius, or at least that was the selling point when the Eagles plucked him out of Eugene following his very successful time at Oregon, but he made a lot of mistakes along the way to getting fired. Turns out, there’s much more to coaching an NFL team than simply knowing how to draw up offensive plays.
Even that didn’t go all that well. Yes, the 2013 season with Nick Foles at quarterback (27 touchdowns, two interceptions) was a success, bringing the Eagles back into the playoffs and presumably laying the groundwork for a great future. In 2014 Foles didn’t do as well before getting injured, and the Eagles, who started the season 9-3, stumbled in the end to finish it 10-6. This season was bad right from the start, but what eventually doomed the Eagles, and Kelly, was their finish, giving up 78 points in losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins that put them out of the playoff sweepstakes.
Kelly was 26-21 as the Eagles head coach, usually not a record that gets you fired. But the Eagles went backwards during his time – from making the playoffs in 2013, to missing it with a good record in 2014 and falling apart in 2015. Kelly taking over for the previous general manager in the offseason of 2014 set up his downfall. Any player that didn’t quite fit his system or wasn’t 100% following him, he got rid of him, often getting terrible value out of his deals. He lost LeSean McCoy in a bad trade and said it was about finances, but signed DeMarco Murray on a worse deal, and we all know how that turned out. Kelly saw things going in just one way, and seemed to stumble and fail in the personnel decisions he fought so strongly to obtain control of.
The offense, especially this season, didn’t light it up as well. Sam Bradford looked better on occasions and might be the guy the Eagles go with in the next few years, but Kelly’s plan of simplifying the playbook backfired. Teams didn’t have too much trouble slowing down an offense that got less and less talented through the three years, so even his one trademark quality that should have given the Eagles some sort of edge disappeared.
Kelly will carry on, be it in college football or in the NFL, maybe as an offensive coordinator at first. But the last three seasons and especially 2015 are a lesson to him and to owners/NFL bosses out there regarding college coaches and in general putting too much in one basket without really knowing what you have. Kelly let his ego carry him forward, and with all his talk about culture and building something great, he seemed to forget the little pieces along the way that make everything happen.