The Chip Kelly Era ended as surprisingly as it began with his sudden firing last Tuesday. (Photo: Keith Allison)
And just like that, it’s over. The Eagles announced on Tuesday around 7:15pm (while I was out for a run, thanks guys) that head coach Chip Kelly was fired and the search for a new coach had begun. The season had been a disappointment for sure, but Kelly’s firing after one year in the head personnnel chair was both unexpected and shocking. Apparently everything involving Chip Kelly moves quickly, including how he gets shipped out of town.
I originally planned to do an Eagles Probability Game type article where Randy Jobst and myself would talk about the odds of Billy Davis returning, Sam Bradford getting a long-term deal, and what CFL team Demarco Murray would be playing for next year. But after this bombshell Tuesday, those 600+ words were worthless and Randy and I got into a long debate about just what the hell is going to happen next.
Was his firing warranted? Does this mean the end of Sam Bradford in Philadelphia? And where do the Eagles go from here, both from a coaching and front office standpoint? Since tomorrow’s game against the Giants is now anything but interesting, take a look as we try to answer those questions (note: we don’t agree).
RANDY JOBST – I can’t remember a season that felt more like an unwatchable soap opera than this year’s Philadelphia Eagles’ team. The preseason was a four game hype train that was derailed on Monday night, followed up by an embarrassment against Dallas, a blowout of the Saints, a big win against a future playoff team in the Jets and Patriots but also coupled with some really embarrassing losses to Washington, Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit.
It all came crashing down Tuesday night with the “release” of Chip Kelly. In the end I think we had a very smart offensive coach who let power and his ego get in the way. He consistently rubbed players the wrong way and couldn’t back it up on the field as this team became the dumbest and most unfundamentally sound Eagles team I have seen in my 30 years of existence.
DAN SCHMIDT – Something about this just irks me. I’m just not seeing how firing a guy on a Tuesday after he’s already started the practice week is the result of a well-thought-out process. Don’t get me wrong, this season was terrible and the 2015 Eagles were one of the sloppiest teams I can remember in my years of watching football. But this was far from rock bottom and I thought the progress Sam Bradford made throughout the season was enough to warrant Chip getting one more year. Unpopular opinion I know, but I’d rather Chip Kelly be in charge if the alternative is Howie Roseman. Firing a guy 10 months after giving him a huge promotion just stinks like a Browns or Raiders move.
And don’t kid yourself, despite his disconnect with the players and the poor product on the field, Chip’s still here if Howie isn’t in Jeff Lurie’s ear. That’s the frightening part of all this. If you wanted to fire Chip, you needed to bleach the entire complex and wipe out everything. Roseman, Don Smolenski, and yes maybe even Duce Staley. This isn’t a quick fix now and you likely have to draft a quarterback because I’m not counting on Sam coming back. 2015 was bad, but I bet 2016 is worse.
RANDY JOBST – I disagree with you and pretty much all of this. The firing 5 days before the final game of the season is odd until you consider losing on Sunday allows the Eagles to face the St. Louis Rams on a neutral site in London instead of a road game in Seattle next season. Someone close to the situation suggested that Lurie wanted to play more backups and Chip refuses which may have resulted in Lurie “releasing” Chip one week early.
Murray isn’t why Chip got fired. (Photo via RWN)
The 6-9 record and the failure with DeMarco Murray wasn’t what cost Chip Kelly his job. It was the lack of fundamentals across the board. The amount of drops, fumbles, missed tackles and penalties were astounding from a coach who preaches about such things. This was the dumbest team I have ever seen in my 30 years on this earth. I’ve seen worse teams, but I’ve never seen a dumber team.
I also don’t think this will take a total rebuild. The defense is really talented, it just needs more depth behind it. To maximize that talent they really need to switch to the 4-3. A front of Graham-Cox-Logan-Curry is pretty frightening for any offense. With a linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Connor Barwin(maybe) and a secondary of Eric Rowe, Malcolm Jenkins, Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell is also pretty solid.
I’m not saying this will be a contender right away under a new coach, but total rebuild seems a bit dramatic.
DAN SCHMIDT – I agree that this decision might have been impacted by Sunday’s game, which was a must-lose because draft positioning and Chip definitely wouldn’t have rested anyone (plus give me London over Seattle), but I’m just not as optimistic moving forward that this could be a quick turnaround.
The talent on defense is undeniable, but a switch back to a 4-3 won’t be painless if that’s the route they go. It’ll mean more snaps for Vinny Curry, but you’d have some big decisions to make at linebacker. Would it be a seamless transition to move Graham back to end full-time in a 4-3? It’s been three years and he didn’t exactly have a track record of NFL success playing there. What do you do with Connor Barwin? What if the next coach wants a more established safety next to Jenkins? The defense has playmakers, but there’s going to be some turnover. And they still need another pass-rusher somewhere.
On offense, the roster is even more scheme specific. Is the new coach going to want all three of Murray, Mathews, and Sproles? What about all these WRs who can’t catch? The offensive line needs to be rebuilt and you still need a quarterback if Bradford leaves (which I think is likely). How can you reload the line and QB position while adding outside playmakers? I’m just not seeing how this offense doesn’t drag the team down for at least another two years.
RANDY JOBST – Brandon Graham was a 4-3 end all his life until 2013, he isn’t the guy I would be worried about. Connor Barwin is a big question mark. He’s 6’4, 264 pounds and not the guy you want covering any offensive player in man coverage. If they do switch to the 4-3 defense (please God don’t waste this front in a 3-4 defense another season) then I think Barwin becomes a trade piece. His contract isn’t awful and he’s proven to be a solid starting 3-4 outside linebacker.
As for the safety spot, I would worry too much. Malcolm Jenkins has proven to be a Pro Bowl caliber starter and even if they put a dead plant next to him it’s still better than the safety combo of Kurt Coleman and Roman Harper that Carolina fields every week.
The offense is where the new staff will have their work cut out for them. Is Jason Kelce the right center for the new coach? If not Lane Johnson is the only starting caliber o-linemen left. Mark Sanchez is the only quarterback under contract and the the Eagles will be paying their running backs $18 mil next season.
This can be a top 15 or maybe even a top 10 offense in 2016, but only if they fix the offensive line. That will be the biggest challenge for 2016. It could propel this team back into the playoff picture or it could get a lot worse.
DAN SCHMIDT – Top 15 offense is probably a little bold because these aren’t easy fixes. I know the Eagles tried to make moves at guard last year (ie. Orlando Franklin) before settling on Andrew Gardner and Allen Barbre, but whether its those two, Matt Tobin, or Dennis Kelly, the offensive line needs some upgrades and not just in the starting five. And you probably need to draft Jason Peters’s replacement.
Sam Bradford isn’t a lock to return in 2016.
Carlos M. Saavedra – SI.com
Then there’s the quarterback situation. The Eagles next coach will become irrelevant real quick if they can’t find him a quarterback to work with. Sam Bradford is saying all the right things at the moment, but how convinced are we he wants to come back now? We assume Chip Kelly winds up in Tennessee, but what if he lands in Cleveland or San Francisco or Miami and wants Bradford to come with him? Does Bradford want to learn his 748th consecutive new offense or would he stick with Chip? I think he’d want to stick with the same playbook for at least two straight years ONE time in his career.
I will say this, I won’t deny being excited about the possibility of drafting a top 10 quarterback either. The Eagles could draft as high as 8th if they lose to the Giants (post-edit note: of course they won). They drafted Lane Johnson 4th overall in 2012, but you have to go back to Corey Simon in 2000 to find a top 10 selection before that. Maybe it’s a good year to take a shot at one of the big three quarterbacks in this draft.
Of course, if they don’t upgrade the offensive line, they’ll probably draft in the top ten again next year.
RANDY JOBST: Top 15 might be a bit bold, but the talent is there depending on how they address quarterback and offensive line. A loss on Sunday should give the Eagles a top 10 pick and a pretty good shot at either Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch. This roster is good enough to develop into a contender with the right quarterback.
The nice thing about the Eagles situation is they are a very good cap situation. If if the new coach isn’t a fan or DeMarco Murray or Byron Maxwell, he can get out of that contract and still save money after 2016. Say what you want about Howie Roseman, he is a guru at managing contracts and the salary cap.
The Eagles are in a great position to hire a young, up-and-coming head coach, draft a quarterback in the top 10 and still have money left over in the cap to re-sign the important players and still sign a few key veterans. The firing of Chip Kelly may have been a bit of a shock to some, but the timing of it all couldn’t have been better.
DAN SCHMIDT: I guess as usual, time will tell whether the move to fire Chip springboards the team into success or sets them back a few years. There’s just so much uncertainty surrounding the team right now and I really don’t like how “Must Get Along with Howie Roseman” is a prerequisite to getting the Eagles head coaching job. Too many question marks at critical positions (OL, WR, QB) + transition to a new coach/offense usually means serious growing pains. And we assume the Eagles make a smart coaching hire because they found good ones like Andy Reid and Chip in the past, but suppose they some retread jackass like Josh McDaniels?
I wish I had your optimism, I really do, but I’m bracing myself for a lean year or two. This front office situation doesn’t exactly catapult the Eagles to the top of the most desirable destinations list. Even if they make a home-run coaching hire and Sam Bradford returns and continues to improve, you still have an offense in need of a major shake-up. Until they revamp the offensive line and receiving corps, I think more frustrating football is ahead for your Philadelphia Eagles.