Here's a stab at answering all the major questions Philadelphia Eagles fans are asking themselves in the wake of Chip Kelly's firing:
Let's start with the easy one: why did the Eagles fire Chip Kelly?
The obvious reasons are pretty extensive, but I'll try to keep it brief: Kelly got full control of the Eagles roster after last season from team owner Jeffrey Lurie, who took it from then-General Manager Howie Roseman. Kelly then spent the summer making a flurry of shocking and controversial moves the likes of which had never been seen in the modern NFL. The end result was a 6-9 season that fell way below anyone's expectations, and now Kelly has been dismissed. He had a job to do, and he failed miserably.
Like, really miserably. The Eagles came out the losers in every single one of Kelly's shocking and controversial moves. Literally, every single one. DeMarco Murray was a bust the Birds are now stuck with for at least another year. Byron Maxwell was wildly overpaid. Kiko Alonso looked like he had his talents taken by the MonStars. Sam Bradford was no better than Nick Foles had been (and cost the Birds a 2nd round pick). Even the quieter ones, like drafting Nelson Agholor in the first round or signing veteran Miles Austin, stunk on ice.
And let's not forget DeSean Jackson, who Kelly jettisoned before the 2014 season, and is now 3-1 against his former team.
So Kelly did a terrible job as General Manager and was fired. That seems pretty straightforward.
Maybe, but something stinks here. This firing has to run deeper than just dismissing a garbage GM. Firing a coach/GM after one horrendous season (especially after two moderately successful ones) isn't Lurie's MO. Even Juan Castillo got a second chance.
The guess here is that Kelly had alienated himself, not just with his players, but with Lurie and the front office as well. Maybe we'll hear some rumblings in the next couple of weeks, maybe we won't. Frankly, it doesn't matter; if you're looking for cause, Kelly's hand-picked squad just gave you 15 weeks of it.
Lurie has had two other coaches since he bought the team: Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid. It's worth noting Rhodes, like Kelly, went 10-6 his first two seasons (and didn't win a divisional title), then went 6-9-1 in his third year. Lurie gave Rhodes a fourth season, but for whatever reason, didn't feel Kelly had earned the same courtesy. Either Lurie has grown impatient with age, or something else happened that got Kelly fired.
Okay, there seem to be a lot of issues with Kelly. So honestly, how shocking is this?
Oh, super shocking. Beyond shocking. Maximum Strength Shocking.
Lets start with the fact that Kelly was 26-21 as a head coach. That's pretty darn good, all things considered. Couple that with the fact that Lurie typically fires his head coaches a year too late, not early, and all signs pointed to the Birds bringing Kelly back for Year No. 4.
It was a little concerning that the Eagles, under Kelly, had been trending backwards in all major statistical categories. Also concerning was that players on other teams spoke openly about being able to figure out Kelly's so-called genius offense. That doesn't change the fact that most experts were predicting Chip would be asked to return. It seemed more likely Lurie would bet on Kelly being able to adapt in 2016 than opting to start from scratch.
Also, Lurie gave Rhodes (who went 3-13 his final season) till the end of the year before canning him. So yeah, this is all pretty shocking.
How much of this is Kelly's fault?
Oh, all of it, for sure. When Kelly took full control of the Eagles organization, everything officially fell on him; the good and the bad. Kelly likely could have extended his own job security by keeping Roseman around to be the fall guy. Most Eagles fans hated Roseman, and would have been more-than-happy to sacrifice him in the name of Kelly's job security.
But Kelly wasn't really interested in job security. Not really. What he was interested in was winning, and he tried to do that the only way he knew how. It blew up in his face, and for some unknown reason his owner pulled the plug quicker than most expected.
That's the real shame here. Whether it was because of all the offseason miscalculations or something much deeper, Kelly now won't get a second year to try and finish what he started. Sure, the experiment looks messy now, but the fact that we'll never know for sure is disappointing for any true football fan.
How much of this was DeMarco Murray's doing?
That's a frightening question. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with Murray's whining to Lurie on the flight home after a victory in New England. That's the kind of thing that happens in Dallas, or in Oakland, or in any other dysfunctional football franchise that never wins. If Murray's cry-baby act contributed in any way to Kelly's dismissal, Iggles fans should be pounding hard on that panic button.
How much of this was about Howie Roseman?
That's a very interesting question. Roseman, the GM whose power Kelly usurped, had a big fan in Lurie. That's why the move a year ago to give the Chippah full control was such a surprise.
Lurie made the decision to take power away from his friend and give it to Chip. Lurie then sat and watched Kelly tear down everything his friend had built. It's fair to wonder how much the emotion from those events factored into this decision.
In hindsight, was giving Kelly full control his downfall? Should Lurie have resisted?
Yes and no. It's very likely, if Lurie hadn't given Kelly full control, he would have quit. Letting a hot head coach quit after two 10-win seasons would have been a terrible look, and made it very hard for the Birds to lure in any competent head coach going forward. In reality, Lurie had no choice but to give Chip full control once he demanded it.
It's also worth noting, Roseman wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire, either. So if empowering Chip was simply a means to the end of Howie Roseman, many Eagles fans will still consider it a victory.
So at the end of the day, is firing Chip Kelly a mistake?
From the outside, yes, this looks like a huge mistake. To quote Meatloaf, "two out of three ain't bad," and in two out of three seasons, Chip Kelly has been a winner. No coach wins every season. Bill Belichick was fired from Cleveland. Pete Carroll was fired from the Patriots and the Jets. Ron Rivera, who sits at 14-1 right now with the Carolina Panthers, was nearly fired last season when his team went 7-8-1, which is pretty close to where Kelly found himself this year.
From inside the Eagles organization, there's likely a whole different perspective. An alarming number of players have spoken out against him, both departing and in-house. There hasn't been anything really of substance (the racism claims are laughable at best), but at a certain point there's just too much smoke for there not to be any fire.
That being said, were things so bad that Lurie couldn't roll the dice on one more year? Who fires their General Manager after one season? The New York Jets, that's who. Lurie used to consider his franchise the NFL's Gold Standard. Now he's getting beaten by Washington and compared unfavorably to the Jets. This may be the lowest point for the Birds in their 20 years under Lurie.
Meanwhile, many have suspected the Tennessee Titans would be interested in trading for Kelly. Had Lurie exhibited a little patience, it's possible he could have gotten something in return for the head coach/general manager he no longer wanted.
So yes, firing Kelly feels like a mistake, for nearly as many reasons as he deserved to be fired. That's about how much sense this entire situation makes.
So what's next?
Starting over, and unfortunately for Eagles fans, the organization seems to be in a lot worse shape than they were when Kelly first came in. Forget scheme; Murray looks broken. There isn't a single quarterback on contract for next year. They don't have a second round draft pick (courtesy of the Bradford trade), and won't be high enough to pick a sure-thing signal caller anyway. Meanwhile, the scouting department is in a state of flux since there's no general manager to speak of. They spent the past year building The Chip Kelly Organization, and now have ridded themselves of Chip Kelly. If there's a level below "scratch" the Eagles could be starting from, that's where they are.
Lurie is off to the head coaching market, and it's a wonder if anyone wants the gig.
Three years ago the Eagles were one of the most desirable head coaching jobs in the NFL. They didn't have a quarterback, sure, but they had some talented playmakers, a strong offensive line, enviable cap balance and an owner with a history of being patient.
Three years later, they don't have any of those things. And they still don't have a quarterback! Meanwhile, every young player that fans were convinced "will get better with another year in the system" will now spend their offseason learning an entirely different one. So go ahead and add that crutch to each player's development for 2016.
The hiring of Kelly felt like a new era of Eagles football; sports science and fast-tempo offense made Philadelphia the future of the National Football League. With the firing of Kelly, the Eagles seem to be a franchise in turmoil and without direction.
I have no idea what's next. Hopefully for Eagles fans, Lurie has a few ideas of his own.