Several weeks after firing 14-year head coach Andy Reid, the Eagles brass hired Chip Kelly to be the organization’s next leader.
Of all the candidates that the Eagles interviewed, I saw Kelly as by far the biggest risk. Most of the other prospects had a strong redeeming quality about them.
Bill O’Brien had previous NFL success and experience with the New England Patriots.
Mike McCoy had proven that he could get the most out of limited offensive talent by running successful offenses with the likes of Jake Delhomme, Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow.
Gus Bradley played a major role in turning the Seattle Seahawks into the the league’s top defense.
Bruce Arians showed great potential as a head coach this year during his work with the Indianapolis Colts while filling in for Chuck Pagano.
Heck, even the retreads the Eagles interviewed (Lovie Smith, Brian Billick, Ken Whisenhunt) all at least took a team to a Super Bowl during their respective runs in Chicago, Baltimore, and Arizona.
So I ask, what is on Chip Kelly’s resume that makes him far and away the best choice to turn the Philadelphia Eagles around?
Well, it isn’t his strong NFL background. Kelly has never coached in the NFL in any capacity before.
It certainly isn’t his defensive prowess. For all of those hoping that the next head coach would be a guy that can come in and get rid of the soft defensive mentality that the Eagles have had in recent years, Kelly’s teams at Oregon have given up an average of 22.75 points per game since the 2009 season.
So what sold the Eagles on Chip Kelly? A gimmick.
That’s right, another gimmick. The same front office that fooled themselves into believing that the Wide-Nine could succeed as a base defense will now build their team around Kelly’s creative fast-paced, high-scoring offense that hasn’t been tested at the NFL level.
I also question just how committed to Philadelphia Kelly is going to be. Before the hiring was announced today, Kelly had flip-flopped between signing a deal with the Cleveland Browns, to announcing he was going back to Oregon, to changing his mind and coming to Philadelphia. If Kelly and his revolutionary offense completely flop after one season, he’s the type of guy that could pull a Bobby Petrino and bail on his NFL opportunity to go back to college for an opportunity that he knows he’ll succeed in.
Jeffrey Lurie’s biggest claim to fame in the NFL is the fact that he discovered Andy Reid, who went on to become a very successful NFL coach. All throughout the Eagles’ coaching search, we heard that one of Lurie’s desires was to find the next Andy Reid by making a gutsy hire of another offensive mind. By hiring Kelly, Lurie has taken his biggest risk yet.
To me, this is another textbook example of the Eagles trying to win by ignoring conventional methods and trying to outsmart the rest of the league by spending too much time thinking outside of the box. This franchise wants to win, but they want to do it their own way. They don’t just want to win a Super Bowl, they want to win it in such a unique way that they’ll leave their special mark on the rest of league.
This is same line of thinking that led the Eagles to fooling themselves into devaluing wide receivers until 2004, devaluing the linebacker position for 14 years, building a defense around speedy undersized players instead of strong powerful ones, drafting Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas, drafting a 26-year old guard in the first-round of 2011, hiring a defensive line coach before a defensive coordinator, hiring an unqualified offensive line coach to become a defensive coordinator, and (as mentioned previously) believing that the Wide-Nine would work just fine as a base defense.
That line of thinking has hurt this team dearly in the past, and especially over the last few years. I think that if there was one thing that the Eagles should have learned from the last two seasons, it was that the team needed a drastic philosophical change. The Kelly hiring doesn’t represent such a change; instead it’s an altered version of the approach and mindset that the team had under Andy Reid. If the Eagles had hired a defensive-minded coach like Gus Bradley or Lovie Smith, I would have believed that the front office had really learned from past mistakes and that they were serious about making the best move to make this a respectable NFL team again.
But instead, Lurie jumped at the opportunity to get his “innovative, energetic, revolutionary” offensive mind.
Lurie’s heart is in the right place; he wants to win a championship and he’s proven that he’ll do all that he can to attain that goal. But his methods have been fatally flawed in key areas, and by putting a great deal of stock into wrong coaches/players/front office decisions, he’s cost this team.
I’m not trying to write Chip Kelly off before the man has even had his first press conference in Philadelphia, but this hire just doesn’t do anything to excite me.
Hopefully Kelly works out, becomes a great coach, and turns this franchise around.
But after seeing this franchise make countless questionable decisions that have more often than not turned out to be mistakes over the last few years, and after seeing a number of much more appealing (and conventional) coaching options available, I just don’t have much reason to trust that this time Lurie and Roseman have got it right.
Denny Basens is the editor of GCobb.com. Email him at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter.