Philadelphia Eagles  

 

Chip Kelly has no one to blame but himself for Eagles' struggles

Print

Chip Kelly asked for this.

That's the first point to make when deciphering the issues plaguing the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach and his currently disappointing team. He doesn't have the luxury of pinning this on injuries, bad bounces or a schedule crammed with difficult early-season opponents. Instead, this is all about one man's crusade to build the team he sorely wanted -- and the consequences that come with being so blatantly arrogant.

We actually should mark this down as the moment Kelly officially perched himself atop the hot seat that is so familiar to NFL coaches.

His Eagles now stand at 0-2, largely because their offense stinks, their defense is pedestrian and they appear to be regressing with each passing week. More importantly, they are winless because this is the roster Kelly thought gave him his best chance at winning. He didn't want most of the stars he inherited from his predecessor, Andy Reid, so this junk is what Kelly is presenting to the world today.

The latest evidence of this flawed plan was a 20-10 home loss to Dallas. That miserable effort -- along with a season-opening Monday night loss in Atlanta -- has left Kelly defending his offseason moves to a rapidly growing group of skeptics.

"The guys we have are the guys we are playing with for the remainder of the season," he said during his Monday press conference. "It's not about a change thing. It's about putting in a game plan that will be effective against the Jets, and that's really what our focus is on."

Here's the quick answer to the question of what's wrong with the Eagles: Their personnel has gotten worse over the last two offseasons. Kelly didn't like speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson, so he released him following the 2013 season. He didn't like LeSean McCoy, so he traded him to Buffalo this past offseason. The list of other productive players who are no longer on the roster also is revealing. It includes quarterback Nick Foles, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis, pass rusher Trent Cole and cornerbacks Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin.

It's difficult for any coach to win when that much talent leaves a franchise. It's also worth noting that Kelly didn't seem to care too much when his roster was evaporating. He believed in his approach and wasn't afraid to flex his muscles. He already had final say on personnel decisions during his first two seasons -- only New England's Bill Belichick and Seattle's Pete Carroll enjoy the same luxury -- and he claimed even more power when owner Jeffrey Lurie reshuffled front-office roles in January.

There were plenty of skeptics when all this was happening. But Kelly also had the benefit of the doubt working in his favor. His team won the NFC East in his first season and barely missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record last year. His high-octane offense also was doing what it was supposed to do, as the Eagles finished in the top five in the league in scoring during each of Kelly's first two years.

Today, things are different.

The Eagles have only played two good quarters of football since the season started, and they looked completely lost in that Dallas defeat. The numbers were so disturbing -- Philadelphia amassed 226 total yards, including just seven on the ground -- that Kelly actually humbled himself before the same media he routinely has offered mostly condescension. "I was embarrassed," Kelly said. "That's not the way we're supposed to play football and that's not what we're all about."

Every game, all season

Kelly should be most humiliated that he went to extraordinary lengths to acquire some of his most high-profile players. Even though quarterback Sam Bradford suffered two ACL tears in each of the previous two seasons, Kelly shipped Foles to St. Louis to get him. Even though McCoy is an elite running back, Kelly sent him to Buffalo -- for a linebacker, Kiko Alonso, who just tore up his knee for the second year in a row -- and signed DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews as replacements. (UPDATE: Kelly said Wednesday that Alonso has a sprained knee.) The release of Jackson and the eventual loss of Maclin in this past spring's free agency are also especially troubling when you see who's now starting at wide receiver. That would be Riley Cooper, the same player who nearly tore the locker room apart by uttering a racial slur at a concert in 2013.

Many former black players have hinted at the possibility that Kelly can't relate to them. To be honest, it's starting to seem like that is far from the real problem here. It's more so that Kelly can't see how critical it is to hold on to talented players. The common denominator among many of the former Eagles Kelly coached is that they either challenged him in some way or had the potential and personality to do so.

So now Kelly has a team that is more willing to follow his vision, which doesn't look like a good thing. Bradford very much resembles a quarterback who needs a better supporting cast than he has. Murray has gained 11 yards in two games without the dominant offense line in Dallas that helped him lead the NFL in rushing by nearly 500 yards last year. And let's not forget about former Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell, the man who scored a $63 million contract when he hit free agency earlier this year. He's been burned so much already that he might want to invest in a flame-retardant uniform.

In fairness to these players, it's not their fault they're failing. They came to Philadelphia believing in a coach who had thrived both at Oregon and in his first two seasons in the NFL. They thought they were joining a football savant, a man who won with innovative schemes and unconventional ideas that included monitoring sleep habits and diets. They clearly bought into both the hype and mystique that has wafted around Kelly for way too long.

What we are discovering very quickly about Kelly is that he's finally paying a heavy price for all his hubris. He's acted as if players are easily replaceable, likely because college football is filled with coaches who bank on a new crop of promising recruits arriving every fall. But the NFL is a different world, one where the most honest coaches will tell you that players win you games and personnel mistakes cost you jobs. Unfortunately for Chip Kelly, that is a lesson that he appears destined to learn the hard way.

Follow Jeffri Chadiha on Twitter @jeffrichadiha.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop