Inside the NFL  

 

Chip Kelly's Philly downfall: Jordan Matthews offers explanation

Print

The following item is excerpted from the Week 17 edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:

Lane Johnson's characterization of Chip Kelly as being, to some degree, unapproachable to Philadelphia Eagles players helped a lot of headline writers and fed into a lot of narratives on Tuesday. Maybe more interesting is the idea that this particular in-house dynamic was, in part, an outgrowth of the power struggle that engulfed the franchise over the last calendar year.

Jordan Matthews, a second-year Eagle, explained it to me in the wake of Johnson's comments. And if you put the pieces together -- in real-life terms -- it actually makes all the sense in the world.

"It might not have been Coach Kelly as much as it was that person [going to him]," said Matthews, who added he was fine approaching Kelly. "When you know somebody has that much power over a part of the organization, you are gonna be a little wary about it. ... It's no different than having a boss. Are you gonna be in your boss' face all day? When you know he can decide if you'll stay in your job or fire you? Probably not, because he has that power. Maybe that's where some of that may lie."

Use that as the jumping-off point for the real story here: Kelly the GM crushed Kelly the coach.

Trading off, in essence, Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans for Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Nelson Agholor, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso not only didn't work -- it wound up robbing the team of its identity. Put simply, making the run game go is as important to Kelly's scheme as being right at quarterback is in most other NFL offenses. So if the Eagles couldn't run it consistently, the passing game and defense were going to suffer.

They couldn't, and each did.

As one Eagles source put it, "When you have a guy like [Marcus] Mariota or one of those guys, the run game is ridiculous because of all the different stuff you can do. When you have a quarterback that isn't a threat to run, it's a different type of run game. And we never got that solved."

Losing McCoy and Herremans and Mathis and even Maclin (as a threat to stretch the defense), and not getting enough from the new backs and the new guards and the new receivers was a big part of that, and that is where Kelly the GM failed.

And sure, there was skepticism in the locker room concerning all that. Johnson said himself that he felt like there was a trickle-down effect that the fracture in the front office created across the organization. After all, it's not like the players live in a bubble.

"Even though we play ball, we creep into that fan mentality, too -- I was a fan of LeSean McCoy before I was his teammate," Matthews said. "I was a fan of Jeremy Maclin before I was his teammate. I was a fan of DeSean [Jackson], even though I never played with him. We're people, too. So we could get in that same mentality. So when we see a guy like that leave, we can sometimes get into that, wanting immediate results, too, even if it's not the reality.

"Who's to say if those guys -- Ryan and DeMarco and all those guys -- have more time in Coach Kelly's system, they don't have the same success that LeSean had? Now, nobody'll know."

That, of course, is the other part of the flaw in Philly's 2015 strategy. Kelly churned the top of the roster, something that happens on an annual basis at the college level. And maybe the Eagles figured they could bring it all together in that fashion -- like Kelly proved he could at Oregon -- at the NFL level. It didn't happen, and guys on the staff will concede now that there's a fair criticism there, too.

You can also question whether or not Kelly narrowed the profile of what he looked for in players too much. The last three coaches to win it all -- John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick -- have carried plenty of questionable characters on their respective rosters. The fact is, it's hard to win in 2015 with a team full of boy scouts.

So what happens if all the above goes the other way, Kelly's moves do work out and it comes together quicker than most expect, and the Eagles are 11-4 or 10-5 right now? Then, as members of the staff I've talked to see it, the locker room issues are either invisible or irrelevant.

Seattle's locker room, for example, has had its tough moments the last two seasons, both of which ended in the Super Bowl. Winning cures that stuff.

Kelly didn't win enough. That's the real problem. And if you want to really cut to the truth of all this, just ask someone like Matthews if he'd play for Kelly again.

"If they're paying!" Matthews said. "I mean, that's the god-honest truth. I don't have a problem with Coach Kelly. If the money was there, I'd play for him again. Of course."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop