The Philadelphia Eagles didn't wait for Black Monday to make the first stunning coaching move of the season. Chip Kelly has been fired.
It's an abrupt end to a fascinating coaching tenure in Philadelphia that started with so much promise. Kelly's Eagles won 10 games in back-to-back seasons, amping up their offensive pace to NFL record heights. That initially led to big yardage and big numbers from mid-level quarterbacks, but the offense turned stale and predictable this year on the way to a 6-9 record.
Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will be interim head coach for the Week 17 game against the New York Giants.
"We appreciate all the contributions that Chip Kelly made and wish him every success going forward," Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.
The Eagles also announced that Ed Marynowitz, Kelly's hand-picked vice president of player personnel, was also released. It's a telling part of this change in direction. This firing comes nearly a year to the day that Kelly got control of the personnel department last offseason, leading to former general manager Howie Roseman having a reduced role on the football side of the team. Roseman, now an executive vice president, will be part of the group that hires the next Eagles coach.
Kelly made a number of aggressive moves over the offseason, trading LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, signing DeMarco Murray, letting Jeremy Maclin leave, releasing guard Evan Mathis and signing cornerback Byron Maxwell. Those moves, perhaps more than his coaching strategy, led to his demise. Tom Donahoe, former GM of the Bills and senior football advisor for the Eagles since 2012, will assume the role of senior director of player personnel.
"I have made a decision to release Chip Kelly this evening," Lurie said in a statement. "I spent the last three seasons evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team. As I watched this season unfold, I determined that it was time to make a change."
Kelly has two years left on his contract at a hefty price, so he doesn't need to coach. But he doesn't seem like a guy interested in announcing games for a few years. The timing of this move is curious, giving the Eagles a head start at finding their next coach. And it possibly allows Kelly to get a head start on looking for more work in the NFL. His former college quarterback, Marcus Mariota, leads a Titans team that will be looking for a new coach soon.
It's worth wondering if other NFL teams will have interest. The Cleveland Browns hoped to hire Kelly three years ago, and could be looking for a new coach soon. Kelly had many original ideas from adjusting the team's practice schedule to their exercise and nutrition practices. The Eagles' defense played outstanding to start the year, but fell apart late. His special teams was incredible last year and good overall. Ultimately, it was the failure of his offense that took many by surprise this year.
Ultimately, Kelly's offense is about execution and not about play-calling. Kelly's plays didn't change a lot from year to year, much less week to week. And the players Kelly imported didn't execute his offense particularly well. The offensive line and skill-position talent made far too many errors.
If Kelly gets another chance in the NFL, he might focus on communicating better with his players. His brusque style rubbed many players the wrong way, and his "system" wasn't enough to overcome it. The NFL is a humbling place for coaches and players, and change is the only constant.
The Eagles reminded us of that again Tuesday, less than three years after Kelly arrived in town as the latest hot coaching hire.