It’s no surprise that Chip Kelly has taken the NFL by storm since he joined the ranks of head coaches in 2013. Since joining the NFL, Kelly has achieved accolades such as coaching his team (previously 4-12) to a playoff appearance all while maintaining a top-5 offense. While he has helped his team progress since he joined the organization, it is evident that some of his moves—particularly in the offseason—are viewed as detrimental to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The first move came with the sudden release of Pro Bowl receiver Desean Jackson. Jackson was released a year after putting up 1,332 receiving yards on 82 receptions (16.2 average). Ignoring rumors that were spread by the media, it was believed that Kelly released Jackson because he did not fit the mold of receiver that was required for his system. Although many Eagles fans were disappointed in the move (especially with the Eagles getting no return for such a valued receiver) they moved on and put their trust in their coach.
Little did fans know that this would be the first decision on a long list of questionable moves made by Kelly.
After a disappointing follow-up season littered with injury and heartbreak, the Eagles found themselves moving backwards. They were eliminated from playoff contention and had lingering questions over who would be utilized in which positions. Now, I was raised to never answer a question with another question, but that is exactly what Chip Kelly has done this offseason. Kelly’s first moves were clearing up cap space with the cuts of DE Trent Cole, DB Cary Williams, and OG Todd Herremans. While some of these moves saddened Eagles fans (certainly not the cutting of Williams), most realistic fans realized that the organization had to move on and save money.
The next move Kelly made, however, angered and confused Eagles fans around the world. Kelly traded the Eagles all-time leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker and former Oregon Duck, Kiko Alonso. Whether this trade was an economic-based decision (McCoy was due $10 million in 2015 while Alonso has a cap hit of $796,000), or a system-based decision (McCoy did not completely run Kelly’s zone option how he liked), the fact remains that Kelly came in as the new guy and traded away the franchise for a young LB who is healing from a torn ACL.
With both Kiko Alonso and Eagles fans recovering from their respective woes, Kelly decided to go for the kill shot to all the fans hearts. A report came out that Jeremy Maclin, the comeback kid who put up 1,318 yards on 85 receptions a year after he tore his ACL, would not re-sign with the team. While it is known that contract talks require both parties cooperation to work out, it was evident from reports that Kelly refused to pay Maclin what he felt he deserved.
While some Eagles fans resent Maclin for putting the money first, the blame has to be on Kelly for not doing what was necessary to keep the Pro Bowl receiver. The money that Kelly saved by not signing Maclin will have to be used to find someone to replace him, as it is clear that no one in the organization (Matthews, Huff, Cooper) has what it takes to fill those successful shoes. While it’s too early to crown Maclin a HOF receiver who could’ve led the Eagles to the desired Super Bowl, it goes without saying that he would be more beneficial than detrimental in the path to winning it all. Kelly prides himself on offense and yet found a way to lose his most productive offensive weapon in a season filled with offensive problems.
One of those major offensive problems was the injury to QB Nick Foles. Coming off a 27-2 TD-INT ratio, the expectations were sky high for the QB who loved to air the ball out the previous season. It was clear from the beginning that Foles was not as comfortable as he looked in his record-setting season. Whether this was attributed to the loss of his QB coach (Bill Lazor to the Dolphins) or his beaten up offensive line that did not give him time, this season sparked a lot of questions about the young QB.
One question that was never asked was whether Foles had the fight in him. Foles battled through injuries that would sideline most athletes. He led his team to much needed victories, and while he made mistakes, he still put everything on the line to help the Eagles win. Off the field Foles was as professional as any athlete could be. He took early career benchings and constant trade rumors in stride and maintained his confidence and professionalism.
While Nick Foles was giving everything he had to the Eagles, head coach Chip Kelly was busy giving him away. Kelly traded Foles to the St. Louis Rams for injury-prone QB Sam Bradford. While the trade was not straight up player-for-player, the picks were not significant enough to make a difference (some even saying the Eagles lost because they gave up a 2nd round pick in 2016). Kelly’s moves since the start of this whole offseason have pointed to him saving money to pay players who will make a difference. It is hard to believe that when Chip trades a relatively healthy and young QB with a $1.52 million cap hit for an injury-prone QB with a $13 million cap hit. Granted, analysts and insiders believe that Kelly is going to utilize Bradford as trade bait to move up in the draft for his prodigal son, the golden boy Marcus Mariota, but there is no guarantee that these moves will help Kelly. I’ve always believed that sports is a business and at the end of the day you have to do what is best for business. For now, this trade fails to pass the sniff test.
Heartbreak and confusion are two emotions that die-hard fans of sports have grown accustomed to. The revelation is that many fans will relieve tons of stress if they let go of the bond they have with the organizations they love. Unfortunately for most fans, that is impossible. We love to cheer, complain, curse, and as sad as it is to admit, even cry. Philadelphia is a town filled with these types of fans. They label themselves passionate to cover up what they really are, crazy. While Chip Kelly is in charge now and has a vision of building a certain “culture” within the Eagles organization, there is one very important factor that should keep him up at night. While Kelly is viewed as crazy by the NFL world, if his plan does not work he will have to deal with a completely different level of crazy: that of the Philadelphia Eagles’ fans.