Inside Voices: Kelly And the Balance Of Power

(Photo courtesy of USA Today)

(Photo courtesy of USA Today)

Jeffrey Lurie designed the power structure so that the proper checks and balances were built in.

When he hired Chip Kelly, he set it up so that both the head coach and general manager Howie Roseman would report directly to him. He decided to give Kelly final say on the 53-man roster to even the scales, he said, which would suggest Roseman had heavy influence over the draft and free agency.

“It made sense to balance the player personnel and head coaching, and empower them both, and force a complete collaboration,” Lurie told the Inquirer last September. “That was the strategy behind it. You didn’t have to force it. Happened naturally.”

Kelly seemed on board with that concept. At his introductory press conference, he said that he wasn’t looking for full control and had little interest in owning various titles.

“I just want to coach football,” he said.

His reach has extended well beyond the x’s and o’s, of course. Kelly watches college film on Saturdays during the season and hits the road (often with vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble) in the offseason. By all accounts, he attends more Pro Days than any other head coach in the league.

Roseman spearheads the draft process and there is a host of quality personnel men searching for talent year-round, but it’s impossible to ignore the Kelly influence over the past two drafts.

“We haven’t really gotten there,” Kelly said, when asked who has final say over draft choices. “I think everybody wants to know that, like really what happens in there. But it never gets to that point. I think we look at it, analyze it and kind of come to the same conclusion. But I haven’t yet sat there and I want him and he wants him and then, you know, are we going to box for it?”

Up until recently, the Eagles’ higher-ups had presented a unified front when it came to the personnel process. But when one of his players came under fire a couple weeks back, Kelly put on the gloves for the first time publicly.

The head coach was asked about the idea that the team was contemplating demoting Nick Foles prior to his injury. An report suggested that some people within the organization — including Roseman — had “soured” on Foles. One source for the story was quoted as saying, “I think Howie is looking at quarterbacks.”

Kelly went off script with his response.

“I don’t know where that stuff comes from,” he said. “I know this, I know I control the roster. And I think you guys can say first-hand, I don’t talk to anybody. So whoever says they have a source in terms of what’s gonna go on with roster maneuvers or people going up and people going down, they never talked to the right person because that comes from me, and that never was the case.

“I’ve got great faith in Nick, and I think he’s a hell of a quarterback, and I think sometimes he gets banged too much, but I wish there was more people like Nick Foles in our lives.”

If nothing else, it was a show of authority by Kelly in the name of protecting one of his players. It can also be looked at as a small peek behind the curtain at what’s going on inside the NovaCare.

There have been persistent rumblings about shifting dynamics behind the scenes: Namely, that Kelly and Roseman’s relationship has cooled and that the collaborative process between coach and general manager is not where it once was (Kelly and Gamble remain tight, per sources).

Kelly’s clout within the organization is growing as his methods continue to bear fruit. There is a shared optimism internally that this head coach has what it takes to deliver the city its first Lombardi Trophy. From designing schemes to running  an efficient, culture-conscious program, Kelly has delivered in a number of areas. When it comes to the draft — an area that Roseman performed well in when he assumed command in 2012 —  Kelly’s level of prowess is less defined. The more control he gains, the more he will be held responsible for successes and failures in every facet of the operation.

In all, the organization has flourished so far under Kelly, whose fingerprints are all over this thing, from blueprint to construction to day-to-day operation. While many are contributing to the ongoing building process, there is little doubt where the bulk of the power lies. And that seems like a departure from Lurie’s intended design.