Kelly: We Weren’t Close Last Year

Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Jairaj / USA TODAY Sports

On Thanksgiving night last year, the local fan base was feeling pretty good about its football team.

The Eagles had just hammered the Cowboys 33-10, and with a 9-3 record, the playoffs seemed like a near certainty.

But even at that point, Chip Kelly says he already knew the team had holes that needed to be addressed. The Eagles lost three of their last four, but per Kelly, it wasn’t just that final stretch that led to the dramatic offseason changes.

“I knew we had to get better as a team,” Kelly said during a session with reporters last month. “And I think in this league, it’s almost year to year. Teams don’t stay up or down, either way. …And I didn’t feel we were close at the end of the year.

“10-6, not going to the playoffs, is just like being 4-12.”

The case could be made that the Eagles needed some tweaks, not a makeover, this offseason. The offense turned the ball over too much, the line suffered devastating injuries, and the defense gave up too many big plays. But there were plenty of positives too like the front seven and special teams.

Earlier this offseason, Jason Kelce argued that missing the playoffs might have been a good thing because it forced the organization’s decision-makers to address weaknesses that might have been otherwise masked. But the truth is, Kelly would have probably made changes anyway. He’s the one watching the film, running practices and dictating the vision of the franchise. It seems clear that he’s going to be bold in reshaping the roster whenever he gets a chance, and moves will not be based solely on win/loss results.

Looking ahead to this season, it’s conceivable that the Eagles will have 10 new starters (five on offense and five on defense): Sam BradfordDeMarco MurrayNelson AgholorAllen Barbre, whoever starts at right guard, Brandon GrahamKiko AlonsoByron Maxwell, whoever starts at the other CB spot and Walter Thurmond.

Many new coaches make drastic personnel changes as soon as they are hired. That didn’t happen when Kelly took over. He went 20-12 with many holdovers from the Andy Reid era. But before Year 3, he clearly felt a major overhaul was necessary.

The topic of what Kelly wants in a player has been discussed at great length around these parts.

Asked to explain his requirements, Kelly said simply, “Someone who works hard and is passionate about playing the game.

“I think everybody’s looking for them. I don’t think anybody wants a guy that doesn’t work hard. You’d be hard-pressed to find any coach who [wants a guy] who doesn’t work hard. Some guys work harder than others. That’s just obvious. That’s in every sport, in every profession, there are people that outwork other people.”

There are the physical prototypes, and then there are the mental qualities that clearly hold a lot of weight.

“We’re looking for intelligent guys because it’s a game that takes a lot of brain power in terms of being smart football players,” Kelly said. “…There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made when you’re out there. Like I said earlier, we want a bunch of guys that love playing football, not what football gets them.”

Kelly now has full control over all personnel. He used that power throughout the offseason to add guys like Sam BradfordDeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell.

If Kelly doesn’t get what he’s looking for, don’t expect him to exhibit patience next offseason. The changes will continue until he thinks he’s found a combination he can win big with.