Has Chip Kelly Lost His Freakin’ Mind?
In the past two weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles have overhauled their roster in a manner never before seen.
And the man calling all the shots: head coach Chip Kelly.
He traded away the franchise’s all-time leading rusher in LeSean McCoy. He sent quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams. And he failed to meet the contract demands of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
So what exactly is Kelly’s plan? Is he a visionary who’s not afraid to gamble? Or does he have no idea what he’s doing?
Eagles fans have been scratching their heads, wondering just what is going on with their team. Below, we answer 10 big questions this flurry of moves raises.
1. What do you make of the Nick Foles/Sam Bradford trade and the quarterback situation?
Tim McManus: Big gamble here. Foles went 14-4 as the starter under Chip Kelly and has thrown 46 touchdowns to 17 interceptions to kick off his career, including his historic 27-2 showing in 2013. Sam Bradford, a former No. 1 overall pick, is coming off back-to-back ACL tears and hasn’t lived up to expectations in his five years in the league.
The bet Kelly is making is that Bradford stays healthy (with a little help from the team’s sports science program) and flourishes in Philly’s quarterback-friendly offense.
There are similarities between the system Bradford ran at Oklahoma — where he captured the Heisman Trophy — and the one Kelly has implemented here. The quarterback believes this offense fits his skill set perfectly.
The scheme should help him, and maybe Kelly can tap into Bradford’s full potential. But there is a good deal of risk involved.
And, of course, there is an outside chance that this is all part of a bigger plan to move up in the draft to snare Marcus Mariota, which could help make all this madness look pretty brilliant.
2. What do you think Kelly’s overall plan this offseason is?
Sheil Kapadia: That’s the million-dollar question. When the LeSean McCoy trade went down, I thought Kelly’s plan was to use the Eagles’ financial resources to improve the defense and let his scheme take care of the offense. But given the additions of running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, that does not seem to be the case.
Kelly clearly wants to find players who fit his vision. Back in January, owner Jeffrey Lurie gave him full control of personnel, and Kelly has taken advantage with some very aggressive moves. It’s unheard of for a 10-6 team to let go of its starting quarterback, running back and No. 1 wide receiver in a matter of a couple weeks. But that’s what Kelly did. Often, a roster overhaul takes shape in a coach’s first year on the job, but it seems former general manager Howie Roseman still had influence the previous two off-seasons.
Kelly seems obsessed with two things: finding players who fit his system and finding players who fit his culture. This offseason has been about getting more of those guys in his locker room so that the organization can build a foundation for what Kelly hopes will be a Super Bowl contender.
3. Who is the face of the franchise?
Tim McManus: Without question, it’s Kelly now. The most recognizable players — DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Foles — are all gone. The roster is in the process of being completely overhauled. Eventually, players like Bradford and newly-acquired running back DeMarco Murray could move out in front. For now, the brand revolves around Kelly and his sleek, up-tempo and unconventional operation.
4. What is the safest jersey for fans to buy for their kids?
Sheil Kapadia: This question actually gets brought up often. My suggestion? Buy a throwback! Get your kid a Brian Dawkins jersey, or go even farther back to Randall Cunningham, Jerome Brown or Chuck Bednarik. Those guys are not getting traded. They’re not going to sign with another team. Their legends will only grow.
If your kid demands a current player, there really are no obvious choices. Fletcher Cox is a great player, but he’s a somewhat obscure defensive lineman. Running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell have yet to take a snap with the team. And, well, there’s really no reason to even consider buying a Riley Cooper jersey.
5. Is Kelly too reliant on scheme over talent?
Tim McManus: He is confident in his offense, no doubt about that. What other coach would part ways with the bulk of his top playmakers in a matter of two offseasons? You don’t do that unless you have a strong belief in yourself and your system.
Asked about the head coach’s approach, former Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans opined to 97.5 The Fanatic that when it comes to skill position players outside of quarterback, Kelly believes “the system will take care of it.” Brian Westbrook recently echoed that sentiment.
I think there is some truth to that statement. At the same time, Kelly does value talent. He followed up the McCoy trade by signing Murray — the league’s leading rusher last year — and Ryan Mathews to join Darren Sproles in the backfield. I think it comes down to this: Kelly is not star-dependent when it comes to his offense, and is looking for players that are not only gifted but are fits for both his scheme and desired culture. He wants all heads pointed in the same direction, and if you crane your neck in doubt, there’s a good chance you’re not long for this team. The potential issue is that it’s difficult to find 53 talented, like-minded individuals. Oftentimes, the most elite players march to the beat of their own drums. Does Kelly allow enough for those types of personalities?
6. Is Philadelphia a desirable destination for players?
Sheil Kapadia: I think it is, but it’s a fair question to ask. Jeremy Maclin, for example, opted to go to Kansas City to play for Andy Reid. Granted, money was the biggest factor there, but other players like Green Bay’s Randall Cobb and New England’s Devin McCourty stayed with their teams and took less money because they liked the fit.
There was a Fox Sports report that said one of the reasons running back Frank Gore chose not to sign with the Eagles was because of Kelly’s “overbearing” approach. But then the team landed free agents like DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell.
Kelly has some unorthodox methods. Most teams, for example, don’t practice on Tuesdays. The Eagles do. And there’s also a sports science initiative that requires players to fill out questionnaires about their health every day. That’s appealing to some, but not to others.
Money is generally the biggest factor in where guys sign, but it’s true that Kelly isn’t for everyone (see: DeSean Jackson).
7. What do you think Jeffrey Lurie thinks of all this?
Tim McManus: The Eagles owner was very clear at the end of the season that he intended to keep Howie Roseman — a top confidant — as general manager. Kelly made a power play a short time later, and Lurie acquiesced and agreed to remove Roseman from the personnel department while handing full control to Kelly. The original design — which had Roseman as a major player in the draft and free agency process and Kelly in charge of how the 53-man roster is shaped — was intended to create checks and balances within the front office and encourage collaboration. Those checks and balances no longer exist. I don’t think Lurie is a huge fan of the way things went down, but knows that a happy, invested Kelly gives this team the best shot.
8. What’s the general vibe of the fan base now with Kelly?
Sheil Kapadia: I think the fan base is split. One faction sees that he’s parted ways with Jackson, Maclin, McCoy and Foles and wonders whether Kelly actually has a plan. The team missed out on the playoffs last year after a late-season collapse, and Kelly still has not figured out the quarterback situation.
But there’s another group that has adopted the “In Chip We Trust” philosophy. Those fans see Kelly as an innovator and a visionary. He has strung together back-to-back 10-6 seasons after the Eagles went 4-12 in 2012. The offense has been fun to watch, Kelly is unpredictable, and when he speaks, he often has fascinating things to say.
My overall sense is that fans believe Kelly can coach but are skeptical about his prowess in other facets of the job like constructing a roster and evaluating talent. One thing is for sure: The franchise has never been more interesting.
9. What is Howie Roseman’s role in these moves?
Tim McManus: Not sure Roseman would have signed off on all of these decisions, which is probably one of the reasons Kelly pushed to have him out. Roseman is in charge of negotiating the deals and making sure everything works from a salary cap standpoint.
The Roseman-Kelly relationship is one to keep and eye on. From what we’ve gathered, things weren’t great prior to this shakeup. How good could they be now, considering Kelly played a role in removing Roseman from his dream job? The two still have to work together to build this team. There has to be a certain trust and respect level in place if this set-up is going to work and work well. There’s reason to be skeptical about the arrangement.
10. How long do you think Kelly will stick around?
Sheil Kapadia: This question cuts to the heart of why a segment of the fan base is so apprehensive about the recent moves. If things don’t work out for Kelly, he can bolt and go back to college without thinking twice. The fans, meanwhile, are stuck with this franchise for life. That’s just how it works in Philadelphia.
I might be in the minority, but I think Kelly will be here through the remainder of his contract (three more seasons). I don’t think he misses recruiting or dealing with college boosters or NCAA violations. I think he likes the challenge of facing the best of the best and playing competitive games every week.
There’s no doubt he has a love for parts of the college game, but I don’t think Kelly is headed back there soon. Oh, and while he seems to be motivated by more than money, the $6.5 million per year doesn’t hurt either.