(Chip Kelly, DeMarco Murray photos courtesy of Philadelphia Eagles)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
If you’re looking to point fingers in the Rise and Fall of Chip Kelly, start with Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie. He’s the guy who gave Kelly the keys to the store, then watched him burn the place down.
Yeah, I know, Kelly had a modicum of success in Philadelphia. He won more than he lost, and he went to the playoffs once. But he purged the roster, failed to turn the game on its head with his “revolutionary” approach and made enemies the way McDonald’s makes hamburgers.
In the end, he was Otter to Lurie’s Flounder in the movie “Animal House,” explaining how the shiny new car Flounder let him borrow wound up totaled.
“You screwed up,” Otter said. “You trusted us.”
In a nutshell, that’s what happened here. Jeff Lurie screwed up.
What Kelly did to the Eagles others before him have done after leaving college for the pros – only Lurie wasn’t paying attention. He believed, like Dan Snyder did with Steve Spurrier … and Wayne Huizenga did with Nick Saban … and Arthur Blank did with Bobby Petrino, that Kelly not only would change his team’s fortunes but make it a model for success.
And, at first, it seemed as if he could. Kelly went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons, making the playoffs in his first year on the job. But then came 2015 when Lurie gave Kelly what he wanted … what he demanded … and the results speak for themselves.
The Philadelphia Eagles stink, and look no farther than GM Chip Kelly for an explanation. He made so many bad moves that by mid-season it was apparent that not even Chip Kelly the Coach could bail the Eagles out.
They weren’t just inept. They were a disgrace, and Kelly couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize it – insisting as late as this week that he didn’t think they were a bad football team. Instead, he believed that somehow, some way, he could overcome the mess he created because … well, because he was the guy with all the answers.
Except he wasn’t. The Eagles continued to flounder, make mistakes and lose, while Kelly continued to insist everything was OK. But nobody was listening anymore. And if Kelly wasn’t going to acknowledge the sinkhole he created, Lurie would.
Sooner or later, Kelly had to go … and Lurie chose sooner.
If there was a surprise, it wasn’t in the firing. It was in the timing. I’m not sure what anyone gains by pulling the plug on a coach with one game left. But that Lurie would swallow $13 million in guaranteed money tells you how intolerable the situation must have been. This had more to do with just losing, and don’t say you weren’t warned. Jeff.
I know, there are collegiate coaches like Pete Carroll and Jimmy Johnson and Jim Harbaugh and Bobby Ross who excelled at the next level. But successes like theirs can blind owners to a fact of life, which is that there are just as many — if not more – misses waiting to happen on college campuses than there are successes, with Kelly the latest example.
He was to Lurie what Spurrier was to Snyder — the best coach money could buy. Except he wasn’t. And neither was Saban. Or Petrino. Or Chuck Fairbanks, Mike Riley, Lou Holtz and Dennis Erickson. All were successes in college and failures in the pros, and there’s a lesson there, people.
Be careful what you wish for.
The most successful collegiate coaches are used to getting what they want, and that’s authority. They serve as coaches, GMs and owners of their collegiate programs, and the more those programs succeed the more coaches believe that nothing or nobody can stop them.
Until, of course, they do.
Look, I don’t fault Lurie for taking a flyer on Kelly. But I do fault him for granting him absolute authority when there was absolutely no reason. Lurie’s been around long enough to know coaches don’t make good GMs … unless, of course, they have Tom Brady at quarterback.
And Chip Kelly didn’t.
But if you’re going to blame someone here, don’t make it Chip Kelly. He wasn’t a great head coach, and he stunk as a GM. But it was Jeff Lurie who empowered him when he didn’t have to, and it was Jeff Lurie who – like this new breed of owners – was impatient and couldn’t wait on results.
So let’s just call this one as it is. Jeff Lurie screwed up. He trusted him.