Less than a year after giving Chip Kelly full personnel control in addition to his head coaching duties, the Philadelphia Eagles announced they’ve fired their head coach.
And with that, one of the NFL’s biggest experiments is over, before Kelly even completed his third season.
Kelly came from the University of Oregon and was a bold hire because he had no NFL experience. He had an innovative offense that was a huge success in college. His first two seasons ended with 10 wins each, so it was hard to argue his system wasn’t working. This season wasn’t as successful, and the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs with Saturday night’s 38-24 loss to the Washington Redskins. That dropped the Eagles to 6-9, and had some blowout losses along the way.
ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reported that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted to strip Kelly of his personnel control, Kelly resisted, and that led to the firing.
There have been rumblings all year that Kelly might get fired or leave for a college job, but ownership had been quiet about his status. Recent wins over the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills — along with all the high-profile college coaching jobs filling up — seemed to indicate that Kelly would be around for another season.
But the Eagles announced on Tuesday night that it was over and Kelly was done, effective immediately.
“We appreciate all the contributions that Chip Kelly made and wish him every success going forward,” Lurie said in a statement.
The team said Pat Shurmur will be interim head coach for the Week 17 finale. Ed Marynowitz, vice president of player personnel, was also let go, the team said. Tom Donahoe, former Bills GM, will assume the role of senior director of player personnel, the team said.
Despite a 26-21 record, the criticism of Kelly was harsh and constant this season, and most of it went back to his personnel moves in the offseason.
— Philly Daily News (@PhillyDailyNews) December 30, 2015
Kelly traded fan favorite running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who has been hurt for parts of this season. He traded quarterback Nick Foles and a second-round pick for quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been inconsistent. He signed running back DeMarco Murray to a big deal, and Murray proved to be a bad fit for the offense and saw his role in the offense shrink dramatically. Other moves, like giving cornerback Byron Maxwell a huge free-agent contract, not re-signing receiver Jeremy Maclin or cutting guard Evan Mathis, haven’t worked out that well either.
It’s surprising how impatient the Eagles were with Kelly after his first bad season. Only seven of 32 teams posted double-digit wins in 2013 and 2014, and the Eagles were one of them. But it seems now Kelly will go down as another Nick Saban or Steve Spurrier, a great college coach who is considered an NFL bust. It will be interesting to see if he ever resurfaces in the NFL, considering a 26-21 record isn’t a disaster and he was in high demand after leading Oregon to a Fiesta Bowl win at the end of the 2012 season.
When the Eagles hired Kelly, it was an unusual move in terms of the typical way NFL teams operate. NFL teams hire hot coordinators or retreads, mostly. They rarely hire coaches from college who run a non-traditional scheme, and almost never hire someone with no NFL experience. That’s what made Kelly such an out-of-the-box hire.
Don’t expect another NFL team to make a similar hire for a long, long time. The Eagles’ big experiment didn’t work out.
Lurie released a letter on Tuesday night through the team’s site:
I have made a decision to release Chip Kelly this evening. I spent the last three seasons evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team. As I watched this season unfold, I determined that it was time to make a change.
As we move forward, the search for a new head coach will begin and will be led by myself, Don Smolenski and Howie Roseman. To the extent that we are able, we will try to keep you informed as we go through this process.
Pat Shurmur will be our interim coach for the Giants game Sunday.
We have also released Ed Marynowitz, vice president of player personnel. Tom Donahoe, who has been our senior football advisor since 2012, will assume the role of senior director of player personnel.
I am determined and excited to select a new coach to help us obtain our ultimate goal.
Thank you for your consistent and enthusiastic support. It is always appreciated.
Chairman and CEO
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