His scheme may be near-infallible, but Chip Kelly’s long term NFL future remains murky.
Coming off two 10-6 seasons and with a promising third beginning, Kelly has a lot to be happy about. But when the Philadelphia Eagles hired him in 2013, the former Oregon boss had no shortage of doubters. Kelly boasted no NFL pedigree and had developed an offensive scheme the pros had only seen in increments or variations until then. As it turns out, we (yes, myself included) could not have been more wrong.
Chip Kelly’s system didn’t just translate to the NFL, it was (and is) quarterback proof. Nick Foles made his only Pro Bowl with a dozen games’ work, Mark Sanchez suddenly became a stat stuffer and Sam Bradford just might have a season worthy of the number one draft choice that he is. Moreover, after two years of mediocrity, Billy Davis‘ defense looks like it can meet Kelly’s offense half way this year. In short, the Bird Gang’s ringleader has respectable results and a legitimate chance at glory on his side. So why are his days numbered?
It may not be this year, or the next, but Chip Kelly will have his fall from grace and it won’t be because some neo-Buddy Ryan will have concocted a defense that’ll make Kelly’s scheme look like it was hatched in his parents’ basement in New Hampshire. It will be because sooner or later, Eagles players will get tired of playing for a guy with Lurch’s people skills.
Since taking over Howie Roseman(aka NFL Joe Dumars)’s general manager duties, Kelly has traded running back LeSean McCoy and nickel corner Brandon Boykin to the Bills and Steelers, respectively. Following his surprise forced exile, McCoy claimed his former coach was disposing of “all the good black players.” The all-time Eagles rushing leader even put the kabash on Frank Gore‘s signing with the team, counseling Gore to take his talents elsewhere. As for Boykin, the corner told the media he didn’t think Kelly was a racist, but pointed to his inability to relate to his players on a personal level.
A few months ago, another Eagles player anonymously added some clarity of his own, saying his coach viewed players as a commodity. Although McCoy‘s beef is legitimate from a football point of view, the sum of these three accounts does not add up to a racist, it amounts to a coach who holds his scheme a little too sacred.
Look at the coaches featured on Hard Knocks. Whether it’s Mike Zimmer or Rex Ryan, coaches who produce while knowing when to take the boss hat off get rewarded with the often elusive gift of longevity. Those who treat 53 grown men like nothing more than chess pieces get locker room mutiny and their walking papers.
Although coaching careers ultimately live and die by wins (or lack thereof), results may not be enough for Kelly to keep his job. Former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh took his team to two NFC Conference finals and a Super Bowl in his first three years at the helm. He left the NFL this year after finishing his fourth season with an 8-8 record. While the details of his hightailing it to Michigan remain murky, Harbaugh cited an antagonizing Niners’ hierarchy as his reason for going back to the NCAA.
In 2007, Marty Schottenheimer was fired after coaching the Chargers to a 14-2 record. You read that right. Like Harbaugh, Schottenheimer clashed with management after GM AJ Smith failed to preserve his coaching staff. While Chip Kelly, as Director of Football Operations, has more clout in his building than Harbaugh or Schottenheimer did in theirs, his fanatic belief in his formula could eventually turn into a Billy Beane experiment gone wrong. In others words, Kelly could become a victim of his own brilliance.
Of course, Chip Kelly could bring Philadelphia its first Lombardi trophy, which would afford him Tom Coughlin-sized leeway and prove me wrong. If not, then either his scheme will be made obsolete by sheer evolution of the game or his team will get tired of playing for a drip and self-destruct. Either path bears the same outcome: his exit.
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