Can Philadelphia Eagles Lead Chip Kelly Down Mike Holmgren’s Trail?

2 of 5

Oct 19, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly checks the wind direction before a game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly General Manager

Ignore the moves that happened before January 2015. Let’s focus on the team in the Chip Kelly era.

There were several moves by the team this season, moves that we can use to gauge the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of Chip Kelly as the general manager. I won’t consider the NFL draft, because much of that depends on who is available when the team is picking. I won’t consider injuries, as they are that random chance event which every team must overcome. There are three areas that we can look at, in depth:

Team Depth, Players signed and released, Salary cap and player extensions

Team Depth

The Philadelphia Eagles are not an exceptionally good team this season, as evidenced by their 6-8 record.  When the season began, the team was interested in retaining the services of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, in addressing the quarterback position, and it improving their defensive backfield.   Secondary concerns was the workload at running back on LeSean McCoy, the concerns of returning both Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans to health, and the aging offensive line which needed an infusion of young talent.

Jeremy Maclin was lost in free agency, as the Eagles were outbid by former head coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chip Kelly GM grade?  C –

The quarterback situation was addressed, by trading starting quarterback Nick Foles and a 2nd round pick for the services of the last year on his contract Sam Bradford at $13,000,000.  Last year Nick Foles fell out of favor with the fan base as he tossed 14 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions, and was sacked nine times in just eight games.   This season, in eleven games, Sam Bradford has tossed 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and has been sacked 22 times.   The most discernible difference is the salary:  Foles earned $770,800 for the Eagles in 2014.   Bradford is earning $13,000,000. Other than that? We now have a first round quarterback who plays… like the guy we got rid of.  To make matters worse, we only have him for a year.
Chip Kelly GM grade?:  D+

The defensive backfield was addressed. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are gone. In their place, the team signed the top rated CB on the market with Byron Maxwell, a cornerback converted to safety Walter Thurmond, a low cost cornerback in E.J. Biggers, and then drafted cornerbacks Eric Rowe and JaCorey Sheppard. This year, so far, the team has generated 15 interceptions, already three better than the entire 2014 season.  The team gave up 272 yards passing per game last year and a quaterback rating of 85.8, while this year they have improved to 244 yards per game and a quaterback rating of 83.2.   This is after the team had faced Tom Brady and a very hot handed Carson Palmer.  In 2014, the defense was the 28th rated defense in the NFL.    This season they have improved dramatically to 17th.
Chip Kelly GM grade?:  B +

LeSean McCoy’s workload was addressed.  The team traded McCoy for a long-shot belief in the returning to health of linebacker Kiko Alonso and his one season of success for the Buffalo Bills.  The move did not adequatly address the linebacker needs of the team – as they already had two veterans returning from an injury, and merely added a third questionmark to the rotation.   The team wisely continued to focus on the linebacker position during the draft when they picked up Jordan Hicks.   Despite going down to injury, Hicks really helped out the Eagles when linebackers were unable to play.
With this move, the team placed a position of strength into a position of desperate need.  Alonso was a huge gamble, the types of gambles that can earn respect for a head coach, but who garners chortles as a general manager.
Chip Kelly GM grade:  F-

The Eagles were experiencing an aging offensive line.  Still capable, the team merely had to draft a player or two who could play behind the veterans, learn the position, and then fill in when they earned the start.  Instead, the Eagles cut both starting offensive guards, did not replace with anyone in free agency, and did not draft any players for the offensive line.   Doing nothing, the team would have at least had time to bring players along.  By cutting both Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis, the team gambled once more and lost.  Salary cap savings?  Perhaps.  But dollars in the pocket do not help restore the offensive line to its optimal capacity.
Chip Kelly GM grade:  F-

Why go through this rock throwing exercise? Simply to demonstrate that the Philadelphia Eagles are not improved, have not made better player decisions, and are not improving. The balance of power between a general manager and a head coach has skewed to a point of Kelly’s approach of today at the expense of tomorrow. Not only are the Eagles not performing as well ON the field, but this off-season will have a list that will be much longer than typical for an Eagles off-season.

So the goal appears to be to sever the roles of Chip Kelly – keep him as the head coach and release him from his general manager responsibilities. Has it ever been done before? Yes.

Next: Mike Holmgren