After three years, the Chip Kelly Era in Philadelphia has come to an end, and while Kelly’s time as the Eagles’ Head Coach was brief; it saw success, disappointment, and a whole lot of headlines.
Kelly came to the Eagles in 2013 after the team cut ties with long time coach Andy Reid. Coming in, there was a lot of hype and excitement surrounding the debut of Kelly’s “Oregon Offense” in the NFL. While it proved to be successful in the college ranks, it was time to see what the high-paced offense could do at the highest level.
In Kelly’s inaugural season in Philadelphia, his Offense proved to be very effective. The Eagles finished with a 10-6 record, good enough to win the NFC East. The new and improved offense was ranked 2nd in the league and allowed playmakers like Lesean McCoy and Desean Jackson to thrive. McCoy led the league in rushing, and Jackson ranked 9th in receiving. Philly also found what looked to be a franchise quarterback in Nick Foles, who in just 10 full games threw for more than 2,800 yards, 27 Touchdowns and just 2 Interceptions.
The Eagles were now loaded with young, explosive weapons, and had a new offense that allowed them to thrive, and after a rough 4-12 the year before, there was new life in Philadelphia.
But then the controversy began.
In March of 2014, Desean Jackson, the team’s best Wideout, was cut. Of course, there was a ton of debate surrounding the decision. The Eagles were reportedly concerned with Jackson’s off-field issues such as bad attitude, missed meetings, and even possible affiliation with gang members. Kelly would later deny that these were the reasons Jackson was cut.
Regardless of the reason, Jackson was gone, and there was a huge hole to be filled on offense. In attempt to replace Jackson, Philly would draft wide receiver Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt.
Although Jackson was gone, 2014 was off to a great start for the Eagles. Through 7 games Philly was 5-2 and in contention to repeat as NFC East champs. Everything was looking great until their week 9 matchup with Houston. The game resulted in a win for Philly, but it also saw them lose Nick Foles late in the 1st Quarter with a left shoulder injury. The injury ended Foles’ season, which started with him throwing for 2,000 yards in 7 games.
Now, it was Mark Sanchez’s turn to lead the offense. Sanchez had been signed that offseason, and proved he could be trusted as the team’s quarterback, winning 3 of his first 4 starts. Philly was now 9-3, tied with Dallas for the division lead heading into week 14. Unfortunately, a disappointing 1-3 finish not only meant losing the division, but missing the playoffs all together.
Despite missing the playoffs, Chip Kelly had solidified the idea that his offense could be effective at the highest level, and with Foles expected to return in 2015, there was still a lot for Eagles fans to look forward to.
Shortly after the 2014 season ended, Kelly took control of the team’s personnel department and, let’s just say he made some very interesting decisions.
On March 4, 2015, Kelly made a very surprising trade the sent Lesean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for Linebacker Kiko Alanso. Alanso was coming off of a monster rookie year, and the Eagles defense definitely needed help, but there were certainly other ways to strengthen the Defense than to trade away one of the league’s best running backs.
Just six days later, Kelly made headlines once again by trading Nick Foles to St. Louis in return for Sam Bradford. Foles was coming off of a very impressive 2 years in Philly that would have been even better had his 2014 not been cut short. Bradford was coming off of torn ACL’s in back-to-back seasons, causing him to miss 9 games in 2013, and all of 2014.
Finally, just three days after the Bradford trade, Kelly signed Demarco Murray. Murray had a monster 2014 in Dallas, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards. After 2 head scratching deals, the Eagles at least had a star in their backfield once again.
In addition to these moves, Kelly also let Wide Receiver Jeremy Maclin (1,300 yards in 2014) leave for free agency, released Guard Evan Mathis and Defensive End Trent Cole, and signed Tim Tebow only to then cut him after an impressive preseason.
With a lot of questionable moves and many critics, the pressure was on Kelly to lead the Eagles back to success in 2015.
With just 1 game remaining in 2015, it’s hard to call this season anything other than a major disappointment. Not only did Kelly’s front office moves fail, but so did his entire on-field product. Kiko Alanso missed 5 games this year due to injury, and his production has dropped severely. Sam Bradford has put up respectable numbers, but the team is just 6-7 in his 13 starts. Demarco Murray has to be the biggest disappointment of all, rushing for more than 100 yards just once this year. His play has been so bad that he has been all but completely factored out of the offense, receiving just 26 carries in the last 4 games combined.
For the team as a whole, it hasn’t been much better.
The Eagles started the season 4-4, and with Miami, Tampa Bay, and Detroit being their next 3 opponents, it wasn’t crazy to think the Eagles could be 7-4 and in control of the NFC East going into week 14.
After their week 9 bye week, Philadelphia is 2-5.
Week 10 saw the Eagles blow an early 13 point lead en route to a 20-19 home loss to Miami. Weeks 11 and 12 saw Philly get outscored a combined 90-31. Losing 45-17 to Tampa, and 45-14 to Detroit. Following the two historically bad losses, Philly would then go on to beat New England and Buffalo in back to back weeks. The Eagles were now 6-7, and although they in no way deserved it, they still had a shot at winning the NFC East. Even after a brutal 40-17 home loss to Arizona, if Philly could win their next 2 games, they would be NFC East champs.
Chip Kelly’s final game as Head Coach of the Eagles was a 38-24 home loss to the Washington Redksins. With the win, Washington won the NFC East, and eliminated the Eagles from contention. The embarrassing turnover filled performance saw Philly get badly outplayed, and didn’t make the Eagles’ decision to fire Kelly all that surprising.
Chip Kelly couldn’t have asked for much more after his first season in Philadelphia. 10-6 record, NFC East title, a playoff appearance, and a roster loaded with the perfect weapons for his offense. Rather than leave it all alone and allow a solid core of players to form, Kelly insisted on doing things his way, not just on the field, but also with personnel.
Not one move Kelly made in 3 years proved to be successful. In fact, almost all of them were complete failures. With a 26-21 overall record, Kelly certainly wasn’t a horrible on field coach, but his need to constantly make personnel changes and have his way turned out to be his downfall. The Philadelphia Eagles fan base will certainly remember the Chip Kelly era, but unfortunately not all of those memories will be good. While there are many ways to summarize Kelly’s time in Philadelphia, this tweet from former Eagle Emmanuel Acho does it perfectly: