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A look back at Chip Kelly – and why he failed

The 2012 season was a very different time in the NFL. Washington, Seattle, New England and Denver were all in the playof



  The 2012 season was a very different time in the NFL. Washington, Seattle, New England and Denver were all in the playoffs, Minnesota and Green Bay faced off in Week 17 with heavy playoff implications, and the Philadelphia Eagles were looking for a new head coach. So not really all that different, although it should be noted that the two teams who contested the Super Bowl that season, San Francisco and Baltimore, are now picking at a very different stage in the draft. In the college game, the Oregon Ducks were the number two ranked team in the country, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota and head coach Chip Kelly, finishing the season with a Fiesta Bowl win. After parting ways with long-time coach Andy Reid, the Eagles moved to bring in Kelly and agreed terms in January 2013, among interest from the Bills and the Browns. At this point Howie Roseman, the team’s General Manager, ran the draft and free agency although Kelly did have the say so on the final 53 player roster. 2013, Kelly’s first season in the NFL, was a qualified success. A high powered offense, with the emergence of quarterback Nick Foles, managed to take Philadelphia to the playoffs with a 10 – 6 record. The real headlines were grabbed, however, by the methods employed by Kelly and his staff – A focus on fitness and sport science in order to ensure that the Eagles’ players were in shape to keep up with the system that their new coach was employing. Although the season ultimately ended in the disappointment of a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints on a last second field goal in the Wildcard round, the consensus was that the team was in good shape to build into a contender. In 2014, the team signed quarterback Mark Sanchez in free agency, traded for New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, and allowed receiver DeSean Jackson to walk as a free agent, ultimately signing with the Eagles’ division rivals Washington. The last move was particularly divisive, and was one of the first hints that not all was right in Philly. Alleged gang ties supposedly caused a rift between Jackson and Kelly, and talk both at the time and since would suggest that it was Kelly’s decision to let Jackson leave. On the field, all seemed to be going well by the halfway point of the season, with the Eagles sitting at 6-2 and looking good, with the play of running back LeSean McCoy in particular turning heads. All seemed sunny, until Nick Foles broke his collarbone in the week nine clash with the Texans. Sanchez, although not terrible, managed a 4-4 record, including losing to Washington and Dallas, which ultimately cost the Eagles their place in the playoffs. The offseason of 2015 is where the story gets murky. Kelly, after some wrangling, and ongoing allegations of racial tension in the locker room, assumed Howie Roseman’s responsibilities as GM, with Roseman himself taking a less involved role, only looking after contract extensions and the salary cap. Consensus in the last 24 hours or so is that his activities as General Manager are what got Kelly fired. The three big moves that will live in infamy are trading away Nick Foles for Sam Bradford with Saint Louis, sending a 2015 fourth round draft pick and a 2016 sixth rounder for a 2015 fifth as part of the package. On the same day, in a rare player for player trade, the Eagles acquired former Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso from Buffalo in exchange for LeSean McCoy – arguably Philadelphia’s most popular player, and one of their most productive offensive weapons. Free agency saw the arrival of 2014’s rushing champion DeMarco Murray on a 5 year, $42m deal after he left Dallas. Being brief on Murray, because his 2015 has already been the subject of a lot of talk and scrutiny throughout the year, and with good reason – He has underperformed massively, being outplayed by Darren Sproles and Ryan Mathews, another offseason acquisition. Just to compare numbers, in 2014, Murray rushed for, 1,845 yards on 392 carries, starting all 16 games. In 2015, Murray has played in five games, started three, and rushed for 633 yards on 71 attempts. Last year, his YPC stood at 4.7, this year it is at 3.4. Discontent with having to share carries with Sproles and Mathews, Murray has, according to some claims on social media, been very vocal in his criticism of Kelly, and this may have been a factor in Jeffery Lurie’s decision. The two big trade acquisitions have something in common. Something very important. Neither played in 2014 due to ACL injuries. Bradford in particular has a history of injury, and has missed four games in 2015 with a concussion. Alonso aggravated his repaired knee in the week two game with the Cowboys, and missed the rest of the first half of the season. There are some who have accused Chip Kelly of having a Messiah complex, believing that he can take injury prone players and keep them productive. Either way, injuries, overpaying for players such as Byron Maxwell, and questionable decisions in allowing players such as Jeremy Maclin to leave, have all contributed to the product on the field simply not being good enough. Bradford hasn’t produced the in the way a number one overall pick should, Murray hasn’t produced at all, and Kelly now leaves a mess in Philadelphia the size of which has rarely been seen since the cracking of the Liberty Bell. It would be unfair to suggest that Chip Kelly’s tenure was another college gimmick that brought nothing to the NFL. His focus on science, which was surprisingly not as prevalent as could be expected, is something that should endure, and his high speed offense is something that when executed correctly (see – not this year) can prove effective in wearing down opposing defenses. There is talk of Kelly staying in the NFL, possibly reuniting with Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. Mariota, of course, has a lot of experience of playing in a system like the one Kelly brings with him. Another landing point posited is Cleveland, which would be interesting to see. Both may well have new General Managers, however, who would take heed of what occurred with the Eagles and may deem him too much of a risk. Whatever comes next for Chip Kelly, the last three years have brought entertainment and drama. Although his time in Philadelphia has come to an end, his career certainly has not.  

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Pete Hallifax

I'm a fan of all sports, but cover NFL here. Nobody was more shocked than I was that the Patriots won Super Bowl 51.

A look back at Chip Kelly – and why he failed

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