Eagles CEO Jeffrey Lurie promised yesterday to immediately start searching for a replacement for Chip Kelly. This dream candidate “interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with” – the anti-Chip, basically.
But that promise basically means another heaping dose of false hope to a Super Bowl-starved fan base that runs out of patience with each passing year.
Recall: Earlier this week, Lurie deviated from his usually patient and pragmatic upper management approach by abruptly firing coach Chip Kelly with one game remaining in the season. The ouster came not even one calendar year into Lurie’s knee-jerk experiment of empowering Kelly, an NFL novice with zero front office experience, to make all team personnel decisions.
In typical Luriean fashion, the team’s longtime chairman tossed out plenty of fancy language at a next-day news conference to rationalize his decision, telling the public that a “plethora of variables” factored into his second coach firing in a three-year span.
Kelly’s pink slip wasn’t unwarranted. After two 10-wins seasons, Kelly had convinced Lurie that the only pathway to greatness involved removing former general manager Howie Roseman, Lurie’s longtime lieutenant, from the personnel picture and allowing Kelly and his own staff to handpick the team’s players.
Lurie obliged, then watch several of the coach’s most significant personnel transactions backfire in succession like a 10-car pileup on the Schuylkill. The Eagles were 6-9 going into the season finale and had lost four of their last six games by an average of 28 points.
More damning for Kelly, the front office had felt the same cold shoulder from the standoffish and persnickety head coach that several of Kelly’s players — both former and current — had described throughout the head coach’s tenure.
In overthrowing the dictator that he had empowered, Lurie re-opened the NovaCare Complex doors to his players, who no longer will have their urine tested on the regular, just one of the eerie big-brother aspects of Kelly’s sports-science-driven regime.
Lost in the clatter of the city’s collective tapdance on Kelly’s grave is that the Eagles still haven’t won a playoff game since 2008 – five years before Kelly’s arrival – and haven’t won a playoff game in their own stadium since 2006.
That’s seven and nine years, respectively, which means the Eagles – once a perennial powerhouse under former coach Andy Reid – are nearing almost a decade of mediocrity despite their “Super Bowl or bust” aspirations every season.
This downward trajectory since a 2004 Super Bowl appearance and 2008 NFC Championship Game defeat illustrates that the franchise’s problems didn’t start, or end, with Kelly.
Kelly is merely another football man whose abridged tenure here, marred by a power struggle, reminded the public that the root of this franchise’s problems start at the top.
Lurie’s curious loyalties to close confidants and Roseman’s notorious impatience with his underlings have resulted in personnel men constantly exiting the NovaCare as fast as they entered. The team’s headquarters has become a congested downtown hub for wayward talent executives, coaches and scouts.
The names change like the team’s uniform color combinations – from Joe Banner to Jason Licht, from Marc Ross to Louis Riddick, from Tom Heckert to Tom Gamble and Chip Kelly to Ed Marynowitz. Those are just a sample. There are countless others.
Some, like Licht and Ross, have found greener pastures. Licht is GM in Tampa. Ross is a top Giants personnel exec. Others haven’t. But it’s not important where they’ve landed or whether they’ve succeeded. The takeaway is that an owner who on Wednesday emphasized the vitality of a “collaborative” front office and coaching staff has enabled an environment where that concept hasn’t existed.
And now he’s reinstated the power of Roseman, who has somehow survived every power grapple along the way.
On Dec. 31, 2014, Lurie fired top personnel exec Tom Gamble – a known Kelly ally — without explanation. Two days earlier, Lurie had insisted Roseman’s job was safe. Five days later, he relieved Roseman of his GM duties and pledged total personnel allegiance to Kelly.
It didn’t even take one year for Lurie to reverse course, axe Chip and reinstate Roseman at the top of the personnel chain.
Does that sound like collaboration or, better yet, competence?
Too many people familiar with the Eagles’ front office have used the words “toxic” and “mess” to paint a picture of the franchise.
The head coaching search committee had better find someone with the patience and acumen of Reid, who somehow maintained his sanity and managed to win more games than any Eagles coach ever despite rampant front-office turmoil around him for the better part of 14 seasons.
What fast-rising head coaching candidate would come to Philadelphia and view the NovaCare as place where all parties are pulling in the same direction for the team’s best interest?
So yes. Chip Kelly is gone.
But the stain of a volatile front office remains, for now and perhaps years to come.
Geoff Mosher covered the Eagles for Comcast SportsNet and the Wilmington News-Journal.