After holding on to coach Andy Reid for fourteen years (from 1999-2012), the Philadelphia Eagles were quick to cut the cord on the Chip Kelly experiment. Kelly lasted in the big chair a measly three seasons, and was fired yesterday, meaning he won’t even finish his third year in Philadelphia.
For each of his first two seasons, Kelly’s Eagles finished 10-6, a record that would usually earn a team a playoff spot. Instead, the Eagles missed the playoffs at 10-6 last season, but there was still reason for optimism. Kelly was thirty-two games into his NFL coaching career and held a .625 winning percentage.
For reference, coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots holds a career .666 winning percentage, and Belichick is considered to be one of the greatest coaches of all-time. So Kelly was undeniably on the right track.
Now, six wins and nine losses later, Kelly finds himself without a job.
Even after being called racist by former players, or merely likened to a dictator, Kelly still has a lot of options. The most obvious choice would be the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are expected to release interim-coach Mike Mularkey, and their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, is one of Kelly’s favorite players from their days together with the Oregon Ducks. The Titans are young on offense and expectations are reasonably low for the next season or two, meaning Kelly would be able to coach with less pressure.
NBC Sports also mentions the Cleveland Browns as a possible landing spot for Kelly, though the Browns would have to part with coach Mike Pettine first. Helping those rumors is the fact that Kelly has previously shown an interest in Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Kelly told Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer “I absolutely want to coach in the NFL,” so a return to college would be surprising. Still, it might make the most sense. Last season, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was fired after clashing with management over personnel decisions, much like the speculation of the rift between Kelly and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. Harbaugh left for the University of Michigan, where he holds complete control of the program.
Kelly, who was adamant about gaining control over Eagles personnel decisions last summer, might prefer to be back in college where he could have that absolute control he so desperately seeks. Ducks fans, though, don’t seem eager to see Chip on their sidelines once again.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have promoted Pat Shurmer to interim head-coach for the remaining game on their schedule, a road game against division-rival the New York Giants. Shurmer has experience, having coached with the Cleveland Browns, but holds an abysmal .281 winning percentage.
It’s clear that the Eagles don’t view Shurmer as the long-term answer. Their problem doesn’t end with coaching however. The Eagles, as currently constructed, are built for Kelly’s system. The team will have to be torn down and rebuilt, a familiar sight for fans who saw the same thing when Reid left.
Under Kelly, the Eagles parted ways with many of their best players. Running-back LeSean McCoy was traded before this season, and clearly held resentment against Kelly. In March of 2014, the team released star wide-receiver DeSean Jackson, a move that still makes little sense. Before this season, they failed to make a real effort to re-sign receiver Jeremy Maclin who has over 1,000 yards and 7 TDs through Week 16. After being rated as the best guard in football by Pro Football Focus for three straight seasons, Evan Mathis was cut from the team after a contract dispute. Not all of these moves were definitively “good” or “bad,” but it’s clear that Kelly was too quick to move on from franchise-cornerstones.
In a sport where a bad season or two can cost a coach his job, forty-seven games and that’s all she wrote for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles.