Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie reportedly had contemplated firing Chip Kelly months before he did


The divorce between former Eagles, now 49ers head coach Chip Kelly and his first NFL organization was a staggering one at the time. With one week left in the 2015 regular season, team owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to cut ties with Kelly after the team was eliminated from playoff contention the week before. Kelly's final season as head coach seemed to be teetering on the brink of disaster since the opening week and it seemed as if falling out of the postseason race with a week to go was the last straw for Lurie. 

Less than a year before Kelly's firing, Lurie had given over what amounted to absolute power of his organization from a personnel and team management standpoint to the coach. An apparent power struggle between Kelly and GM Howie Roseman had resulted in a series of events that removed Lurie's most trusted individual in the organization from the team management position he had worked so hard to attain, and elevated the coach to as high a position as any in the NFL. 

Having compiled a pair of ten-win seasons, Kelly appeared as if he had built up enough credibility to make this type of power grab. He went on to wield this newfound clout to the tune of one of the more eventful, even by Eagles standards, offseasons as he constructed a roster he felt would help him contend for a Super Bowl. The better part of Kelly's decisions turned out to be misguided, as his team sputtered throughout the year and could not duplicate the type of success shown in 2013/2014. 

According to Joseph Santoloquito of CBS Philly, Philadelphia Daily News and PhillyVoice, there may have been considerable build-up towards Kelly's firing from Jeffrey Lurie. 

Privately, Lurie had his reservations as to whether or not Kelly knew what he was doing. Compounding that were the tremors Lurie was hearing throughout the NovaCare Complex about how cold and abrupt Kelly was. It didn’t help that Kelly wasn’t exactly Mr. Warm and Fuzzy. So in Lurie’s head, it appears, he carried a silent ultimatum of his own, months before the 2015 season, according to a few sources close to the Eagles: make the playoffs or fire the coach.

Kelly's personality was no mystery to those who followed the team. Several cast-offs from years prior noted his rather icy demeanor and how it affected the locker room over the grind of an NFL season. Still, Kelly was able to produce results over his first two seasons as an NFL coach. The veritable 'straw that broke the camel's back' appears as if it may have had something to do with one of those former Eagles whose relationship with Kelly was well-documented: LeSean McCoy

What apparently may have swayed Lurie that Kelly had to go, according to sources, came in the Eagles’ 23-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 13, 2015. It marked the return of the Eagles’ leading rusher LeSean McCoy vs. the player he was dealt for — the injury-prone, underachieving linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Lurie was watching from the owner’s box, bristling. Kelly had wanted Alonso, and here Lurie was witnessing the guy the Eagles traded for unable to tackle the player Kelly got rid of. It made Lurie question what Kelly was doing. That may have been the last straw. It was a reminder that Kelly was listening to anyone but himself and it led to backward decisions.

With another title-less season having been solidified and major concerns over the direction of the team, Lurie had an opportunity to stop the bleeding, so to speak, before the problem compounded even further. 

30 unnamed NFL players not on the Eagles, who think very highly of the Eagles as an organization, said things about how the Eagles—and especially Lurie—treat their players, and if they were free agents they would consider signing with the Eagles. A predominant portion of that same group, however, said that they wouldn’t have considered Philadelphia if Kelly was still the head coach.

On a whole, they say word of mouth spreads fast among NFL players. Many of those players stated Kelly had established a stand-offish personality and many repeated the same phrase, “He’s not an NFL coach, and doesn’t get pro players.”

There's no way of telling whether or not the Eagles would have been able to execute the same types of personnel moves they have this offseason if Kelly were still at the helm. Money talks in this league and he used quite a bit of it to build key components of last year's roster. Two of those high-priced players: DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell have already been shipped elsewhere and many are praising the work that Roseman, back in a position of personnel control, has done to clean up the mess left behind. Chip Kelly's time in Philadelphia was one of the more tumultuous, albeit entertaining in Eagles history. It seems as if Jeffrey Lurie recognized that as well and wanted to put a stop to it before things spiraled out of control. 

Somers Price is a contributor to Eagledelphia.com and can be followed on Twitter @somersprice

Go to top button