Jeff Lurie discusses risks that came with ex-coach Chip Kelly's vision
Calling 2015 "one of the most disappointing seasons" in his 21 years as owner, Lurie said he evaluated the team's 6-9 record as well as its "trajectory" and concluded that an immediate change was needed. A year ago, Lurie gave Kelly full control over personnel decisions.
"There was a risk involved in allowing Chip to have that kind of say over player transactions," Lurie said. "However, risk/reward -- sometimes the risks don't work. In this case, they didn't." Lurie said the team will go forward with Howie Roseman, the general manager who lost his authority to Kelly a year ago, as executive vice president of football operations. Roseman will work with Tom Donahoe, the longtime NFL executive whose title will be senior director of player personnel.
Roseman, Donahoe and Kelly's successor will make personnel decisions in what Lurie termed a "collaborative approach." "In this case, with Chip, I thought there were very good reasons to be bold about what he wanted to be able to accomplish and do," Lurie said. "Going forward, I think a much more collaborative approach between player personnel and coaching is the way to go. That's the direction we'll go." Lurie said he made the decision to terminate Kelly on Tuesday because he wanted to get started on the process of finding a new coach. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will serve as interim coach for the season's final game against the New York Giants. Lurie said he hasn't ruled out Shurmur or any members of the current staff as candidates.
Kelly told Fox Sports on Tuesday night that he didn't fight Lurie's decision to fire him. Kelly also told Fox Sports that he wants to stay in the NFL rather than return to college coaching.
Lurie said he would consider college coaches and retired coaches as well as current NFL head coaches and assistants. Lurie, Roseman and team president Don Smolenski will head up the search committee.
Kelly, 52, was hired by the Eagles with great fanfare in 2013. He had been head coach at Oregon for just four seasons, but had built a reputation as an innovator -- both for the way he ran his uptempo offense and for the sports science-based way he ran his program.
After first turning the Eagles down, Kelly called Lurie back and said he had decided to make the jump to the NFL. He arrived in Philadelphia facing high expectations and almost immediately lived up to them.
Kelly's first game as head coach was a Monday Night Football contest against the Washington Redskins. Using their no-huddle offense, the Eagles amassed 443 yards and won the game, 33-27.
While managing a quarterback change after Michael Vick pulled a hamstring, Kelly went 10-6 and won the NFC East title in his first season. LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing, and quarterback Nick Foles was named offensive MVP of the Pro Bowl.
The Eagles lost a home playoff game to the New Orleans Saints, but Kelly appeared well set up going into 2014.
The Eagles were 9-3 through their first 12 games in 2014, with Mark Sanchez replacing Foles after Foles broke his collarbone. From there, they lost three consecutive games and were eliminated from the NFC East race.
Kelly decided at that point that he needed a new quarterback. He talked with Lurie about restructuring the organization to integrate the coaching and scouting staffs. Lurie responded by removing Roseman from the football operation and giving Kelly full control of personnel decisions.
Kelly responded with an aggressive overhaul of the Eagles' roster. Gone were Foles, McCoy, cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. They were replaced by quarterback Sam Bradford, running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, cornerback Byron Maxwell and safety Walter Thurmond.
The new-look Eagles lost their first two games to Atlanta and Dallas. They got off to a 1-3 start, then battled back to 4-4 by the midway point of the season.
Faced with three consecutive games against teams with losing records, the Eagles had an opportunity to make a move in the lackluster NFC East race. Instead, they lost 20-19 to Miami, then were blown out by Tampa Bay (45-17) and Detroit (45-14).
At 4-7, the Eagles improbably upset the New England Patriots 35-28. Before that game, Lurie went around the locker room and told players he wanted them to "play angry." The next week, Lurie gave the players T-shirts that said "12 Angry Men." They responded with a victory over McCoy and the Buffalo Bills.
After the game in New England, Murray sat next to Lurie on the flight home. The unhappy running back expressed his frustration with being demoted. Murray carried the ball just eight times in the game.
Over the last two weeks, Kelly's team lost home games to Arizona and Washington by a combined score of 78-41. They were eliminated from the playoff race by Saturday night's loss to Washington.
Three days later, Lurie called Kelly into his office to discuss the state of the franchise. Lurie suggested a new structure, with a general manager who would handle the Eagles' personnel department. Kelly balked at that suggestion and Lurie fired him.
Kelly compiled a 26-21 record. He went 19-9 in his first season and three-quarters. Since Thanksgiving, 2014, the Eagles' record is 7-12.
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