On its face, the Eagles’ decision to dump head coach Chip Kelly after two good seasons and a bad one makes little sense. A good coach is one of the hardest things to find in the NFL, and it’s usually a bad idea to get rid of a coach after just one down year. That logic doesn’t really follow in Kelly’s case, though, because this crappy season is a product of Kelly’s machinations in both the coaching and the personnel departments. The vividness of Kelly’s fingerprints on this messy Eagles team is what cost him his job, and it’s his botched handling that’s left the team without a clear path forward.
Where the Eagles once had a high-scoring, lightning-fast offense—primarily made up of players Kelly inherited from the previous regime, of course—they now have a sputtering machine. The receiving corps is toothless, the offensive line is shambolic, Sam Bradford is Sam Bradford, and the former best running back in the league is now an unproductive malcontent. Whatever Kelly’s grand roster experiment was supposed to amount to, it definitively failed, and now the Eagles have to find someone who can clean up the mess.
Whoever takes Kelly’s place will have a lot of big decisions to make right away. Bradford will be a free agent this offseason, and the former No. 1 overall pick is still just as mystifyingly mediocre as he was during his stint with the Rams. A guy who has previously failed to make good on his potential in two systems isn’t the most inspiring choice at quarterback going forward, but the Eagles don’t have many other options aside from striking gold in the draft.
DeMarco Murray presents an even trickier set of options. The patchwork offensive line certainly made life difficult for Murray, but the former workhorse was also thoroughly outplayed by fellow running backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Given that Murray’s vote of no confidence reportedly had a lot to do with Kelly losing his job, the Eagles certainly seem committed to building the offense around Murray going forward. That’s a fine idea if all Murray needs to get back to his All-Pro form is a new system, but if all those carries in Dallas really did cost the 28-year-old his strength and burst, the running back situation is just going to get more muddled next season.
Then there’s the defense, which has Byron Maxwell’s terrible contract tied to it like an anchor, and the deeply uninspiring receiving corps to be tended to. At least when Kelly was around, there was a sense that all those not-good players were part of a grand schematic, and could eventually become good if Kelly’s plan was given time to take shape. But a 6-10 record in a historically weak division robbed Kelly of any leeway, and now, instead of being a team with bad players and a weird plan, they are just a team with bad players.