PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chip Kelly was treading through a minefield during the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2015 season. The third-year head coach just didn’t know it.
He had given a simple ultimatum to Eagles’ owner Jeffrey Lurie in January 2015: He needed all of the power in the organization to win. That meant the power to move and shake up the roster.
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.
Lurie has a reputation among players and throughout the NFL as a quality owner, and for the most part, a hands-off one. But something had been brewing in the longest-tenured Eagles’ owner and a change had to be made if the Eagles failed to make the playoffs.
For the first two years, winning hid a lot of Kelly’s personality foibles.
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 not listening to anyone but himself, and it led to backward decisions.
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Kelly very much wanted to be like New England Patriots’ coach and future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick. The problem was, Belichick has been to six Super Bowls to get away with his boorish antics, and serve as lord curator of a miserable work environment. Kelly couldn’t.
Lurie wasn’t willing to put up with it.
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.
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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.”
Lurie reluctantly gave Kelly all of the authority, and what bothered Lurie was how Kelly discarded almost all of the Eagles’ personnel staff as useless, including Howie Roseman — who’s done more in a week to rectify many of the damage Kelly did in three years.
Lurie considers his team to be a family. Though publicly Kelly espoused “culture, culture, culture,” his was hardly a fully inclusive culture. To the contrary, Kelly’s Little Lord Fauntleroy act inside the NovaCare Complex cultivated a more grating culture than anything else.
So when the Eagles were officially eliminated from the playoffs after the Eagles’ 38-24 loss to Washington on Dec. 26, Lurie felt compelled to boot Kelly three days later, a decision that may have actually been made months before.