Jeff Lurie stood at the lectern in the NovaCare auditorium in late December of 2015 and made an admission.
His bold hire of Chip Kelly was a flop.
Not just that, but Lurie finally explained his reasoning for elevating Kelly from his role as a head coach to a head coach with personnel power in Year 3. Basically, Lurie wanted to go all in, knowing that if it didn’t work, he’d make a change.
“There was really no choice in terms of maximizing Chip without him having the levers, so to speak, of making those decisions,” Lurie said after firing Kelly in 2015.
“That’s where it was at. Either you were all in or you should find a new coach in terms of the trust. The choice was let’s see if that’s going to work. In terms of the results, part of that’s the reason we’re here today.”
As we look back at the last decade of Eagles football — and it was a wild one — there isn’t a single decision that has shaped the franchise more than Lurie’s decision to hand the keys to Kelly.
So as 2019 winds down, I was asked to come up with one hypothetical “what if?” question pertaining to the Eagles. To me, the top one is a no-brainer.
What if Chip Kelly was never given personnel control?
Kelly doesn’t flip the roster
Kelly got into power and immediately went full fantasy football mode. Think about all the major roster decisions he made that offseason:
-He traded away LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso
-He traded away Nick Foles for Sam Bradford
-He signed DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Walter Thurmond, Mark Sanchez, Miles Austin
-He released Evan Mathis
-He drafted Nelson Agholor, Eric Rowe and Jordan Hicks to start the 2015 draft
None of that happens aside from maybe a few of the draft picks.
Roseman doesn’t spend his year away
If Kelly never took over personnel control, Howie Roseman would have never spent his “year away” as he’s called it since. But that year gave Roseman some much needed perspective. When he took back power, he was aggressive in undoing some of Kelly's mistakes but also in completely reshaping the roster.
Think about all of the major roster moves Roseman made that offseason:
-He traded away Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray and released Riley Cooper
-He extended core players like Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson and Malcolm Jenkins
-He signed free agents Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod and Nigel Bradham
The Eagles don’t get Carson Wentz
But Roseman’s master stroke of that 2016 offseason was to move from 13 to 8 to 2 in the draft to take the Wentz from North Dakota State. This was his most aggressive move of that offseason and it was a concerted effort to find the next franchise quarterback. Roseman learned that the team would never get over the hump without that top quarterback.
If Kelly was never given personnel power, he probably would not have been fired. And Wentz would have been drafted elsewhere.
Think about this: If the Eagles didn’t trade up to draft Wentz, the Browns didn’t seem to want him at 2. The Chargers, at 3, still had Philip Rivers. At No. 4, the Cowboys took Ezekiel Elliott but that offseason, dating back to the Senior Bowl, the Cowboys really liked Wentz. He wowed them at his combine interview. The Cowboys ended up taking Dak Prescott in the fourth round, but maybe they would have taken Wentz. Could you imagine that? Wentz in a Cowboys uniform? Heck, maybe the Eagles would have drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round.
Eagles don’t get Doug Pederson
The most obvious thing that would have happened if Kelly didn’t get personnel power is that he probably would have remained the head coach for longer. It has always seemed like Chip Kelly the de facto GM got Chip Kelly the coach fired. And if Kelly doesn’t get fired, the Eagles don’t hire Pederson … at least not in 2016.
Of all the moves in the wake of Kelly’s firing, the decision to hire Pederson was probably the most important. He brought some life back to the building and completely changed the culture.
Hiring Kelly and giving him personnel power two years later was a disaster. But it was a disaster that led to a lot of good things. Maybe this is a little too “butterfly effect” for you, but the decision to give Kelly the keys back in 2015 flipped the first domino in a chain that took the Eagles to incredible heights.
To put it simply: The Eagles would not have won the Super Bowl if it never happened.
So one of the worst decisions in Eagles history led to one of the most euphoric moments in the history of Philadelphia. Go figure.
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