There is an understood road to success in the NFL that has been paved by the careers of Kelly’s forerunners; a path which Chip incessantly diverts from, but we’ve always known this. The coach’s unorthodox methods are what ultimately landed him this job and endeared him to fans. Of late, however, his moves have become progressively more difficult to defend.
The coach hasn’t said much during his tenure in Philly. What he has held firm to is this idea that “culture beats scheme.” On its face, this is a principle that any football fan can rally behind. There’s just one problem: Kelly doesn’t believe it. At least, his actions don’t bear that out.
When the Eagles cut Desean Jackson last year, they made a poor business decision. The move could only be defended under the guise of building culture. That guise was lifted last week, when Lesean Mccoy was traded. The most productive player in Eagles history (at only 26 years old) was jettisoned to Buffalo in exchange for Kiko Alonso, a player with a criminal history who is recovering from his second major knee injury in five years. And yet, there was no widespread outrage, no call for Kelly’s removal.
Whether justified or not, Lesean Mccoy deserved that outrage. He embodied everything the hypocritical masses claim to value in Philadelphia. He was local, a team player who rarely complained and most importantly, an absolute star in the NFL.
Now, the Eagles stand to lose Jeremy Maclin to free agency, adding to a list that includes Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Todd Herremans and others. These decisions were made, fans hope, to free up the cap room necessary to be aggressive when Free Agency begins on Tuesday. However, by gutting the home-grown core of a successful team and overpaying for veterans that fit his mold, Chip Kelly has, quite clearly, chosen scheme over culture.
It’s a fine point to make that the Eagles’ new director of personnel has removed all traces of a previous regime as he rounds up a flock of “his guys.” One thing that point leaves out, however, is the fact that this was all working. The roster that Kelly inherited bought in to a degree that could never have been expected. These were “his guys” as much as any Oregon alum.
More and more, Chip Kelly seems to behave as a dog chasing cars. He preaches culture and then purges it. He supports his players wholeheartedly, then deserts them. Is it possible that Chip really doesn’t know what he’s doing? Of course, it’s also possible that he practices a sort of pathological dishonesty when dealing with the media, his players, and the fans, but is that really any better?
Barring a miracle haul in Free Agency, the team will have spent a second consecutive offseason getting worse. How long do the Eagles have before their record starts reflecting that fact?