Two years ago, noted B-movie producer and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to go for the blockbuster, rather than the product with substance and staying power. He courted then-Oregon coach Chip Kelly, continuing to woo the head Duck even when Kelly turned him down.
Lurie finally money-whipped Kelly into leaving Eugene and bringing his spread offense, radical training ideas and nutritional totalitarianism to Philadelphia in the hopes of injecting some excitement into his franchise after Andy Reid’s tenure stumbled to a close. It didn’t matter that Kelly had no NFL experience at all. He was Lurie’s man. This past January, after two 10-win seasons – and exactly no playoff victories – Lurie bestowed total personnel control on Kelly, who was able to cleanse the roster of players who didn’t fit into his “culture,” which the coach had insisted won out over talent in the NFL.
After two games that included one of the most desultory performances this side of Oakland, the Eagles look like a steaming hunk of carrion, ready to be devoured by hyenas, vultures and any other second-rate predators looking for a free meal. The team has no ability to run the football, thanks to a leaky offensive line that features two journeymen at guard and a left tackle (Jason Peters) who appears to be close to the end of his Pro Bowl career. Without the ground game, the Eagles’ vaunted high-speed offensive approach is as imposing as the Republican JV crew that gets to debate before anybody shows up for the varsity affair. Kelly has said many times that his college offense is based on execution, not on a sophisticated playbook, and it now appears as if opposing defenses are intent on executing Philadelphia’s chances for scoring points.
It’s easy to pin this all on Kelly, since he has turned over the roster and is the man responsible for gameplans that seem ridiculously simple. But this is all Lurie’s fault. Had he looked for a coach with NFL experience, whether as the boss man or coordinator, it’s likely the Birds would be playing the kind of football necessary to win in the NFL. Instead, by turning the team entirely over to a college coach, Lurie has allowed the Eagles' roster to atrophy and its play to become unsuccessful and – worse, for his purposes – boring. Kelly has searched for players who will do as he says, without any question, and he has found them. The trouble is, that through two games, they don’t look very good. They may be obedient, but they can’t block or tackle so well.
How about cornerback Byron Maxwell, on whom Kelly bestowed a six-year, $62 million contract? He can’t cover anybody, and his soft, cowardly play on Dallas’ last score Sunday could well be emblematic of a team that has decided that its coach’s methods aren’t so appealing.
The Eagles head up the Jersey Turnpike to face the Jets Sunday, and a loss could be the first step in Kelly’s ouster. Don’t worry about him, though. He’ll land at Texas, USC or Miami and have plenty of success running his spread attack and making all the players behave exactly as he wants them to behave. If that happens, let’s hope Lurie has the good sense to stay away from the slasher films and gross-out movies and go for something with a little more heft to it. His next hire had better have the letters N-F-L on his resume somewhere, the better to put together an approach that can win big in the professional ranks.
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.