The two-year anniversary of Chip Kelly’s hiring in Philadelphia is 13 days away.
For an hour or two yesterday afternoon, there was some fear that January 16 could arrive with the innovative Eagles coach elsewhere, fed up with dysfunction in the Eagles front office and friction with now former general manager Howie Roseman.
Plugged-in league source senses there could be “something big” going on in Philly in the aftermath of Tom Gamble’s departure.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 2, 2015
Back at Oregon people have heard how upset Chip Kelly is and how he wants out of Philly w/3yrs left on his deal, can he rattle enuff chains?
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 2, 2015
Thankfully everyone across the Delaware Valley can take a nice, deep breath.
The Eagles in their tweet used the verb “elevated” to describe Roseman’s new role. Perhaps he will get a new coffee machine in his office, a bigger desk, a shiny new nameplate, and a higher salary, but he lost control of the one thing he always aspired to do — Be an NFL GM.
Kelly wrestled it away from him, and as the coach has done so many times in his brief but eventful two years, once again raised expectations for himself and the team he coaches and now runs completely.
More than fast-paced offenses or sport science techniques, quickly raising expectations has been the overarching theme of Kelly’s rookie and sophomore NFL seasons.
For as pumped as I was when Kelly was hired, a lot of folks might be surprised to learn that I envisioned a scenario where he might not make the playoffs until Year 3. As I wrote a week ago, Andy Reid left his roster in absolute shambles, and Kelly was tasked with cleaning up a mess on the fly.
I predicted the Eagles would go 7-9 or 8-8 in 2013, a very respectable improvement from 4-12 under a first year coach. I assumed they would improve by another game or two this past season, and then really make their big move in 2015.
The idea that they could immediately go from a 4-12 punching bag to a 10-6 playoff team was farfetched to say the least, and no other 2013 coaching candidate would have been able to do it, including Bruce Arians, who like Kelly has had back-to-back double digit win seasons in Arizona but also only one playoff appearance due to a deep NFC.
It happened though, of course, in another example of Kelly raising the bar faster than even most of his biggest believers could have anticipated.
When he opted for a flawed but experienced Michael Vick over a — at the time — unproven Nick Foles, expectations were immediately raised with the idea that maybe the Eagles could compete in a wide open NFC East.
When Kelly unveiled his offense to a national audience on September 9, 2013 with Vick running it flawlessly en route to a 33-27 win over the defending NFC East champion Redskins, expectations were raised again.
The following week, some reporters who had covered him at Oregon claimed he would take the league by storm and win 11 or 12 games in his first season.
They were a game off, but when Vick inevitably suffered an injury in the fifth game of the season and folks realized that Foles could play, expectations quickly shot up again.
Nothing may have increased expectations more than the division title in Year 1 though. While still a couple rungs below the Seahawks, the Eagles were tossed around as a darkhorse Super Bowl candidate this past summer, and for three months, that looked pretty spot on.
The 23-point Thanksgiving victory in Dallas raised hope even more.
Brief setbacks sometimes followed the raised optimism though. The three game losing streak in 2013 after the opening victory, the back-to-back home losses to the Cowboys and Giants last October that produced a total of three offensive points, and of course, the mini collapse this past December.
All of those slight bumps were quickly countered though, and that is what Kelly did again yesterday.
There is no more ambiguity as to who has final say on certain personnel matters. We thought we knew before, but there is no doubt now.
If the Eagles fleece another team in a trade and acquire a player the caliber of Darren Sproles or Cody Parkey, Kelly gets all the credit. If the Eagles draft another version of Marcus Smith, who cannot play, in the first round, Kelly shoulders the blame.
We know Kelly can coach after consecutive 10-win seasons. We are pretty confident he can evaluate talent based on his four years at Oregon. We will soon find out whether or not he can draft.
During his tenure so far, the Eagles have had one really good draft, which played a large role in their quick turnaround, and one bad draft, which hindered them from making more progress in Year 2.
Let’s hone in on the 2014 draft and the Smith pick for a second. No one knows who had final say on that inexplicable decision, but yesterday’s reshuffling gives me more belief that it was Roseman who made the final call there.
For as much as Kelly wanted to have his best players on the field last Sunday to win, I find it odd that he wouldn’t allow Smith to see the field a little bit if he was planning on walking into Jeffrey Lurie’s office demanding more power against one of the owner’s closest allies and had to hold himself accountable for a first round rookie gone wrong.
More than likely, Roseman, who was decent at his job but also made his share of mistakes, made the pick and Kelly realized it couldn’t happen again if the Eagles were going to take the next step from a good team to a great team.
This April, it is Kelly’s show to run. Time will tell whether or not that is a good thing, but expectations will only grow.
Be it a free agent splash, releasing a productive veteran player,
mortgaging future draft picks to move up high enough to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, or something else, the momentum will not stop.
Whether he will acknowledge it or not, raising expectations is what Kelly has always done — at New Hampshire as an offensive coordinator, at Oregon as first an offensive coordinator and then a head coach, and at Philadelphia as first a head coach and now in charge of player personnel decisions.
With great power comes great responsibility — and greater expectations.