Plenty of Work to Do

For Eagles brass, releasing Chip Kelly was the easy part.

The surgery is complete. The Eagles’ affliction has been removed, and the patient has begun its rehabilitation. But not even the most accomplished physician can predict whether the procedure will be successful. There are too many variables to consider, beginning with the brain trust charged with choosing Chip Kelly’s successor.

While Maximum Leader heads off to Cleveland, San Francisco or the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to accept the Nobel Prize for overall intelligence, the Eagles must find a coach capable of leading them back to NFL relevance. For the past three years, the team’s pro football personality has been based on its scheme, rather than its success. The next coach must create a system capable of thriving in all NFL climates, not just those made more comfortable by a brisk tempo. In other words, Kelly’s successor has to be someone who understands how football is won in this league—with stout defense, a physical running game, a diverse passing attack that includes downfield weapons, and an ability to gameplan successfully. In other words, all the things the Local Side didn’t have during the past three seasons.   

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The problem is that those charged with choosing the next coach do not inspire great confidence among the agitated Eagles fan base. After all, it was Jeffrey Lurie who hired Kelly in the first place, ignoring history and placing premiums on entertainment and a coach who could “revolutionize” the sport. Kelly was no Vladimir Lenin. Instead, he set the franchise back with his ill-advised personnel moves and college approach. Can Lurie, Howie Roseman—newly freed from the equipment closet—and Tom Donahoe choose the right person?

Place your bets.

The real reason for concern lies in the immediate rehabilitation of Roseman, who was deposed in last winter’s coup that gave Kelly full control of football operations. How could Lurie, who decided it was proper to install Kelly at the top of the personnel hierarchy, restore Roseman’s influence when he so quickly eliminated it during last off-season? It makes no sense.

Yet, here we are, with a GM devoid of real football experience and a consultant—Donahoe—whose recent football resume entries don’t include any affiliation with successful teams. Sounds like a great situation, doesn’t it? The two of them couldn’t even figure out that it was more important to improve the team’s draft position a few spots than win a meaningless game against the Giants on Sunday. Trusting them to make the right choice for head coach is risky.

The list of potential candidates has started to grow, with names like Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, Bengals’ OC Hue Jackson, Detroit defensive boss Teryl Austin, Carolina DC Sean McDermott and even New Orleans head coach Sean Payton among the proposed candidates. The next coach could be one of them, or he could be a surprise entrant. But one thing is certain: Lurie/Roseman/Donahoe had better not choose a college man—even if he’s a combination of Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant and Eddie Robinson. That strategy just doesn’t work.

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Whoever takes over on the sideline must contend with a roster that lacks the talent necessary to contend. Upgrades are needed along the offensive line, in the receiving corps and in the secondary. There’s the question of whether Sam Bradford should return and if the linebacking corps can be fixed easily. It’s going to be hard to convince a top talent to sign up for this assignment with a front office led by someone whose track record is mediocre.

If Lurie had the sense to hire a legitimate NFL GM to make his coaching choice, Eagles fans would be more confident that Kelly’s replacement will be capable of leading the team to a Super Bowl—which, in the end, is the goal.
Instead, it’s up to Roseman. And let’s be honest—that’s not the best news. Give Lurie credit for having the fortitude to jettison Kelly. But by re-installing Roseman atop the organizational chart, he lessened the chances that the next coach will have the resources necessary to win big, no matter how good he is.

In other words, the patient remains in extremely critical condition.

EL HOMBRE SEZ: Villanova shot 62 percent in its win over Xavier and 68 percent Saturday night to beat Creighton. That’s impressive marksmanship, but no team can be that accurate all the time. The Wildcats must keep improving their defense and interior play to grow into serious contenders by March Archbishop Carroll’s boys hoops team may have dropped a tough 50-49 decision to powerful St. Benedict’s (N.J.) last week, but the Patriots are 9-1 and still dangerous. Circle next Sunday’s trip to Roman Catholic on your calendar, and get ready for a classic.

OUsted Eagles Coach Chip Kelly

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