PHILADELPHIA – It is a fair point: The same search team that resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles hiring Chip Kelly is now going to interview candidates for Kelly’s replacement. So how can anyone expect better results?
There is another way to look at it, though. The men who hired Kelly – Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, president Don Smolenski and general manager/vice president of football operations Howie Roseman – might be exactly the right people to get the process right this time. They learned firsthand the dangers of being seduced by the flashiest candidate.
Kelly was a phenomenon, a guy who had come from nowhere (well, New Hampshire) to take college football by storm from his outpost at Oregon. He represented a football revolution – sports science, unusual training programs, a gimmicky no-huddle offense – more than just being a solid coach.
Look at the other candidates Lurie and his team interviewed in 2013: Jay Gruden, Mike McCoy, Gus Bradley, Lovie Smith, Brian Kelly, Mike Nolan, Keith Andrews, Brian Billick. None of them had that glittery aspect. They were all perfectly solid coaching candidates.
It was a big coup for Lurie to lure Chip Kelly to Philadelphia. But Lurie pronounced the grand experiment a grand failure by giving Kelly a quick hook earlier this week. It is reasonable to expect that Lurie, Smolenski and Roseman will be reluctant to reach too far from the NFL norm for their next head coach.
Especially Roseman. Instrumental in attracting Kelly, Roseman soon found himself on the outs with the head coach. A year ago, Kelly told Lurie how he wanted to structure the Eagles’ front office. Roseman was out of the loop, but he stayed with the organization.
The challenge this time will be for Roseman, personnel man Tom Donahoe and the new coach to work together to draft and sign quality players. That challenge has not been met in the past, but the Kelly experience should help Roseman to avoid a similar reversal.
“I think the best approach is a real collaborative approach,” Lurie said. “In this case with Chip, I think there were some very good reasons to be bold about what he wanted to be able to accomplish and do. However, going forward, I think a much more collaborative approach between player personnel and coaching is the way to go. And that's the direction we would go.
“In terms of the front office and the executives and all that, Howie Roseman will remain as executive vice president in charge of football operations. Tom Donahoe will run the day-to-day player personnel department, which is a crucial hire in a crucial position in terms of player personnel. Howie will be responsible for making sure our player personnel department is as good as it gets in the NFL and be accountable for that, and that's pretty much the way it would go.”
The best franchises in the NFL have general managers who work well with their head coaches on personnel decisions. Whether it’s GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians in Arizona or GM Dave Gettleman and coach Ron Rivera in Carolina, the relationship works best when egos are not an obstacle.
The Eagles achieved that balance when Andy Reid and Tom Heckert worked together smoothly from 2001 to 2009. That arrangement produced five trips to the NFC Championship Game in eight years.
The Eagles have not won a playoff game since that partnership was broken up. They have a new chance to build a functional organization. The hope is that the mistakes of the past will inform the actions of the future.