Eagles coach Chip Kelly: Should he stay or should he go?

Eagles have issues to fix before Thanksgiving (1:48)

Coming off their 45-17 loss to Tampa Bay, the Eagles have problems to solve before playing the Lions Thursday. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and Phil Sheridan discuss the Eagles' inside linebackers and whether Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez will start at QB. (1:48)

PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly was asked by a Detroit reporter this week if he ever considered going back to college football.

“I have a job,” Kelly replied.

That job is with the Philadelphia Eagles, who hired Kelly in 2013. He is in the third year of his five-year contract, although it is his first year with full control of player personnel decisions.

Since the Eagles got to 9-3 with a Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas last season, their record is 5-9. Meanwhile, whenever a coach at a major college program gets fired, Kelly is usually among the names floated as possible replacements.

The question is, should Kelly pull the rip cord on the NFL and parachute back to a high-profile college job? And should Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie give his coach a nudge in that direction?

Here are three arguments for and against Kelly moving on.


Reason No. 1: Those college jobs aren’t going to be as available if the Eagles continue to go downhill.

Kelly is still a hot commodity in the college ranks. An athletic director under pressure to fill a high-profile job likely would make several calls to Kelly’s agent.

That’s true now. Will it be true in one year? Two years? If the Eagles go 8-8 this season -- which would require them finishing 4-2 -- Kelly would probably still look pretty attractive to an LSU or USC. But if the Eagles go 7-9 or 6-10 in 2016, will that appeal still hold?

Nick Saban bolted the Miami Dolphins after two seasons to take his current job at Alabama. Bobby Petrino lasted only one season with the Atlanta Falcons before leaving for Arkansas.

There’s a sell-by date on hot coaching candidates, and Kelly may want to be gone from Philadelphia before he reaches his.

Reason No. 2: Kelly is no closer to having his quarterback than he was when he got here.

It was bad luck that there were no obvious franchise quarterbacks available in the 2013 NFL draft. The Eagles had the fourth pick (and used it on tackle Lane Johnson). The first quarterback taken was EJ Manuel, at No. 16. He is not starting in Buffalo.

Kelly got hot with Nick Foles in 2013. He tried to get lucky by trading for Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. He drafted Matt Barkley and signed Mark Sanchez as a free agent.

Clearly, none of those moves worked. In college, you have an opportunity every year to go out and recruit a great quarterback. In the NFL, you have to go 2-14 in the right year or otherwise get very, very lucky. Kelly is not about to wait around for that to happen.

Reason No. 3: The revolution never came.

When Lurie hired Kelly, there was a lot of anticipation about how the NFL would react to the unorthodox coach and his ways. Would every franchise in the league be installing a smoothie maker and investing in technology to monitor players’ sleep habits? Would huddling go the way of the leather helmet?

While coaches have borrowed some of Kelly’s concepts -- which is standard around the NFL -- it appears that opponents' primary reaction was to figure out how to stop Kelly’s offense. The Eagles’ offense was explosive in 2013, productive in 2014 and inconsistent so far in 2015.

In his third season as the Eagles' coach, Andy Reid took the team to the NFC Championship Game. By Year 3, Buddy Ryan was in the playoffs, and both Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes had won playoff games. Kelly does not appear likely to reach the playoffs this season, marking a two-year drought after that 2013 trip to the wild-card game.

Meanwhile, the coaches who are winning this year -- from Bill Belichick to Ron Rivera to Gary Kubiak -- are all traditional, experienced NFL lifers.


Reason No. 1: This season has been disappointing, but these things take time.

It was optimistic to assemble Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Nelson Agholor and two new offensive linemen and expect everything to run smoothly from the jump. The reality is, it takes some time for so many new pieces to come together and form a solid offensive unit.

Earlier this year, Kelly was talking about how well Giants quarterback Eli Manning was playing this season. Manning was in his second season running coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense. That, Kelly said, made all the difference.

Michael Vick started six games for Kelly in 2013. Foles started 18 in 2013 and 2014. Bradford started nine this season. Sanchez has started nine in the past calendar year.

Letting Bradford (or Sanchez, for that matter) return and grow with this group of offensive skill players may be the best thing Kelly could do. It would allow Bradford to make the same jump that Manning has made in 2015. And it would beat the heck out of starting from scratch with another coach and quarterback.

Reason No. 2: This will be a hot mess for someone else to take over.

Sure, Kelly went 10-6 with the players he inherited from Reid’s 4-12 team. But that team had a lot of proven NFL talent on it: Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox and so on.

It’s not that Kelly hasn’t retained or added some solid NFL players. It’s just that he has tried to acquire players who fit his very specific requirements for each position. Meanwhile, he parted ways with Jackson, McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Evan Mathis and other talented players.

A new coach may want to go back to a 4-3 defense, which would mean another year or two of adjustment for the defensive personnel. And a different offensive approach could require different skills from the quarterback, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and linemen.

It would not be a simple transition.

Reason No. 3: Lurie doesn’t want to become that kind of owner.

You know the kind -- the one who changes head coaches every two years, who doesn’t have the patience to build something solid.

Lurie gave Ray Rhodes four years. He gave Reid 14 years, at least two more than he probably should have. A quick hook for Kelly doesn’t seem like something Lurie would -- or should -- do.

At the NFL owners meetings, Lurie talked about the importance of finding a franchise quarterback. He was on board with Kelly’s attempt to beat the system by trading for Bradford. It was also clear that Lurie knew Kelly didn’t have access to one, either on the roster or through the draft, without getting creative.

That can be interpreted as Lurie knowing that the team won’t be winning any Super Bowls until it finds that quarterback. When that happens, Kelly is a good enough coach to get the most out of that quarterback. Until then, changing coaches will just be moving furniture around.