Abruptness of Chip Kelly's firing is stunning

MANY ISSUES spring out of the stunning news that the Eagles fired head coach/general manager/god of football Chip Kelly on Tuesday night.

My first thought as a media member who routinely endured Kelly's superiority complex was that he must have been an even bigger jerk than his public persona clearly indicated.

This move was so far out of character for Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. He has rarely, if ever, been reactionary in his more than two decades of owning the Birds.

Everything, sometimes to a fault, seemed to be thought out, evaluated and re-evaluated before a decision was reached.

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So for Lurie to connect with his inner Daniel Snyder, fly off the handle and dump Kelly with a game remaining indicates how many migraines the coach must have given him in his not quite three seasons in Philadelphia.

For Kelly, who posted a 26-21 record and won a division title in his first season, to get sacked like this hints that this wasn't just a business transaction, but also something a little personal.

Lurie has always displayed great patience with his coaches, never making a move in-season.

Rich Kotite, whom Lurie inherited as head coach, got to lose his final seven games before getting a pink slip at the end of the 1994 season.

After a 6-9-1 season, Ray Rhodes was allowed to go 3-13 before Lurie fired him.

Lurie's adopted son, Andy Reid, had to go 12-20 over his final two seasons before the plug was tearfully pulled on him.

Apparently, Lurie could not stomach a final week of Kelly, and had human resources give him a call to welcome in the new year.

"I spent the last three seasons evaluating the many factors involved in our performance as a team," Lurie wrote in an email to fans that also was posted on the Eagles' website. "As I watched this season unfold, I determined that it was time to make a change."

Still, I'll let the folks who covered the Eagles on a day-to-day speculate about the interpersonal relationships of Kelly, because they would know more about that than me.

What intrigues me about this is, what now?

On merit, Kelly's firing can be justified. The team has digressed each season, going from the NFC East champion in 2013 to a nonplayoff, 10-6 team in 2014 to a 6-9 team that lost a must-win home game to Washington on Saturday that eliminated the Birds from playoff contention.

Still, when you consider how much of this organization Lurie invested in Kelly and how big Kelly's handprints are all over everything that goes on at NovaCare Center, you understand how huge this is.

This is not just some joke about smoothies, sleep monitoring, and big people beating up little people.

This is taking North Korea on Tuesday and asking it to become California on Wednesday.

Lurie capitulated to Kelly and granted the former Oregon coach his every whim, with a desperate hope that he would be the coach to finally capture that elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy for this Super Bowl-starved city.

This year alone, Lurie sided with Kelly against Lurie's prized protege, Howie Roseman, in a power struggle that turned Roseman into a glorified numbers cruncher who was shipped to the far side of the NovaCare Center, away from the football action.

With complete control of football decisions, Kelly went about reshaping the Eagles in his image by trading running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Nick Foles.

He let Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin walk in free agency and cut such veteran players as offensive lineman Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans and linebacker/defensive end Trent Cole.

Kelly dealt Foles and a second-round pick in a gamble that oft-injured Sam Bradford was the quarterback he needed to move his offense to the next level.

He paid big free-agent dollars to running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell.

About the only thing Lurie did not let Kelly do in the last three years was change the Eagles' color from midnight green back to Kelly green, and that might have been only because Chip didn't ask.

The results speak for themselves - a 6-9 record, with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur coaching the season finale at the New York Giants on Sunday.

This, however, is not the simple firing of a coach or general manager.

The Eagles are the sum of Kelly's manipulations.

With him fired, the reconstructing will first require untying a tightly pulled triple knot.

From the "culture" in the locker room to the playcalling on the field, Kelly ran a unique system and handpicked his players to fit it. You don't just pull the plug on that without having complications that will be difficult to overcome.

This is similar to what Larry Brown did when he had control of the Sixers at the turn of the century. As grand pooh-bah of basketball, Brown constructed a team that only he could coach. After he abruptly bailed out, the Sixers spent a decade wandering in mediocrity. The current state of the franchise is still connected to Brown's autonomy to have been able to do whatever he wanted with the Sixers.

Given Kelly's influence over the makeup of the organization, Lurie & Co. will have to be spot-on in their next move or it will not be hard to imagine the Eagles going through a similar nightmarish transition.

With Kelly gone, the real questions are just beginning for the Eagles.


smallwj@phillynews.com