Eagles owner Jeff Lurie says that as a coach you must “open your heart” and value “emotional intelligence.” Would Vince Lombardi have lasted as long in Philadelphia as Chip Kelly?
“You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie maintains. “I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence. I think in today’s world, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed.”
No style automatically succeeds. Pete Carroll allows players to blare rap music during one of his weekly practices. He won a Super Bowl. Woody Hayes ordered one of his own players to remove his helmet so he could hit him, physically attacked numerous journalists, and infamously punched a Clemson player who dared to intercept an Art Schlichter pass. Hayes, not an EQ genius, won five national titles.
Players complained that Chip Kelly put them in pads the day before games. Brandon Boykin, now with the Steelers, noted that Kelly would not say “hi” or offer any acknowledgement when they passed in the hallway. DeMarco Murray remained as ignorant as the rest of us when Kelly kept him out of practice during preseason, suggesting communications issues. Eight-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Jason Peters allegedly pulled himself from a game last week because he didn’t want to play for Kelly’s team with the playoffs out of reach: “I’m not going to get hurt for this.” LeSean McCoy painted a picture of a coach not wanting his players to overshadow him. McCoy, and Stephen A. Smith, set off a sports-radio debate on whether Kelly jettisoning talented black players such as Boykin, McCoy, and DeSean Jackson pointed to racism on the coach’s part.
“He wants the full control,” McCoy, now with Buffalo, famously assessed this spring. “You see how fast he got rid of all the good players. Especially all the good black players. He got rid of them the fastest.”
Ultimately, Chip Kelly the general manager betrayed Chip Kelly the coach. He sent McCoy, the perfect back for his system, to Buffalo, and signed DeMarco Murray, a better back than McCoy—just not for this system. He exchanged Nick Foles, a quarterback who succeeded in Philadelphia, for Sam Bradford, a quarterback who failed in St. Louis. Bradford failed in Philadelphia. As Dan Leberfeld offered in a Kelly postmortem at Breitbart Sports, “During his tenure with the Eagles, he test drove myriad quarterbacks, including Mike Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. He couldn’t find a true answer. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. There is no way around it.”
Kelly’s dictatorial style raised fewer eyebrows when he went 10-6 in his first two seasons. But things fell apart for Kelly when his team fell apart in the standings. And as a general manager he assembled a team based more on how guys clicked with him than on how they clicked with one another on the field. When the chemistry fails, blame the chemist. The Eagles played erratically. That’s on Chip Kelly. His team quit on him in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Ten days later they beat the defending Super Bowl champions. It’s the coach’s job to bring out the best in his players every week. Kelly did a poor job of that this season. One needn’t possess Einstein’s IQ, or even Jeffrey Lurie’s, to grasp that EQ, or a lack thereof, did not give Chip Kelly a losing record this season.