It will be labeled a gamble. Kelly has never played or worked in the NFL, normally a prerequisite to becoming a Super Bowl-winning coach. But Lurie obviously thought the potential for reward - finally winning a championship for a football-obsessed city - far outweighed the risk.
"Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," Lurie said in a statement. "He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team."
Lurie has taken risks before. His last head coaching hire was denigrated by many critics and fans. Fourteen seasons later, Reid, who was a little-known Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach when the Eagles signed him in 1999, was the winningest coach in franchise history.
Kelly, 49, represents a different challenge. Reid wanted nothing other than to be an NFL head coach. He wasted no time finding his next job when he was named the Kansas City Chiefs' new leader four days after being fired on Dec. 31.
Kelly, though, has made it clear that he wasn't sure that coaching in the pros was his ultimate goal. Last January, he accepted an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, only to decide hours later that he was staying in Eugene, Ore.
Despite his hesitancy, NFL teams were still interested a year later. The Eagles, Cleveland Browns, and Buffalo Bills interviewed Kelly after Oregon's victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. Kelly came into the meetings assuring the teams that he was serious this time.
However, after a nine-hour interview with Lurie, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski on Jan. 5, and less than 24 hours of deliberation, Kelly elected to stay put once again.
There were reports that Oregon alumnus and Nike cofounder Phil Knight had ponied up more money to keep Kelly. They were never confirmed.
The Nashville connection
Spurned by yet another college coach - they had Penn State's Bill O'Brien second on their list, but he, too, stayed - the Eagles moved on to Plan B. But as they went about interviewing a variety of candidates, Plan A crept back into the picture.
Two days after Kelly announced his decision, the flame was rekindled in Nashville, where the Eagles were interviewing Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly at an NCAA coaches conference.
A mutual friend of Kelly's told Roseman that the coach was not 100 percent committed to staying at Oregon.
Roseman then reached out to Kelly and his agent, David Dunn, the source said. The conversations were light at first, but they gained in intensity by Saturday when the Eagles were in Atlanta to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
In all, the Eagles interviewed 11 candidates. Bradley was the only one to gain a second interview. He flew to Philadelphia on Tuesday and met with the Eagles for six hours at Lurie's Wynnewood mansion.
Many thought the Eagles would clinch the deal then, but few knew that negotiations had heated up with Kelly. After Bradley left, the Eagles resumed talks with Kelly and came to terms on a contract late Tuesday night.
The deal was not finalized until Kelly told his Oregon players on Wednesday morning. Bradley, who would have been offered the job had it not been for Kelly's about-face, flew on to Jacksonville to interview with the Jaguars.
After informing Oregon and his players that he was leaving, Kelly flew to Philadelphia, where he was greeted by Roseman, Smolenski, a media horde, and a handful of fans about 7:30 p.m.
Although reaction to the news has been mixed, Kelly should enjoy a honeymoon with Eagles fans and the local media. Following Reid will be daunting, but after 14 seasons there was fan fatigue. It turned toxic over the last two seasons when the Eagles went a combined 12-20.
"I know there's a rabid fan base here, which is good," Kelly told NBC10 upon his arrival in Philadelphia. "I got a text on the plane that I was getting tracked like Santa Claus, which was flattering until I remember the Philly fans booed Santa Claus. I hope they don't boo me. I'm just excited to be here."
There are many words that have been used to describe Kelly. Brilliant, funny, engaging, difficult, sardonic, and arrogant are a few. The unmarried Kelly was born and raised in New Hampshire, played football at the state university and eventually coached there.
That is where he honed his craft. In 2007, Oregon lured him west to become the Ducks' offensive coordinator. Two years later, he became head coach. In four seasons, Oregon went 46-7, although the Ducks never won a national title.
His innovative spread option, hurry-up offense intrigued NFL coaches. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently implemented some of his tactics.
Still, there are questions about whether Kelly's scheme will translate to the NFL, or whether he will be able to adapt to the new league.
Aside from the pressures of winning in a football-crazed Northeastern town, Kelly faces a host of other challenges. The Eagles do not have a franchise quarterback. Michael Vick is not expected to return, and Nick Foles, who just finished his rookie season, is an unknown quantity.
The roster will need significant turnover. The defense has been below par since former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson died before the 2009 season. Kelly favors an aggressive, attacking defense and will likely change the Eagles' scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4, a source familiar with the coach's thinking said.
There will be time to figure it all out. But Kelly will not have much of a grace period. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, and their last title came in 1960. The last coach the franchise hired out of college was UCLA's Dick Vermeil in 1976. The Eagles reached the Super Bowl five seasons later but lost.
There have been college coaches who came to the NFL and won titles - the Dallas Cowboys' Jimmy Johnson was one of the most prominent. But there are far more failures than success stories.
Perhaps that is why Kelly hemmed and hawed.
It doesn't matter now. He's in the NFL.
Touch down in Philly: Chip Kelly flies into town and says he's ready to get to work. philly.com/kelly
Join a live chat Thursday at 1 at philly.com/kellypresser
Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane @zberm
Contact Jeff McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.