Chip Kelly's mixed messages led to downfall

Chip Kelly's mixed messages helped lead to his downfall. While he held the power of the general manager, he told some that he was not the GM. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Chip Kelly's mixed messages helped lead to his downfall. While he held the power of the general manager, he told some that he was not the GM. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 02, 2016

Regarding Chip Kelly: Buyer beware.

The Tennessee Titans, or any other NFL team considering Kelly as its next head coach, should beware in hiring someone who so often contradicted what others said or his own actions. At the very least, they should be careful in giving him any personnel power.

Of all of Kelly's moments of truthiness - for he could have believed every word he said - the one that was most egregious was denying in March that he had anything to do with being given control of Eagles personnel. He said it was strictly Jeffrey Lurie's decision.

While every final decision is ultimately made by the owner, Lurie made it clear on Wednesday that he wouldn't have ousted Howie Roseman as general manager in favor of Kelly had the coach not "insisted on decisively" having final say.

"One of the ways to make him accountable was to have him make those decisions," Lurie said.

But Kelly didn't seem to want to be held accountable for some decisions, or at least was more interested in playing semantics than in taking responsibility for every bit of the 6-9 Eagles.

On Monday, he had the gall to say he wasn't the general manager. Technically, he wasn't. But Lurie's paying customers didn't want to hear lawyerspeak after their team had just been embarrassed for the fourth time in six games.

It's possible the boss didn't, either. Kelly was out a day later.

Lurie was never asked if Kelly's deflections bothered him or caused him to trust his coach any less. But after 14 years of Andy Reid, who despite some flaws was as honorable as coaches go, the owner had to be wary of someone who had helped turn the NovaCare Complex into a building of distrust in less than three years.

Kelly had lost some of the players. There were obvious communication problems. Safety Malcolm Jenkins pinned blame on both parties. But players aren't in positions of authority and Kelly had all the clout.

"He's got to have a little more proactive approach to engage with players," Jenkins said.

He struggled with juggling both coach and "GM" roles from the get go. With Roseman's role diluted, Kelly didn't have a bad cop to assume blame when contract decisions were made. Reid had Joe Banner.

That doesn't mean Kelly didn't try to pass the buck. He once sent a text message to a player who wanted a new deal that said, "I'm not in charge of contracts. I know they are not going to renegotiate yours."

Kelly had full authority over both the 90-man and 53-man rosters. There was no "they." He even often cited the salary cap for some of his more controversial moves. The players weren't ignorant to the obvious fact that Kelly wore both hats.

"I think that is a difficult thing to handle and I think that some guys can do that," Eagles center Jason Kelce said Thursday. "I think some guys have the people skills to be able to make that work."

Kelly said on several occasions that LeSean McCoy, through his agent, wouldn't renegotiate his contract on the offseason. McCoy, who was traded to the Bills, said in December that the Eagles never approached him about a restructured deal.

After releasing DeSean Jackson, Kelly gave various reasons for the controversial move, depending upon the audience. He told Redskins media that Jackson's size influenced the decision. But he re-signed the undersized Jeremy Maclin, drafted the 5-foot-11 Josh Huff last year and took 198-pound Nelson Agholor in the first round this year.

There were claims Kelly made that simply lacked credibility - too many to list here. He said McCoy's contract was the sole reason for his departure and then he went and invested as much in the running back position. Kelly said he had nothing to do with Tom Gamble's being hired, but was the only person in the organization to praise him even after he was fired.

He would sometimes offer up a relatively insignificant detail only to be disputed later on. After Kelly traded Brandon Boykin in August, he said they had hugged. Boykin wrote specifically not long after in the Players' Tribune that they hadn't embraced.

Coaches, of course, tell white lies to the media all the time. It is just gamesmanship and done to protect their team's performance on the field. So Kelly's feigned ignorance about injuries - while extreme - was mostly par for the course.

Fans, to some extent, wanted to be deceived as long as it benefited their team. But Kelly did some of his players little favor in downplaying their injuries. And as the losing mounted, the cat-and-mouse games he played with reporters weren't tolerated as much.

Attempts to reach Kelly were unsuccessful. He released a statement on Wednesday evening and said in closing that "life is all about responding to challenges and seizing opportunities."

There have been varying reports on where he wishes to land next year. But if he wants to stay in the NFL, he will have to change more than just his relationship with players. Maybe he can. Maybe he will realize his past mistakes. Some do, most don't.

It says here that he can still coach and be successful in the NFL. His offense - despite some of the disastrous personnel choices he made - still gained 424 yards against the Cardinals, one of the top defenses in the league.

But he was stubborn and set in his ways. The same could be said of almost all of his relationships since becoming Eagles coach. An unwillingness to admit defeat or be candid with others will almost always lead to a web of inconsistencies.

And Kelly, ultimately, spun his way out of Philadelphia.

jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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