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Ivey: Wait before judging Chip Kelly

| Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Despite some recent criticism about the way Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has handled this offseason, everyone should calm down and give Kelly a chance to prove himself.

After four seasons as the head coach at the University of Oregon, Kelly made the jump to the National Football League. Many wondered whether Kelly’s unusually fast-paced, high-octane offense would work against the bigger and faster players of the NFL.

In Kelly’s first season as Eagles coach in 2013, the team started with an unimpressive record of 3-5 and criticism of Kelly and his offense mounted. However, the Eagles made a switch at quarterback after starter Michael Vick was injured, putting in second-year quarterback Nick Foles. With Foles leading the way with running back LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia closed the season winning seven of their last eight regular season games to finish the season with a 10-6 record and made the playoffs as the winner of the NFC East division. The Eagles ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs to New Orleans.

The 2014 season held high expectations for Kelly and the Eagles. They started the season with an 6-2 record, but Foles suffered a serious injury midway through the season. With backup quarterback Mark Sanchez leading the way, the Eagles won only half of their remaining games and, despite finishing with an 10-6 record, missed the playoffs.

Immediately after the season ended, reports of a feud between Kelly and Eagles General Manager Howard Roseman began to surface, along with speculation Kelly might leave the team for another. Kelly reportedly wanted to be in control of acquiring and trading away players, but Roseman didn’t want to give up that power. After a tense few days, it was announced that Roseman would be promoted to another job in the front office and Kelly, in addition to head coach, would add the title of General Manager. Kelly got his wish but in the process might have severely damaged his relationship with the front office.

It was reported March 4 and finalized on March 10 the Eagles would trade All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The trade stunned many, including McCoy himself. When Kelly tried calling McCoy about the trade, McCoy ignored all of his calls. Kelly explained his reasoning behind the trade was to free up salary cap space in order to sign players to fill key holes in the Eagles roster, most notably on the defensive side. Some fans accepted this explanation and backed Kelly up, but a lot of people criticized Kelly for not just what he gave up, but who he got in return. Kiko Alonso won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in his first season in the league but missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL. Alonzo played for Kelly in college at Oregon, and he became the ninth player on the current Eagles roster to also play for Kelly at Oregon. Many accuse Kelly of having a bias toward his former Oregon players.

Kelly followed this up by trading quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams for quarterback Sam Bradford. This trade was met with heavy criticism. Despite being a former first-overall draft pick, Bradford has underperformed during his time in the NFL, and many label him a huge bust. On top of all that, he has suffered two serious ACL injuries the past two years, leading many people to think he won’t be able to stay healthy for an extended period of time. Additionally, Kelly decided not to resign top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and let him become a free agent.

Many people are still asking why Kelly would make moves like this. Why would he get rid of his top quarterback, running back and wide receiver all in the same offseason?

Despite all these questionable moves, Kelly has made some really great personnel decisions this offseason, too. He was able to sign free agents cornerback Byron Maxwell and running back Demarco Murray. Maxwell helped the Seattle Seahawks to two straight Super Bowl appearances, while Murray was considered the top running back in the league last year while playing for Philadelphia’s arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.

Chip Kelly has total control over the Eagles roster, and despite what everyone thinks, he’s going to go out and get the players he thinks best fit his system. Whether it will work only time will tell. If it doesn’t, the results could prove disastrous, put if it does work, he’ll be known as one of the biggest geniuses in football history. He has proved doubters wrong before.

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