Chip Kelly was the fashionable selection to become the 21st head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Owner Jeffrey Lurie was not wrong when he said that the hot-shot college guy from the University of Oregon was the preferred choice for a lot of NFL teams searching for a head coach after the 2012 season.
Thanks to their unwillingness to take no for an answer, Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman convinced Kelly to come to Philadelphia after he initially declined and it was quite the coup even if it did evolve into an "oh-no," situation that led to Wednesday's surprising news conference inside the NovaCare Complex.
Kelly, with his team's record at 6-9 and his nonsensical ways and word games grating on organizational members in almost every department, was told to leave by Lurie Tuesday night. That left the owner to explain a decision that came a lot sooner than most of us anticipated.
Why Kelly is gone really does not matter anymore, at least not to the paying customers at Lincoln Financial Field or the owner who is trying to get his once proud franchise back on course. The best way to do that, of course, is to hire the right guy as the head coach this time.
There will be some chic candidates, to be sure. Perhaps Lurie and Roseman can get Jon Gruden to leave his lucrative and low-stress lifestyle as one of ESPN's top football voices. The scoreboard at the Linc might light up without being turned on if the Eagles are able to bring back New Orleans coach Sean Payton to Philadelphia.
Substance, however, needs to be placed ahead of style this time and in that regard the Eagles already have the best candidate to be their next coach under contract. His name is Pat Shurmur and he will be in charge of the team as the interim coach when the team closes out its disappointing season Sunday against the New York Giants.
Shurmur, 50, would not be a popular choice outside of the locker room. His only head-coaching experience came with Cleveland during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He was fired by former Eagles president Joe Banner after going 9-23 with the Browns. Given the history of head coaches in Cleveland, this should not be held against him. The Browns have had three winning seasons since 1990. Bill Belichick had one winning season in five years with Cleveland.
Look at the rest of Shurmur's resume and match it with the criteria Lurie laid out for his latest coaching search and the man who has been the Eagles offensive coordinator the last three seasons makes perfect sense.
"Number one, a strategic thinker," Lurie said.
Shurmur spent 10 seasons working under Andy Reid with the Eagles in a variety of roles, including quarterbacks coach to Donovan McNabb, and two seasons and 15 games under Kelly as the team's offensive coordinator. In between, he was the head coach with the Browns and the offensive coordinator with the St. Louis Rams. His final season in St. Louis was Sam Bradford's rookie year and a lot of people were excited about how the quarterback played that year.
Lurie said he does not see 2016 as a rebuilding year. If that's true, he should want as smooth a transition as possible. Shurmur would provide that. For all his faults, Kelly had a lot of innovative thoughts. Keep the best of Kelly's ideas and fuse them with the best of what Shurmur learned under Reid and you have the potential for a unique "strategic thinker."
I'd love to see Shurmur become less guarded and more comfortable in front of the media because I think it would help him relate to the fan base, which is another attribute Lurie said he is looking for. Lurie, in fact, is looking for a strong communicator in all areas, which shockingly ended up being Kelly's greatest weakness.
"Looking for somebody who interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with," Lurie said. "Understands the passion of our fans and what it's like to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. It's a unique and incredibly passionate fan base that just wants to win and you've got to incorporate that in your life and in your heart. You've got to be willing to do that.
"Lastly, you've got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance. I would call it a style of leadership that values information, all the resources that are provided, and at the same time values emotional intelligence."
I know Shurmur pretty well. He was thrilled about returning to Philadelphia and he is a good man whose entire life has been about football. He is not too connected to Kelly to stay here. When he was mentioned as a candidate to Jordan Matthews on Tuesday, the Eagles wide receiver liked the idea.
The Eagles, of course, have problems to fix on defense, too, which is why another former assistant under Reid is also likely to receive strong consideration. Sean McDermott, the defensive coordinator with Carolina and a former La Salle College High School graduate, is going to be a hot head-coaching candidate this winter because he has done a tremendous job with the Panthers. If the Eagles could land him and keep Shurmur as their offensive coordinator that would be a nice combination, too.
But the first choice here is Shurmur. It would not be the popular one, but remember this: Arizona's Bruce Arians was the last of eight coaches to be hired after the 2012 season and Reid was not at the top of Lurie's list before being hired after the 1998 season.