John Smallwood: A necessary gamble
It's not really a question of whether or not the dramatic changes Eagles Great and Powerful Oz of all Football Matters Chip Kelly is about to make to the team are wise.
Wisdom should have been weighed when Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie convinced Kelly to give up his gig at the University of Oregon and come to Philadelphia.
Once that move was made it was sit back and see what happens.
If you think about the overall lust for a Super Bowl championship in Philadelphia, then what Kelly is doing as the Eagles enter NFL free agency is a necessary gamble.
After winning 20 games in his first two seasons in the NFL, Kelly could have tweaked the status quo, stayed competitive and likely returned to the playoffs for the next several seasons.
Lurie, however, did not fire his longtime favorite son Andy Reid to keep doing what the Eagles have done for most of the past two decades.
Kelly was hired to get the only thing the Birds have not been able to capture — a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
That means get out of Kelly's way and let him do what he wants. If he's wrong, then fire him three years down the road.
For now, however, let him try to work his magic - if he actually has any.
For two seasons, Kelly has evaluated this team.
It's become clear that it did not matter that the Eagles won the NFC East his first season and just missed repeating as champions last season.
In fact, the Birds having early success might be why Kelly decided to drastically shift direction.
Maybe Kelly did not want to get comfortable with 9- or 10-win teams that would be good enough to keep making the playoffs but not good enough to do much damage once they got there.
The moves that will apparently go into effect once the NFL opened for business today shows Kelly has tunnel vision for what he believes it will take for the Eagles to win a Super Bowl.
Forget "In Chip We Trust." This is now "Chip I hope to God You are Right."
Marcus Hayes: Change is better than stagnation
It's comical: A concept framed by an unpopular person with fine credentials is greeted with distaste, whereas the same concept posited by a fair-haired boy with meager bona fides is greeted with respect.
Chip Kelly has done the same thing Joe Banner did: Sped the exit of high-mileage, big-money models to make room for cheaper replacements. Sometimes the new players will be fresher; sometimes, not. Always, they will be a better value.
Banner did it with Jeremiah Trotter, David Akers, Brian Dawkins (oops).
Bill Belichick does it, too: Lawyer Milloy, Logan Mankins, Wes Welker.
Like any sane personnel czar, Kelly understands that long-term commitment only makes sense for the rarest of NFL entities: durable, playmaking offensive and defensive linemen, and quarterbacks.
Receivers, running backs, linebackers and defensive backs take too much pounding to give them vast sums of guaranteed money for more than a couple of seasons. Also, they are very easily replaced. For instance, LeSean McCoy was drafted 53rd in 2009 and in 2010 unseated Brian Westbrook, drafted 91st in 2002. Banner drafts, by the way.
Now, Kelly has traded McCoy to Buffalo and has replaced him with versatile, durable Frank Gore. Assuming he comes, Gore is 5 years older than McCoy, but in the next two seasons he comes at one-quarter the cost of McCoy's guaranteed money.
Kelly let go Jeremy Maclin, 27 next season, and with a twice-repaired knee. Last season's bumper crop of receivers was productive into the fourth round. The most dynamic receiver at the Super Bowl, Chris Matthews, was playing in his seventh NFL game. It's not a bad gamble.
As for signing low-mileage cornerback Byron Maxwell, pay attention only to the guaranteed money and the first 3 years of salary. If it comes out to about $10 million per season, it's not ridiculous, and is soon disposable.
In most sports, continuity portends success.
In the NFL, with its high-impact collisions, its unmatched risk of catastrophic injury and its small window of top performance, change always is preferable to stagnation.
Banner and Belichick weren't perfect. Neither is Chippah.
But none of them fears failure, either.
Mike Kern: This is why they hired Chip
Chip Kelly didn't get to be Chip Kelly by being conventional. So when you hire him, you're buying into that. And for the most part, he's made it work. Of course, whether he can make it work at this level, which in Philadelphia means finally winning a Super Bowl, has to play itself out. But he should be allowed to do it his way, even when it seems like maybe it's not the right way. And given the recent power shift, the owner agrees.
Everyone said he needed to fix the defense. So he went out and got a linebacker that was off the charts as a rookie two years ago before he got hurt. OK, so it was a former Oregon linebacker. And he created a lot more salary-cap room for a player that was making a lot of money at a position (running back) where you don't always have to. And maybe LeSean McCoy had seen his best days here. And maybe Chip didn't see him as a fit that was worth that kind of investment.
You won't know if Chip was right or not until a year or two from now, if not longer. I know Eagles fans don't want to hear that. On the surface it looks like getting rid of Jeremy Maclin, a year after you got rid of DeSean Jackson, was borderline nuts. But again, let's see what the team looks like in August. Right now we're not even sure who the quarterback will be. Did he possibly overpay for a cornerback? Sure. But he needed one, and on paper he got a good one.
Chip obviously didn't feel he could win big enough with what he had, at the pricetag he had it. So he did something to correct that. If you're upset about Mark Sanchez, well, tell me how many backup quarterbacks there are out there? Just saying. He has obvious limitations, but nobody was complaining when they beat the Cowboys in Dallas.
I'll admit it's been hard following all of this. But I would prefer to hold my judgment until I see what the ultimate product is. And I won't see that for another 6months. That's the reality. Maybe it'll blow up in Chip's face. But most folks figured they weren't lifting a trophy with what they had.
Now, about the draft...
Rich Hofmann: Embrace the uncertainty, don't fear it
Yes, Chip Kelly appears to be taking a sledgehammer to the Eagles' roster and, yes, the resulting uncertainty is a little bit unnerving. But we need to acknowledge one fact at the outset: It isn't as if he's breaking up the '85 Bears.
If you look at what's happening, there seem to be two overarching themes. First, Kelly seems determined to remove Howie Roseman's fingerprints from as much of the roster as humanly possible. More than that, though, he seems to be shifting much more attention (and salary cap expenditure) to the defensive side of the ball.
It all is a manifestation of Kelly's self-confidence, or ego, or swagger, or whatever you want to call it. More and more, it appears as if Kelly thinks he has the ability to scheme his way out of anything on offense — that regardless of the identity of the skill players, he can find a way to make it work because his scheme is that good and because he is entirely fearless. It also appears as if he looked at a team that allowed 400 points last season and couldn't get off of the field on defense and decided that he simply needed more talent on that side of the ball.
Of course, we don't know for sure why some of this stuff has happened. The trade of running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso was a clear offense-for-defense transaction. The signing of cornerback Byron Maxwell also is an obvious shift of resources to the defensive side of the ball. Assuming he comes, Frank Gore is a short-term answer at running back but more of a stylistic fit for Kelly.
But it gets murky after that. Who will replace Trent Cole as an outside pass rusher -- is Brandon Graham it? Who will replace Jeremy Maclin at wide receiver — and was his departure to Kansas City because of philosophy (not thinking wideouts are worth the money) or the result of a botched negotiation? And is Mark Sanchez back at quarterback to give competition to Nick Foles or to mentor Marcus Mariota?
We don't know, of course. But the issue is not the sheer number of changes — change is constant in the NFL — it's if they turn the Eagles into a postseason winner.