Question: What grade do you give Chip Kelly as the Eagles' general manager?
Les Bowen: So far, Chip the GM has made a mess of things
It's a particularly incendiary week to ask this question. After Sunday, if anybody can justify anything much better than the D that I'm giving general manager Chip Kelly, I'm all ears.
Sam Bradford, the injury-question quarterback Chip traded for, was hurt in that ridiculous loss to the Dolphins on Sunday, though the hit Bradford took would have disabled any quarterback in football.
Bradford went down because of GM Chip's worst offseason miscalculation, his handling of the offensive line. Kelly looked at a line that crumbled last season because of injury and age and decided he needed to get rid of his two veteran guards, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis, but he did nothing to replace them, in the draft or through free agency. In the most inexplicable decision of the offseason, he waited to cut Mathis until free agency and the draft were over, when he knew no help was coming.
The Eagles genuinely thought Allen Barbre and either Matt Tobin or Andrew Gardner would be just fine flanking Jason Kelce. Any brain trust that could come into a season with that notion - you have to question every personnel decision they make.
Chip's first "real" draft so far has produced one impact player, inside linebacker Jordan Hicks, who is out for the season with a torn pec tendon. Hicks' injury history helped push him down in the draft.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso, the only thing GM Chip got - the only thing he asked for - from Buffalo for LeSean McCoy, is easing his way back into the lineup after missing five games with an injury to his rebuilt left knee. DeMarco Murray is cheaper than McCoy, yes, but maybe you get what you pay for.
Again Sunday, there were half-a-dozen situations in which, if Bradford or Mark Sanchez had been throwing to Jeremy Maclin instead of Miles Austin, it might have made a difference. We all thought $11 million a year was too much for Maclin. But "too much" is a tough concept to gauge, when you've lost something you can't replace.
It looks to me as if GM Chip will conclude his third coaching season with a mediocre team, less successful than his 2013 or 2014 teams, still without the franchise quarterback he needs, and in no shape to draft one. With a huge offensive-line rebuild looming that probably includes replacing seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.
So far, Chip in charge looks like a mess.
Paul Domowitch: (Mis)handling of offenive line has been Kelly's biggest mistake
Let me start by saying what I've said so many times in the past. Giving a head coach absolute control over the football operation is a bad-awful idea.
Yeah, I know. The guy in the hoodie up in New England has been pretty successful juggling both jobs. But he's an extraordinary exception. And he has had the good sense to hire experienced personnel advisers who had been around the league for a while.
This isn't a knock on Ed Marynowitz. He might well turn out to be a swell judge of football flesh. But I'm just not sure I see the wisdom in promoting a head coach with only two years of NFL experience to GM and then letting him name a 30-year-old guy as his top personnel lieutenant.
OK, enough sermonizing. A grade.
Nine games into this whole Chip-as-King experiment is a little early to draw any absolute conclusions. I guess I could give him an incomplete, but let's go with a C right now.
I don't have any problem with the Nick Foles-for-Sam Bradford trade. It was a ballsy move, and assuming they eventually re-sign Bradford, I think he can thrive in Kelly's offense. And, yeah, I know, not many of you probably agree with me on that.
I also don't have a big problem with his decision to trade LeSean McCoy or even the release of linebacker Trent Cole. And while I probably wouldn't have handed Byron Maxwell a contract that included $22 million in guarantees, I understand why Kelly did it.
My biggest problem with Kelly the GM has to do with his (mis)handling of the offensive line. Releasing Evan Mathis was a big mistake, and deep down, Kelly knows it. Or at least he should.
He says Mathis told him he wasn't going to play this year without a new contract. That's nonsense. The two-time Pro Bowler made his statement by sitting out spring OTAs, but never had any intention of not showing up for camp. And he wouldn't have been a problem in the locker room. And he certainly would've been a big help to Bradford and DeMarco Murray.
Kelly and Marynowitz' inexperience showed in the spring draft when they failed to take an offensive lineman. They had planned to take one in the fourth round, but failed to anticipate a run on them right before their pick, and they were left holding the bag. A big part of being a good personnel man in this league is knowing what the other guy is going to do.
Kelly could've rectified that by pursuing La'el Collins. But he passed on that option, as well. Now, Collins is starting for the Cowboys.
Then there is Marcus Smith. Kelly has wisely distanced himself from the selection of Smith in the first round of the 2014 draft and has let former GM Howie Roseman take the blame.
But if you believe the Eagles selected Smith without Kelly's blessing, I have some swamp land I'd like to talk to you about.
Marcus Hayes: Losses of Jeremy Maclin, Evan Mathis linger
If the question concerns Chip Kelly as general manager, then the first area of examination must begin at the top.
Kelly might want to reconsider his choice of head coach.
That's not going to change, though, so the grading must address other areas.
It's fashionable to skewer Kelly for the 10 major changes, but, really, only three were questionable, and only two of those backfired.
The problem is, the backfires have sabotaged the season.
The absence of receiver Jeremy Maclin and guard Evan Mathis have resonated beyond the Eagles' expectations. Both should be laid at Kelly's feet as mistakes made by a first-time negotiator.
Maclin said the Eagles' last, best offer was good enough to keep him in Philadelphia, but he believed Kelly and Co. didn't want him as much as the Chiefs and Andy Reid did. Kelly cannot allow those feelings to exist.
The Eagles said they expected Mathis to hold out, which Mathis disputes, so they cut him. It seemed peevish.
The money that would have been owed each was manageable.
These histories matter because they speak to Kelly's profile as a negotiator and diplomat – a reputation further called into question in light of the odd, failed courtship of running back Frank Gore.
Kelly's backup plans have been disastrous. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, both of whom bring spotty injury histories, have flashed brilliance but generally have been injured, ineffective or both.
The runners have been hurt by a reconstructed offensive line that, without Mathis, was weakened. Allen Barbre has played ably at one guard spot, but Andrew Gardner and Matt Tobin have been outclassed at the other, and that trio would have provided much better depth.
Kelly drafted Nelson Agholor to replace Maclin, and while his tools are intriguing his production (11 catches, 137 yards) is abysmal.
Kelly drafted no one to replace Mathis.
Still, Kelly did draft linebacker Jordan Hicks, revamped the defensive secondary and re-signed Brandon Graham to replace starter Trent Cole, whom he cut. No team remains exactly the same, and a GM should be graded gently in his first season.
John Smallwood: Kelly as a GM has been a bust
Given that there are longer-term results pending, it would be unfair to label the first offseason of Eagles general manager Chip Kelly a total bust yet, but, thus far, it is trending that way.
It is hard to miss on virtually every single move in the draft, through free agency and trades, but Kelly is reinventing the Mendoza Line.
With the exceptions of safety Walter Thurmond and recently injured rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks, no player Kelly brought during the offseason has made a significant impact in improving the Birds.
Trading Pro Bowl quarterback Nick Foles and Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy and having Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin leave in free agency has reduced a bazooka offense into a pop gun.
Often-injured quarterback Sam Bradford, acquired for Foles and a second-round pick, has been mediocre and just got hurt again.
Free-agent running back DeMarco Murray does not fit the offense and has Eagles fans longing for the days of McCoy dancing in the backfield. It has been a colossal waste of money.
Neither second-year receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff nor first-round pick Nelson Agholor has stepped up to make up for the loss of Maclin.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso, acquired for McCoy, has spent more time injured than playing.
Big-ticket free agent Byron Maxwell is a competent cornerback, but hardly worth the money he was paid.
Hicks, a third-round pick, is the only one of six draft picks to make an impact, and he just was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Kelly overestimated the quality of his offensive linemen and not only cut Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis for no valid football reason, but also escalated the problem by not drafting an offensive lineman.
Even kicker Caleb Sturgis, signed to replace the injured Cody Parker, has been questionable at best.
The roster that Kelly drastically altered because he said it was not good enough to compete for a Super Bowl might not be good enough to repeat the 10 wins of last season.
At this moment in time, Eagles general manager Chip Kelly gets an F.
Ed Barkowitz ... C-minus
Les Bowen ... D
Bob Cooney ... D-minus
Doug Darroch ... D
Jim DeStefano ... D
Sam Donnellon ... D
Paul Domowitch ... C
Michael Guise ... C-minus
Marcus Hayes ... C-minus
Rich Hofmann ... C
Dick Jerardi ... C-minus
Mike Kern ... C-minus
Tom Mahon ... D
Drew McQuade ... D
Jeff Neiburg ... C-minus
Mark Perner ... F-minus
Leigh Primavera ... C
Tom Reifsnyder ... C-minus
Christine Sherman ... F
John Smallwood ... F
Bob Vetrone Jr ... C
Deb Woodell ... C-minus
AVERAGE GRADE: D