Lurie will decide if weeding out Kelly is the answer
DETROIT - To pull a weed and make sure it dies, you have to get to the root. The Eagles are a garden full of wild plants. You don't succumb to the struggling Lions, 45-14, four days after falling to the mediocre Buccaneers, 45-17, without having several issues with your team.
DETROIT - To pull a weed and make sure it dies, you have to get to the root.
The Eagles are a garden full of wild plants. You don't succumb to the struggling Lions, 45-14, four days after falling to the mediocre Buccaneers, 45-17, without having several issues with your team.
The questions, then, for the owner of that team are: Do you look at your garden and think that some Weed B Gon will do the trick, or do you come to the conclusion that the soil needs to be turned over and it's time to start anew?
It is, frankly, shocking to be asking these questions after Chip Kelly went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons. But the Eagles have lost three straight - after just a .500 first half - and each time the result and the performance of the team have been worse.
It isn't all of Kelly's making. But he asked for full control this offseason, and with that responsibility came either blame or credit. Jeffrey Lurie, of course, gave Kelly all the tools for his garden. But the Eagles owner can't fire himself.
Lurie wasn't available after the game to be asked whether he thought Kelly was indeed the source of his team's woes. He has a strict policy about not commenting on his coach or his team until after the season. So that left Kelly - with no other superior - to evaluate his role in the Eagles' DeMarco Murray-like slide.
"I don't know," Kelly said when asked whether he was the problem. "I don't have that answer."
Lurie left the somber visitors' locker room at Ford Field with a group of Eagles executives that included former general manager Howie Roseman. Some might suggest a cure this offseason would be to reinstate Roseman's GM duties.
But Roseman, until this past year, picked many of the players that are on the team, and many of the players Kelly felt compelled to replace. Too bad Kelly didn't often pick the right ones. Only Lurie, with his voluminous notes, knows who really decided to draft Marcus Smith.
It was Lurie who created an awkward front office situation by retaining Roseman. He said the goal in giving Kelly absolute power was to go from "good to great," but at 4-7, despite the mathematical chance that the Eagles could still win the NFC East, that is no longer possible.
"I'm not saying we're doing a better job, I can tell you that," Kelly said. "We're not. But I don't look at 10 wins as a good job, either."
Kelly went big this offseason, adding 11 new players who have had significant roles and giving six reserves more significant jobs than they had before. Many reasons will be given for the free fall, but you don't lose by 59 points combined in two games without having a lack of talent.
"Every year coaches make decisions. It ain't my [place] to try and critique them," Eagles tackle Jason Peters said. "I'm here to give maximum effort, and right now I'm out there doing everything I can. Ever since I've been an Eagle, we've never lost like this."
And there were some pretty bad losses in there, particularly in Andy Reid's final two seasons. Reid lost part of the locker room in his final year because he was clearly a lame duck. Of a dozen Eagles interviewed Thursday, each one said he still believed in Kelly.
"I believe in him," Peters said. "He's our head coach, and we're going to fight for him as long as he's here."
But the effort, or lack thereof, has suggested otherwise. There weren't any blatant examples against the Lions. The players appear to be giving it their all. But there's more than just the actual game. There are the practices, the meetings, and the many choices players make that can separate them from others.
Murray's gumption was questioned by an anonymous teammate when he slid short of getting tackled in the first quarter of the Dolphins game on Nov. 15. He hadn't responded to those charges because he ducked out of interview requirements this week.
"Hard for me to answer that if it's anonymous," said Murray, who finished with 30 yards on 14 carries Thursday. "I got the first down, I was trying to keep the clock going. I've done it a lot of times in my career. . . . I wouldn't be here if I didn't have effort."
The Eagles have five games, starting with the Patriots, to show that they will fight for their coach.
"We'll see," Kelly said.
Kelly's prickly and remote personality and how it relates to his players has been cited as one reason the players might not feel vested in their coach. But a more tangible reason could be their level of confidence in his scheme. Both offense and defense are subject to the success or failure of their tempo.
"You've just got to roll with it. It ain't about if you like it or not," Peters said. "You've just got to keep rolling and block it or do it the best way you know how to do it."
Kelly didn't suddenly become a bad coach, although he increasingly has looked like one. Great coaches have had bad seasons and even bad tenures. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll flamed out at previous stops before winning Super Bowls with the Patriots and the Seahawks.
Having Tom Brady and Russell Wilson obviously helped. The Eagles have more problems than just the lack of a franchise quarterback. Lurie will be the judge. He has been patient - sometimes to a fault. Kelly's true feelings are unknown by most. He is a wild card.
How did a garden once so moist become so dry?
Is there any saving it?