IDEALLY, THE columnist's job is to form a cogent, comprehensive opinion, supported by fact, bolstered by intuition, cemented by wisdom.
So, to the burning topic in town:
Should Chip Kelly be stripped of his responsibilities as Eagles general manager?
The only possible answer: It is unanswerable.
So much for the ideal.
First, understand that owner Jeffrey Lurie will neither strip Kelly nor fire him. Lurie invested too much time and money in Kelly's innovative culture to abandon it with two years left on Kelly's contract.
Lurie has now spent three years hailing Kelly as an NFL messiah sent to Philadelphia to redeem the NFL game, which Lurie considers stymied. (He can simply look west and see Andy Reid stymieing his way to nine straight wins and a second playoff berth in three seasons.) Lurie is a benevolent billionaire, but he is a billionaire with a vast intellect - he's a Ph.D. - and an immense ego.
"The owner decides what he wants," Kelly said, when asked whether he thought he might be stripped of power.
He needn't worry. Brilliant egotists hate to admit they are wrong. Just listen to Kelly four times a week.
Besides, Lurie and Kelly might not be wrong.
"I don't think we're a bad football team, not by any stretch," Kelly said. "I don't think we need to revamp this entire group of guys, because I think we've got some really, really good guys."
Granted, evidence exists to argue that Kelly should never again be allowed near a draft room, should never allowed contact with a player's agent. Chief among it: The Eagles are 6-9 and out of the playoffs.
Still, for anyone who bothers to gather all the facts and employ any wisdom, that evidence is simply too little, too thin.
The truth is, most of Kelly's landmark moves as the autonomous team president deserve time to mature.
Certainly, that is a lot to ask in this moment. The Eagles went 10-6 in each of Kelly's first two seasons, which prompted Kelly to demand full organizational power. Without hesitation, Lurie stripped GM Howie Roseman of his player-evaluation responsibilities and gave Kelly the keys to the kingdom.
"I'm not the general manager," Kelly said, and used this ridiculous comparison: "I was in control of the 53-man roster. Now, I'm in control of the 90-man roster."
Anyone who controls the 53-man roster effectively controls the 90-man roster, since no one will make the 90-make roster who has no shot of making the 53-man roster. So, really, Kelly was always the general manager, if he had control of the 53-man roster . . . and that's debatable, too. Regardless, Kelly scouts players, determines player values and salary-cap distribution, has direct contact with players and agents, and makes trades - all GM jobs.
Given these new powers, Kelly went wild. He revamped both sides of the ball, pushed 12 different players into the core 25 positions and proclaimed the team better.
He was too ambitious to succeed in 2015.
Kelly overrated the competence and depth of his offensive line, cutting Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans and adding no one of significance. The line was the worst unit on the team.
Kelly traded LeSean McCoy for a bag of magic beans (injured linebacker Kiko Alonso) and sought to replace him . . . with Frank Gore, who opted to sign with the Colts, and delicate Ryan Mathews. DeMarco Murray wound up in Gore's spot, but before Murray is deemed a catastrophe, consider that his 3.5 yards-per-carry average is only minimally worse than Gore's career-worst 3.7. Which means, of course, Kelly misevaluated both of McCoy's main replacements.
Kelly let Jeremy Maclin go in free agency, then drafted Nelson Agholor in the first round. Kelly did so with the belief that Jordan Matthews would grow to be more than a solid slot receiver in his second season, and that free agent Miles Austin had some life left. Matthews was ineffective on the outside. Kelly cut Austin after Game 12.
Kelly also eroded the defense.
Kelly traded low-cost, high-output nickel cornerback Brandon Boykin during training camp for a paltry fifth-round pick, essentially because Boykin, at 5-9, was too short for the Eagles' cornerback profile. Injury and inefficiencies forced standout safety Malcolm Jenkins to play nickel corner against passing formations, which Jenkins managed passably, at best; poorly, at worst. It also left the Eagles with special-teamer Chris Maragos, then-practice-squad player Ed Reynolds, playing Jenkins' safety spot - a huge drop-off. The drop-off was amplified because the other safety spot was manned by undersized Walter Thurmond, who converted from cornerback during training camp.
To review: Kelly subtracted Boykin and weakened both the nickel cornerback and safety positions.
Finally, Kelly vastly misjudged how well Alonso (knee) and DeMeco Ryans (Achilles') would rebound from their injuries. Alonso was a dynamic player until the knee flared up. Ryans was effective in small doses but played too much too soon and was worthless by December. Neither can cover any type of receiver, and so the opposition routinely targets tight ends and backs running through the middle of the field.
Washington tight end Jordan Reed dominated them with nine catches for 129 yards and two TDs. With tight end Rob Gronkowski injured, Patriots running back James White logged 10 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Imagine what Gronk would have gotten if he had played.
Sounds dire, right?
Here's the problem:
Almost all of the issues could improve with a year of patience.
Both Ryans and Alonso will be a year removed from injuries that usually take two years to fully mend. Agholor is a big, talented receiver just now getting his sea legs, which is normal for a rookie who missed time with injury. Second-round corner Eric Rowe's recent development on the outside should facilitate the development of nickel corner and allow Jenkins to move back to safety in 2016. Improved play at left tackle and right guard, both targets for offseason upgrade, might make Murray a more valuable weapon.
To be fair, Kelly wasn't wrong about everything.
Sam Bradford was worth a second-round pick and a backup quarterback - that's what Nick Foles is, people. Sorry. Bradford will either re-sign or be hit with the franchise tag.
Jordan Hicks was an outstanding third-round pick. Allen Barbre played pretty well at left guard. Thurmond's conversion worked. Brandon Graham played well as a starting outside linebacker.
So, no, it wasn't an unmitigated disaster. It was a step. In which direction?
For the time being, that is simply impossible to tell.