Now that Chip Kelly is no longer the Eagles' head coach - the announcement coming with one game left in his third season, in a 7:12 p.m. news release Tuesday that carried and delivered the shock of a thunderbolt on a clear, dry night - the only person who looks worse than Kelly is the man who fired him.
Regardless of the reasons he "released" Kelly from the Eagles, regardless of how terribly this season went on the field or what Kelly said or did off it, Jeffrey Lurie brought this entire embarrassment upon himself, from beginning to end.
He pursued Kelly in 2013, failed to get him, pounced when Kelly had a change of heart and mind, handed Kelly control of the Eagles roster a year ago, and bounced him onto Broad Street after the team practiced Tuesday. That time line doesn't paint a picture of sober, patient leadership atop the franchise - a picture that was easy for Lurie to paint as long as Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb were around. No, it suggests impetuousness, impatience, and a failure to take the proper measure of Kelly as a man, a coach, and a decision-maker.
Understand: Kelly should be afforded no absolution for the Eagles' 6-9 record this season, their regression since last December, the succession of trades and signings and discarded Pro Bowl players that created this mess, and his petulant unwillingness to take public responsibility for it. This wasted season is on him. He dared to be different last offseason, and it led to nothing but the most bitter of disappointments.
"As I watched this season unfold," Lurie wrote in a letter posted on the Eagles website, "I determined that it was time to make a change."
But it was just one season. One. Suppose the Eagles lose Sunday to the New York Giants. It would be a fitting finish to a 6-10 season that seemed bound for nowhere from the start, but the Eagles have seen worse, and they've seen worse recently. As general manager, Howie Roseman - Kelly's presumptive long-term replacement as talent-selection czar - presided over a 4-12 season in 2012, and he oversaw the 2010 and 2011 drafts that were quite awful and still debilitating for the franchise.
More, dismissing Kelly now closes the Eagles to the possibility that he might learn and improve, as a coach and an executive, over time. Such growth is not unheard of among the arrogant personality types that eventually thrive as NFL head coaches, as Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Tom Coughlin can attest.
So what led Lurie to fire Kelly so soon? Lurie is scheduled to demystify everyone during a news conference Wednesday at noon, but none of the possible explanations reflects well on him. Did Lurie, as has been reported, insist that Kelly relinquish his job as director of football operations, and did Kelly refuse? Did Lurie have legal/contractual cause to fire Kelly, perhaps because Kelly was already planning his escape to another NFL team or a college program behind Lurie's back? In a way, the why doesn't matter.
Even after presumably learning everything he could about Kelly before hiring him, even after three years of seeing Kelly in action, of interacting with him, Lurie never understood whom he was dealing with. Kelly was accustomed to having power, to doing things his way, and if he was going to change, if anything about a Chip Kelly operation was going to change, the change would have to be on his terms.
Consider how Kelly gained his power within the organization after last season, and what he did with it. He could go all-in on everything - pulling off a power play to strip final player-personnel authority from Roseman, surrendering a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in the Sam Bradford trade, committing a combined $103 million of Lurie's money to Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray - for a single reason: He knew he had an advantage over Lurie. He would win the war of public perception.
The Eagles were the team that hadn't - and still hasn't - won a championship since 1960. Lurie had bought the team in 1994, had come close to a Super Bowl so many times and never won it. He was the desperate one. Kelly was coming off back-to-back 10-win seasons. He was the football revolutionary, the genius, the guy who was changing the game, and if he didn't get what he wanted from the Eagles, he could walk out the door and get it from another NFL franchise or an elite college program.
Lurie panicked and gave Kelly all that control, but he did something else that contributed to what happened Tuesday: He hedged his bet. Instead of cutting Roseman loose, he kept him around, running the business side of the franchise, handling the player contracts, and if Roseman happened to disagree with a move that Kelly made - and Lord knows, there were plenty to disagree with - he could still sidle up to Lurie and whisper in the owner's ear.
That front-office alignment was a powder keg waiting to blow, and Tuesday it did. Chip Kelly lit the fuse during this lost season for the Eagles. But now he's gone, and the rubble remains at the feet of the man who handed him the match.