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Lurie: Kelly was a risk that didn't work out

Jeffrey Lurie gave Chip Kelly what he wanted. By doing so, the Eagles owner determined that Kelly would be responsible for the results.

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.Read more(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Jeffrey Lurie gave Chip Kelly what he wanted. By doing so, the Eagles owner determined that Kelly would be responsible for the results.

The "good-to-great" gamble that Lurie played when he handed Kelly personnel control backfired while the Eagles regressed from two 10-6 seasons to a 6-9 record through 15 games this year. Displeased that the Eagles had slipped to "mediocrity," Lurie made his decision to fire Kelly.

"I wanted to make Chip accountable for everything he wanted to have happen," Lurie said during a news conference Wednesday. "And one of the ways to make him accountable was to have him make those decisions, because that is what he insisted on decisively doing. So if you want to make those decisions, be accountable for them, and that's the direction it took.

"There was a risk involved in allowing Chip to have that kind of say over player transactions. However, risk-reward. Sometimes the risks don't work, and this case it didn't work."

Lurie called Kelly's hire in January 2013 a "bold choice" after 14 seasons with Andy Reid. Lurie was bullish in his public support of Kelly in March and again in September, but he said he acknowledged the potential pitfalls. When they were realized, Lurie felt he needed to act.

"I think it would be a shame not to try, but the end result was mediocrity," Lurie said. "As the owner of the team, I've got to look at the progress and the trajectory of where it's headed, and it's disappointing to me. But that is the danger when you take a risk."

Howie Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, will return to a role in player personnel. Roseman will oversee the department, with the day-to-day operations managed by Tom Donahoe, the senior director of player personnel. Roseman, Donahoe, and the eventual new coach will collaborate on decisions.

Lurie said he did not offer Kelly a chance to return as coach without personnel responsibilities. He said Kelly did not attempt to keep the job because it was clear that Lurie had made up his mind.

In a statement, Kelly said: "I'm grateful to Jeffrey Lurie for allowing me to coach his Philadelphia Eagles for the past three seasons. I deeply regret that we did not bring this great city and its fans the championship they deserve. I was blessed to work with a gifted and hard-working coaching staff every day, and they will succeed wherever they go. Finally, my players mean the world to me. I will miss them very much and I will be rooting for them to achieve their dreams. Life is all about responding to challenges and seizing opportunities."

The suddenness of the move before the season finale made Lurie's decision appear even more rash. Lurie explained that he had three reasons for the "early-ish" timing: the desire to get an early start on a coaching search; the opportunity for Kelly to view the coaching marketplace; and, most important for Lurie, a chance to meet with the players before they disperse during the offseason.

Lurie held a team meeting Wednesday morning. He gathered with select players in the afternoon. And he will meet with players again Monday.

"In today's world, at least the way I like to run things, I want to hear from the players," Lurie said. "I want to engage them and have them understand. What they felt was lacking, I need to understand; have them understand and take accountability and also at the same time, be a sponge for what is leadership like in today's football world. You're dealing with 22-to-35[-year-olds], and people who are elite athletes, trying to perform at the very peak of their profession, and there's a lot of issues."

Lurie said he did not believe Kelly lost the locker room. He denied that conversations with DeMarco Murray had anything to do with the ouster. He said the decision was based on evaluating Kelly and the franchise's direction.

In describing what he wants in the next coach, Lurie emphasized communication skills. He mentioned that the next coach must "open your heart to players" and value "emotional intelligence."

The search will include NFL coaches and coordinators, college coaches, and even retired coaches. There is no favoring offense or defense. Kelly's emphasis was "leadership ability with today's athlete and today's world."

Lurie said he thought the Eagles were on the "verge of something that could be very, very special" this season, but the team was inconsistent. Lurie intimated that his opinion would not be different even if the Eagles had won an underachieving NFC East. He called 2015 "one of the most disappointing seasons" he has endured since buying the team in 1994.

But Lurie did not sound like someone who regretted giving Kelly the power that ultimately led to his undoing. He considered it the price of taking risks..

"I think you either were all-in or you should find a new coach in terms of the trust and so the choice was, let's see if that's going to work," Lurie said. "And in terms of the results, part of that is the reason we're here today."