IN A CERTAIN SENSE, nobody is to blame. Six thousand years is long enough to conclude that days like Wednesday are the inevitabilities of our nature. That doesn't make it any less stupefying, or any more paradoxical. But the fact of the matter is that ours is a species with a remarkable penchant for sowing the seeds of its own destruction.
In destroying the 2015 season before it even started, Jeffrey Lurie was simply acting human.
By the time all of the dots were connected Wednesday, a stunning narrative came into focus. Chip Kelly had lost the confidence of a critical segment of his team. But the primary cause of the crisis of faith wasn't the scheme or the tempo or the week-to-week game plans or even the "emotional intelligence" concerns that dominated the initial reporting between his abrupt dismissal Tuesday night and Lurie's news conference Wednesday.
It was the personnel decisions he had made as general manager that created the biggest questions in the locker room, a circumstance exacerbated by the fact that the players were well aware of Lurie's caution and Howie Roseman's outright opposition to Kelly's radical offseason renovation of the roster, particularly after the trade of LeSean McCoy.
"I just personally sat back and watched it, wondering, how is this going to pan out, and if it didn't, it's going to be real bad," tackle Lane Johnson said. "That was the kind of the feeling for a lot of the players."
Problem is, the players knew that sentiment existed elsewhere in the building. The season was over the moment that happened.
It all stems back to Jan. 2. Kelly proposed a radical overhaul of his roster. Roseman had a different vision. Lurie was torn.
On the one hand, the Eagles were 20-12 in Kelly's first two years and coming off two high-scoring seasons, a fact that even Kelly's most ardent critics attribute in large part to his play-calling expertise. On the other hand, Lurie acknowledged that he had never fully committed himself to Kelly as a long-term fixture, given the continued presence of the "risks" they acknowledged when they hired him away from Oregon. There were concerns about his personality, about his practice schedule, about his idea of "culture."
Lurie's solution was to let Kelly implement his plan, but with a warning - implicit or explicit - that he would be held accountable if it did not deliver the promised results.
The result? Call it the Misjudgment of Solomon: An indecisive leader ends up with a mess on his hands.
"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, you know, the results, part of that is the reason we're here today."
In that sense, Lurie's tragic flaw was the inverse of his coach's, a bankruptcy of self-assuredness so total that it rendered his explanation incoherent to a rational mind.
"I wanted to make Chip accountable for everything he wanted to have happen," Lurie said. "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."
Reread that quote, except picture it on a poster of panoramic shot of Washington crossing the Delaware, above big bold letters that read, LEADERSHIP.
More rational was the mindset of the locker room. The notion of him "losing" his players was always too simplistic. Those who were indoctrinated early into Kelly's "culture" - the former Oregon players, Jordan Matthews, etc. - seemed genuinely disappointed in the news. On the other end of the spectrum were those who had never witnessed "culture's" success firsthand. DeMarco Murray didn't talk, but he didn't need to. A handful of players trended toward one end of the spectrum or the other, but most were in the middle. A locker room is a remarkably self-sufficient space.
The real revelation was the schism that apparently developed between those who had some doubts about Kelly and the rest of the gang, a schism whose roots seem to have originated more in Kelly's personnel moves than in his unorthodox training methods and scheme. And from that point on, it's tough to determine how to distribute the blame among: 1) the actual moves Kelly made; 2) his ability to get his players to believe in the wisdom of those moves; and 3) Roseman/Lurie for allowing the players to pick up on their doubts about the moves, further undermining their confidence in their leader.
Everything else seems to have been secondary. But when a coach starts losing, and the losing seems like a result of decisions some players never understood, then the grumbles get louder, and then other players start to grumble about the grumblers themselves, suggesting that the grumbling is affecting their play, and soon the players are grumbling at one another. Lurie's uncharacteristic interactions with the team before the New England and Arizona games take on a different light when you look at it from that perspective, as do the "53 Angry Men" T-shirts he distributed.
"That's what I think the biggest thing was," Johnson said. "Just a lot of tension up there that didn't need to happen, because when you throw it up there, it does trickle down to the team, and the team knows what's going on. It's just a negative energy that doesn't need to exist."
It was over before it started. Now, they're set to try it again.