THERE IS much more to coaching in the NFL than X's and O's, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said Wednesday afternoon, some 16 hours following Jeffrey Lurie's stunning move to fire coach Chip Kelly.
"The league," as Graham calls it, is a constant struggle among alpha males for power and respect. Throw the big salaries around and who knows what chaos could ensue?
When he wins, the coach has cachet. When he loses, the daggers come out.
So if Graham had his way, Lurie's next coach will have some NFL experience - something Kelly did not have before his hiring in January 2013.
"It's big, because it's just so different," said Graham, a sixth-year pro who has a career-best 6 1/2 sacks this season. "Some people are just college coaches. Some people are made for the league. It's just different, because you've got more opinions in the league than you do in college. You're paying a lot of guys in the league a lot of money, sometimes more than the coach."
Kelly was an offensive wizard at New Hampshire and Oregon, no doubt. But the legacy of his nearly three seasons as head coach here will be his confidence (arrogance?) that he could make his college system work in the NFL no matter who was wearing his team's uniform.
It's a big reason why LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin (among others) are ex-Eagles and why Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso are here.
The decision to fire Kelly on Tuesday night was as much of a surprise inside the Eagles' locker room as it was throughout the Delaware Valley.
"It was just as big of a shock to me as everyone else," said defensive end Brandon Bair, who was in Kansas City when Todd Haley was fired with three games left in the 2011 season. "But that's the business we're in and we understand that."
Similar sentiments echoed at the NovaCare Complex following the first practice under interim coach Pat Shurmur.
Bair said the practice was no different from those Kelly ran, which included high-tempo drills and blaring music throughout. Bet the neighbors were hoping otherwise.
Graham sensed there would be changes following what is now a 6-9 season heading into Sunday's meaningless game in the Meadowlands, but he was surprised by the timing.
"I knew something was going to happen, but I didn't think it was going to be this dramatic at this time during the last week of the season," he said. "But I understand why."
The Eagles had lost 12 of their last 19 games under Kelly.
Whether it was Cary Williams complaining that Kelly worked them too hard or McCoy saying the coach had gotten rid of all the good black players, there's not a lot of appreciation for Kelly among his ex-players.
While Graham declined to torch Kelly as Lane Johnson did, he did advocate that his next coach be a little less robotic and a little more flexible.
"You've got to work together," Graham said. "You've got to come to the middle (ground) . . . It's always a power struggle in the NFL because you're trying to tell a grown man with some money to do something and make him believe it.
"I think Chip had everybody believing, but when you lose, stuff starts to come out. Stuff starts spiraling out of control. Some stuff is true, but a lot of stuff ain't true. But I don't want to make excuses for anything . . . All we know is that the interim head coach is Pat Shurmur and that's who we're following right now."