Chip Kelly didn't try to change anyone's mind or argue for his job when he was called into the meeting Tuesday afternoon with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and team president Don Smolenski.
"The atmosphere was such I think he knew he was being let go," Lurie told a large media assemblage on Wednesday.
The owner didn't bother saying the coach had been "released," the euphemism dreamed up by the organization to make Kelly's departure seem more like a smooth transition and less like the acid wart removal that it actually was.
Kelly was fired, plain and simple, and booted out of the building shortly after nightfall without the opportunity to address his players one last time, or to at least pass them silently in the hallway just for old time's sake. He knew what was coming, according to Lurie, which is a pretty good trick for someone who had never been fired before. Not many football coaches get to 52 without being fired, but Kelly, as we know pretty well by now, is not just any football coach.
Lurie had his fill of him, though, and he described Tuesday's firing as the culmination of a "three-year evaluation," although it is one that took a dramatic turn since September, when Lurie said Kelly had nothing to prove as either a coach or an assembler of talent. The turn had a lot to do with the team's 6-9 record, of course, but the timing of the decision makes it clear there was more to it as well.
The owner said he acted when he did in order to get a head start on the coaching search, to give Kelly the same jump into the marketplace, and in order to schedule sit-downs with the players this week before they scatter into the offseason.
"I already knew what we were going to do," Lurie said, explaining why he didn't wait until after the final game.
That's fine, but then why didn't he do it last Sunday, first thing in the morning after the team was eliminated by the Redskins, and get two more days of those benefits? Why would he let Kelly take the podium Monday as the representative of the organization?
It's just a guess, but when Kelly shrugged his way through another interview session and topped it off by saying he wasn't the general manager, that tore things for the owner. One day later, Kelly was gone.
"I wanted to make Chip accountable for everything he wanted to have happen," Lurie said, recounting why he gave Kelly full control of the roster. "One way was to have him make those decisions because that was what he insisted on decisively doing. So, if you want to make those decisions, be accountable for them."
Which is exactly the opposite of what Kelly did on Monday with his semantic games about not being the one who scheduled the scouts or negotiated the contracts. The owner gave him the roster and expected him to either succeed or own up to his failures. Kelly did neither, and the fact that Lurie's action so quickly followed a galling denial of responsibility could be coincidental, but I don't think so.
The next coach might be many different things, according to Lurie. He could be another college coach, or an NFL coach with head coaching experience, or maybe an up-and-coming coordinator or position coach. He could specialize in either offense or defense, might be young, or he might be more veteran. The field is open. One thing the next guy is going to do, however, and you can bet every dollar on it, is he's going to say hello to people in the hallway. Kelly failed as a coach, but he might still have his job if he cared a little more about the interpersonal side of things.
"We're looking for someone who interacts very well and communicates clearly with everybody he works with and comes in touch with," Lurie said. "You've [also] got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance. I would call it a style of leadership that values information from all the resources provided, but at the same time values emotional intelligence."
It's fair to say that Kelly didn't lead the league in opening his heart. Maybe that's a quality that, all by itself, won't get you hired, but, combined with a 6-9 record, the lack of it can help get you fired.
"The original hiring of Chip was a bold choice," Lurie said. "We knew what the potential pitfalls were . . . there's a risk involved in allowing Chip to have that kind of say over player transactions. However, it's risk/reward. Sometimes the risks don't work, and in this case, it didn't work."
It didn't work in spectacular fashion, and rebuilding this team isn't going to be accomplished quickly. Lurie knows that, but he grew tired of waiting for Kelly to show the improvement that was promised. He grew tired of the losing and the embarrassment. One other thing, for sure: He grew tired of the act.