TO BE FAIR, Chip Kelly was no monster.
To be honest, Kelly would still be the Eagles' coach if he had won 10 games in 2015 instead of seven.
To be frank, Kelly was less Captain Bligh than General Patton. Kelly was not maliciously abusive to his players and rebellious to his bosses; he was just uninterested in anything but running the football team, and running it his way.
For a franchise that blossomed under a father figure such as Andy Reid, Kelly's abruptness and dismissiveness hindered him. When Kelly unseated homegrown favorite Howie Roseman as general manager, he betrayed the sense of togetherness owner Jeffrey Lurie spent 20 years fostering.
That did not make the atmosphere at the NovaCare Center insufferable, just uncomfortable. Every NFL team reflects the essence of its head coach, who presents himself to the public at least four times a week. As such, every head coach is expected to nurture the brand.
Kelly simply refused.
"When all is in harmony, and when everybody is a family, you'll run through walls for him," said Don Smolenski, the Eagles' president.
Nobody was running through walls for Chip Kelly, especially after he built the walls.
Smolenski addressed Kelly's effect on the franchise at Doug Pederson's introductory news conference last month. The Eagles hired Pederson after three years of Kelly's reign. Kelly came to the Eagles with no NFL experience and after only four seasons as a head coach, tucked away at Oregon. He never developed the gift of diplomacy, but he joined an organization that places a premium on diplomacy, especially a conciliator such as Smolenski.
To review: The Eagles in 1998 stole Smolenski from the International Hockey League, where he was a very successful chief financial officer. By 2010, he was the Eagles' chief operating officer. When Lurie dismissed his buddy Joe Banner in 2012, Smolenski became team president.
By comparison, Roseman is an executive vice president, in charge of football operations. Smolenski reports to Lurie, and Lurie alone. Smolenski is responsible for the team making money. That makes Smolenski very, very important.
Kelly never saw it that way.
Kelly saw the players and the staff not only as his responsibility, but as his fiefdom; his weapon, wielded imperiously. Everything else in the organization existed to serve him and his. His sole responsibility to the franchise: win games.
He did not schmooze sponsors. He did not embrace fans.
He made no effort to make the rest of the NovaCare workforce feel like a part of the process; rather, he made them feel like peons, there to serve at his whim and to be ignored when he had no use for them. Famously, he even forced Lurie to change the date of the Christmas party.
Not long after, Kelly was fired, axed between the 15th and 16th games of the season, and a cloud of oppression rolled away. Sure enough, the Eagles won their finale.
Afterward, a member of Lurie's inner circle was standing outside the visitor's locker room at MetLife Stadium. He was asked to describe his relationship with Kelly after three years.
"No complaints. I mean, I can't even really say we had a relationship," the executive replied. "What does that tell you?"
It tells you Kelly insulated himself.
Again, if the Eagles had hosted a playoff game last month, none of this would have surfaced, because Kelly would not have been fired. Perhaps if Kelly had not unseated Roseman and/or had not replaced about 45 percent of the Eagles' frontline players in 2015, Kelly would have survived. But he did overthrow Roseman, and he did gut the roster, and he was fired; so, these sorts of revelations cannot be dismissed.
Current and former players painted Kelly as a hardheaded, bottom-line monomaniac. He ignored players' suggestions to change the intensity of practice regimens. He ignored coaches' suggestions to change practice routines, such as practicing fewer plays but practicing them with more repetitions.
And Kelly ignored his duty to cooperate with Smolenski & Co.
"In all sports, I think there's a misnomer that there's a football side and a business side. In all sports. It's one," Smolenski said. "We all need to be working together, because what might happen on the business side might affect what you can have on the football side."
The converse is much truer.
"On the flip side, certainly, when you win - a winning record helps the other side," Smolenski said. "It's a big, commensurate circle."
Part of that circle involves providing insight during league-mandated media sessions, which exist to inform the fans. Kelly was willfully deficient concerning that portion of the "commensurate circle."
To his credit, Kelly usually gave remarkably thorough answers to questions he considered well-presented and relevant. To his detriment, Kelly usually offered petty, trite responses to questions he considered unfair or redundant.
He did not court the press - whether local, where reputations and relationships with the community are built, or national, where often the bills are paid. ESPN might break a lot of news, but it also is paying $15.2 billion to the NFL through 2021 to broadcast games.
There were other issues.
Kelly closed the annual playground build to the press, an event that was one of the Eagles' more effective public relations gambits. Kelly refused to do a local radio show. Kelly moved training camp from Lehigh University, where the Eagles and their fans had developed a startlingly strong bond.
Kelly never played nice.
The difference was palpable on the day Pederson was hired, as Pederson trudged through interview after interview. He hadn't even hired his offensive coordinator yet. Smolenski noticed.
"The amount of time Doug has devoted here, just in the last two days, to do this kind of stuff - yes, it's taking away from other responsibilities," Smolenski said. "There's going to be opportunities all throughout the year (like this) . . . and opportunities for fan engagement."
And opportunities to promote the brand; opportunities to engage the rest of the building. Kelly clearly treated Smolenksi, Roseman, chief financial officer Frank Gumienny and operations VP Jason Miller with a measure of disdain.
"There are so many pieces to it," Smolenski said. "The experience we have - I have 17 years, Frank has 18 years, Jason has 13 years, Howie has 16 years - there's all these people we know we can help. We can be a resource."
Fine. But what about coaching? Drafting? Football?
"I'm not going to ask the head coach to do something that pulls him out of an important draft meeting. I know when the right time is to ask. It's a balance," Smolenski said. "You have to respect it. Work with it. There's balance, right?"
Now there is.