Lane Johnson explains why Chip Kelly flopped with the Eagles
Two years after Kelly was fired, Philly won its first-ever Super Bowl
When Chip Kelly arrived in Philadelphia before the 2013 season, the Eagles were coming off a 4-12 record and the offense had stagnated under Andy Reid. Kelly and his unconventional approach helped Philly to back-to-back 10-6 campaigns, including a playoff appearance, but after a lot of mediocre football in 2015, Kelly was fired days before the season finale. So how did things go so wrong so fast?
"It was definitely exciting whenever he first came in, and we did some good things," Johnson said of Kelly during a recent appearance on Steve Austin's podcast, via Philly.com. "Then we start getting rid of our best players. You've got DeSean Jackson, who can outrun everyone on the field. You've got Shady McCoy, who's going to be one of the best running backs of all time. You just get rid of those guys just like that, and you set a tone. Players didn't really like that."
It's not hard to make the case that the Jackson and McCoy situations could have been handled better. After he was traded to Buffalo following the 2014 season, McCoy was outspoken on the matter -- but he wasn't alone. Former Eagles player Tra Thomas, who served as a coaching intern with the team in 2013 and 2014, said in March 2015 that some of Kelly's players felt like there was "a hint of racism" in the team's locker room.
"Listen, LeSean and Tra, both really good alumni of our organization," Lurie said back in Sept. 2015. "People say things sometimes when they're, in a sense, 'rejected.' They get dejected because they're rejected and they say things. I know the way Chip is and I'm very proud of the way he is."
Which brings us back to Johnson's point: The honeymoon phase abruptly ended when Kelly was also given control over personnel decisions and started dumping the team's best players. There was also his obsession with sports science, which Johnson felt got in the way of the actual football.
"We major in sports science, which is good thing -- we still do it here," he explained. "But I think we kind of went overboard with that. I think a good way to put it is we majored in the minors instead of focusing on some of the main points that we needed to."
"The first year was kind of rocky, but once he got into a rhythm, I think he's one of the best play-callers in the game," Johnson said of Pederson, who led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in February. "He never gets rattled. And one of my favorite things he says before every game -- let your personality show. Because at the end of the day, we're entertainers. That's all we are."
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