Press Clippings: Chip Kelly, the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team was rather unceremoniously fired last week by team owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Kelly had a 26-21 record with the Eagles in his three seasons; he made the playoffs his first year as the Eagles head coach and did not make them for the last two years. This year, the Eagles went 6-9 with one game left as this was written.
I will leave it to the pro football pundits, wizards, and commentators to debate whether or not Chip Kelly was a great coach who was let go too soon or someone who should have been booted a lot sooner. Start with Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s very fine piece and you’ll have sufficient background to make your own judgement on Kelly’s football accomplishments.
Forget about the football aspects to see the real story.
Look at the way the firing took place to get the real significance. Coaches are fired every season, in every sport, professional, amateur, or collegiate. That’s no big deal. As the late, great, Houston Oilers football coach Bum Phillips once said, “There’s only two kinds of coaches: those who’ve been fired and those who are gonna be fired”. Kelly is now one of the former, but before last week, he was one of the latter.
Jeff Lurie is a very patient owner and he obviously ran out of patience with Chip Kelly. But it was obviously something more—maybe Kelly’s attitude or resistance to listening to what the owner wanted or demands for more power–that flipped Lurie’s switch. Whatever, it broke the barrier for the owner. The ground rules in pro sports are simple: coaches work for owners and owners get their way. No matter how big the ego of the coach, it had best be smaller than that of the owner. No matter how smart the coach thinks he is, the owner is smarter—after all, the owner found/made/assembled the $100 million (or much, much more) it takes to buy a team, put in the infrastructure, and get the organization up and running. Owners stick around for a long, long, time. Coaches for not so long.
Chip Kelly didn’t get fired because he had a losing season; he got booted because something he did really, really, pist off an owner with a reputation for patience and an open mind (after all…he brought Kelly and his high octane/fast-play offense into the NFL).
But the firing wasn’t the real point. Lurie made a statement when he let Kelly go.
The firing was timed to hit the media hard on one of the biggest weekends of the year in college and pro football.
It came before the end of the season, when such things are expected—when a firing takes place in season, it’s a signal that things are really, really bad. It was out of the normal sequence of such things.
And in this case bad enough to not go on for even one more game.
There will be no quiet day in the office for Kelly to clean things out; if he goes into the Eagles facility now, it’s a bit of a walk of shame.
And, the timing of the timing of the dismissal also means that Kelly was taken out of consideration for all of the big college coaching positions that were became available at the end of the 2015 Collegiate season. Intentional? Or Not? The timing was the exclamation point on the situation.
Jeff Lurie made a statement when he fired Chip Kelly.
It was brutal, forceful, impactful.
And simple: even the most accomplished of coaches have to answer to the owner for their actions. Those who are only moderately accomplished, have an even higher standard of conduct required.
The Fine Print: Photo via Flickr. Photographer: Keith Allison. Shot on 4 October 2015. Used Under Creative Commons License. All rights belong to respective rights holder. (Thanks, Keith, for Sharing.)