The Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night made the rather surprising decision to fire head coach Chip Kelly (or, as the Eagles put it, "release" him).
The move isn't necessarily surprising because it happened but rather because of when it happened, on the Tuesday night just days before the regular season finale. Either way, however, the Eagles were just 6-9 this year and owner Jeffrey Lurie decided to make the change. The thing that really led to Kelly's downfall in Philly was his insistence on getting control over personnel, something the franchise gave him earlier this year. Chip Kelly the GM made some awful decisions, however, and Chip Kelly the coach ultimately ended up paying for them as the results on the field were dismal.
Let's not pretend like Kelly was a total failure with the Eagles, however. In nearly three seasons with the team, the Eagles were 26-21 under Kelly, including back-to-back 10-win seasons in each of his first two seasons and a playoff berth in 2013 after winning the NFC East. It was truly Kelly's failure as a general manager that led him to this point, which will likely lead to some teams showing interest in him. He told FOX Sports' Jay Glazer tonight that he wants to stay in the NFL and not return to college (he was 46-7 in four seasons at Oregon).
The most logical option for Chip Kelly in the NFL is the Tennessee Titans, who have their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota - a player who Kelly coached to tremendous success at Oregon and thinks very, very highly of. There were a number of rumors swirling around draft time that Kelly wanted to move up to draft Mariota, and while that didn't happen, it's true that no coach knows Mariota better than Kelly does. That would seem like a logical fit, but it doesn't necessarily mean it will happen. I'd have to guess that if the Titans show interest that Kelly would also be interested in that job, but there could be other teams more interested than Tennessee (it's all just speculation at this point).
What about the Indianapolis Colts, however? It's almost a guarantee that head coach Chuck Pagano will be fired next week after the team's final regular season game, and Kelly would check a few boxes that many think owner Jim Irsay might be looking for: a big-name coach with previous experience. He also would bring an innovative offensive mind to the team and (hopefully) provide some offensive stability and coaching for Andrew Luck, who will be entering his fifth season in 2016 after coming off of his worst year as a pro. I'm a big proponent of the Colts going with an offensive hire for their next coaching job. And then, of course, Kelly has a few other things going for him - he had two winning seasons in three years with the Eagles, is a smart offensive mind, and has an innovative sports science department that has helped the Eagles stay relatively injury-free during his tenure there.
At the same time, however, there are some pretty significant drawbacks to hiring Chip Kelly as well. While it's very likely that no team will be willing to hand Kelly control over personnel after seeing what happened in Philly, Kelly's ego might still be a problem (he wants to be in charge and control everything, based on what we've heard out of Philly in recent years). If that's still the case, I wonder whether he could work for Jim Irsay and - and this might be a bigger question - Ryan Grigson. Again, Irsay likely wouldn't give Kelly personnel control after his failures in that area in Philly, which could mean that he might keep Grigson. If Chuck Pagano couldn't get along with Ryan Grigson, why would anyone assume that Chip Kelly could? Furthermore, Kelly's defense during his time in Philadelphia was awful. If the Colts want to look to build a defense, they're likely going to either look elsewhere or make sure that Kelly brings in a good defensive coordinator, because the defense in Philly wasn't good. And then there is the question, though it's a smaller one than the others, of whether Kelly would be able to adjust his offense to fit Andrew Luck best. He's done well with quarterbacks far less productive and far less talented so this might not be as big of a holdup as the others to Irsay, but the owner has to make sure that if he goes with an offensive coach, that coach can work well with his franchise player. One thing I will add is that, coming off of a season in which Luck suffered multiple injuries, I can see a scenario in which Irsay is more hesitant hiring a guy who's system would require Luck to move around a bit more.
In other words, there are both positives and negatives to hiring Chip Kelly, the same thing that would be true of any potential head coach option. It should be interesting to see who the Colts ultimately decide to go after, but let's put it up to you: do you think the Colts should pursue hiring Chip Kelly as their next head coach if (ok, when) Chuck Pagano is gone?