Perhaps you’ve seen ABC’s hit show, "How to Get Away with Murder". Amidst the countless plot twists and cliff hangers, a gist of it is this: Professor Annalise Keating (played incredibly by Viola Davis), a wunder-lawyer who teaches criminal law at the fictional equivalent of the University of Pennsylvania, attempts to cover up the murder of her husband by framing her lover. But it’s all good for the lover scorned (Nate); Annalise feels really bad (or does she?) and will use her lawyering powers to get him out of the mess she herself created. "Trust me," she tells Nate. Chip Kelly, in his first few months as de facto GM, is telling us to do the same: trust him. Granted, he hasn’t framed us for murder, but after treating his roster the way he has, it feels like he may as well have.
RIP the Eagles roster. Kelly jettisoned his top offensive position players from a year ago. Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Todd Herremans are all gone… and he’s not done yet. Evan Mathis is most likely his next victim (I hope not). Also gone are several starters from the defensive side of the ball: Trent Cole, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher (fingers crossed), and Nate Allen (not all will be missed). In their place Chip has brought through free agency the promise of potential from injury-riddled and/or over-worked players. And we are supposed to trust this madman? In Chip the Ripper? Well, yes. It requires a leap of faith but I do take comfort in a few things.
First… Chip isn’t t doing anything that Andy Reid and Buddy Ryan haven’t already done before, and we should know better. New coaches inherit players from old coaches, then mold the team in their image, cultivating their philosophies with players of their own choosing. Andy Reid inherited a team with players coached by Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite. In his first year as coach, Big Red kept 19 of the 22 starters from the year before and eleven of the 22 starters remained on the team in his third year as coach.
Buddy Ryan conducted a more thorough overhaul, keeping seven inherited starters by year three. In a 1988 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Juliano had this to say about Ryan’s decision making process:
All you needed to know about Ryan's feelings on personnel was revealed in his first draft, three months after he was hired, when he took Ohio State running back Keith Byars in the first round. It was considered a gamble, since Byars was recovering from a broken bone in his foot. In fact, one night earlier on his radio show, Ryan called Byars a "medical reject" and gave every indication that he would pass on the tough running back. The next day, while he crowed about duping the other teams, he explained his philosophy. "You don't get anywhere in life if you don't roll the dice," he said. ''The people ahead of us that passed on him ran a gut check on the Philadelphia Eagles, and we answered it."
Chip seems to be on pace to match Ryan’s rate of roster overhaul, and his opportunistic acquisition of former Dallas running back DeMarco Murray seems quite "Ryanian" (in more ways than one… his disdain for the Cowboys is legendary). Indeed there are only seven players from Andy Reid’s last Eagles’ roster who are projected to start in 2015: Brent Celek, Riley Cooper, Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, and Cedric Thornton. In turning over his roster, Chip is merely repeating history.
Second… Chip has been refreshingly brazen and unconventional. It’s beautiful to watch. He plucks the strings of free agency as well as any jazz musician strums a guitar, and has reinvented the genre in the process. Almost dangerously so. Teams don’t normally trade their all-pro running back and starting quarterback (both of whom are under the age of 28) at the start of free agency. It just doesn’t happen, but at the very least it is evident of a plan. Chip may be straying from the music sheet, but the result is heartily breathtaking. Let’s just hope the risk warrants a reward.
Third… The story is far from over! The murder of the Eagles roster is grossly overstated. It may not seem like it, but Kelly has just set his plan in motion. We’ve been subjected to a rollercoaster ride of emotion thanks to Kelly’s plot twists and cliff hangers. We still don’t know what to expect. Free agency is still in progress, the draft is still too far away and we still flirt with the idea that Marcus Mariota will reunite with his old coach. If that happens then Chip will really get away with murder.
But the fans will not be the ones victimized. RIP NFL.