If there was one single, striking thing about Jeffrey Lurie's dismissal of head coach Chip Kelly (power struggles and coups aside), it's this: it was decisive. There were no leaks. There was no pandering from the media about hot seats. There was no offseason of speculation. Lurie's decision was immediate and came just week's after a report that he still believed in Kelly. Now, with one game remaining against the New York Giants in one of the most frustrating seasons in franchise history, Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Don Smolenski will try to recapture something they seem to sorely miss: the ethos of Andy Reid.
The Andy Reid and Chip Kelly hires represent the kind of calculated risk-taking behavior that the progressive Lurie is capable of producing. Neither candidate was traditional; the former was a QB coach with lineage and no coordinator experience while the latter was a college coaching savant. But Reid came to Philadelphia in 1999 selling a plan. His big three-ring binder outlined with meticulous step-by-step detail how to win a Super Bowl in five years. He damn near did. With no such meticulous plan in place, and with no improvement through three years, Kelly was not given the same courtesy. Not even a second chance.
This is because, most times, dictatorship in the NFL (where younger men make more money than the dictator) does not yield desirable results unless the leader has a certain, relatable charisma that translates to wins. Kelly created a dictatorship in Philadelphia (unwittingly or not), attempting to control everything from sleep and diet to X's and O's. And he did so in more innovative ways than what had been traditionally accepted. Yet, even though he understood the importance of establishing a foundational culture, he clearly lacked the capacity to effectively create it and failed to account for its unintended consequences. As a result, losses accrued and confidences were lost.
That is not to say Andy Reid was the most charismatic leader, but he was a more effective one. Reid was able to better communicate to his players and coaches the philosophy he desired, which may have been a bit more concrete than Kelly's: draft a QB capable of executing his pass-happy West Coast style offense and complement it with an aggressive, attacking defense.
Kelly's philosophy was a little more abstract: tempo. Train fast and play fast. Use the latest in health science to facilitate it. Utilize mental conditioning techniques and a simplified playbook to reinforce on game day. But these ideas and principles were often perceived as sophomoric attempts at behaviorism. At the very least they were not well received by everyone, which translated to the locker room and on the field. Now, after firing both Reid and Kelly within three years of each other, what does Lurie want in his new head coach? Andy Reid.
Lurie's next head coach needs to have the ability to build consensus, especially among his players
After losing the Kelly gamble and seeing Reid's success in Kansas City, one can guess that Lurie lusts for a return to the good ol' days, when playoff appearances and wins after the bye week were routine. But he also should recognize the need to correct course. Lurie's next right guy needs to have an established philosophy... maybe. A sharp football mind, a plan… definitely. Charisma... absolutely. But more so than all of these, Lurie's next head coach needs to have the ability to build consensus, especially among his players.
Consensus is a somewhat nuanced concept. It's not democracy and it's not dictatorship and it's not all-for-one, one-for-all. To build consensus means to to create buy-in, to promote understanding even from those who disagree because it is in the best interest of the team. Often masked as "motivation," this is perhaps the toughest task a head coach faces.
It is something Kelly either dismissed, took for granted, or could not accomplish. It's also something at which Big Red was relatively successful. Could anyone else convince his players that linebackers weren't that important, that any player on the roster could contribute on the field given the "system" in place? Maybe, but the point is Kelly couldn't and Lurie wants someone who can.
Lurie may indeed roll the dice again and hire a high risk/high reward coach with a non-traditional background. Or he may not. In either case I'd wager that the next head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles reminds Lurie, Roseman, and Smolenski of the Kansas City Chiefs' current head coach.