Eagles CEO says new coach needs people skills

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. (Michael Perez/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — In the end, Chip Kelly created a poor culture and a beatable scheme.

A day after firing Chip Kelly, CEO Jeffrey Lurie made it clear he wants a coach who can relate to his players and everyone else in the building.

"You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance," Lurie said Wednesday. "I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence. I think in today’s world, a combination of all those factors creates the best chance to succeed."

Kelly released a statement Wednesday night.

"I'm grateful to Jeffrey Lurie for allowing me to coach his Philadelphia Eagles for the past three seasons," Kelly said. "I deeply regret that we did not bring this great city and its fans the championship they deserve. I was blessed to work with a gifted and hard-working coaching staff every day, and they will succeed wherever they go. Finally, my players mean the world to me. I will miss them very much and I will be rooting for them to achieve their dreams. Life is all about responding to challenges and seizing opportunities."

Kelly didn't have close relationships with many of his players, and former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and cornerback Brandon Boykin were critical of his personality after he traded them.

Lurie said he wants "someone who interacts and communicates very clearly with everyone he works with."

Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who was Kelly's first draft pick, said his former coach was considered "unapproachable" by many players.

"I want to see a guy who really cares about his players and isn't so set in his ways so we can all go in the same direction," Johnson said. "I think Chip had good intentions. I just think that he didn't have a good way to go about it, and sometimes it came off a little bit standoffish toward y'all. That's just his way. I don't know if he had anybody to confide in but I think all in all, I know he cared about the players."

Kelly was fired after missing the playoffs for the second straight season and failing in his first year in charge of personnel. The Eagles entered the season with Super Bowl expectations, but are 6-9.

Players prepared for the season finale at the New York Giants on Sunday with offensive co-ordinator Pat Shurmur serving as interim coach, largely going about business as usual.

"I had a good relationship with Chip. We communicated well together and maybe that was just me," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "Obviously you want a great leader, you want somebody that knows the game obviously very well, someone that can relate to the players, somebody the players can trust."

Quarterback Sam Bradford, who could be a free agent after the season, said he still wants to return next year despite all the uncertainty.

"Chip was great to me. It's tough to lose him," Bradford said.

Lurie said he decided to fire Kelly before the end of the season to get a jump start on a coaching search and meet with players to talk to them about the decision. He said he met with players as a group on Wednesday and had smaller meetings planned with them later in the day.

"It was a clear and important decision that had to be made," he said, adding that he didn't offer to keep Kelly on as the coach and strip him of personnel control.

Howie Roseman, who was general manager before Kelly insisted on making all the decisions, will remain in his role as the executive vice-president of football operations and oversee the personnel department headed by Tom Donahoe. The former Bills and Steelers GM is the new senior director of player personnel.

Lurie doesn't plan to hire a GM. Roseman, Donahoe and the new head coach will manage the roster with a "collaborative" effort, he said.

Despite a losing record, the Eagles could have won the NFC East by finishing 8-8. But they were eliminated with a loss at home to Washington on Saturday.

Lurie said he fired Kelly based on an assessment of the last three years, not a string of recent losses.

"It was more the lack of progress and the trajectory where we were going," he said.

Lurie acknowledged giving Kelly full control of personnel decisions last January was a mistake. Lurie said for the first time that Kelly demanded full control so he gave it to him so he would be "accountable for his decisions." Until this point, Kelly had said it was Lurie's decision -- not his -- to oversee all player moves.

Kelly quickly tore apart a winning team and made several bold moves that backfired.

Since March 2014, Kelly released three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, traded McCoy, didn't re-sign 2014 Pro Bowl wideout Jeremy Maclin, cut two-time Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis and traded quarterback Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round draft pick for Bradford.

He also gave big money in free agency to running back DeMarco Murray and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Murray has been a bust and Maxwell has underperformed. Kelly even signed Tim Tebow, but released him after he won the competition for the No. 3 quarterback job.

Philadelphia missed the post-season in 2014 following a 9-3 start and were 7-12 in Kelly's last 19 games.

Kelly famously said on the sideline during a rout over the Giants in October 2014: "Culture will beat scheme every day."

It turns out players lost faith in his innovative approach and defences caught up to his up-tempo offence.