McMullen on the Eagles: Mariota Chase Highlights Kelly’s Flaws
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — We already knew Chip Kelly offered the kitchen sink to the Tennessee Titans last year in an attempt to trade for the opportunity to select Marcus Mariota No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft.
But anyone who has ever made the trek to Lowe's or Home Depot with their significant other understands picking out the sink isn't quite as easy as it sounds. There are pedestal sinks, vessels, drop-ins, undermounts and wall mounts before you even get to the fixtures and a wife who not only expects you to know the difference Kershaw Chrome and Brushed Nickel, she expects you to care.
Jeffrey Lurie mistakenly gave the ill-prepared Kelly the keys to his team in January of 2015 and the coach signed off on the most expensive sink in South Philadelphia in an effort to get Mariota, blissfully unaware of the things that are second nature to most NFL general managers.
With hindsight as the ultimate judge the only thing worse than Kelly making that offer is Tennessee balking at it, something that no doubt had Ken Whisenhunt pulling his hair out, understanding his future was being put in the hands of a kid who just wasn't ready for the NFL.
There is no doubt that Mariota is a talented quarterback with a high-ceiling as a prospect but he remains a developmental type after spending his college career at the University of Oregon in a one-read, spread offense.
It didn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out that Whisenhunt, who was coming off a 2-14 season and has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer to more conventional types like Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers, had a problem.
In today’s short-attention-span world, there are no more five-year plans in the NFL and Whisenhunt simply wasn’t going to have the luxury of time to teach Mariota at the professional level. It was either play up the youngster’s strengths and show significant progress or start updating the resume.
We now know Whisenhunt, who is back in San Diego as Rivers’ offensive coordinator, barely made it out of October after starting 1-6 with Mariota and finishing his dismal stint in Nashville with a disastrous 3-20 record. The Titans took the interim tag off Mike Mularkey back in January after he showed slight — as in the slightest — improvement, finishing 2-7 after Whisenhunt was shown the door.
So here's the stark reality of where the Titans are today: a year after being bad enough to get Mariota with the second pick, Tennessee actually won one more game but compared to all of its peers, technically the team was even worse with him, finishing dead last in the NFL and “earning” the No. 1 overall selection come April.
From the Eagles' standpoint, the scope of what the overmatched Kelly offered the Titans wasn't really the issue. It was his fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants management style, which simply didn't comprehend things like salary-cap implications and the fact that a Plan B should always be in the hopper before Plan A blows up.
Sam Bradford has always known he wasn't Kelly's first choice to play QB in Philadelphia and after a spring trying to flip him, Kelly had to spend the summer convincing everyone, including the player himself, that he actually wanted to coach Bradford. The more astute observers still don't believe it.
The same sort of thing happened in the backfield when Frank Gore left the Eagles at the altar in free agency and Kelly then turned his attention toward Ryan Mathews, at least until DeMarco Murray decided to play on the coach's inability to understand how to allocate assets at the professional level.
And all the while Howie Roseman was sitting back in the business end of the NovaCare Complex, releasing the slack for Kelly to hang himself.
You don't have to like Roseman, or Doug Pederson for that matter, but as far as the Eagles were concerned, this is addition by subtraction.
Think about it.
If Kelly was successful and able to send the package of draft picks and players, including the team's lone dominant performer, Cox, to Nashville, the Eagles likely hit rock bottom last year and absent significant picks to dig out.
Yet, Kelly could have sold the narrative that he needed time with Mariota to succeed despite lacking the necessary assets to build around him and likely continuing to mishandle the roster due to his lack of NFL personnel experience.
Getting Kelly and his laughably short-sighted vision out of Philadelphia was necessary for this franchise to move forward, no matter how embarrassing it was to the owner.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen