The rest of the NFL is baffled by what Chip Kelly is doing to the Eagles

Two months after he won a power struggle that gave him full control of personnel, Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly has cleaned house.

After trading LeSean McCoy, cutting three other starters, and letting Jeremy Maclin leave in free agency, Kelly made the riskiest move of his career — trading starting quarterback Nick Foles and a 2016 2nd-round pick to St. Louis for ex-No. 1 pick Sam Bradford.

Bradford hasn’t played since Week 7 of the 2013 season because of injuries. He’s also making $US13 million in 2015, which is almost $US12 million more than Foles is making. While he has the pedigree of No. 1 pick, his stats were just ok when he last played, ranking 14th in DVOA

The deal is being widely referred to as a “head scratcher” for Philly. Eagles fans are in full meltdown mode over it. The Philadelphia newspaper are roasting Kelly on the back pages

Even other NFL executives can’t understand what Kelly is doing here. 

Mark Eckel of talked to multiple NFL scouts and execs who said they were “shocked” and “puzzled” by the move.

A sampling of three different response from Eckel’s story:

“He was average before the injuries. This is on Chip. He still carries the genius rep, but if this doesn’t work out he’s going to look like an idiot.”

“If they’re doing this to somehow get (Marcus) Mariota it’s the only thing that can save this.”

“Shocked. I’m not a fan (of Bradford). And I don’t see the fit with Chip’s system.”

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer said the consensus from impartial observers around the league is a resounding “WTF:”

When the deal was first announced, there were a lot of wrong assumptions.

The NFL Network misreported the details of the draft compensation involved in the trade — flashing a graphic saying that the Eagles swapped 1st-round picks and got an extra 2016 draft pick in 2016 from the Rams. It turns out that the 2015 pick swap actually favoured St. Louis (they got a 4th-rounder in exchange for a 5th-rounder), and the Eagles were the ones giving up a 2016 2nd-round pick in the trade.

It also was initially assumed that this was all a part of Kelly’s grand plan to move up and draft Mariota, who played under him at Oregon.

But now the consensus is that Kelly made the trade for one simple reason: he thinks Bradford is good, despite his injury history and spotty play.

SI’s Peter King reports that Kelly is “smitten” by Bradford:

“What I was told reliably Tuesday night: Philadelphia coach/power-czar Chip Kelly loves Bradford, feels Bradford’s the right guy to run his fast-paced offence, and this from an insider on the trade of the day: ‘Chip came hard after Bradford. That’s why this happened.’ I know many of you think this is some sort of precursor to Kelly stockpiling weaponry to chase Marcus Mariota in the first round of the draft, but I don’t think so. There aren’t a lot of GMs in the league who would think Bradford is clearly better than Foles.”

It seems like NFL people hold Bradford in higher esteem than fans do. McLane reported on Wednesday that multiple teams, including the Cleveland Browns, were trying to trade for him. An optimist would say that Bradford was picked No. 1 overall for a reason, and if Foles could put up gaudy numbers in Kelly’s system then a guy as talented as Bradford should be even better.

Kelly took over the team in 2013. In his first season he turned a four-win team into a 10-win team that made the playoffs. In his second season he won 10 games with an injured offensive line and a backup quarterback. He has earned the benefit of the doubt as a coach.

But he doesn’t have that same track record as a GM. By making the moves he’s making this offseason — most notably getting rid of the team’s quarterback, running back, and wide receiver — he’s putting himself firmly out on a limb, and he’ll have no history of success to fall back on if it blows up in his face.

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