By Kevin McGuire
The 2015 Philadelphia Eagles season can probably best be summarized in one word: Awful. There was nothing fun about the 2015 season, which ended without a trip to the postseason for the second straight season in one of the two most mediocre divisions in the NFL. The Eagles finished below .500 for the first time under head coach Chip Kelly, and that landed Kelly on the unemployment line before Black Monday around the league. You may not want to do so, but let’s take a look back at the 2015 season before turning a page to 2016.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Health Department's Cheryl Bettigole To Give COVID-19 Update
What Went Wrong (With A Promise To Keep It Brief)
Where to begin? The downfall of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015 essentially started the day Chip Kelly was given more power over personnel and made questionable move after questionable move. It was all supposed to be a part of a master plan to build a roster that trusts Kelly’s philosophies and culture, but the moves did more to gut the team of depth and talent than anything else. Trading LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for Kiko Alonso was supposed to be made more even with the signings of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, but the unstable offensive line was weakened with the loss of Evan Mathis and the running game struggled all season long.
Kelly also failed to get young wide receiver Nelson Agholor adjusted to the NFL and linebacker Marcus Smith continued to prove to be a waste of a draft pick for much of the season. The addition of Sam Bradford ended up being a good move compared to what Nick Foles did in St. Louis, but the loss of a second round draft pick in the trade ended up hurting the team’s future.
The Eagles defense actually looked good at times, but seemed to fall off track as the season progressed and lost some big play capability with the loss of rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks. The loss of a rookie linebacker, no matter how good that linebacker may be, should not be what derails a defense in any season in the National Football League. Truth is, the biggest problem on defense was tackling and pass defense. Jameis Winston, a rookie quarterback with Tampa Bay, scorched the Eagles pass defense to demonstrate just how bad things can be.
What it all came back to was Kelly’s coaching on top of his roster management. Time and time again Kelly stuck to his guns and tried to get what he wanted to work without spending enough time adjusting the offensive identity in the game plan. Murray was misused in the offense and Kelly took too long to address that from the sideline.READ MORE: WATCH LIVE: Eagles' Nick Sirianni To Speak With Media
What Went Well (This Won’t Take Long)
There were some positives to fall back on during the 2015 season. For starters, Sam Bradford stayed healthy and ended the season showing what he may be capable of doing, although it was against a dreadful New York Giants team that also enters the offseason making a coaching change following a third straight losing season. Bradford may have played himself into a new contract in Philadelphia, but more on that in a moment. As mentioned above, the rookie season of linebacker Jordan Hicks, albeit cut short, was promising. Hicks showed potential to be a fixture in the Eagles defense for years to come as a steady force. the drafting of Hicks may have been the best draft pick of the three-year Chip Kelly Era.
Who’s Staying? Who’s Going?
In addition to a new head coach, the Eagles will also be in the mix for some free agent moves. Much of what the Eagles will do may rely on who the head coach will be, but there are some notable players worth mentioning now before that coaching hire is announced. Sam Bradford may have proven valuable enough to work out some sort of new contract so the Eagles actually have a quarterback. The future still should be found in the NFL Draft, but the Eagles need somebody to lead the offense in 2016, and Bradford may be that guy if the two sides can agree on a deal. The Eagles also need to beef up the offensive line, which means Matt Tobin and David Molk could be gone as well.
Defensive end Vinny Curry is also up for a new deal, but this might be a good time to cut ties with Curry. There will be some good defensive ends in the draft this spring, and Curry has been average at best since coming into the league. Another free agent on the defensive side of the football up for free agency includes free safety Walter Thurmond. Thurmond may be likely to return next season unless the team decides to blow up the position completely and start from scratch. He has had some good moments this season, but the entire position could use an upgrade.
Conclusion (Custom Subheadline)
The 2015 season for the Philadelphia Eagles will go down as a complete disaster from start to finish. A season in which the NFC East was there for the taking for any team that could get to eight wins was there for the Eagles to take in the final month, but as was so often the case under Kelly, the Eagles failed to be able to win a big game when they needed it. Kelly’s handling of the team blew up in his face, and the entire franchise must hit a reset button as CEO Jeff Lurie takes the blame for the whole Kelly era. This is an era that arguably could have ended too soon or not soon enough, depending whom you ask.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.