Philadelphia Eagles 2015 Year in Review: The Fall of Chip Kelly

A disappointing 2015 led to the ouster of Chip Kelly and many of his offseason acquisitions. Did anything go right?

It was a busy offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2015 season.

In his first full season with complete control over personnel decisions, Chip Kelly traded away running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Nick Foles. He acquired DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford, all while letting veterans, such as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and offensive guard Evan Mathis, walk.

The question surrounding the Eagles heading into the season was whether Chip Kelly’s offense be the juggernaut it’s expected to be after he gets "his guys."

At the end of the season, that question was answered with a resounding "no."

According to numberFire metrics, the Eagles finished with the league’s 23rd-ranked offense after adjusting for opponent strength. They finished the season with a 7-9 record, second in the NFC East, but only their second losing season since 2005 and first under Kelly.

Unfortunately for Kelly, he didn’t even make it to the end of the year. He was fired on December 29, days after the Eagles' Week 16 loss to the Washington Redskins.

After nearly three seasons with the Eagles and a 26-21 regular season record, Kelly was shown the door, ending his stint in The City of Brotherly Love.

What Went Right

Although the Eagles only won seven games in 2015, they remained in contention to win the NFC East until Week 16. With a chance to take control of the NFC East at home against Washington in the second-to-last game of the year, the Eagles came out flat, losing 38-24, and ending their playoff hopes while also paving the way for Kelly’s firing.

In a disappointing season for the Eagles, a few individual performances stand out.

Running back  Ryan Mathews was the Eagles' less heralded running back free agent signing, but he was much more efficient with his opportunities than was Murray.

Of the 44 backs with more than 100 carries on the year, Murray ranked 25th with a -5.73 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP). Mathews, on the other hand, ranked 13th with a 0.54 Rushing NEP.

NEP measures how many points a player adds to his team’s expected scoring total; for more information, check out our glossary.

Player Carries Yards Yards per Carry Touchdowns Rushing NEP
DeMarco Murray 193 702 3.6 6 -5.73
Ryan Mathews 106 539 5.1 6 0.54

Mathews did miss three weeks with a concussion but piled up just as many touchdowns as Murray did and proved to be a better fit for Kelly's running schemes, averaging 5.1 yards to per carry to Murray's 3.6 as well as 0.01 Rushing NEP per carry compared to -0.09 for Murray.

The Eagles are expected to keep Mathews on the roster for 2016, but drafting a running back in April is clearly in play.

Third-year tight end Zach Ertz posted career-highs in receptions (75) and yards (853), finishing second on the team in catches, behind only Jordan Matthews. Of the 23 tight ends with 40 or more catches in 2015, Ertz finished as the ninth-most productive, per numberFire’s Reception NEP.

Ertz (58.55 Reception NEP) finished right behind Travis Kelce (61.27) and ahead of Antonio Gates (57.45). On a per-target basis, though, Ertz ranked just 17th of the 23 tight ends.

Rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks impressed on the defensive side of the ball. Through seven and a half games, Hicks led the Eagles in tackles, while adding one sack, three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, and two interceptions. Hicks sustained a torn pectoral muscle in Week 9, which ended his season.

Last month, the Eagles cut DeMeco Ryans, which opens the door for Hicks to have an expanded role in 2016.

What Went Wrong

Like their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, the Eagles endured a trying season.

The backfield was a mess with Murray disappointing and Mathews missing time with injury. But the Eagles' passing attack certainly didn’t help the running game. According to numberFire metrics, the Eagles’ passing offense ranked 23rd in 2015 after adjusting for opponent.

Bradford failed to play the entire season for the third time in his career, all while looking on edge in the backfield.

Bradford started 14 games for the Eagles in 2015, leading the team to a 7-7 record in those starts. He finished with 3,725 yards passing -- a career-high -- while completing 65 percent of his passes. He tossed 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He earned a 43.40 Passing NEP, which placed him 18th among all quarterbacks.

Rookie Nelson Agholor failed to impress in his first season out of USC. Agholor finished the season with 23 receptions for 283 yards and a touchdown on just 44 targets. It’s a similar stat line to that of Agholor’s teammate, Riley Cooper (21 catches, 327 yards, 2 touchdowns on 41 targets).

Cooper actually outperformed the first-round pick, in terms of Reception NEP as well, 31.94 to 21.81.

Agholor never surpassed 3 catches or more than 64 yards in a single game in 2015. Perhaps a fresh start with a new coaching staff is exactly what he needs.

What's Next?

After nearly three seasons in Philly, the Chip Kelly era is over.

Doug Pederson, who served as an assistant on the Eagles with Andy Reid from 2009 to 2012, will replace Kelly after three seasons as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City with Reid.

Early on in the Pederson tenure -- and with Howie Roseman back in charge of personnel -- the Eagles have purged the roster created by Kelly.

They’ve traded quarterback Mark Sanchez to the Broncos, cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins, and Murray to the Titans.

They’ve also brought in former Giants receiver Rueben Randle, Chris Givens, Leodis McKelvin, and Chase Daniel, who spent the last three years in Kansas City with Pederson.

With Sanchez out of the picture, Pederson has said Daniel was brought in to be the Eagles’ backup, but after Bradford struggled in 2015, he might have a short leash as the starter in 2016.

The Eagles own the 8th overall pick in April’s draft after their trade with the Dolphins -- they were originally slated to pick 13th -- and have been mostly linked to Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott and Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

Last season, the Eagles overhauled their roster and finished with only their third losing season since 2000.

Now in the midst of another roster purge, perhaps this one, led by a former Andy Reid assistant, will yield better results.