Gus Bradley was supposed to be the guy.
Till Chip Kelly decided to step back in.
The Eagles pulled the trigger on Wednesday, surprising everyone with the hiring of Kelly, who comes to the team just 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon.
The 49-year-old Kelly, known as an offensive innovator, becomes the 21st coach in team history and replaces Andy Reid, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 4-12 season.
Kelly, who was 46-7 in four years at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Browns and Bills in a two-day span after leading the fast-flying No. 2 Ducks to a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.
The Eagles are known to have interviewed 11 candidates, including two meetings with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All along, Kelly was thought to be Philadelphia’s first choice in a long, exhaustive process that took many twists.
”Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. ”He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”
On the day he fired Reid, Lurie appeared to be describing Kelly when he said he wanted to find a ”real smart, forward-thinking coach” who is ”strategic, a strong leader, very comfortable in his own skin.”
The Eagles interviewed two other high-profile college coaches – Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Both of them elected to stay with their schools and Philadelphia issued a statement saying it would continue its search as planned.
”There is no question we spent a considerable amount of time and effort looking at who we thought were the best collegiate candidates. We did so knowing that there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts,” the team stated on Saturday. ”We understood that going into the process, but we wanted to leave no stone unturned while trying to find the best coach. We have no regrets about the effort we made in that direction.”
A wild day in Eagles history to say the least!