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January 03, 2016

Report: Kelly's lack of 'people skills' ruined holiday party, strained relationship with Lurie

Eagles NFL
120615ChipKellyJeffreyLurie Matt Rourke/AP

Jeff Lurie is a big fan of his holiday parties.

Whatever you do, don't mess with Jeff Lurie's holiday party.

According to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, the Philadelphia Eagles owner was not at all happy with the way former coach Chip Kelly related to others -- including players and coaches -- in the NovaCare facility. And in the end, that inability to develop relationships with his coworkers, coupled with the on-field struggles of his team, ultimately cost him his job.

Lurie disliked the culture his building had taken on, with Kelly unable to relate to most people on a human level and all interactions generally leading back to football. Even routine levels of small talk seemed impossible, and the owner began to question that ability of his coach to relate to or understand not only his players, but critical support staff as well. Some of the very coaches Kelly handpicked were even growing weary of his tactics and strained social skills, and Kelly was distant at best with other aspects of the organization, using exec Ed Marynowitz (who was also fired) as a go-between, relaying messages from Kelly to the scouting department and others in football operations.  []

Much of that has been reported out by various outlets, but there was also a new bit of information from La Canfora: Kelly's obsessive ways impacted one of Lurie's favorite activities, the Eagles' holiday party.

According to the report, that may not be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back -- let's hope not, at least -- but it serves an an example of the sorts of things Kelly did that rubbed the owner the wrong way. 

For instance, Lurie has always taken considerable pride in the team's holiday party, going to great expense to throw the large gathering, with it becoming something of a prized tradition with him. According to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation, Kelly basically refused to attend it this year on its normal Monday night, and ultimately Lurie had to move it to a Friday afternoon onsite to facilitate Kelly's schedule. Kelly argued Monday night would disrupt the coach's planning for the week -- a fair enough claim -- but Lurie apologized to the organization for the haphazard way the party was conducted this year and told others it would not happen in that fashion ever again.

In and of itself, it's not a big deal, but given the timing, with the team falling out of the playoffs around Christmas and with the atmosphere in the organization growing more toxic, it exemplified the growing divide between the way Kelly operated and what Lurie wanted his organization to be. "That's just part of a long list of reasons why Jeffrey made this move," said one source close to the situation, "but the whole thing with the Christmas party just epitomizes the split from what Jeffrey wants the Eagles to be, and what he felt like they were becoming."  []

It's somewhat ironic that Kelly's desire to work instead of attend a holiday function would be seen as a negative in the high-pressure, intense world of NFL football. At the time, the Eagles were still very much in the playoff hunt, and had they gone on to make the postseason, Kelly may have been applauded for the extra work he put in.

But when your team is losing, those are exactly the kinds of things that can used against you. And after going 6-9 in his third season in the NFL, Kelly apparently didn't have the kind of collateral -- or the good will -- to deserve the benefit of Lurie's doubt.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin