December 30, 2015
Offensive tackle Lane Johnson was the first player drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles after they hired Chip Kelly as head coach. And in his three seasons in the NFL since being selected fourth overall in 2013, the former Oklahoma standout has only known life under one regime.
It's a tale of two bosses, however, at least when it comes to how Johnson views his former coach.
On the field, he referred to Kelly as "brilliant." But when it came to all the other aspects of the job, Johnson thinks that's precisely where the problems started for Kelly.
"He's a brilliant coach. It's tough making the transition from college to the NFL," Johnson said Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Kelly was let go. "It's different. And if you're set in your ways, maybe you're close-minded a little bit and not willing to change, it's going to be difficult. You're going to rub some people the wrong way."
By all accounts, Kelly did rub some people the wrong way. And not just the players.
"The power struggle, just the front office. I don't think they were happy," Johnson, 25, added. "Chip and Howie [Roseman] weren't happy together, didn't deal well. And there was just a lot of tension up there, which didn't need to happen. When you feel it up there, it does trickle down to the team. The team knows what's going on, and it's just a negative energy.
"It wasn't a big deal all the time, but we always knew it was there. There was just a little bit of tension. We knew it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows."
It wasn't "all sunshine and rainbows" on the ground floor either. Johnson said he and his teammates often felt uncomfortable going directly to Kelly with their concerns. Instead, they would talk amongst themselves, often calling on some of the team leaders -- presumably guys like Malcolm Jenkins and Jason Peters -- to take those concerns to the coach or, at the very least, their position coach.
"We had some teammates if they actually would go up there [to Chip's office] and say something to him. And, you know, Chip's actually changed some stuff since last year. The practices weren't as bad as they were two years ago. So some things did change, but all-in-all, we just weren't effective with how we played this season."
Now, at least according to what Jeffrey Lurie said during his press conference Wednesday, the players will have direct access to the owner as he tries to figure out what they want in a leader, and how they can find a coach that better fits this group of players.
"Yeah, [Lurie and I] always talk before games," Johnson said when asked if Lurie has already reached out to him. "If he ever needed to sit me down, I would talk to him. Maybe not this year, but probably moving forward about what's going to happen, I probably will."
"I told my teammates [my feelings about Chip] and I've mentioned it to my position coach."
But Johnson, unlike many of the players in the locker room, was able to point to an exact moment when Chip's job started slipping away from him -- and it probably won't come as a surprise.
"Hell, the first two seasons we broke franchise records. He's proven he can do it if we get the right personnel."
And what about his confidence in Kelly to get the right personnel?
"I think that's where things went wrong. Like I said, there was tension upstairs, and ultimately I think that's what led to him being released."
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