There have been a lot of firsts for Chip Kelly since taking the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching job on January 16.
His first NFL practice, first training camp, preseason game, and preseason win have all occurred in the past six months.
However, as cut down day looms large on Saturday afternoon, Kelly is entering the most difficult period for any head coach in the National Football League. It’s the first time in his professional life that Kelly will need to tell players that it’s the end of the road for them in Philadelphia.
“Sometimes, it’s an injury,” Kelly explained Monday after practice. “And they understand, ‘I didn’t make the team because I got hurt,’ but other guys – they gave it everything they had and it’s just not in the cards for them. It’s a difficult time.”
With rosters needing to be trimmed down to the active 53-man roster by Saturday at 6 p.m., the Eagles have already begun the process by releasing the likes of veterans Jamar Chaney and Kenny Phillips among others.
Kelly pointed out that he has final say over all roster decisions and astoundingly, he and general manager Howie Roseman have agreed on every personnel decision to date.
Given the turmoil on the defensive side of the ball and injuries affecting skill positions on offense, it seems as though a lot could happen between today’s deadline to trim the roster to 75 players and Saturday’s mandate that teams pare down to the final 53.
Moreover, it will be equally important that Roseman, Kelly and the personnel department keep a watchful eye on the waiver wire over the next ten days or so. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a wide receiver, cornerback or outside linebacker signed after the initial wave of cuts take place across the league.
It certainly is an unenviable task Kelly and the other 31 head coaches across the league face this time of year. There is even more pressure on Kelly this time around because he must carefully craft the right mix of youth and veteran leadership to lay the foundation for his first season at the helm of an NFL team. Additionally, because of the culture of competition he established back in the spring, there will be many difficult decisions for the first-year head coach in the hours and days ahead.
Matt Lombardo is also a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow him on Twitter.