Wednesday, @JamesBradySBN reported on allegations by an anonymous scout that Chip Kelly "alienated scouts (and everyone else)." Thursday, there was pushback from another anonymous source who spoke to Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com.
Kempski expanded on the story in an article published this morning. He adds perspective, noting that every scout makes recommendations that the decisions makers ignore.
The decision makers will win that standoff 100 percent of the time. Scouting can be frustrating, unfulfilling work, but that's the job.
He also adds the note that when Kelly didn't like one of the scouts' prospects, it was
"mostly due to character concerns."
This makes a lot more sense, in many ways. Coaches should of course be working with the personnel staff all year, and during the time described here, Tom Gamble (now with the Niners, then Chip Kelly's guy in the front office) was still the Eagles' VP of Player Personnel. And Kelly has never made a secret of his preference for high-character players.
So, we have dueling anonymous sources from the Eagles front office. Who do you believe? Well, there's no easy answer of course. But these two publications have track records with anonymous sources, though it's worth noting that this is just a jumping off point and not a definitive judgement about either one.
NJ.com, which printed the original leak, is the same news source that printed the infamous "DeSean Jackson gang ties" article back in 2014. The author here (Matt Lombardo) was not involved in that story, though.
Jimmy Kempski writes for PhillyVoice.com, an online-only but well-funded newspaper created by one of the former owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the city's long-running daily papers. When I say "long-running," I mean that they were founded in 1829 and 1925, respectively.
He started out writing for NinersNation's Philly cousin, Bleeding Green Nation, but graduated to become the Inquirer & Daily News' Eagles web reporter before joining PhillyVoice. Full disclosure: he's also the editor who brought me on board at BGN.
Kempski is best known for breaking the news that the Eagles were looking to get rid of DeSean Jackson, several weeks before they did. He was immediately mocked by Philadelphia's top beat reporter (Jeff McLane) and talk radio hosts, but obviously was proven right. His sources have a good track record.
In case you're wondering whether Kempski is some big Chip Kelly supporter? No. Definitely not.
Kempski's take was also reinforced by other knowledgeable writers including Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com, who says this about the original anti-Chip leak:
We’re also hearing a very slanted version of things here. If Chip was truly dismissive of all the hard work done by the scouts, then that is wrong. If he was just awkward about things, that wouldn’t be the first time a coach and his scouts didn’t see completely eye to eye.
Lawlor then quotes former Eagles scout John Middlekauff, who actually worked under Chip his first year. Middlekauff tweeted that Chip wasn't rude to him.
"But I didn't see eye to eye on his personnel evals. Like most of the department."
He later said that the scouts "adapted EVERYTHING for his system. Was more the character stuff."
And when asked if Chip was too reliant on prototypes, he had an interesting reply:
Chip's problem, apparently, is that he has insufficient chill.
What does this all mean?
These two anonymous reports don't contradict each other completely; it's more a matter of spin and emphasis. Both agree that Howie Roseman's scouts disagreed with Chip and at least some of them were miffed.
Furthermore, many of the Eagles' Chip-era draft picks (other than Marcus Smith II) have worked out pretty well: Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan (a little-known third rounder who took over at nose tackle during his rookie year), Jordan Matthews, Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe, and Beau Allen.
So saying that Chip overrode his scouts doesn't necessarily reflect badly on the coach. We'd have to know who the scouts wanted to draft instead.
The weak 2014 draft class
The year of contention (and the weakest of the three draft classes) was 2014. That's the year the Birds picked first round bust Marcus Smith II (pictured above) and two Oregon Ducks who have failed to catch fire so far: WR Josh Huff in the 3rd, and DE Taylor Hart in the 5th.
Everyone assumes that Chip was pushing for the two Ducks. In fact, right after the draft, Chip volunteered to reporters that he had wanted both players in higher rounds and Roseman assured him they would still be available later. (At the same time, an Arizona beat reporter told me in 2014 that the Cardinals had Huff in the 3rd round, too.)
No one wants responsibility for choosing Marcus Smith II (who may actually do better in the 4-3 front new coach Doug Pederson is installing). SF fans may remember Smith fondly as the guy who left Frank Gore uncovered for the winning touchdown in the 2014 Eagles-Niners game. After Chip was fired this year, though, Howie Roseman finally admitted making that pick.
The motives of the original leaker are fairly transparent. It appears to be a scout who was fired after Chip took control of the personnel department in 2015. On Reddit, /u/Rsubs33 suggests Rick Mueller and Anthony Patch as two likely candidates. Both are reportedly "advising" Howie Roseman on this year's draft. Now Roseman, who presumably hired the anonymous scout in the first place, is back in charge and the leaker undoubtedly would like to get his old job back.
UPDATE: I should mention that this story about Chip clashing with the scouts over their draft board was first reported by Daily News beat writer Les Bowen in January of 2015, right after Chip took control of the personnel department. More in a comment below.