Chip Kelly has an unlikely poker face.
With an impish grin and an expression that belies a cold-hearted resolve that lies at the heart of some daring -- if not downright questionable -- moves, Kelly never lets you truly know what he's thinking until something like this goes down. Until he trades away the Eagles' all-time rusher at the peak of his career, for example.
Kelly's outward appearance is more leprechaun than ruthless boss, but make no mistake: The Eagles' coach will stop at nothing when it comes to deciding who plays for his team, no matter how talented a player might be. Even if it invites the kind of scrutiny that will either hasten his eventual departure from Philadelphia, or canonize him if his risky moves pan out.
Kelly dealt LeSean McCoy, one of the NFL's premier running backs, to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a linebacker coming off ACL surgery who wouldn't be healthy enough to suit up for a game right now. The move spoke volumes about the coach's approach: Despite the fact that McCoy is 26 and still appears to have at least two or three good years left in him, Kelly sold high and settled for a player in Kiko Alonso who he coached at Oregon and is expected to replace the injured DeMeco Ryans.
That Kelly didn't even demand a draft pick or two in the deal reflects his willingness to move on from McCoy before the running back outlived his usefulness like so many others in this brutal league. Jimmy Johnson, a converted college coach like Kelly, did the same with Herschel Walker in 1989, only Johnson scored a coup with one of the most lopsided deals in NFL history.
Kelly was willing to go straight up for a promising young linebacker who now becomes the ninth former Oregon player on the former Oregon coach's roster.
Gutsy? Risky? Questionable?
All of the above.
And fascinating, too.
Absolutely fascinating to see if Kelly, who last year traded away top playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson to division rival Washington, can make his grand experiment work over time. There is still much roster tinkering to be done, starting with finding a replacement for McCoy. That could be a blue-chip prospect in this year's draft such as Georgia's Todd Gurley, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah or Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. Or it could be a marquee free agent such as DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys.
And still left unresolved is who plays quarterback.
Nick Foles is coming off a broken collarbone, but Kelly has been lukewarm in calling Foles his quarterback of the future. And you have to think that Kelly is toying with the idea of making a push for the best former Oregon player of all -- quarterback Marcus Mariota. It would take a monstrous move up the draft board, but if we've learned anything about Kelly in his two-plus years with Philly, it's that he's willing to do anything if he has a conviction on a player.
Kelly won a recent power struggle with Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, and it is clear that he now is flexing that muscle over personnel and relegating Roseman to non-factor status. The bold moves also included parting ways with pass rusher Trent Cole, veteran offensive lineman Todd Herremans and cornerback Cary Williams, thus creating even more salary-cap space to continue Kelly's dramatic roster reshaping.
His next moves figure to be just as compelling -- and potentially controversial. Who's next? Kelly won't give it away, just as you'd expect from a man whose outward expression offers no hints about the plans he harbors.
Kelly's trading partner with the McCoy deal, meanwhile, doesn't bother with a poker face. With Rex Ryan, what you see is what you get, and the former Jets coach is surely ecstatic at the prospect of getting McCoy to lead the "Ground & Pound" offense he cherishes. Ryan hasn't commented on the trade, which doesn't become official until the start of the league year Tuesday, but he is no doubt delighted with the McCoy deal.
Ryan and general manager Gary Whaley pulled off another deal on Wednesday to get quarterback Matt Cassel in a trade with the Vikings, a clear sign that Ryan is all in with the game-managing type quarterback whose job it is to hand the ball off to the tailback and limit his interceptions.
Ryan can be expected to pursue Jets inside linebacker David Harris to fill Alonso's spot, giving an already good defense another big-time player for the defensive-minded coach.
Not even a week to go until the free-agent frenzy begins, and already the Eagles and Bills will have decidedly different looks. And while a lot of the heavy lifting is done for Ryan, Kelly is far from finished with his roster makeover. Plenty more poker to play for the coach with the mischievous smile and the devilishly unpredictable personality.