DeMarco Murray had no idea the Eagles were interested. Chip Kelly didn't think Murray would be in the Eagles' price range. But after the twists and turns of a whirlwind week for the Eagles, all that needed to happen for the league's reigning rushing champ to swap NFC East jerseys was for Kelly and Murray to talk on the phone.
Maybe it wasn't quite that simple, but after the Eagles agreed to trade LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills last week and after they were rebuffed by free agent running back Frank Gore, Kelly called Murray to pitch the running back on joining the Eagles. That conversation took place Wednesday morning, a day after Gore signed with the Indianapolis Colts. By Thursday evening, Murray was an Eagle.
"I got a phone call from Chip yesterday," Murray explained during his introductory press conference, "and we talked about a few things."
"We talked schemes," Murray said. "We talked sports science. We talked about the city. We talked about the things (Kelly) wanted to get accomplished and we had a lot of similar interests. He was all about winning. He was all about just being a guy. At the end of the day, he's a great coach, just being able to be a great person, being able to have a relationship with all of the players and the staff here is something that inspired me and I enjoyed about him."
Just as Murray was feeling out Kelly as a potential coach, Kelly was getting his own read on Murray.
"We got a chance to reach out to him and spend a little time talking to him in the morning and he kind of shared his vision on what he wants and what he's looking for," Kelly said Thursday night. "I think Sam (Bradford) obviously had a big impact on him. Their friendship, their ability to see if they could get back together and play again, they had such a good experience at Oklahoma … I know he was offered more money in other places but I think he really wanted to be a part of what we were doing here."
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For Murray, coming off a career season in which he ran for a league-best 1,845 yards, there were plenty of suitors for his services. The running back confirmed that he was offered more money elsewhere and that he had initially expected to return to Dallas. Then along came Kelly and the Eagles.
"I felt this was a great opportunity for me to win a Super Bowl at the end of the day," Murray said. "It wasn't about financial security or anything like that. Obviously, you want something that you deserve and something that is respectful. I felt that those two things were important to me and I was able to accomplish that here.
"It definitely wasn't the biggest contract, but it was something about this organization, about this team, that caught my eye and I felt that there was a great chance to win here and that's what you want. You want to be in a place that has great fans. You want to be in a place that has a great coach in Chip Kelly. You want to be in a place that has a chance to win and be successful."
And as Kelly hinted, the opportunity to reunite with Bradford, Murray's former college roommate, did not hurt.
"Sam's a great friend of mine," Murray said. "He's like a brother to me as well. We've spent some time at Oklahoma; we were roommates there. We played a lot of great games in Norman, so it was a huge influence once I heard that he was getting traded here. He immediately texted me and said, 'Hey, jump on board. Let's go win it.' I'm excited to get back with him. He's a close friend of mine and I'm excited to play with him again."
While Murray's decision to sign with the Eagles seemed to come together in about 36 hours, the Eagles' interest in Murray had been more of a pipe dream since the start of free agency.
"We had a couple guys that we had kind of targeted and then it's just how it shakes itself out," Kelly explained. "Obviously Frank (Gore) was a guy we targeted and I think that Frank's one of the premier backs in this league and obviously with us having him go to Indianapolis, we had always planned on trying to bring in two guys and we were fortunate to get Ryan (Mathews) and DeMarco.
"I don't think we extended ourselves financially to be honest with you. You have to run the football in this league and that's what I've always believed in. We lost a very talented running back and part of making that decision in losing LeSean is 'How do you replace someone of that caliber?'"
So the Eagles pressed forward with their pursuit of Mathews, who was apparently always part of the plan. When the possibility of pairing Mathews with Murray then became feasible, Kelly and co. did everything they could to close the deal. Now, with a pair of running backs who each have two 1,000-yard seasons to their credit, the Eagles' running game has a brand new look.
"(Murray) is a physical, downhill runner, really what in a zone scheme we're looking for, a downhill, one-cut runner and both him and Ryan I think possess those qualities," Kelly said. "And when you have a physical, downhill runner, you better have two of them because they're going to carry the ball but they're also going to take a lot of physical shots, so we want to be able to spread out the carries. We were real fortunate, I think, and a real credit to LeSean for the last two years, you know you had your fingers crossed the whole time that he'd never get injured and it's a real credit to him in terms of his durability. Knowing the style that those guys have, I think being able to distribute the carries to two guys is what we're looking to do."
The ability to split carries among Murray and Mathews, along with Darren Sproles, should also help ease the burden on Murray, who had a league-high 392 carries in 2015.
"I don't think it's a concern but I also think, for us, part of having Ryan here is I would hope DeMarco doesn't have to carry the ball 392 times this year," Kelly said. "If he does, then we're running it 692 times."