DAVIE, Fla. – Thanksgiving week is a chance to reflect on those who helped along the way. Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell has encouraging words in that regard for San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly.
Last year Kelly believed enough in Maxwell to give him a six-year, $63 million contract in free agency with the Philadelphia Eagles. The agreement included about $25 million guaranteed, as Maxwell garnered one of the biggest contracts of 2015 as Kelly’s prized acquisition.
However, nothing went right in Philadelphia. Maxwell and the team struggled, and Kelly was fired after the season. Kelly moved on to lead the 49ers (1-9) and Maxwell was traded to the Dolphins (6-4), setting up Sunday’s reunion on opposite sidelines.
“Chip is a good dude. He was a good man,” Maxwell said of his former coach. “He’s a very smart guy. He knows his football. ... He changed my life, man. More so than that, he gave me an opportunity. He believed in me, that I could be the guy. It didn’t work out, but it taught me a lot.”
Maxwell had great things to say about Kelly. But the former Eagles coach left Philadelphia with a reputation for not getting along with management and some players. One of the high-profile feuds involved now-Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy.
Maxwell said he got along fine with Kelly. According to the veteran corner, the big issue during his one-year stint in Philadelphia was the defense, which ranked 30th in the league.
“We weren’t communicating on defense. Our defense just wasn’t good,” Maxwell said. “Our red-zone defense sucked. We just wasn’t good. We just didn’t have the chemistry and the fight for each other that I’m on now [with Miami].”
After a slow start, Maxwell is having a bounce-back year with the Dolphins. He leads the team with 11 passes defended and has one interception. Maxwell’s coverage has improved as the season has progressed.
In the Maxwell trade Miami also gained middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, who leads the Dolphins in tackles. Maxwell and Alonso both has been brought to Philadelphia last year by Kelly.
“I think we both got a chip on our shoulder,” Maxwell said. “They traded us after one year. So it’s like, ‘All right, cool. You blew it.’”