Chip Kelly had already sat next to Jeffrey Lurie for about 34 minutes, answering questions from reporters in the jam-packed NovaCare auditorium. Then there were one-on-one interviews for TV. And a chat with the team’s Web site after that.
The last stop was meant to be a less formal meeting with writers in a designated conference room near the cafeteria.
But this is Philadelphia. And the last time a new coach was introduced was 1999 when Kelly was in his first season as New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator. So instead of a handful of writers, Kelly was greeted by 30-plus inquisitive faces.
“What’s the capacity? Are we breaking fire codes here?” Kelly said as he walked in. “I just don’t want the fire codes to tell us we’ve got too many people jammed in one room.”
He took his seat at the head of the table and answered questions, one-by-one. The way Kelly tells it, the nine-hour meeting with Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski in Arizona couldn’t have gone any better. It was going to be either the Eagles or Oregon. No one else was in the picture. After giving it some thought, he decided he wasn’t ready to say good-bye to the people of Eugene.
But the door remained slightly open, and Kelly was able to think about his decision some more – this time without fans and reporters tracking his every move.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I guess I was kind of fortunate in how it did happen because they continued to go through their process, and they reached out and I just said I’d think about it,” Kelly said. “But it gave me an opportunity to really think about it and not be kind of under that spotlight, because it’s a little eerie when people know exactly how long you’ve been with people from an hour-to-hour basis. I mean, seriously, it’s kind of creepy to be honest with you. But i understand it. It’s what makes this such a special place in the NFL itself. There’s such a passionate following. Everybody wants to know what’s going on with their team. That’s part of the challenge.”
The question now: Is Kelly committed to that challenge?
Last offseason, he spurned the Tampa Bay Bucs and decided to go back to Oregon. This year, he decided to go back to Oregon before changing his mind again and signing on with the Eagles.
“I’m all in,” Kelly said, obviously unaware of how often that term has been used during Eagles press conferences. “I think it was Cortes who burned the boats. I’ve burned the boats so I’m not going back. I’m in. I’m an NFL coach, and this is where I want to be. If there was any indecision in terms of [not wanting to be in], I wouldn’t have made the jump.”
Lurie was asked if Kelly’s contract contains any language that would allow him to go back to being a college coach if he decides the NFL isn’t for him. Pro Football Talk recently termed this a Saban Clause.
“We constructed the contract exactly the way we wanted to construct it as an organization,” Lurie said. “I can’t go into the details, but Chip was willing to go along exactly how we wanted the contract to be.”
Reading between the lines, the indication was that no such clause exists.
After one final 13-minute session, Kelly was on his way. And so began the start of a new era of Eagles football.
“I don’t think anybody envisioned this,” Kelly said. “I didn’t. I’m excited about the opportunity, and I’m here, so you’re stuck with me.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Did Kelly and Roseman offer any hints about the team’s plan at quarterback? Tim offers an early read on the situation.
Here’s the story of how Andy Reid and Jon Gruden helped Kelly land in Philly.
Who will run Kelly’s defense? Here are some names.
Tim gets player reaction to the Kelly hire.
And an update to your essential Chip Kelly reading list.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
X’s and O’s won’t be the problem for Kelly, writes Matt Bowen of the National Football Post:
The offense could be tough to prep for (think of the formations and alignments Kelly can roll out on the field) and it will carry that same pace and tempo we see from the Patriots.
However, will the players buy into his coaching? That’s the drill for every new coach in the NFL. I even hit on with the Bears and Marc Trestman in my column over at the Chicago Tribune today. These coaches have to sell the players on a new system of learning, accountability, discipline and so on.
That will be a test for Kelly coming from the college game.
Mike Tanier of SportsOnEarth.com is skeptical of the Kelly hire:
That’s not just a reason for skepticism, but a reason to be more skeptical now than a week and a half ago, when the Kelly coaching search looked like a coaching search, not a romantic comedy. They don’t write ‘em like they used to, back when the coveted candidate was more than a fresh face, when the team came across as confident and capable, and everyone acted like smart, decisive adults. Viewers have lower expectations from their romances these days: an indecisive heartbreaker says yes to a desperate-acting sad sack, and everyone high-fives, except those who high-fived 10 days ago. Everyone lives happily ever after, hopefully, though the foundation of this new union does not feel like bedrock.
In other words, this story may involve Philadelphia, but it is no “Philadelphia Story.”
We’ll have much more coverage from yesterday’s session at Novacare, and we’ll see if Kelly starts to fill out his coaching staff.