Since Kelly’s name first started to get linked to NFL head-coaching jobs, many have debated whether his spread-option attack would work at this level. But really, that is the wrong question.
It’s true that the Patriots chatted with Kelly about implementing a one-word no-huddle attack to push tempo. And it’s also true that quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have had success running the option. But in the NFL, teams will adjust. Especially when they have a full offseason to look at the film and craft a plan.
Perhaps that’s why Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and company emphasized that they believe Kelly’s greatest strength will be his ability to figure out what’s coming next.
“He’s got an incredible way of thinking about things,” Roseman said. “When we looked at this and studied people who were great – and we had a great head coach – there were people who were out front on the edge of things, and then people are starting to copy. What we learned very quickly, Chip was a trend-setter. The things people were doing, they were following him. He wasn’t a disciple of anyone. People weren’t going, ‘Oh, Chip Kelly, he’s an offshoot of this person or that person.’ He was on the edge of it. And sometimes to find greatness, you’ve got to find the person who’s on top of that, and that’s what we’re trying to find.”
Of course, Kelly wasn’t the only candidate the Eagles targeted. Lurie and Roseman raved about Gus Bradley, who eventually took the Jacksonville Jaguars job. They also had great things to say about Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.
It had been 14 years since Lurie interviewed head-coaching candidates. This was an opportunity for him to pick the brains of some of the league’s top candidates.
“There are so many intriguing philosophies out there, in terms of how to operate an NFL team, that we just learned a tremendous amount, that we will share with Chip as well,” Lurie said. “There is a lot of innovative thought out there. I would have to say probably the most innovative thought on all these fronts was with Chip.”
Kelly might turn out to be the wrong choice, but it’s tough to find fault with how Lurie went about the process. He interviewed a variety of candidates – some from college, some current coordinators, some former NFL head coaches. He was looking for someone who had leadership and vision. And he eventually landed the guy who was at the top of his list.
He was also thinking long-term. Lurie’s first coach, Ray Rhodes, lasted four years. His second coach, Andy Reid, lasted 14. Lurie was patient with Reid, although certainly, a lot of that had to do with Reid’s success. With Kelly, Lurie’s not going to demand a quick turnaround. Kelly signed a five-year deal, and there’s no doubt he’s going to implement changes across the board.
Lurie seems committed to giving him time to get everything in place.
“I really think you’ve got to have somebody very sharp and who sees ahead of the curve, not just what’s happening right now,” Lurie said. “And doesn’t say, ‘Because that team is doing something well, we’re going to copy that team.’ That’s not what we were looking for. We were looking for somebody who is looking out 24 months, 36 months and saying, ‘How do we want to be?’ That’s much more what we’re looking for.”