Is Kelly Closer To Finalizing Coaching Staff?

MOBILE, Ala. – The practice field at Ladd Peebles Stadium was emptying out when Chip Kelly strolled over to a group of reporters.

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is where the different arms of the NFL connect. You’ll see coaches like Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier catching up in the bleachers. Drew Rosenhaus walking around on his cell phone, looking to pick up a new client or two. Scouts and GMs keeping an eye on prospects. And college kids looking to get to the next level.

For Kelly, this marks his first offseason as an NFL head coach. He looked right at home, talking shop with Nick Saban one minute. And catching up with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin the next.

After being officially introduced on Thursday, Kelly’s in the process of finalizing his staff. No names have been announced, but we saw plenty of guys with Philadelphia Eagles credentials hanging from their neck today.

Jerry Azzinaro was one of them. We wrote about the defensive line coach over the weekend. Rick Minter, rumored to be taking over as linebackers coach, also had an Eagles tag on.

The indication Monday was that Kelly would announce his staff all together, once everybody’s in place.

“That’s why the process takes a little time,” Kelly explained. “Because if you haven’t worked with them before and you don’t know people that really have worked with them that you trust, then it’s just more getting a feel for what they’re all about. And that’s a wide range of topics.”

Perhaps the most important hire for Kelly will be defensive coordinator. Giants linebackers coach Jim Herrmann has withdrawn his name from consideration. Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com is reporting that 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell could be a candidate.

Asked for one characteristic he is looking for out of a defensive coordinator, Kelly joked, “Shutout-ability. That would be the one overriding quality. And I have no idea how we can define that, but that’s actually a pretty good word right there.”

Later, he explained that he’s trying to talk to candidates about a number of different things: their core defensive philosophy, what they think about specific situations like red zone and third down and how they would want to use their allotted roster spots.

On the offensive side of the ball, Pat Shurmur was in attendance and appeared to be part of the Eagles’ contingent. On the surface, Shurmur would seem like an odd fit as potential offensive coordinator, given that his background is in the west coast offense. Kelly was asked if he is looking for people similar to himself.

“Oh, God no,” he said, before the reporter had even finished the question. “I think you need a lot of different personalities. I think if not, everything’s the same. And I think for you to flourish, there’s a lot of different things you need. You need really, really smart people. I think you need people that are dedicated. And sometimes, you need people that are just a little bit off too, so it’s a rare combination. But I don’t want everybody to be the same because I don’t think we’d grow as a group. I think we need to challenge each other.”

While many have speculated that the Eagles’ offense under Kelly could resemble what he ran at Oregon, he’s been quick to point out that he plans on adapting to personnel.

“We’re trying to paint everybody with one brush,” Kelly said of potential coordinators. “They’re not all tied to just one scheme. I think you need to have people that have some versatility because your starting quarterback may be able to run your scheme, and your backup quarterback may not. So you don’t just throw your hands up in the first quarter when he ‘s out and say, ‘We’re in trouble now.’ You’ve got to be able to adapt. That’s what I think the fun part of coaching is – being able to identify what your personnel can do, and then play to their strengths.”

Other notes:

* Eagles senior college scout Greg Gabriel, who was hired last June, was in attendance.

* According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Juan Castillo will join the Ravens as a consultant for the next two weeks and then be their run-game coordinator next season.

* Matthew Harper, an Oregon graduate assistant coach, was also part of the Eagles’ contingent.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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