What I Learned About Chip Kelly

On the flight down to Mobile, Ala. last week, my choice of reading material was a PDF.

We’ve linked to it previously in this space. It’s from a presentation Chip Kelly delivered at the Nike Coaches Clinic in 2011. The Oregon football Web site FishDuck.com received permission to publish the document, which details some of Kelly’s core coaching philosophies.

Below is a rundown of what stood out for me and how it might apply to Kelly’s tenure with the Eagles.

If a coach tells me respect is an important part of his program, I should see it in practice. If I go to practice and I see a player who takes a cheap shot at another player and no one corrects him, that program has no respect in it.

My mind immediately hearkened back to the summer of 2010. Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims made a habit of cheap-shotting teammates after the whistle during training camp. Running back Eldra Buckley was often on the receiving end, but there were others too, like tight end Brent Celek, who got laid out.

When asked, Andy Reid and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said they talked to Sims about his actions, but they also seemed willing to tolerate his antics. Clearly, the message never got through to him.

It’s just one anecdote, but certainly the issue of player accountability is one worth keeping an eye on with Kelly. At the end of Reid’s tenure, there was very little of that. Reid had a good relationship with his players. That was one of his biggest strengths. But maybe they got a little bit too comfortable.

When we teach, we implement it in the classroom. We talk about what we are putting in that day. We show them what it is. After that, we go to the practice field and do it. The practice field is not where we talk. It is where we do the skills. We want to keep words on the field to a minimum. The words you use must have a meaning. When the players hear the word, you get immediate feedback.

This is, perhaps, the most fascinating aspect of Kelly’s leap to the NFL. I asked him last week how he would adjust his practice philosophy, and Kelly admitted that he would need to tweak some things, although he didn’t articulate specifics. Will he still run all up-tempo practices? Will the players buy in?

“If you have a bunch of guys who want to win,” Kelly said, when asked that question the day he was introduced. “I don’t know if guys say, ‘Coach, we don’t want to score points.’ I haven’t encountered people like that, and I don’t think there are people like that.”

We’ll get an idea of how Kelly plans on running practices during OTAs and mini-camps, although it remains to be seen how much the media will be allowed to observe. Kelly and the Eagles will also have to decide whether they’re committed to holding training camp at Lehigh.

Coaching is one thing and one thing only: it is creating an environment so the player has an opportunity to be successful. When you teach him to do that, get out of his way. The coach is not playing the game. All we can do at the end of the game is to evaluate what happened in the game. Was there a situation that we did not cover in practice? The coach needs to know if he gave the player all the tools he needed to be successful in that situation. We have to continually analyze the situation and try to make it better.

This speaks to one of the most common refrains we’ve heard from everyone in the Eagles’ organization (Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, etc.) since Kelly was hired: The plan is not to take what he did in Oregon, plant it in the NFL and expect it to work. While he has core beliefs, Kelly has stressed that every aspect of coaching a football team is personnel-driven.

That means it’s possible, maybe even likely, that the Eagles are going to look completely different than the teams Kelly coached at Oregon.

Asked last week if he was flattered to see playoff teams using his concepts, Kelly responded, “They didn’t take it from me. I didn’t invent it. We were just smart enough to use it. There’s nothing that I’ve done in football I can say, ‘Hey, I invented that.’ They’ve been doing a lot of different concepts dating way back to a long, long time ago before a lot of us were ever born.”

If you accept it, expect it. If you accept a player going eight yards, when he is supposed to go 10, it will happen Friday night. If it his third-and-10, and you get eight, whose fault is that? Did you accept the fact they went eight yards in practice instead of 10? Did you emphasize it in practice?

This one relates to the Eagles’ failures in 2012. We saw the same issues surface week after week: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s poor tackling; Nnamdi Asomugha and Kurt Coleman staring at each other confused after blown coverages; careless turnovers on offense; horrible special-teams play. Obviously, Reid was able to identify these issues, but he was never able to correct them. The message just stopped getting through.

The players today do not do it “because I told you so.” We do not live in that society anymore. Some of us grew up in it, but it does not work anymore. Players today want to know why. Tell them why. If you do not have a good reason why we do things, we probably should not be doing them.

Lurie actually brought this up when he introduced Kelly. He loved that the new coach was constantly asking, “Why?” It’s something that Oregon players Kyle Long and Kenjon Barner touched on last week when I talked to them. They emphasized that Kelly is a players’ coach, but he will get on his guys. You get the sense though that he’s focused on getting the message across with thorough explanations, rather than yelling and making a scene.

The point I am making is to go through every scenario that happens in a game and practice it. You should not just put the ball down and run a play. That never happens in a game. Football is a game of situations. You have to practice those situations. When the game is on the line, your players better be able to call the play before you call the play. The only play that will work is the one they have confidence in running. Everybody at the end of a game knows the play that we are going to call.

Given the issues the Eagles have had at the end of halves and at the end of games, this one really hits home. Of course, words are one thing. Execution is another. But Kelly clearly has a plan for how to be prepared for those game-deciding situations.

In our attitude, every sack is the quarterback’s fault. It is not a sack if the quarterback throws the ball away. Nobody ever lost a game on an incomplete pass. Throw the ball away, and give us another opportunity to make a first down. If you throw it away, it is second-and-10 for the first down. If you take the sack, it is second-and-16 for the down. If you can stay away from negative yardage plays, you will be successful.

In any discussion about a potential Michael Vick/Kelly union, this point must be brought up. It should also be referenced in the coming months when we look at potential quarterback fits in free agency and the draft.

Every single game on your schedule is a rivalry game. If the cross-town rival is game six on your schedule, and you circle it in red, you have told your team the first five games do not count. It will be okay to lose a couple of games during that stretch.

This one is for my fellow reporters to take note of. Stay away from the How important is this game because it’s against an NFC opponent? questions, please. You already know what the answer is going to be.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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  • http://twitter.com/glbrtphoto stephen gilbert

    Everything we need to know about Chip Kelly, I think, can be summed up in this quote y Henry Ford:

    “I’m looking for a lot of men with an infinite capacity for not knowing what can’t be done.”

  • Graham

    Love all these excerpts, thanks Sheil.

    Gives us eagles fans a ton of excitement to look forward to..

  • PaoliBulldog

    There’s big difference between being innovative and thinking you’re smarter than everybody else.

    It’s troubling to hear more anecdotes about Reid’s lack of character on matters of character. Washburn, the DL coach, disrespected Castillo, the OC, and yet Castillo was the first to go. Sims was a punk before, during and after his tenure in Philadelphia. What kind of coach tolerates that kind of garbage? I believe CK will not make those kinds of mistakes.

    • bentheimmigrant

      A coach who believes a little too much in redemption. AR seems to fundamentally believe that people should be given a chance to improve themselves. I think that worked fine when it was balanced by some tougher subordinates.

    • thefadd

      that and his game/clock management skills had to weigh on Lurie most heavily, especially when scouting a guy like Chip Kelly. most — even successful — NFL coaches (Norv Turner, Lovie Smith) don’t do that stuff well

  • JTR

    Reminds me of Bruce Lee’s “Tao of Jeet Kune Do” except, you know, for football.

    • theycallmerob

      with a little Sun Tzu thrown in

    • TJ111

      Phil Jackson zen master stuff

  • miked718

    Keep stoking the fire Sheil! So excited about this era of Eagles football. The best part is that even if we don’t win a lot of games this season, just seeing a change in the culture and attitude (and run/pass ratio and 2 minute management) will feel revolutionary.

    • Graham

      Even if it takes 2 or 3 years to build a great program, I’d wait for that.
      Must see how first year goes first before any of those thoughts

    • theycallmerob

      amen brother.

    • TJ111

      As an Oregon Ducks alumni, all I can say to Eagles fans is, I’m an Eagles fan. Sit back, relax, enjoy the show. Win lose or draw, you got the best of NFL football!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.loder Andrew Loder

    Great job as usual, Sheil.

  • Seabreezes51

    I stumbled onto fish duck the day after they hired Kelly. The videos are phenomenal. Every Eagles fan should watch them

    • Graham

      Can you link to them?

      • Seabreezes51

        I tried to link it but it looks like the link was kicked back. google up Fishduck and you will get there.

  • Ryan

    now THIS is good writing and reporting. good job Sheil. it’s nice to find a good read during these somewhat slow times…

  • xlGmanlx

    Ladies and gentlemen I think Mr Lurie deserves some credit. How can you not read that PDF and not be inspired? I see nothing from Reid that is even close to what level Kelly is mentally.

  • Wildboark

    I watched the FishDuck.com video on the inside read option. Based on what I saw and heard, I would expect Shady and BB to have pretty good years, if the O-line can play a little better.

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    Great Offensive Line play on the videos. Currently with what’s on the roster in Philly, there’s no way the Eagles can achieve this kind of execution.

  • TheGhostofNormVanBrocklin

    Alright. I’m sold. Let’s do this.

  • Zachary Kahn

    Look, Im as encouraged as any Eagles fan to hear Chip’s philosophies, but these are just words. Its very easy right now to go back and bash Andy Reid for all of his fault, but the guy won a ton of games as a head coach. It’s not like he didn’t have some of his own philosophies that were successful. Having said all that, this is really refreshing. Im all in on Chip Kelly and i’m excited as hell to see what this team will look like in September.

  • knighn

    Andy Reid had a philosophy, “You win in the NFL by throwing the ball.” This is part of what lead to the Philadelphia Eagles offense being very predictable. The opposing team’s defense would tee off on the QB because, no matter what, the Eagles were going to pass at least 60% of the time, regardless of the QB, WRs, O-line, RBs… or weather. Were there exceptions to this? Yes, of course there were, but generally the opposing team would play the odds and expect a pass. After many games, the press would ask Andy Reid why he didn’t continue to lean on his RBs since they were doing such a good job at it. His answer was always some variation of “I’ve got to do a better job.”
    Chip Kelly has a different philosophy “I’m an equal opportunity scorer. We’ll score any way we can.” He has also said that he will play to the strengths of his QB. If his QB is a good runner and not a good passer, the QB will run the ball more often. If the QB is a good passer and not a good runner, he’s not going to ask the QB to take off running! Andy Reid always had his QBs pass and pass and pass… no matter how good they were at passing.
    Kelly’s teams in college were very run-heavy.

    Let’s look at his Ducks in 2012:

    The team passed the ball only 373 times and ran the ball 685 times! They ran the ball 65% of the time! Now, do I expect Kelly to run the ball quite as heavily in the NFL? No, but his offense may still be a little run heavy, and should protect the QB a lot more.

  • Username19067

    Seattle, Minnesota both turned around horrible seasons the previous year, and won 10 games. Chip can do the same. The unpredictable nature alone will give him two wins. The division rivals knew exactly what Reid was going to run every play. Cut down on the turnovers and show a different playbook and your at .500. Find a game managing qb, a healthy offensive line and a defense that can compete (not even dominate) and they can win 10 games.

  • nicksaenz1

    I’m not the biggest fan of the Chip Kelly hiring, however, I don’t have a choice to be all in. All of these quotes sound nice, but with so much yet to be determined, it’s hard for me, personally, to be as excited as so many others. I guess I’ll have to wait until at OTAs, or closer to them at least, to know about certain things that concern me. QB situation? How healthy is our o-line, namely Peters and Kelce? What defensive scheme will be used (3-4/4-3)? I guess I’ll have to wait and see.