Azzinaro, Stoutland Bring ‘Old School Toughness’

The nearest prop Jerry Azzinaro could find was a plastic bottle of Heinz relish.

Speaking to reporters at the Novacare Complex Monday afternoon, the new Eagles’ defensive line coach was asked to explain Chip Kelly’s “outside-the-box” thinking when it comes to football.

“In every situation that you go into, you’re trying to figure out ways that you can optimize your talent,” Azzinaro, who spent the past four seasons at Oregon, said. “Is that thinking out of the box? I don’t know about that. I just know that you try not to fit round pegs into a square hole. You try to investigate everything that you can from a sports science standpoint.

“Is that really good relish to be feeding our guys?” he asked, pointing to the bottle on the table. “Is that filled with sodium? Is that filled with sugar? Well, that’s the way we think. Is that out of the box? I don’t know that. Is that being detail-oriented? I don’t know that. But I know that it’s important that if my guys are going to come in here and eat here that I need to understand what’s going on in that relish bottle.”

If you haven’t noticed, Kelly has a specific way he plans on tending to every aspect of the Eagles’ football operation.

Of the 21 assistants he added, Azzinaro is the only full-timer Kelly plucked from Oregon’s staff. In addition to coaching the defensive line, Azzinaro also has the title of assistant head coach.

Much of the discussion in the coming weeks will focus on the quarterback, the playmakers and the secondary, which is in need of an overhaul. But Kelly knows the importance of winning at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That’s where Azzinaro and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland come in.

“I think Jeff, simply, is a creative, cutting‑edge, offensive line coach with old school toughness,” Kelly said. “I think when you meet Jeff and have a chance to visit with him, he’s extremely intelligent.  He has a way of making complex things simple, but he also has an edge to him.

“I think your O‑line coach has to be a tough guy, and your D‑line coach has to be a tough guy, and we’ve hired two pretty tough guys on both sides of the football.”

Speaking to Stoutland for a few minutes, it’s easy to see that Kelly’s description rings true. In one breath, he spoke about how he used to golf with former Eagles great Chuck Bednarik at the Big 33 game in Hershey.

“He would always make my son shake his hand, and his finger would be pointed over like that,” Stoutland said. “What a good guy he is. He would always tell me stories about Philadelphia and Franklin Field. I’d spend the whole day with him listening to stories about the Philadelphia Eagles. I was thinking about that the other day. Here I am. That’s pretty neat.”

And in the next breath, Stoutland explained why he chose to leave an elite program behind at Alabama.

“I just feel like there’s something happening here right now,” Stoutland said. “First of all, I’ve watched Coach Kelly’s teams play for many years, and he said it today, the evolution of football is changing. And I’ve heard Coach [Nick] Saban say this a hundred times in meetings: You’ve got to stay up with it, or you’re going to fall behind. And I just think that Coach Kelly is that type of coach. He wants to be ahead of it always and wants to stay ahead of it always and not put his head in the sand. I’m all about that – being creative, having new ideas, new concepts, never getting stale or bored. I think that’s healthy.”

Azzinaro (54) and Stoutland (51) have coached on the same staff once before. Both were at Syracuse in 1999 – coincidentally, the last time the Eagles saw major change at the top.

Together again with Kelly, they’ll now be charged with making sure this team is tough enough up front on both sides of the ball.

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

    Good luck breaking the news to King Dunlap that some foods will now be frowned upon

    • ICDogg

      So he wouldn’t “relish” that concept?

      • Kushan Patel

        I condiment to echo the same sentiment, but I just didn’t know how.

      • theycallmerob

        No, and it would seem this Coach Kelly leaves very little margarine for error

        • bentheimmigrant

          If his style doesn’t work, we’ll have to hear all about it from the CK haters, Because, you know… Heinz-sight is 20-20.

          • Graham

            lol looks like we have a bunch of redditors!

          • hillbillybirdsfan

            I never sausage a witty group of comments!

    • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

      That was funny, but even reading that name makes me wanna puke. I hope King Dunlap and D. Bell spend the whole next season eating jar after jar of sodium rich relish, nowhere near the eastern seaboard.

      • theycallmerob

        I’m convinced King Dunlap will be in a Chiefs uniform next season. Reid seems to have a weird Blind Side/Michael Oher thing going on with him

    • PaoliBulldog

      Dunlap is way behind in his conditioning. He doesn’t have much time to ketchup.

  • aub32

    I think I already prefer this tandem to the retiree duo of Mudd and Washburn.

    • $52095436

      Mudd was having an impact–but the injuries blew it up. Kelly runs a lot of zone blocking too–as did Alabama. Stoutland is awesome. You gotta love Azzinaro too. Talk about old school!

      • aub32

        Nothing wrong with Mudd’s scheme, but it seems to require a specific player and football IQ. Stoutland seems like more of a teacher that can bring out the best in talented players. I look forward to see if he has success with Watkins.

      • Mitchell

        I love Azzinaro preaching “violence” in his practices. That’s how a d-line should be violent but not as violent as Suh.

        • $52095436

          Within the rules, football allows more than enough violence. :)

    • Bob A

      Mudd retired, Washburn works for the Lions now.

      • aub32

        I know. The comment was in reference to their age, not necessarily their current status. I needed something that was catchy but not disrespectful.

        • Bob A

          Aahh,yes…’pretired’…There’s lots of that, especially in pro sports…for instance..,Trent Cole…pretired.

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    That’s rather unusual, the Defensive Line Coach is the Assistant Coach in lieu of the Defensive or Offensive Coordinator. Hu-ray!, a Coach that understands the fundamental philosophy of winning at all the line of scrimmage.

    • bentheimmigrant

      I seem to recall some QB coaches in the league having that position… Though no names are coming to mind just now.

      • Damien

        Andy Reid was in GB.

        • dilbert719

          And David Culley now holds that title under Andy in KC.

    • thefadd

      Reid failed when he STOPPED drafting 5 OL every year and ended up with no back ups.

  • FrenchEaglesFan

    If anyone didn’t get any of those jokes, my guess is they’re pretty slow and they’d better ketchup!

  • FinsterBaby

    Anyone else find the 1999-Syracuse-McNabb connection interesting vis a vis Sheil’s observation

    • Graham

      I think it means Eagles are taking Nassib out of Syracuse for 4th pick

      • thefadd

        I think it means they’re NOT taking Nassib ;-)

      • UKEagle99

        I think the Eagles are sitting pretty at 4. There are some QB hungry teams just behind them so there is always the chance to trade down a few slots and get an extra pick.

  • thefadd

    I appreciate the Philly love our new outsider coaches are giving us — Bednarik stories, wing bowl references — but it’s starting to feel creepy like the way google and facebook target ads at us.

    • Bob A

      Yes,it’s pretty obvious they showed up yesterday. We’ll know they belong when they figure out that Pats and Genos aren’t the best cheeesteaks in Philly( and just tourist traps )and D’allesandros and Chinks are

  • 5th and lehigh

    wasnt jim washburn old school tough?

    • $52095436

      Yep, but he didn’t leave his ego at the door. These guys do.