The leap from college to the pros is not an easy one for a football coach, especially when that coach enters the show in a crazed east-coast football town like Philly. Lots of stumbling blocks, and plenty of people to point out the instant you get tripped up on one.
Fortunately for Chip Kelly, he has a connection to a man who knows exactly what that ride is like, and how to properly maneuver.
“The only guy I’ve talked to extensively about making the jump from the college to the pros was coach [Dick] Vermeil. He’s been great,” said Kelly. “If you’re a college coach or a pro coach, the respect people have for Dick Vermeil, and he’s been great. If I’ve had questions, I’ve had the opportunity to call coach and kind of bounce some things off of him.”
Vermeil, in a phone conversation with Birds 24/7, downplayed his role in helping Kelly transition to the pros. He says that he has spoken to Kelly a couple times by phone, and joked that any face-to-face interaction has quickly been interrupted by someone else in the room seeking the new head coach’s attention.
But Kelly obviously sees value.
He sought out Vermeil before taking the Eagles job to talk about Philadelphia and ex-college coaches who have tried their hand in the league.
“First he asked about Philly. I said it is a great place to live and a great place to coach,” said Vermeil. “I said the fans are passionate and a little on the intense side and they care. Those are all good things. And I said this is a tremendous organization that has done it as well as almost anybody but no Super Bowls. Somebody’s going to do it, and I said it might as well be you.”
Asked what the biggest challenge of moving from the collegiate ranks to the NFL was, the former UCLA head man answered “practice” before the question was all the way out.
“I had scout teams in college, varsity, junior varsity. In the NFL I had 53 guys on the roster,” he said. “It was very hard adjusting practice the way I wanted it, so I doubled it up.”
Vermeil explained that the common procedure in the NFL at the time was for practices to run about 1 1/2 hours, with teams working on offense one day, defense the next, and then finally a combo session. But the Eagles weren’t going to really improve unless they got considerably more time in, so Vermeil made the practice times twice as long after his first year.
Kelly, like Vermeil before him, has to overhaul an entire system and cultivate his own culture, but does not have the same freedoms Vermeil once enjoyed. The days of doubling down on practice time are over.
“His problem is going to be getting better within the [confines] of the new CBA,” said Vermeil.
It took Vermeil some time to get traction on this level. The Eagles went a combined 9-19 his first two seasons before posting a winning record in 1978. Patience doesn’t seem to run as deep as it once did.
He cited “support staff and willingness to listen” as the keys to making a successful transition from college to the NFL. You need the personnel, and you have to be comfortable in your own skin.
“He is obviously an outstanding coach and he isn’t going to lose that ability to coach,” said Vermeil. “I think there have been head coaches who have come in and think they have to be different; they’re intimidated by the 35-year-old offensive lineman. That won’t be Chip’s case. He has a lot of confidence. He’s not arrogant, he’s confident.
“I think people will like him.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
What will a Kelly training camp look like? We take a look.
More love for Matt Barkley.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Ashley Fox calls the Eagles the most intriguing team in the NFL.
Kelly was revolutionary at Oregon, where he led the Ducks to a 46-7 record in four seasons and introduced college football to his fast-paced, no-huddle spread offense. The Ducks redefined what it means to play fast. In 13 games last season, they ran 1,077 plays, a number that would have ranked seventh in the NFL’s 16-game schedule. Oregon averaged 82.8 plays per game, a number that would have made New England, which led the NFL last season averaging 74.4 plays per game, look slow by comparison.
Can Kelly’s up-tempo offense work in the NFL with a bunch of players who have never run it?
Tommy Lawlor believes this coaching staff can help Mychal Kendricks take the next step.
Bill McGovern is here to focus on OLBs, but he developed Luke Kuechly into one of the best MLBs in recent college history. He might have a nugget or two that could help Kendricks. And while Bill Davis track record as DC is only slightly better than Les Bowen’s as a polka dancer, Davis does know how to coach LBs. He got great results from D’Qwell Jackson last year. Karlos Dansby thrived under Davis in Arizona. Keith Brooking thrived under Davis in Atlanta. You could counter that all those guys were stars anyway, but that’s part of the point. Kendricks has that kind of talent. He needs the right coaches and system to bring it out of him. Kendricks should develop into a top shelf LB.
We’ll take a look at what the media are saying about the Eagles.