Kelly: Veterans Have Set Tone, Made Transition Easy

DeMeco RyansWhen Chip Kelly decided to make the leap to the NFL, he considered what it would take to get a new group of players to buy into his program.

On one hand, he might have guessed he’d have no problem connecting with the younger players. After all, they were similar in age to the athletes he coached at Oregon. They hadn’t been around the NFL game long enough to be too set in their ways. And they would likely be hungry to make names for themselves in whatever way possible.

But what about the veterans? Guys like DeMeco Ryans, who’s on his third head coach in three years. And Trent Cole, a two-time Pro Bowler who had played 124 games for Andy Reid. How would they respond to a college coach coming in and making wholesale changes?

“That’s a great thing about this is our older guys have really set the tone,” Kelly said. “If you watch how [Jason] Kelce, [Brent] Celek, DeMeco Ryans and guys like that have approached things, you can’t help but say, ‘Oh.’ They do such a great job of showing the young guys how to be professional. That’s what, to me, [has] made the transition really easy because that core group of older guys here – there’s not a ton of them. Trent [Cole] is like that. Trent’s always working hard. There’s not a lot of older guys on this team, but the group of older guys that are on this team – Michael [Vick] – those guys work.”

The Eagles have plenty of roster spots up for grabs this summer. But don’t expect Kelly to simply give younger players an edge because they have more years left to grow and develop. Age is obviously a factor, but Year 1 is also about building a culture and establishing a new way of doing things.

For that foundation to be built on solid ground, Kelly needs to maintain the right mix of veterans and younger players.

“I think our older players have been the best to be honest with you,” he said.

“I think when you’re 21, 22 years old you think you’re invincible, so you don’t totally have to buy into everything and you don’t have to sleep as much, and you can get away with maybe not going to bed like someone else goes to bed. But when you start to get up to 28, 30, 31, 32, you better look at every advantage you can get from that standpoint. I think that’s what these guys have. The older guys have been fantastic. It was interesting because outside you would think they’re the ones. But I think they’re the ones that gain the most from it. They’re fresher, they’re more prepared and ready to go. And I think also for those guys when you look at it, if they’ve played 8-10 years in this league, they already know how to be professional. They were already getting the right amount of sleep. They’re not out running around going crazy because if that happened, you’d get spit out of this league pretty quick.”

Most of the feedback from players during the spring was positive. Veterans stayed loyal to Reid to the end, but after 12 wins in two seasons, they understood changes needed to be made.

Kelly and his staff have emphasized the “whys” throughout the process all offseason. It’s the same approach he had at Oregon, but so far, Kelly is finding it easier to get his message across to professional athletes.

“I think the guys are more serious,” he said. “It’s awesome. These guys want to win. This is their chosen profession, and all they want to do is be successful. They’re a lot more mature, they’re a lot more focused on what they have to do. They come to work every day. That part’s been fantastic.”

Of course, it’s mid-July and there’s a sense of hope and optimism around most teams. In the coming months, Kelly will face new challenges. He’ll have to decide on a starting quarterback. He’ll have to deal with players who don’t understand why he’s doing things a certain way (see: DeSean Jackson situation). And he’ll have to be prepared for what the reaction might be should the Eagles get off to a slow start.

But Kelly seems to be aware of all those factors. And in terms of where he is in the process, the new head coach is pleased.

“When these guys are here, they want to win and prepare and that’s the fun part of this job,” he said. “I didn’t know what it would be like, but that part has just blown me away in terms of how receptive these players have been. The bottom line is that’s how they get judged. We’re all going to be judged the same way: Did you win or did you lose? So it’s a lot easier when we’re all going in the same direction as opposed to fighting it.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Jack Waggoner

    Well, they got rid of a few of the older guys who were not going to be any help establishing the culture, such as Nnamdi and DRC… the older players that survived, for the most part, are the guys with top professional attitudes.

  • Mrkraxx

    Having players there that remember what being a good team is all about, and what playing for your coach is all about, will make Kelly’s transition to the nfl and the players willingness to get on board, WAY easier than if he was starting with the browns or jags or the like .

  • Dominik

    “If you watch how [Jason] Kelce, [Brent] Celek, DeMeco Ryans and guys
    like that have approached things, you can’t help but say, ‘Oh.’ They do
    such a great job of showing the young guys how to be professional.”

    Don’t want to nitpick Kelly here, but Kelce isn’t a vet. He’s in his third year and missed most of his second year.

    Another thing that could be telling (altough it’s not save to conclude from that, since Sheil maybe just didn’t mention him here, but Kelly named him): Kelly doesn’t mention Avant with the other vets, who’s thought of a high character guy (and probably is). To be fair, he didn’t mention Herremans, Mathis, Peters or Sopo either. But those guys are locks to make the roster.

    • Engwrite

      I can’t imagine what you would say if you decide to really nitpick.

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

      By vets I think he just means players who are not a rookie and are not new to the team. And I’m sure you’re looking to far into that second point, most likely just naming off names that came to his head. Kelly doesn’t seem like a guy that would put THAT much thought into an answer like that.

      • Dominik

        “most likely just naming off names that came to his head”

        Probably, yes. But why doesn’t Avant comes to his mind when he thinks about the vets and their great reaction to the change Kelly brought?

        We shouldn’t be too scientific here, altough we know with Kelly, there’s always science behind that :D, but even if he was just naming off names, you can at least interpret it a little bit.

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

    New era, new avatar. Hopefully the 300+ bucks I dropped on a Kendricks jersey last year pays off. Fly Eagles Fly!

  • Max Lightfoot

    I predict 6-10, unless there are woesome injuries. Which is an improvement, but we need more talent and another strong draft, IMO. If they completely buy into his scheme and go 7-9, Chip Kelly should be given a parade.

  • Dutch

    I don’t know that any coach who would have come to the Eagles would not have found a core group of players who aren’t interested in improvement after the debacle over the last two years. Players joining together at the facility during the off season isn’t a new concept. Those players who settled in the area over the last couple years are at the facility daily working out and going over film looking at ways to get an edge on the competition.

    Chip Kelly hasn’t inspired that process. There maybe some players giving extra effort to catch the eye of the new coaches, but over all the core leaders of that locker room who have been Eagles more than two years understand what it takes to maintain a winning culture and the Eagles way. One of the problems with Free Agents, especially those coming in from franchises who had not experienced recent success is they may not be accustomed to putting forth the extra work required to be successful,

    For the guys who had been with the Eagles a while it’s obvious a change was needed. Those guys had been part of a storied and respected franchise on and off the field. Losing is not familiar or an easy pill to swallow. Those are the players who have no choice except to take the losing season personal because it was on their watch that things had become unglued.

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

    Not really sure what angle you’re trying to work on this. Are you thinking Avant isn’t having a great reaction to the changes? All reports are coming out that he’s bought in, he’s even putting on time after practice to help out the rookie receiver from LSU. What would Avant gain from bucking Chip… he’s an old receiver with a very limited skill set, one of the only things working in his favor is his high character..

    Anyways, I’m not gonna get much more into this.. because I believe as I stated above it was probably just a few names that came to his head. If he had a roster in front of him and he was reading off names and he didn’t say Avant then maybe I’d think about it, but other than that.. not a big deal.

  • Dominik

    I hope I wasn’t that unclear in my statement.

    Of course I know that you shouldn’t make more out of that than there is, but I think it could (!!) tell us something, at least a little bit. But I can be wrong here, obviously.

  • cliff henny

    rather get byrd. probably similar pricetag in terms of cost to acquire and then also extension, rather go with the safety. any update on him?

  • cliff henny

    yes, probably. contract demands do seem reasonable. issue is cost to bills, sure they want a 1st, that’s just too steep.

  • Dutch

    That’s absurd and a statement which clearly identifies you as someone who knows nothing about Football. If the Bills don’t get a 1st it’s because they waited to long to deal with this situation. It’s late and teams know the Bills stand a chance at getting nothing for Byrd if they don’t act fast.

    Byrd can refuse to sign the tender and sit out the first 10 games of the 2013 season. To get his unmitigated release for 2014 Byrd only has to suit up for 6 games.

    In that scenario the Bills end up with egg on their face and no compensation for one of the most sought after safeties in the NFL.

    The time to trade Byrd was before the draft. During the period when Revis was traded. The Bills shot themselves in the foot. The 1st isn’t too great a price for Byrd it is just to late to demand equal value in exchange for Byrd now.

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

    wanted the actual game jerseys (I think they’re called “Elite”).. they didn’t stock Kendricks ones so I had to get a custom one.. 273 Canadian plus tax.. plus shipping to Canada.. My last 3 jerseys were Chinese knockoffs so I decided to drop the cash on a nice one this time haha.

  • hokieduck

    Ex-Duck. :)