Eagles Wake-Up Call: Is Chip Kelly Going Down the Wrong Path?

Inevitably, Chip Kelly will stumble a time or two as he continues his transition from college to the pro game. Some lessons can only be learned through experience.

Longtime NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio believes that the former Oregon coach is on the verge of making his first notable mistake.

“Chip Kelly has to start getting this team solidified,” said Paolantonio during an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic. “You can’t say in July, in the National Football League to professional football players who have been out there for months, that the depth chart is written in sand. It’s just the wrong approach. It’s a college approach. That’s not the professional approach. It doesn’t work.

“The quarterback situation is the most unsettled in the league. It can’t happen like that. You don’t have 90 guys you can plug in and out. You don’t have guys that are interchangeable like that. There’s a big dropoff between starters and substitutes in the NFL. You don’t have the same dropoff in college. It’s ‘Welcome to the pros.’ I think he’s making a big mistake by stringing everybody along.”

Kelly has stated on numerous occasions that all starting jobs are up for grabs and that there essentially is no depth chart yet. He restated his position on Tuesday.

That approach can be unsettling to some players.  Michael Vick was hopeful that a starting QB would be named prior to camp, but didn’t get his wish. DeSean Jackson — who found himself working with the second and third stringers for a time this spring — took it a step further, saying that “the team” wants to know who the starter is going to be. He later expanded on those comments. 

“As far as myself, I don’t really know what the team is OK with and not OK with,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know where it stands, who’s going to be the starting quarterback. I wish I could know, but at the end of the day, that’s the coach’s decision, so I guess you have to play that how it goes.”

Kelly held open competitions at Oregon, believing that it brought the best out in his players. Given his resume, that method was obviously successful for him in college. But does it work in the pros, where you’re dealing with bigger egos, better competition and bigger talent gaps between starters and backups?

“There is a depth chart for a reason in football. You develop chemistry,” said Paolantonio. “You’ve got a brother next to you you’re going to fight with in the trenches. You’ve got to depend on that guy…If you don’t name your starters and get them situated in the NFL especially, when you’ve got the grueling 16-game schedule — not 12 games, not practice three weeks, go play a college schedule — it’s practice six weeks in the grueling hot sun at a high tempo and then play 16 games. Much different animal.

“You’ve got to start plugging in your starters. You’ve got to start letting them communicate with one another and develop chemistry. There’s a reason why it’s been done this way for 93 years. That’s why it’s done that way.”


Vick talks about the possibility of being the backup.

Sheil offers some practice observations from Tuesday’s hour-long session.

Kelly addresses the media after his first training camp practice.

Matt Tucker and Brad Wing get off on the wrong foot with Kelly.

A look at Michael Bamiro‘s strange path to the Eagles.

Ifeanyi Momah is trying to knock off the rust that comes with a long layoff.

Lane Johnson expects to play at a high level immediately.


Mike Florio offers his thoughts on the QB competition.

The longer it takes for Kelly to decide that Vick has emerged as the starter, the greater the chance that Foles will be the guy who gets the job.  Though it seemed to be a foregone conclusion when the 2012 season ended that Vick wouldn’t return, both he and Kelly were intrigued by the prospect of working together.  But Kelly hasn’t sufficiently been impressed to give Vick the job.

If Kelly isn’t by now, he may never be.

Jimmy Kempski offered this note in his Day 2 recap:

The QBs practiced taking snaps from under center today. That may not sound like something worthy of a bullet-point, but it is the first time I’ve seen them do it this offseason. The Eagles have almost exclusively run out of the shotgun to this point.


Rookies and selected vets practice today at 2:25. The rest of the team reports Thursday.

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  • nicksaenz1

    I think Sal’s point would hold more weight if we were discussing a team that had been a winning franchise at the point Chip took over, say a NE, PIT, BAL, etc. But we’re not. We haven’t had a winning season in 2 years, and were abysmal last season. And while Chip says the chart is in sand, some starters are known, mainly the OL, which arguably is the most important piece in terms of building continuity. There’s a lot of new pieces as well, which require full pads practices, maybe a preseason game or two, to determine what he’s got. If we were going to keep the status quo and not make guys work for it and be accountable we might as well have kept Andy then, too.

    • G_WallyHunter

      Ya, Sal should know better than to do this. Looking at the circumstances, I think Chip is doing what needs to be done. This team obviously needs to refind themselves, it isn’t a D that has 8 or 9 starters in place, it has about 4 or 5…
      Team needs to re-find themselves, what better than to make everyone earn it?
      These so-called starters that Sal speaks about will then rise to the top and prove themselves… I don’t see the big problem lol. These guys play football and compete for a living, if they don’t want to compete for a starting spot (or pass a running test), then you heard the man, pack your bags..

  • Outtenbucks

    I couldn’t disagree with Sal more. No one has depth charts set in stone in July. Unless you are a contender and have been coach for a few seasons, and somehow have not improved your roster over the offseason, you will always have competition for roster spots. Everyone wants to be a starter and this is everyone’s chance to to a crack at it.
    Building comradery? If they don’t start side by side, they won’t get to know each other? They will have plenty of time for that, especially with all the extra reps they will get. It’s best everyone is on the same page, down the whole roster

  • Dutch

    40 new player trying to earn a position. The Eagles only get maybe 16 days of hitting to determine who are the contenders and separate them from the pretenders. It’s understandable the delay in piecing together your best competitors. Where the drama remains is building a chemistry on offense and defense. 47 days til opening day, with each passing day you lose a day to build a solid chemistry among the receivers and QB and between the defensive backs, these are two of the biggest question marks in the division.

    We still have no clue how anyone on the defense will play in Bill Davis new scheme while the offense is pretty much still in tact from last season.

  • thereelmarlin

    Sal Pal plays the devil’s advocate at every step of the way. Its his shtick. I put very little into most of what he says.

  • Jim Blizzard

    Training camp has not even started yet, isn’t a coach allowed to see his players anymore before making a depth chart.

  • josh

    i completely dissagree with the article. would you say the same thing if it were a different coach coming from the NFL? a brand new staff working with a talented but previsouly poorly managed team, I am fine with them needing time in pads to get it figured out. if we see this same theme in year 2,3, or four, thats a different story.

    • Damien

      The article doesn’t have an opinion in it, so who are you disagreeing with?

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    interesting point by SalPal. I hope hes wrong though. but I get it

  • Jack

    So Sal Pal would name a starter now with not one of them being seen wearing pads in a brand new scheme in a brand new regime? I’d bet my paycheck that if Chip Kelly named Vick or Foles or whomever the starter now, saw something different when the hitting started and then changed it–Sal Pal would be saying that changing starters disrupts chemistry, hurts egos, etc. No winning for Chip until he starts getting some W’s doing it his way.

  • BlindChow

    If there’s a big dropoff between starters and substitutes, holding a competition shouldn’t make a difference, should it? The winners will be obvious.

  • knighn

    I believe that there is value in what Sal Pal is saying. Players at the college level may be a little more “interchangeable” and professional players definitely want to know where they stand and who they’re going to be standing next to.
    But there are two big things that Sal Pal is completely ignoring in his diatribe:
    1. Players don’t always live up to their projected starting position.
    2. Injuries happen.
    No matter how “set in stone” your list of starters may be in July, it’s going to change by December. It’s Football. Stuff happens.

  • BobP

    With the exception of QB, the offensive starters are pretty much recognized (unless they perform poorly in preseason games). However, Kelly has been pretty clear that there will be different offensive packages/plays involving a number of different players. I don’t think it is possible to determine the defensive starters until the coaches can properly evaluate them in the preseason games. Also, like the offense, many of the defensive players will see substantial time on the field, probably almost as much time as a lot of the so called starters.

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

    Wasn’t there a QB competition in Seattle last year? How long did that last? Seemed to work out ok.

    • Dutch

      Flynn was named the Starter until it was crystal clear that Wilson was their man. On Defense in Philly the issue is not that clear cut. Continuity and communication is just as critical on defense as it is within the receiving corp. Last season miscommunication in the defensive backfield lead to a record 33 touchdown passes and multiple occasions of embarrassment, missed tackles and players attacking the wrong gaps.

      We’ve discussed the QB position but there are many other problems throughout the Eagles roster that need attention for this team to be well run.

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

        Wilson went into rookie mini-camp and showed he deserved to compete with the other 2 (Tavaris Jackson and Matt Flynn). They split reps in training camp just like we’re doing here. They played 3 pre-season games before they named Wilson the starter, which is most likely what’s going to happen here. And reporters cried saying that this is bad for the team and this isn’t how it was done in the past blah blah just like they’re doing now.

        As I said, it worked out OK for them. They got the best QB by bringing in true competition. None of the QB’s played good enough last year to be named the starter out right, especially considering none of these guys have played an actual game in Chip’s offense.

        • Dutch

          It was the preseason games that set Wilson apart from Flynn. Flynn had the big contract $8 Million a year. Flynn had just been signed by the Seahawks from the Packers. Flynn was pretty much guaranteed the Starting position. Wilson had a spectacular preSeason against 2nd team back ups in the first two preseason games. In the 3rd preseason game Carroll started Wilson. Wilson never missed a beat against first teamers in that game and Flynn continued to struggle. It was crystal clear after Wilson started that 3rd game against first teamers he was their man and Carroll replaced Flynn as the starter going into the opener.

          I agree with Chip and Carroll, competition means everything. I think Kelly found a way to bring the best out of his candidates during Training Camp. If you can’t keep your head in the game now then chances are you won’t during the season when everything is on the line.

          I also believe Kelly has a firm idea what he has at every position, he has more than enough material on every player looking to make his roster to know what each of can brings. His decision is made regarding his QB and any other position, he may in fact only be looking for depth and back up positions.

  • asdfasf

    A new coach. on a new team. in a new league. with new players… Why is it surprising to so many in the media that he needs to evaluate those players in his system – with hitting! It’s logical.

    I can’t disagree with Sal more about our QB situation. There’s a number of teams that are worse off, Jets and Jags are the first to come to mind. He’s just trying to create controversy.

    To paraphrase a Chip quote I read: It’s better to make the right decision than the quick one.

  • Stuart Philp

    The starters are in fact playing together and building chemistry…

    All this open competition is doing is if someone on T1 is dogging it or someone from T2 or T3 steps up the eagles have the option to move players up or down.

    The only players I would say are not building chemistry as well as they should are the QBs and WRs, but a starting QB can’t be chosen until it is known which QB can run the system best. Timing likely won’t be there the first few games because of that, but leaning more heavily on the IZR/OZR run plays (the foundation plays of Kelly’s system, and likely the first plays the players learned) in the early part of the season should negate that.

  • Toms River Dave

    And another thing. This team needsto develop this year. It is lunacy to talk of anything more than 4-5 wins. They need the year to install the program, find a qb, and have one more good draft that addresses the defense. Clowney please. Then we can contend Iin 2015

  • Toms River Dave

    No olbs on this team worth a damn.Wide outs are weak. Too many holes. I love the birds but I’m realistic…cole has to go. Djax too. Got to move back to move ahead. Show vick the door

  • Toms River Dave

    No one deserves to be named starters. 4-12 teams are not chock full of starters

  • bushisamoron

    Most of the other positions are essentially settled and in the secondary there has been a complete overhaul so its appropriate that no starters are named there yet. The issue is one and one only-QB and NO ONE- fans, coaches, players are completely sold on anyone at this point. Let the QB’s compete. Aaron Rodgers plays for GB, not Philly.

  • scrapple sports

    After one day of practice, depth chart should be written in stone? Clay, maybe? Sal Pal is a joke at this point (and has been for years). Maybe someone should ask a follow-up question regarding the depth chart: Will there be open competition at every position every year, or is this a first year only thing? I’m guessing if Tom Brady was on the Eagles, the QB position wouldn’t be open competition.

  • dan

    So we should feel bad for these professional athletes that need to compete? How “soft” are these guys? How much coddling do they need? Go out and play….the best will win the position regardless. Sometimes a little bit of fear encourages people to focus and perform better.

  • Andy

    If there’s such a huge talent gap then it will be clear who the starters are. But the eagles have positions, such as the secondary were there are a bunch of bodies with similar talent or more accurately a similar number of question marks, where it isn’t clear who should be starting and who should be backing up. Players need to be able to communicate across the #1s and #2s anyway, and the Eagles are going to have enough reps to build that ability so I’m not too worried about it.

    If someone goes down with an injury you want to be able to plug in their back-up and while there will be a drop-off in talent, there’s no excuse for communication shutting down as a result.

  • Andy124

    Sal is way overselling the college vs. nfl angle here.
    He’s also taking the “depth chart is written in the sand” way too
    literally. All coaches want to play the best man for the job, regardless of who
    was named the starter to begin with. Some are better than others and making the
    right call with that, but the difference is in the execution, not the

    Just like every other team, we have some obvious starters
    and some position battles. We have more positions up for grabs than the average
    for the obvious, unavoidable reasons (bad team, new staff, player turnover).

    The only way to determine the best man for the job is to
    watch them play football and see who’s best at it. Chip hasn’t had a chance to
    watch them play football yet.

    Sure it’d be better if we had established starters and
    they could build chemistry. But we don’t. Naming starters prematurely would
    only make an undesirable situation worse.

    So, while Sal is right in that there is a downside to not
    having named starters, he’s embarrassingly wrong in suggesting that the
    alternative is better in our situation. So much so that it should impact his
    credibility in the eyes of those who think he has any.

  • Explorer51

    There are seven first-time NFL Head Coaches in 2013; here is a paragraph from a June 13 Sports Illustrated article about our “almost” Head Coach Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville Jaguars: “Bradley maintains the team has open competition at every position, but the reality is that 10 of the 11 starters on offense are seemingly set. The only one that remains unresolved is quarterback – and it could be open for another two months, or maybe longer.” Seriously, if you are a coach taking over a team, let alone a team that was 4-12, and you haven’t had a real practice with pads and hitting yet, how are you going to name your starters? It’s not like the Eagles had an All-Pro at every position. The “problem” with Chip Kelly is that he answers questions instead of the obligatory “we won’t get into that right now” BS we heard for years.

    I used to like Sal Pal but he has morphed into one of those guys who loves to hear his own voice; whenever he’s on with Mike Missanelli they are like two old gossips…tsk, tsking with I told you so’s…

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

      Agreed completely. Add on top of the fact that Chip is installing a new offense that neither QB has ran. How can be make a decision about who starts in a new system based on tape from something different? He needs to see this guys in an actual game, even if it is pre-season.

  • PhillyDon

    It’s all a bunch of BS Screw these players and their egos and the thought that since they get the big bucks and in the league for a while that they deserve to start. Kelly’s handling it the right way but making it a competition and if someone making less money with less experience comes in and performs better then he deserves the job. As far as Jackson and Vick it wouldn’t kill me to see both of them gone.Vick? enough said and Jackson is just a cancer in the locker room as far as I’m concerned. Jackson’s more of a “what have you done for me” and not a what can I do to help my team win type of player. Its a shame but it seams like as soon as these young players get payed their whole attitude about the game/games changes for the worst.

  • MartinvonNostrand

    SalPal needs to just sit tight like the rest of us and wait till the actual team starts hitting, which isn’t expected till sunday. So, nothing gained by naming starters on a team with new systems on both sides of the ball.
    The vets know where they stand and have been lining up accordingly in OTA’s .
    Sal , try and work on your tennis game, I need someone’s ass to kick,
    I will be at practice Friday and will see who lines up where, pads or no pads.
    Can’t wait till this team starts to materialize.
    One last thing, can the moron twins Mosher/McLane or any other media type stop asking who the starting qb is going to be?

  • ICDogg

    So Kelly’s supposed to pick out his starting team without ever having seen them practice in hitting situations? That would be kind of stupid.

    Sal is an obnoxious blowhard know-it-all.

  • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

    If sal pal is taking issue, Kelly must be doing something right.

  • http://theadulttoysstore.com/ The Toy Goddess

    What Mike Florio said makes no damn sense. Of the 3 QBs the two he knows best are Foles and Barkley. He played against them in college. He KNOWS them. So since he KNOWS them and he wasn’t “impressed” enough to name Foles (or Barkley) the starter (by now going with his logic) then he may never be “impressed” enough.

    See how silly that sounds?

    • Andy124

      Agreed that Florio’s point is completely invalid.
      The length of the quarterback competition has no bearing on the winner.

  • THE Captain

    A bit over an exaggeration here by SalPal.. Look at who lines up with the ones and twos and there is your depth chart. Argggh this is a non-issue and done in all camps now. Sal just wants to hear himself talk

  • Rick H

    Let me say this about Sal IDONTKNOW. While listening to 97.5 one day they had him on and he was pushing a book he had written. It strongly motivated me to call in. As he was pushing this nonsense book I called in. I was the first caller up after the break and bluntly told the two talk show guys that he has been a fraud from day one and so on. They didn’t like that but we exchanged opinions. i got off the phone and then was followed by one caller after another saying the exact same thing. It went on and on, The hosts didn’t know how to handle it. When that opinion is echoed call after call it clearly tells you something. They finally had to change the topic, it gives you a good and true sampling of the lack of respect people have for him. He is a very poor reporter, Like many ESPN reporters they offer a whole lot of nothing while pretending to be knowlegable. STEPHEN A, SMITH is absolutely the number one poster boy for incompetence and many other derogatory things yet they have him as an employee. ESPN has some outstanding reporters but these two should be in an unemployment line and have a lifetime ban from any form of media reporting and possibly having their lips stapled shut and hands shackled so they can not type or write or speak again.

  • GiveMeABreak

    Is there really any doubt that Mathis, Herremans, Peters, McCoy, Macklin, DeSean, Cox, or Ryans will start? You could probably add Kelce and Kendricks to that list. What’s the benefit to the team or Chip’s credibility from saying that these players’ positions are open? Even if you are a DJax hater, there is not any real reason not to name the others as starters. He has enough open positions that I am not sure it helps him to have all of the positions listed as open. It’s pretty insincere and contrived, which never helps anyone particularly someone new. Having said that, our talent deficit is so bad that we have bigger problems than whether Chip is pushing a somewhat tin story line.

  • aankit

    russell wilson was named starter on 8/27/12 last year….um, did the seahawks do ok last season? i think they might have…..

  • Sanchez

    They’re professionals. They should grow up and deal with it. Job instability and team building is part of the reality of creating a winning atmosphere from the ground up. Rebuilding a team that has played so poorly over the past few seasons for a public that pays a lot of money for a high quality product, the coach has more than a right to not only put his own stamp on the team, but take his time in evaluating everyone who sets up on the field no matter size of contract or position they play. I don’t get Sal’s angle here considering he should have more than enough experience to know this. At least in theory he seems as stubborn and blockheaded as Vick and Jackson, two very talented players, but two players I wouldn’t want coaching my flag football team for all their collective leadership ability between them.

  • Weapon Y

    The biggest problem with Sal’s point is that every backup has to be ready to play with the starters if an injury happens. Chip’s approach ensures that everyone is prepared to take the field, not just the 11 starters.

  • aub32

    This is a non issue. The guys who are competing for starting jobs are splitting the reps evenly i.e. Vick v. Foles, but I have to hear anything about the guys who are so far apart in talent are splitting first team reps. So somebody let me know when Casey Matthews is splitting 1st team reps with Ryans. Until then Sal is just bloviating.

  • gary

    I have to disagree with Sal on this one….other than a handfull of players, there’s not a coach in the League who would have automatically given a starting role to the vast majority of the 2012 Birds, had he taken over the team….there are just too many questions surrounding many of the better players….and of course, after the scrutiny of Kelly’s ingugural year, my guess is that Chip will recognize who these core members of the team are when running next years compitition…

  • knighn

    Tommy Lawlor comments on Sal Pal in classic Lawlor fashion

    “SalPal had gone a while without saying anything too dumb, but he took care of that yesterday.
    Chip should already have figured out who needs to play where. Based on 2012 tape study. Or what he saw in the OTAs. Or what he thought after eating some magic pixie dust. Maybe Chip ought to have Marcus Vick just fill out a depth chart. Or my 5-year old nephew.
    If this was August 24th and Chip was still going on about wanting to see more, SalPal might have an argument. This, however, is July. The players have not had one second of live action. No blocks. No tackles.
    Either Sal is stirring the pot or he’s just dumb.
    The Eagles went 4-12 last year. I’m really not concerned about players being comfortable with their situation. Go play. Go earn a spot. Simple as that. Why let coaches decide the depth chart when the players can do it themselves? We’ll start to get some answers soon enough. I just hope Sal can stand to wait that long.”

  • Maggie

    The strangest thing to me is that all of the reporters AND all of the folks commenting here refuse to notice the amazing fact that chip Kelly has MANY, MANY knowledgeable assistants, plus coordinators and interns. And MANY, MANY of them have been in the NFL for MANY, MANY years! You people who keep insisting that Kelly is doing everything all by his little bittie self are as foolish as those on other boards who insist that the General Manager drafts all by HIS little bittie self! Amazingly enough, even a woman, living in another country, knows that there is a concept called a team!

  • That Dude

    sal is a moron. He always looks for problems where none exists.

  • Fly High

    This is one of the dumber articles I have seen. Watching Kelly at Oregon, starters generally kept their roles, but everyone once in a while, a younger guy would be better,and just step right in. Everyone knew that they could never just rest on past laurels. It kept them on their toes.

    Another fact on defense – given the Eagles pace, they will play their “subs” more. There is more of a gradient then a solid line between ones and twos, at least at some positions.

  • Ben

    I think Sal needs to get his head out of his ass and just let Chip do what he thinks is best. The eagles obviously hired him for a reason; Sal has never been a coach, all he has done is stuck his nose in the eagles and write about them and start rumors. If this is the way Chip thinks he well get the best out of his players then let him see how it works. If it doesnt work as well as he thought it would then he will learn from it and not make the same mistake.

  • disqus_JmcFDecx6w

    The Chiefs slated Matt Cassel as the starter last preseason. How’d that work out for them?