When asked why he was so confident that his program could work in the NFL, Chip Kelly offered a somewhat surprising response.
“I wasn’t confident,” he said. “I had a system and a plan that we were going to go in, but I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be until it was all finished. But I think we played sound fundamental football, and I think that’s what we preach on a daily basis to our players. I think it’s still a game of 11-on-11, and I think a lot of things we do schematically match up 11-on-11. It’s a fundamental game, and I think that’s what our coaches teach. I thought we brought in a bunch of really good teachers that could implement the plan that we had in place, and we felt this would be the best plan for us this year going forward.”
Going into next season, new faces will be added, but many of the core players from the 2013 squad will remain the same.
Keeping that in mind, I posed one simple question to the players earlier this week as they cleaned out their lockers:
What did Kelly do in Year One that makes you believe he can lead this franchise to greater heights going forward?
Below are their responses.
Brandon Boykin: "I just think his approach to the game, his approach to the players. Just making it as comfortable of an environment as he possibly could for us. Listening to whatever we had to say. Anything that we felt like would be better he was always open to it. Just being a players’ coach. Everybody really responded to that positively. On gameday he made sure we were healthy. He made sure we were fresh. And we wanted to play for him."
DeSean Jackson: "I think he just installed a mentality in us in this era with everybody here. That toughness is here. And basically we’re gonna do what we need to do to win games. And just the mentality of going out there, working hard and translating that to the football field and the playing field on Sundays. I just think it’s more of a mentality and a persona that he put in to everybody around here."
DeMeco Ryans: "Coach Kelly, first and foremost, he knows what he wants, he knows how he wants it, and he’s a great motivator. Gets the guys going, gets the guys believing in what he wants them to do. And I feel like he’s a really, really great leader. That’s one thing I learned from Coach Kelly this year. He’s a great leader. And he’s a great football coach."
Bennie Logan: "Just the way he presented himself. He wasn’t really a talker. He was more just come in here and establish himself, gaining our trust and respect and going from there. The way he took care of us, the way he just bonded with us, it was more like a family environment here. It got a lot of guys to just buy in to what he was saying, what he was telling us and just went from there. And that’s the reason why we had success his first year."
Brent Celek: "I think from Day One, he’s a great leader. I think that going forward he’s gonna always put a great team together. I think that if things go bad for us, Chip’s the type of guy that’s gonna evolve and change and make it better."
Evan Mathis: "Everything that he did. As soon as he got here, he’s the kind of guy that lets you know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. He always has a plan and he always has a reason for the plan. He’s not the type of guy that just tells you to do things. And you could see it from the beginning that he’s a very intelligent guy. He cares about his coaches. He cares about his players. And we all bought in Day One with this guy. I think that’s part of the reason we had some success this year."
Cary Williams: "He’s gotten people to believe in his system. He’s gotten people to understand that he’s a players’ coach. He’s a guy that understands the seriousness behind the little things. And those things can come into play each and every game of the season. We saw that we were progressively getting better. We stuck with the system. We believed in the system. It won us games. And I think he’s a great leader. To be honest with you, I don’t know if anybody’s expectations were necessarily this high. But we knew we had a great coach coming in. And we just wanted to go about the season as best as we possibly could - working hard, continuing to get better each and every week, leaning on our guy. And he got us into the playoffs and hopefully next year we can continue to do that."
Lane Johnson:: "Just starting out with the rough start, he just told us to stay with him. And we did. We have a lot of veteran leadership in here. Once we started seeing what our offense can do and some of the numbers and yards we put up, we could be the real deal. So as the season progressed, started winning a bunch of games, got the momentum going and good things happened offensively and defensively. ...Just a lot of confidence going into next year."
Nate Allen: "Just seeing how far we’ve come from last year. We’ve got a lot of new faces, but we’ve got a lot of the same guys from last year. Just the way things are run and the system and just how detailed everything is. He’s got a good system, and I enjoyed it this year. It was a lot of fun."
Zach Ertz: "He didn’t have to make me a believer to be honest. I was a believer before I even got here, saw him first-hand for four years up at Oregon. He’s such an amazing coach that he can lead all these men to one common goal. I think the sky’s the limit for us and him personally."
Earl Wolff: "I know he can [lead us to greater heights]. Just from how we started, we started off kind of slow because we were still learning. And just how he does everything. He explains everything he does. Everything he does is for a reason. And he’ll have some type of philosophy, some type of reasoning for everything he does. And just seeing how we progressed each and every game, seeing how our defense struggled at first and then to how we ended up getting better and better. We give thanks to him and also to the coaching staff."
Jason Avant: "I think he stressed turnovers and how big of a correlation it is with winning and losing. I think that was the biggest thing that he did this year was have the offense to protect the football. And a lot of times we didn’t lose the game based on our turnovers. So if you eliminate the self-imposed things, you’ll be alright. I think that was the biggest thing that caused us to buy in. Once we realized that OK, we’re not turning the ball over and we’re winning games, we saw it can be good in the end."
Mychal Kendricks: "He got us to the playoffs. The energy, the love for the game is there, and it’s easy to see. It’s easy to play for a guy like that."
Cedric Thornton: "He’s a good motivator, he’s a good coach. He definitely knows what he’s doing. And I just believe that he knows the guys that he’s got here and he just believes that we believe in him. And hopefully he’ll keep believing in us. ...Just letting us know that the only person that can stop us is ourselves on each individual day. As long as we come in here and hydrate right and work out right. On gameday, the only person that can stop us is us."