Ten Things We’ve Learned About Chip

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles

A year ago today, the Eagles announced the hiring of Chip Kelly as Andy Reid’s successor.

There were plenty more ups than downs in his first season, as the Birds went 10-6, won the NFC East and earned a postseason berth.


Birds 24/7 has been around the coach and the team every step of the way. Keeping that in mind, here are 10 things we learned about Kelly during his first year on the job.

1. He can design/call offense at an NFL level.

This was the biggest question going in. Kelly moved up the ranks quickly, going from offensive coordinator at New Hampshire in 2006 to Eagles head coach in 2013. So naturally, there were doubts about how his ideas would translate against bright defensive minds and talented players.

But the Eagles finished with the second-best offense in the league, per Football Outsiders. They were second in yards (417.2) and fourth in points (27.6). The team set franchise records in points, yards, touchdowns, passing yards and (fewest) turnovers.

The offense did it in a variety of ways, finishing as the league's top rushing attack while also leading the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards (80). LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper all had career years. Nick Foles put up the third-highest passer rating in NFL history, led the NFL in yards per attempt (9.12) and became the first quarterback ever to throw 25+ touchdowns and three or fewer interceptions.

The adjustments Kelly made are noteworthy as well. The running game evolved rather dramatically towards the end of the season with Foles at quarterback - moving from zone read plays to split zone runs that did not leave an unblocked defender. There were also many more run plays from under center.

There are still some questions about what kind of offense Kelly wants to run. But he showed he can adjust to his personnel and have a lot of success.

2. He hates labels.

We learned this right away, but it was a relevant theme all season long up until Kelly's final press conference when a reporter asked a question about his offense.

"It's not my offense," Kelly said. "It's the Philadelphia Eagles' offense, and it was put together by a bunch of guys on our staff that are really smart that played to our players' strengths, and that's what it's all about. If we have a different set of players, then the offense would look different. This offense didn't look like it looked when it was at Oregon, but I'm not at Oregon. Our offense at Oregon looked different every year depending on the personnel we had."

Ask Kelly about being an innovator, and he bristles. Question him about his up-tempo offense, and he'll point out that they don't always go fast. The two-gap 3-4 on defense? Kelly will likely fire back that the Eagles line up in four-down alignments in nickel.

The list goes on and on, but one thing's for sure: The guy does not like to be put in a box and can't stand generalities about him or his team.

3. He's not familiar with this injury term you speak of.

Want to get Kelly annoyed? Ask for the specifics of a player's injury or status. You'll likely hear an anecdote about Foles.

Leading up to the Week 6 game against Tampa, Foles suffered a groin injury during Friday's practice. Kelly often uses that as an example of why he won't answer questions about the status of injured players in the days before the game. In other words, anything can happen right up until kickoff, so what's the point?

Then again, the real reasons...

"I think there is a huge competitive advantage to not discussing injuries," Kelly said, via The Oregonian back in 2011.

"I look at some programs and all they do is talk about injuries. I think they become built in excuses for those programs. ... We believe injuries are a part of the game. It happens."

Thanks to the sports science initiatives and/or plain luck, the Eagles were incredibly healthy in 2013.

But if that changes in the future, don't expect Kelly to provide any more injury information. That may bother some and be a non-issue to others.

4. The game management needs work.

The most glaring example of this came in Week 2 when the Eagles lost to the Chargers. Late in the fourth quarter, Michael Vick got banged-up. The Eagles faced a 2nd-and-10 from the Chargers' 14-yard-line, down by three points. Instead of calling a timeout, Kelly inserted a cold Foles, who threw incomplete to Jackson.

There were some other examples too. Against Chicago, Kelly drew a penalty for throwing the red flag on a play that was already being reviewed.

The replay protocol as a whole seemed to be shaky on the Eagles' end. They were successful on three of seven chances, but missed others. Sixteen teams had a better percentage than them on challenges (granted, extremely small sample size).

I wouldn't describe this as a glaring issue, but one that warrants some attention this offseason.

5. He doesn't set the bar as high with the defense.

The Eagles' offense is Kelly's baby. He takes every slight personally. The defense? It's more: Just keep us in this thing.

After McCoy set a franchise record for rushing yards in a game against the Lions, Kelly mentioned that he missed one opportunity for a bigger run in the second half because he cut back inside in the open field. When the Birds lost to the Vikings 48-30 late in the season, Kelly pointed out that Foles was inconsistent. While he didn't say the defense played well in that game, he was quick to give credit to Minnesota QB Matt Cassel.

Perhaps Kelly's stance in Year 1 had more to do with personnel than anything else. The offense was the more talented group, and the defense was moving from a Wide-9 4-3 to a two-gap 3-4. That could explain the lower expectations.

But the guess here is that for as long as Kelly is the head coach, the bar he sets for the offense will be higher than the one for the defense.

6. His whole "explain everything" philosophy earned him credibility.

We heard about this prior to Kelly's arrival. His philosophy is to explain every aspect of the program to the players in a way that makes sense. If unable to provide sound reasoning, he figures he should re-think what he's doing.

"I think he’s a very knowledgeable person in terms of what he wants done and I think he does an extremely good job of motivating players," said tight ends coach Ted Williams, the oldest coach on Kelly's staff. "I’ve never been around somebody that has his skill in that vein.

"I think he explains to them the reasons why you do things a certain way. I can tell you a lot of things, and I’ve always used this axiom: I can’t get you to change your mind about anything. I can give you enough information where you change your own mind. And that’s kind of the way he does it. He gives ‘em enough information that they understand that there’s a better way, and if we do it a better way, we’re better off."

Talking to players last week, many pointed out that a crucial point came when the Eagles were at 1-3. Kelly did not start hollering and screaming. He asked them to stick with the plan and said things would turn around. The players did just that, and the Eagles finished the season on a 9-3 run.

7. Open dialogue is important to him.

When the team signed Connor Barwin in the spring, Kelly called Trent Cole to let him know where he stood. Same goes for Brent Celek. He received a call both when the Eagles signed James Casey and when they drafted Zach Ertz.

"He called me both times right afterwards," Celek said. "And I think that makes you have a lot of respect for a guy too when he’s telling you where you stand at all times, and I can really appreciate that."

Following the Riley Cooper incident at the Kenny Chesney concert, Kelly gathered the team and allowed players to speak up in an open forum.

During the Lions' game, when Cary Williams noticed how hard it was for defensive backs to cut on in-breaking routes, he relayed his observation to Kelly. The coach took it to heart, and the Eagles hit on some big plays downfield in the second half.

8. He delegates responsibility (so far).

I'd imagine one major challenge for new NFL coaches is deciding how much to take on themselves. They are, after all, control freaks by nature.

But there were signs during Kelly's first season that he's willing to delegate responsibility to assistants on the biggest coaching staff in the NFL. For example, assistants are in charge of rotating players in and out during the game. When Bryce Brown gets a snap instead of McCoy, that's Duce Staley's decision.

We covered the defense above, but it's Billy Davis' operation on that side of the ball. Kelly made it clear when he hired Davis that his plan was not to micro-manage. And by all accounts, he didn't in Year 1.

9. He's obsessed with speed and efficiency.

The Eagles set up a tent outside next to the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex for press conferences this season. The reason? So that Kelly could go from his meetings to his press conference to practice without wasting any time.

We wrote about the practices all spring and summer. Again, the key word was efficiency. Several short periods where players shuffled from one activity to another. No wasted time in between.

Kelly was mic'd up for the Eagles' second matchup against the Redskins. Before the game, he was telling anyone who would listen that he can't stand waiting for kickoff on gamedays. In other words, this is not a patient man.

As for the speed of the offense, it wasn't as fast as some observers might have expected. Part of that was the Eagles holding several fourth-quarter leads where they tried to use up the clock. And part of it was that the tempo was new. The players had to figure it out, Kelly had to see how the officials spotted the ball, etc. Don't be surprised if the pace picks up in Year 2.

10. He's in no rush to go back to college.

Granted, this is my personal observation, but I sense that Kelly likes the NFL lifestyle.

"My schedule, the day the season was over was a lot worse than my schedule here because, you know, you're planes, trains and automobiles recruiting from Sunday night until Friday afternoon," Kelly said. "And hustling back and practicing, getting a practice in Friday afternoon, practice Saturday, practice Sunday, get back on a plane and fly around the country chasing down recruits. So it wasn't, I think, maybe a misconception is when you're a college coach and the last game is done and then the bowl game comes, you don't have a month off. I would argue my schedule was more hectic from a recruiting standpoint than it was here. So I'm looking forward to being in the office every day and watching tape. That is the fun part of our job."

Asked in the spring what he liked better, the draft or recruiting, Kelly said: "The draft because it’s over and done with in three days and you’re not on the phone with a 16-year-old high school kid for five years. Three days and it’s done. There’s nothing you can say about it."

Things obviously can change, but the sense I got throughout the season was that building relationships with players at the professional level (and getting them to buy in) was not as difficult as Kelly anticipated.

The guy is a football-obsessive through and through. The pro lifestyle cuts out some of the distractions that a college coach has to deal with. I think Kelly really appreciates that aspect of it.

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

    great article. and I can’t think of better qualities to have in a head coach

  • Tyler

    Admittedly i was on the Gus bus last season, wanting what i believed to be a tougher nosed brand of football, not interested in a college gimmicky offense. After the hire I started to look closer, the more i read, the more i liked, I was excited preseason, and had all my expectations met by Kelly. With one season under his belt I don’t think the question is if he’ll improve but how much will he improve. Improve this team through all aspects of the off, and regular season. I think this is best coaching hire in years in the NFL. and we as fans should consider ourselves lucky.

    • jabostick

      I was always intrigued by Chip because I figured it would at least be exciting but when it looked he was out of the running, I did think “Maybe we dodged a bullet. Let’s quit being cute and just get Gus”.

      All the news out of training camp and the way he was running things blew me away, though. Couldn’t be happier with him

    • Andy124

      I was on the Mike trike. (McCoy). It was pretty awesome. Had little streamers coming from the handle bars, a little basket on the front and everything, but there wasn’t room for anybody else on it.

      I absolutely had reservations about Chip. So far so good though. Seems wired for prolonged success.

      • GEAGLE

        Practically started the Gus bus… Silly me.. “baby I was WRONG”(in my best Bernie Mac voice)

        • OregonDucker

          Chip h8er! Chip h8er! Never doubt, never give up, but fight fight fight!

  • addicted2mula

    Thanks Howie!!! Quick questions is there a website where you can watch football tapes? Or something like that.

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    Love all this content. Just think if Jackson had been able to stay in bounds in that San Diego game where Foles through to him (he did catch the ball, just didn’t get two feet in). Foles was cold, but timeouts are important. I’m not convinced wasting a timeout was the right call there.

  • jabostick

    The thing about hating labels is funny because I don’t know that there is a coach in the NFL that the media wants to label more than Chip. There also seems to be this natural trajectory where you assume certain things about him and the more you learn about him, the more the assumptions don’t fit. When Sheil and Tim would do the ‘what they’re saying’ bits throughout the year, you could tell which national writers were paying attention and which were just falling back on those old assumptions.

    • Brian

      True.

    • BleedGreenJames

      When Sheil and Tim would do the ‘what they’re saying’ bits throughout the year, you could tell which national writers were paying attention and which were just falling back on those old assumptions.

      *cough* *Gregg Easterdouche* *cough*

  • Andy124

    11. He needs a mobile quarterback.

    • Stephen Stempo

      Does he ? Are we still doing this ? Because someone said last offseason that Kelly needs a mobile QB everyone keeps repeating it. Sigh. Also I guess that means Kelly keeps on lying over and over about it.

      In other news the CIA has UFO evidence, yetis run rampant in Canada and the Loch Ness monster is breeding.

      • Andy124

        Are we still doing this?

        Doing what? Making fun of people who insisted that Foles is done here because he’s too slow for Kelly? Yes. We are still doing that.

        • Richard Colton

          Andy124 should come with a sarcasm warning.

      • GEAGLE

        UFOs are real dude… Get real, you think the Vatican would own space telescopes better then what Nasa has that cost billions if there was NOTHING to look at? Who dumps billions to see nothing?
        .,
        According to Nasa, they haven’t seen anything since the friggin moon, yet billions get dumped into nasa every year lol.??people are GREEDY as HELL, and no one spends billions year after year to see nothing

      • anon

        Really RU serious? Foles ran as part of the offense. His yards per run was 40% lower than vick but Foles shows a ton of functional mobility in the pocket and gets yards on designed runs as well. It’s not like he’s Peyton / Brady who ran for -13 yds combined this year. To pretend like mobility isn’t a part of the offense is fallacious. It’s clearly something foles will work on in the offseason. Let’s not forget that aside from QB he’s gerenally a good athlete for his size. To say he’s not mobile is silly considering he ran for more yards than all except the typically “mobile” qbs that everyone malignes on these blogs.

    • GEAGLE

      Don’t F wit me Andy!!! Not today lol

  • addicted2mula

    First round 22nd pick for Dion Jordan? How would you feel about this?

    • Eagledelphia

      still doesn’t use his hands well and doesn’t have any pass rush moves he could develop them especially in a 3-4 which is a better fit so i don’t know how I would feel about that

      • addicted2mula

        Me neither its like 50/50. I was just asking because I read it in an article.

        • George

          I would do ghram and a second OR third for him. Think it benefits all parties

          • GEAGLE

            Miami has to eat 16m if they want to trade Dion….fughedaboutit…some dope actually wrote an article about it?

          • George

            It was on philly.com…they don’t count as writers

          • theycallmerob

            Tommy wrote about it

      • Aussie Eagle

        Dolphins would have to eat 16m in dead money by trading him away this offseason, no deal!

    • Tom W

      I’d rather wait for him when they move on from him in 2 years

  • PaoliBulldog

    What I loved about Kelly is that he succeeded without making the whole process look like drudgery. Reid acted like a farmer plowing 40 acres with one mule. Work, work, work, grind, grind, grind. Kelly works hard, too, but he makes it look fun.

  • Tikkit
    • theycallmerob

      Nice; apparently we also learned Chip is a big movie guy.

      And judging from his selections, he’s a Lebowski or Office Space quip away from me assuming he would not be able to pass an NFL piss test

      • Tikkit

        He’s just waiting for a reporter named Jackie to drop “You mix a hell of a Caucasian, Jackie.”

        • theycallmerob

          this would have been the clincher for me- before the NO game, with a reporter bringing up what a good “offensive mind” Payton is. Something along the lines of…

          Judge Smails: I mean, he’s been club champion for three years running and I’m no slouch myself.”
          Ty: Don’t sell yourself short, Judge. You’re a tremendous slouch.”

          or throw that one at Bowen

      • NickS1

        I just laughed so damn hard at this. That’s great.

      • Dominik

        “And judging from his selections, he’s a Lebowski or Office Space quip away from me assuming he would not be able to pass an NFL piss test”

        Altough pot slows you down. Do you really think Chips slowing down? I mean, ever?

        • theycallmerob

          I bet it’s the only way he can turn his brain off and go to sleep at night

          • Dominik

            I’d love to have a beer with Chip. But smoking pot with Chip would be fine with me, too. Guess what kind of movie references he would come up with. Always smiling like a little child at the end.

    • NickS1

      Made my day. Thanks for sharing.

    • Neill Stark

      Jimmy Kempski on philly.com is a good read, I followed him from when he was doing Blogging the Beast.

      • Explorer51

        If Sheil and Tim ever expand to a third writer, Kempski would fit in perfectly…smart, clever, and funny.

    • cheapmeat

      “Fucking score points. What’s your plan?”

      Love it

      • Dominik

        “”Fucking [...]. What’s your plan?”

        I bet that’s the way Kelly is flirting with women. Fast. Effient.

  • Will

    Fantastic, informative insight about Coach Kelly. Thank you Sheil and Tim for making this forum so great day in and day out! I can’t wait to see Coach Kelly and his staff in year two. Thank You Mr. Lurie for your due diligence, excellent hire in Coach Chip Kelly see why you guys liked him hands down over all others again great job!

    • GEAGLE

      Did you just win an Oscar? That’s some thank you speech lol jk

      • Will

        I have my moments…lol…

  • ray jay

    Year 2 will tell us if he’s the real deal or not.

  • Fly High

    As an Oregon fan who followed Chip to Eagle fandom, I think this is a highly accurate description of who Chip is and how he responds. It fits what I have seen over 4 years. After watching his interviews, I at one point wrote up a guide for Chip Kelly interviewers that wanted real answers, and wanted not to get their head bitten off. Chip has mellowed some, but there are still areas he talks freely, and some he won’t at all, injuries, hypotheticals, anything negative about a specific player, to name a few. I actually appreciate this about Chip. He chooses the mental environment he is going to live in.

    • Ark87

      I like it as well. I expect the media to eventually start baiting him into losing his cool or getting nasty to fit a story agenda. Kelly has made his buttons very clear, he will need to be careful not to let people use that against him. Then again, not sure he much cares, which makes me like him even more.

      • GEAGLE

        Media better play nice if they are smart…once Chip is successful and builds up enough Cache, he will go all Bill Bellicek, and then the media gets NOTHING…let’s see how those clowns like it when Chip says less then Sam Hinkie….and I’ll love every minute of it!!?

        • Dominik

          I think that Kelly will be like Belichick a few years from now, too. But he has to get one thing first…

  • Robert Hamilton

    The game management problems with

  • Brian

    Does anyone else feel like this is going to be the longest offseason, Ever! I thought 2013 offseason was bad. It’s going to take ten years for September to get here. Fml.

    • Dr Rick

      As long as Tim and Sheil keep posting we’ll keep hanging around and making comments. All. Off season. Long.

      Mini camps/OTAs sometime in April?
      Draft starts Thurs May 8.
      Supplemental draft July 11
      Signing for free agents July 22
      Hall of Fame ceremony Aug 3
      Hall of Fame game Aug 4

    • Isaac M Hamm Jr

      This Eagles season ended for me like a cliff-hanger from your favorite TV show. Philadelphia version of “Who shot J.R. It’s gonna feel like forever waiting for the start of preseason.

  • mtn_green

    Chin is good. Worry about this NFC east carousel that the teams are taking turns and they’ll be a regression. But hey I’m an eagles fan that means I worry. But at least chip is fun his team is fun and he is really good coach. Ar was really good too and didn’t get the trophy.

  • Richard Colton

    8. He delegates responsibility (so far).

    Maybe a little picky, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. Chip doesn’t delegate responsibility. He delegates authority. When the organization fails – he accepts responsibility himself, not in Andy Reid’s passive aggressive never taking responsibility way (cough…have to do a better job). His way is refreshing.

  • mksp

    #11. The Eagles will make no excuses.

    My favorite trait of his.

  • GEAGLE

    Heard chip say that the goal is to build a team that’s so good and keep it together to where you don’t even have much roster space for new draft picks….if he can accomplish that, y’all can catch me at broad and chestnut every year for the parade

  • GEAGLE

    If chips training keeps us healthy for another year! I will become soooo obnoxious towards other teams fans. No one gets to speak to Hulls…love it

    • anon

      2nd year is the test. I can’t believe you get so crazy after 1 year of results. Plenty of regimes show promise after one year — they had the advantage of being new. But you gotta wait 2 years. (a) during TC / OTAs we were wondering if there was something wrong with the turf b/c of the number of ACL injuries and (b) secondary stayed hurt this year. Hard to think we’d stay healthy on our lines 2 yrs straight even though it’d be great. Sometimes it’d be nice if you tempered your unabashed enthusiasm with some realism.

      • Joe from Easton

        So let’s prognosticate the most random thing in football then. May as well pack it in for 2014 since we probably won’t stay healthy on the OLine.

  • Will

    Things we learned about the Eagles..we need Safeties…Calvin Pryor shows up on tape. Great interview man can this kid play Safety. White Whale meet a Killer Whale.

    Here’s a nice one handed pick in the end zone and a hit that lays out a WR. Can cover and hit a Complete Safety. Calvin Pryor shows up on tape…Great interview… Man can this kid play Safety crazy not to draft him if he’s there at #22…and grab Byrd in FA….bring Wolff along slowly as your 3rd…

    • Will

      http://www.cardchronicle.com/2013/12/29/5255486/calvin-pryor-will-enter-the-2014-nfl-draft

      Nice read on Pryor…This year’s safety class is pretty deep compared to most years, but Pryor has seen his stock soar this year after making a handful of monster hits and rangy interceptions in big games. SB Nation has him ranked second in its 2014 safety rankings. Most rankings don’t include underclassmen until they declare, so he hasn’t been mentioned by many other networks.

      Pryor finishes his career with 218 tackles, 2 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions, and 9 forced fumbles.

      • anon

        Unclear if that first pick is an NFL pick and that second his is definitely a 15 yd penalty in the NFL plus 15k.

        • Will

          Still a great safety we would be lucky to have’em in Eagle Green….

  • anon

    You know what? F it, let’s hit people. Remember those hits they were putting on percy in the Nola vs SEA game? They were giving high 5s for getting concussions. I’m ok with that. Frankly give the 15 yard penalty, but i bet you they won’t be trying to catch the ball next time, or the time after that, or the time after that. Let’s hit people like it’s 1998.

  • Media Mike

    I love #1 on this list; Kelly adapting his philosophies to a real NFL passing league. Chip Kelly for adults was a joy to watch.