Kelly’s Influence Felt Behind the Scenes

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In the days leading up to the scouting combine, the NFL sent out a media schedule detailing when coaches and general managers would hold press conferences at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

In the release, nine coaches were missing: Chip Kelly, Bill Belichick, Joe Philbin, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Mike McCoy, Jason Garrett, Sean Payton and Pete Carroll.

Among that group, seven ended up eventually deciding to chat at one point or another (even if it was only to the team’s Web site or a single media outlet). The exceptions? Tomlin and Kelly.

Last offseason, Kelly was available at the Senior Bowl, the combine and any time the Eagles made significant personnel moves (re-signings, free agents, etc.). This year, we haven’t heard from him since the day after the season ended.

Instead, he has taken more of a behind-the-scenes approach. But Kelly’s fingerprints were on every move the team made last week.

“I think it really shows how genuinely enthused, and I think I speak for the whole team when I say this, that everybody is with where the organization is going, where this team is going,” said center Jason Kelce. “It feels like there’s been a revitalization of the whole culture here and it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”

Asked specifically about Kelly, he added: “It was huge. Chip, as soon as he got here, the culture that he brings, this ever-changing, ever-trying to improve yourself not just as a player but as a teammate, as a leader, as a person, I think that whole thing that’s pounded into your head over and over again, that’s really what I try to be like as a player and as a person. So ever since Chip has gotten here, I feel like the culture’s shifted and it’s really been an exciting time for us.”

When the Eagles first hired Kelly, there was a lot of talk (including in this space) about his specific type of players. But it’s clear that he walked into a situation where the cupboard wasn’t bare – specifically on the offensive side of the ball. And to Kelly’s credit, Nick Foles, Riley Cooper, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson all had career years under his watch.

Jeremy Maclin, who opted for a one-year deal instead of testing the market, expects to follow suit in 2014.

“I’ve seen the offense, I’ve seen how guys were successful, and that’s something I want to be a part of,” he said.

“I’ve talked to Chip. Chip also said as well he wants me back and I’m in their plans. He too has been true to his word. He’s made me feel like this is the place for me.”

Howie Roseman has been front and center answering questions about the Eagles’ moves. But he’s made it clear that Kelly is playing a big role in the decision-making process. Jeffrey Lurie has pointed out time and again that the Eagles want to be a coach-centric organization. And Kelly clarified last summer that he has final say on the 53-man roster.

When he was hired, Kelly provided Roseman and the scouting staff with specific traits and measurables he wanted at each position. It’s been the job of Roseman’s team to identify the best options that fit.

“You want the head coach involved. That’s an important thing,” Roseman said. “You want to be tied at the hip in the decisions that you’re making. And you don’t want to force things that don’t fit the scheme. Really, the job of the GM is to get players that fit the head coach, that fit his scheme, that fit what he’s looking for. That’s our role. That’s our job.

“For us to go draft 4-3 defensive ends that don’t fit, it’s not gonna make any sense. They’re not gonna play. That’s not what they’re looking for. Everything that we’re doing we’re talking about. Obviously he’s a very good evaluator. He’s got opinions on these guys, and we’ve talked through all of them. I feel fortunate about the relationship. And that’s what you want. You want to have open conversation and dialogue about what we’re doing. Obviously him being around these guys every day, he’s gonna have a great sense of who they are and what they do and how they contribute to our football team.”

Kelce has been a favorite of Kelly’s all along. And really, most coaches in the league would welcome Peters on their rosters.

Cooper is a fascinating study. Kelly stuck with him last summer and defended him early on when he wasn’t making much of an impact. Cooper eventually responded, and his effort as a blocker also played a role in the team deciding to bring him back.

Maclin, meanwhile, provides another pass-catching option and a guy who fits the culture the team is trying to build.

Given the moves so far this offseason, it seems that Kelly doesn’t feel the need to churn the roster to find players who fit. It’s possible that 10 of 11 offensive starters next season (Lane Johnson could be the only exception) will be guys who were added under the previous regime.

Of course, that projection could change in the coming months with free agency and the draft.

One way or another, the squad that suits up for Week 1 of the 2014 season will have been shaped by Kelly’s influence.

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  • PaoliBulldog

    One early culture-defining moment in Kelly’s tenure was refusing to let Shady make up the missed workouts that cost him bonus money. If Kelly couldn’t stand up to the team’s best player, he might as well have stayed in Oregon.

    • Adam

      And running DeSean with the 3’s in OTA’s when he didn’t take the time to learn the playbook properly.

  • G_WallyHunter

    Love that he’s not talking to media AT ALL, makes you intrigued on what’s going on behind the scenes in the Chip lab.. damn.. great read

    • MoreViolence

      Makes you think he’d be cooking up variations to the staples of our offense already. Even though he hasn’t even rolled out the whole play book yet.

      • G_WallyHunter

        Yup, getting started on the noodles before the sauce is even done. Agreed.
        Can picture him in his tucked away office divising some crazy installs that will take over by training camp.

      • Richard Colton

        The league is going to be playing catch-up with Chip Kelly for a long time.

        • G_WallyHunter

          Is there a point, though, that they finally catch up? Are their minds just not on the same level? Not to mention the problem of organization-wide support, some other coaches may want to catch up but their organizations get in the way of it.
          This is unique in that the organization is 100% behind whatever he does, will surely keep him consistently ahead of organizations that get held up by red-tape and other executive crap..

          • MoreViolence

            Can’t help but think about Cleveland when you say that. How many Head coaches are they gonna go through before realizing that culture change takes at the very least One full season. Not to mention that Fiasco in Miami.
            So thankful for our organizational stability and support.

          • Richard Colton

            I was worried about that, when I thought he ran a gimmicky college offense. Now I just see Chip as a brilliant, innovative, flexible mind.
            Smart people out-think dumb people.

          • G_WallyHunter

            Ah ha! So not just between the white lines…
            Agreed there, what he has shown the last year gives us all confidence that he will outsmart and outscheme anybody, plain and simple.

          • Maggie

            Just to add to your thought. Some “gimmicky” college coaches win. Consistently. So how “gimmicky” are they, or how innovative? And they have to constantly change their “gimmicks” to reflect their constantly changing personnel. Chip must be in 7th heaven to actually be able keep nearly a whole team together for a few years! I’m sure that’s why he hasn’t dumped many of Andy’s players. Keeping quality performers is more important than boosting his own ego.

          • Kev_H

            Currently the Redskins are having Kelly’s methods forced on them, including the smoothies. My understanding is it started before Gruden was hired.

          • G_WallyHunter

            Shut the front door, really, who started this in that joke of an organization…
            Smart on them anyway

          • Maggie

            But are they the right, personalized smoothies!

          • Dominik

            “Is there a point, though, that they finally catch up? Are their minds just not on the same level?”

            Did anybody really catch up with Belichick on a consistent basis? I don’t think so. I think in a few years from now, Kelly will be to the offensive side of football what Belichick is to the defensive side of football – the genius of his coaching generation.

          • G_WallyHunter

            ya good point, that’d be funny

      • Adam

        I’m thinking it’s just Chip hating the media. Unless forced to by the league or the team I doubt we see Chip much. and I’m fine with that.

        • knighn

          I just think that Chip loves the actual coaching stuff – talking to the players, watching film & watching film… planning, planning & planning. For example…

          One day in the locker room, two of Chip’s players were discussing whether it is better to have a wife or a girlfriend. One talked about the stability and reliability of family. The other talked about the freedom and flexibility of having a girlfriend. Chip walked by so they sought out the advice of the smartest man they know. “Hey Chip – settle this for us. Is it better to have a wife or a girlfriend?” Without missing a beat, Chip replied, “Both. That way you can tell each you’re with the other and just go back to the office and watch film!”

          OK… that’s an old joke, but there’s a point: I think Chip Kelly’s dislike of the media mostly stems from the fact that it keeps him from doing what it really wants to do.

          • Adam

            Absolutely. There was a great piece in the Eagles Almanac last year.. it was sort of a candid look at Chip. He definitely disdains the media, and a lot of it stems from him being very defensive about his players. They’re like his kids.

        • Maggie

          Probably would be drowned by 200 questions every day, all the same. “Will Foles still be your starting quarterback? Will you draft another quarterback in the first round? What, there are other positions which need improvement on the team?? What about your starting quarterback? etc.

    • Explorer51

      What always drives me crazy is when you hear or read how it’s just a matter of time until they (D-coordinators) figure out Kelly’s offense; what that implies is that the O strategy is some static set of absolute principles…kind of like some NFL version of the 10 Commandments carved in stone. Even after watching a year’s worth of games, it is clear that there are multiples upon multiples of variations; and a year, two years, five years from now there could be variations on those variations. He will make mistakes but I doubt we see the same mistake over and over…kind of like a coach we had around here for awhile.

      • Nfl All Day

        What they fail to realize is the principle is to attack the defenses weakness. So whatever Def. Scheme is rolled out there, Chip will focus on the achilles heel and attack. The only solution for defenders is the same as it always has been, win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Which becomes more difficult if the Birds are playing at the speed of light and wearing the big guys up front out.

      • Andy124

        Kelly never had a QB for more than 2 years at Oregon. Imagine what he can do with a pro-QB with 5 years in his system.

      • G_WallyHunter

        Yup, well said

      • Kev_H

        Apparently nobody believes what Kelly says but last year he said he and his coaching staff came up with their offensive approach collectively and basically from scratch. From all indications that’s the way they do it. Or all that “once you think you figured things out, your doomed” talk is just for show. It’s a new year, I expect a different approach.

    • Chris

      i just imagine Kelly and Huls sitting together in a dimly lit room with all kinds of equations scribbled out on napkins

  • Rick H

    I see the culture change and really like how Chip Kelly operates! But I also feel Howie Roseman is proving he is a self confident open minded GM. He brings in top quality front office people like Tom Gamble and Donohue… that really appear to have a specific plan that is woven around what Chip Kelly wants to build.
    Roseman deserves a lot of credit and Lurie looks much more positive now that Banner is out.

  • Explorer51

    It’s actually pretty remarkable that Kelly was able to make such a major impact on a team’s culture…one that had been around for a dozen years. Do you remember how skeptical many were, both media and lots of fans, on this “college guy” coming in to school the pros? The NFL establishment types snickering over the smoothies, the loud music, the fly swatters in practice…even his practice schedule preferences…let alone that his offense would never work, blah, blah, blah. Unfortunately, we still have to listen, or read, the skepticism about how Nick Foles isn’t really the QB that Kelly wants; why do I get the feeling that if someday Foles and Kelly actually win a Super Bowl there will be those who say “yeah, but can they do it again?”

    OK, so I got way ahead of myself here; but it’s totally cool and exciting to know that we are on the right track with the best yet to come.

    • Adam

      I don’t think the skepticism people had was that unwarranted considering Kelly himself wasn’t even sure he could succeed in the NFL.

      • Explorer51

        Actually Adam, it was the level of “establishment dismissal” that struck me; every change of thinking, both large and small, was met with almost universal disbelief. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; the NFL has more of a groupthink mentality among its analysts and “experts” than most. Perhaps that’s due to the number of ex-players, coaches, and GMs dominating the coverage; many of them rarely question the status quo of the meal ticket, with a handful of exceptions. For example, how often was Kelly compared to Steve Spurrier than Jimmy Johnson?

        You are right saying that Kelly doubted himself, as he was quoted that way. But I think that just fit his further crafting of his public persona which also included his constant shedding of the “genius/innovator” trap that was constantly being set by some media types looking for an easy headline.

        All I know is that after one year he has re-energized a rabid fan base and helped re-define the Eagles organization. I’m not sure he will ultimately win a Super Bowl but, boy, the trip to that point looks like it will be fun.

        • Maggie

          Absolutely agree. Skepticism is fine. CK being shooed away like a bothersome insect, without any basis for such scorn, made me grind my teeth.

      • Kev_H

        And you can’t underestimate the importance of player buy in. I think his approach regarding sleep and diet is spot on but wondered if players used to fried chicken, hamburgers and late nights out would buy in. He communicated the reasons well and didn’t seem to overtly force those things on anybody but if the players didn’t buy in or stay on board after a rough start the Eagles would be feeling the heat right now.

    • Maggie

      What’s amusing is that now the Seahawks have won the Super Bowl, and they have music and flyswatters, etc., many will ne the copycats. Oh, wait, Pete Carroll is a “college coach” too. Never mind. Kelly’s team in the playoffs and Carroll’s team in the Super Bowl were just flukes.

  • Joe from Easton

    Kelly & Roseman are building something special. I think the two of them together, with Gamble now in the mix as well, have similar ways of evaluating things. A team can only be as strong as it’s weakest link up to and including the front office. This team is strong at the top and that is going to trickle down. For the first time since 2003 2004 ish I really believe the Eagles can be a Super Bowl contender. Go Birds!

  • Nfl All Day

    Honestly, the most amazing part of last season to me was the total lack of major injuries once the season started. Its completely unheard of for an NFL team to go thru 16 games as unscathed as we did, and hard to deny to role of Chips conditioning program in it. So many aspects of his program are revolutionary in comparison to the status quo. It will be fascinating to see what they look like with a 2nd season of the regiment under their belts. The only exception is Earl Wolf who I really would have liked to see more of, and have gotten more experience before being thrust into what we assume is a larger role this year.

    • Warhound

      …regimen… A regiment is a grouping of battalions.
      OH, and I agree :)

  • cliff henny

    do love me some Chippah. about the only thing that can make me like this guy more is a Lombardi or 2.

  • Brian

    If you haven’t read ‘THE Tao Of Chip Kelly” yet, now’s the time. I read it during the off season last year, and it helped me understand how he conducts his business on a daily basis.

  • Terrence Kemp

    the reason coach’s like Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh are so successful is because they are making the game fun again for those guys. They are making them feel like they are back in college where they really had a love for the GAME not the MONEY.. Coach Kelly has brought a new mind set to the eagles and is sticking with everyone from the players to the staff. I feel like if we keep going the way we are going coach kelly will have us competing for a championship really soon. The dream would be for us to find away to get both Ward and Byrd in philly ( I know its wishful thinking) but if coach kelly can sell them the plan and the vision i dont see why not lol.