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.