Wake-Up Call: As the Secrets Get Out

Chip Kelly
Secrets don’t stay secrets for long in the NFL. Ownership of schemes, philosophies and practices is fleeting.

As hard as you might try to keep the family together and its recipe in-house, it’s impossible. Howie Roseman says that the roster turnover rate across the league is approximately 20 percent each year. (A study from ESPN.com in 2010 seems to back this up.) That’s about 11 players on average that will leave the nest, free to dish any and all inside info to their new employer.

Assistant coaches will move on as well, and apply what they learned at their previous stop to their new venture. We were reminded of this recently when a member of the Dolphins’ offense — now run by former Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor — said Miami’s attack is “reminiscent of Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia, with the tempo and style.”

This was to be expected.

It is yet to be determined how much success Kelly will have in his NFL coaching career, but there is no denying that his approach to running a football program caught the attention of the league at large, and really opened the eyes of those who got a look at the machine up close. Whether we’re talking about offensive concepts, sports science or organizational structure, there will be parts of Kelly’s design that will be adopted and implemented by other teams around the league. The more he wins, the more this will be true. There is no getting around it.

This is not a problem, exactly. If you’re being imitated it means your model is working. And the plan is to be on to a new plan by the time the old plan is digested by the competition.

“This is one of the reasons that I think our culture is really the one thing that is so important because yeah, you’re right, we do have a lot of new things that teams are going to start stealing,” said Jason Kelce during the season. “But the thing that’s going to continue to put us in the front is our culture is built around that we’re always going to be changing. Stuff that we’re doing now is not stuff that we’re going to be doing in two years. We’re going to be evolving into whatever is new then. If those other teams are just taking what we’re doing right now, they’re not going to continue to evolve.”

This is something that Jeffrey Lurie alluded to on the day that Kelly was hired as head coach of the Eagles. He described Kelly as  “forward thinking not just about what he is running at Oregon but where the league is headed and where college is headed, how there are going to be carrot trends and how there would be trends off of these carrot trends. Just somebody who is on the cutting edge of football today, but saw that there are going to be reactions to that and what to do going way past that.”

Veterans raved about how fresh they felt in the latter stages of the season. Injuries were down. The offense, despite using three different quarterbacks in 2013, finished second in yards per game and fourth in points per game. A 4-12 team was transformed into a division winner in a year when the roster and schemes were being overhauled. Teams will want to know why, and how.

The hope is by the time they figure out the answers, Kelly will be presenting the next riddle.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Chris Wesseling of NFL.com names Dion Jordan among his 10 summertime trade candidates. 

Jordan has been connected to Graham in trade talks that reportedly went nowhere between the Eagles and Dolphins. Whether it’s true or not, there is persistent speculation in league circles that Jordan is available for the right price because new general manager Dennis Hickey doesn’t value him nearly as high as former boss Jeff Ireland did. It doesn’t help that Jordan remains without an obvious position in the Dolphins‘ 4-3 defense.

Geoff Mosher on his expectations for the rookie class.

Unlike their past two drafts, which delivered several immediate starters, the Eagles probably won’t have any of their 2014 selections start right away. Don’t be surprised if no one emerges as a starter until 2015. The roster is deeper and stronger now than it had been the past two seasons, so it’s not necessarily a negative that none of their picks are projected to start by the season opener.

The guy most likely to make the quickest impact is second-round wideout Jordan Matthews. Chip Kelly wants Matthews to start off in the slot and use his 6-foot-3 frame against smaller nickelbacks. If the Eagles come out in “11 personnel” (three wide receivers, one tight end) on their first possession, Matthews will likely man the slot and, technically, he’d be among the starting 11. But look for Kelly to lean a little heavier on “12 personnel” (two receivers, two tight ends) early on for experience reasons. In that case, the outside receivers would be Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, with Zach Ertz and Brent Celek manning the tight end spots.

COMING UP

Eagles begin first installment of OTAs, which runs through Thursday.

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