Eagles Wake-Up Call: Copying Kelly’s Methods

Chip Kelly

Every coach steals. It’s the nature of the business.

Some, like Chip Kelly, come right out and admit it. Others use gentler terms like borrow or integrate or influence.

But the bottom line is: When you see someone else in your industry doing something that works, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least look into it.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s post: stealing from the Eagles. Greg A. Bedard of The MMQB wrote on the topic in a recent column:

There was a lot of talk earlier this year about college football cracking down on no-huddle offenses because of a perceived fatigue injury risk (it was later withdrawn). In the NFL, don’t be surprised if many teams start trying to copy what former Oregon coach Chip Kelly has been doing with the Eagles, if they haven’t already. Despite running the league’s fastest offense last season with one play every 23.38 seconds (the quickest pace in the league since at least 1997, which is as far back as the data goes), the Eagles were the fourth-healthiest team in the NFL last season (29 games by starters lost, with 16 coming from receiver Jeremy Maclin), according to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. One season is an absurdly small sample size, but you can bet other teams are keeping an eye on the Eagles’ fanaticism with sports science.

The sports science methods make a lot of sense. But as Bedard points out, attempting to draw any conclusions about their effectiveness with just one year of evidence would be foolish.

“I don’t know if it’ll help other teams because it’s a culture that you create, it’s an environment around this entire building,” said DeMeco Ryans. “So I don’t know if it will change other teams. But as far as players, I know it benefits every player that comes through these doors. …And if it doesn’t help another team, it’ll help that player take care of himself a lot better.”

One point to note is that there is still plenty of secrecy surrounding the Eagles’ methods. Sports science coordinator Shaun Huls has not done a single media interview since being hired. Players will talk about sleep monitors, nutritional changes, etc. But the sense is they probably don’t know everything the organization is doing.

And that very well could be by design. Michael Vick is with the Jets. DeSean Jackson with the Redskins. Others like Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Jason Avant have departed as well. As Ryans suggested, they can take some of the individual methods with them. But if asked to provide a breakdown of the organizational philosophies and practices, I’m not sure they’d have all the answers.

For now, the Eagles will continue to do what they’re doing. If other teams adopt their methods, they’ll look for another edge.

“It helps a lot,” Ryans said. “Being an older guy, when the coaches understand how to take care of the players, from that standpoint, it just helps us as older guys to be able to come out here day after day and really play hard, practice hard because we know that we’re taking care of ourselves with the recovery aspect.”


Our weekly NFC East roundup catches up with the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants.

Weekend reading: Malcolm Jenkins says the Eagles are working harder than other teams.

Cary Williams says the defense has a nasty taste in its mouth and is hungry going into 2014.

Scroll through 30-plus photos from Eagles practices so far this spring.

The Eagles are not tempering their expectations for Jeremy Maclin.


Speaking of “sharing” ideas, Dolphins WR Mike Wallace is excited about how new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is going to use him. From The Palm Beach Post:

Last year former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman used Wallace almost exclusively on the right side.

“Nobody can ever key on me,” Wallace said. “Last year, you kind of knew where I was every single play.”

Coach Joe Philbin said moving Wallace around “creates mismatches.” He didn’t say why the team didn’t move around Wallace last year. So how will Wallace do under Lazor this year?

“A lot better,” Wallace said. “So much better.”

Lane Johnson created a bit of a stir over the weekend when he Tweeted out a bill of more than $17,000 from the Eagles’ rookie dinner. He added this afterwards:


We’ve got a practice to cover.

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  • anon

    I didn’t realize that 17gs was just for the o-line. Must of had a break from the sports science day. At the same time who cares Lane makes like $2m a year – 17gs is pocket change.

    Excited for practice — i hope they don’t have to move it indoors.

    • cliff henny

      makes more than that, rec’d 13m signing bonus last year alone. yeah, drop in bucket.

      • paul from nc

        plus a couple of other guys pitched in. No problem if thai’s what he wanted to do.
        Shows team spirit

    • borntosuffer

      I think that would have been a good night to dine with them and be able to taste all the expensive wine. I mean, how much Kobe beef can you get for 17G? Let me know if he tweets the wine list.

      • Chippah
        • Kev_H

          Since $13,000 of the $15,000 subtotal was for mad expensive wine and $225 an ounce drinks, I think I know how that might have went down.

          Either A) Lane: It’s on me, anything you want. Everyone else: Anything? Lane: Yup, anything. Everyone else: Check out the prices on some of these shots. Lane: (gulp).

          B) As a unity builder, 16 guys downed shots (or 8 guys downed 2 shots) of $225/ounce stuff in an all-for-one, one-for-all move.

          Or maybe some combination of the two. The food wasn’t that much and the actual amount of alcohol didn’t seem like much either. They just got the most expensive stuff.

          • Maggie

            Didn’t the Dolphins make Martin pay for flights and hotel rooms in Vegas also? Something $85,000? Lane J’s experience nowhere near as severe.

  • knighn

    Awesome. You guys even make Monday mornings better!

  • Dominik

    Interesting take, Sheil. You almost have to bet money on the fact that the players can’t (not just don’t want) to know everything that’s going on. If anything, Chip isn’t stupid. And he knows the flucutation of NFL players, for sure.

    Doesn’t mean other teams can’t copy, it’s sport science, no rocket science. With a committment to that kind of stuff, GMs and HCs will find people who know similar things to what Huls is knowing.

    On another note: if I’m Chip Kelly, I’m giving this sceptical, angry look to YOU guys. Because I look fat in this picture and you use it ALL THE TIME.

  • cliff henny

    all this talk about Kelly, Howie, Hals and sports science, the key the whole shooting match is Lurie. let’s see an owner have the stones to open a checkbook and transform an organization top down. bet secretaries drink smoothies now. dont have to look far, in own division to see owners who cant committ and what it does to franchise. so far it’s worked, there’s been bumps, 3 knees getting blown in1st practice, jax mess (and i do believe there was some kelly/jax headbutting) but there’s never been a kink in armour.

    • bill

      Yeah, I think Lurie deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done as owner. Reid never sealed the deal, but there’s no denying he was a very good coach over his tenure. Rhodes was a one trick pony, but he got a team with subpar talent to be relevant for a few years. And the Kelly hire seems to be a good one, and as you state, one that required a commitment from Lurie that many owners would have balked at. After having to live through Braman, and watching Snyder and Jones up close for a long time, I certainly appreciate Lurie.

    • ray jay

      I will be legitimately sad when Lurie’s tenure is over. It really does start at the top. Just gotta enjoy the ride while it lasts.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    I can understand RGKnee as a candidate on becoming the Comeback Player of the Year but lets not sleep on Maclin. Oh man i cant wait for TC to see more of the team on the field. WHO IS READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL??!!

    • JosephR2225

      That will complete a nice superfecta with Foles’ MVP, Shady’s OPOY and Jordan Matthews’ OROY.

      • cliff henny


        • paul from nc

          Yeah, will trade all individual awards and stats for the ring.

  • Addicted2MAmula

    Thought this was funny! And if you go to Hogs Haven to see the comments its even funnier.


  • Joe from Easton

    The program that the Birds are running is combination of sports science, lifestyle changes, and a coach who stays ahead of the game. It’s a complete culture; it can’t be copied to a tee. I’m not worried about a bunch of teams doing what we’re doing because even if they try, Chip is better at it!

    • cliff henny

      Kelly’s only been living and breathing it for 25 yrs, he sort of has a head start on everyone. not sure his lifestyle of obsession is the healthiest for an individual, but as the coach of our Eagles, think we’re all for it.

      • Maggie

        Looking at his picture, one has to wonder a little about Chip’s gut and double chin. Surely there is a personalized food and fitness program which would keep him a little more fit and trim? After all, Ryan in NYC has lost a bunch of weight and he’s Buddy Ryan’s son!

        • Kev_H
        • paul from nc

          Agreed. “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.

          Say what you will, but at least Andy practiced what he preached with fast food fridays.

  • Engwrite

    $17,000 dinners helps explain why so many athletes end up broke

    • Joe from Easton

      The guy has been paid 6.6 million dollars in the past 14 months. I agree that being frivolous will get you in the long run, but if he keeps things like this to a minimum then that’s like telling a guy who makes $50k a year that he can’t pop for a $128.00 dinner here or there.

      • Engwrite

        (a) making that much money doesn’t immunize the player from going broke, quite the opposite [see Allan Iverson et al] they lose perspective and (b) players that make a lot less participate and feel pressured to act accordingly.

        • cliff henny

          true, but when i hear Lane is putting in a 50k (or something like that) replica of a TGIF bar in his house, i’ll start to worry.

          • Johnny Domino

            A guy needs someplace to relax after practice.

        • paul from nc

          And many many more than AI. It’s amazing the high percentage of athletes that are broke 5 years after their playing days are over.
          You’d think the unions of the NFL and the other leagues would have programs to help their players invest wisely and not blow their high incomes on frivolous things. and hangers on.

    • Kev_H

      Agreed. If I were in the NFL, I”d be milking my per diems and feeding myself with the freebies. I wouldn’t touch my salary no matter how high. Be like Koy Detmer showing up in an old car, with a small gym bag, in a old T-shirt with my toothbrush.

      They should enjoy the football life now and use their earnings to enjoy life after football.

  • Stumpy Pepys

    Lane, if you didn’t want people to be concerned about your business, why did you tweet out the bill? It is great that you treated, but you seem to be irritated at something you initiated.

    • Jamie

      Andy had “fast food Fridays.”
      Lane has “fabulous food Fridays.”

      Big difference,…


    • Maggie

      It looks like he initially was just sharing information, then came under attack from interfering snoops or those shrieking about hazing, etc. this tweet was probably reacting to the thousands who always need something to complain about.

      • but he complained about everyone concerned with “his business”. It became everyone’s business when he tweeted that photo.

    • paul from nc

      How does all the alcohol consumed fit in with the sport science regiment?
      Seriously, I’m asking if it is ok or not?

  • myeaglescantwin

    I want every team to try and copy us.

    They can try to mimic what Chip does on the field, but i don’t hear a word of any other prep they are trying to steal.
    Running this scheme isn’t just about Sundays. or even the full week in the fall. It’s about a yearly commitment to health and endurance. I doubt anyone else would be as dedicated to finding the right staff and doing the required research to make this system work.

    Yeah, you might successfully implement the no huddle. But how does your team react in october? december?

    • TNA

      Also – how many teams/coaches are willing to change their way of evaluating players to fit this kind of culture? If you’re Jacksonville, you probably need to go out and find the highest-profile player that may be high-risk because you need to find a way to sell seats. That’s not as big a factor for the Eagles, who can find the best fits possible and appear to have this down to a science.

      From a systems dynamics perspectives, teams would have to completely retool and spend time and resources in trying to change everything. Chip’s got a huge head start due to his experimentation and thought process in the college ranks. Unless NFL teams find someone like Chip, it’s highly unlikely that any team is going to be able to risk that kind of downtime (and resultant losses from a dysfunctional culture transition period) as an investment in their long term future. There are very few college coaches out there that have the resources that Oregon has to enable coaches to run a Chip-esque program. And out of those coaches, how many have the leeway or need to be as experimental as Chip had?

    • Kev_H

      I heard that another NFC East team is feeding their players smoothies. I’m not sure if they are personalized or if they are from Sheetz MTO or what, but I know it was a big change.

      • myeaglescantwin

        Chip has got the patent on the latest stem cell smoothies.

        We are good to go.

  • birdsfanindc

    “For those of you so concerned with MY business”

    If it’s YOUR business, why did you post a photo of the bill on twitter?

    Glad you can afford to be so generous with your teammates and I hope you guys had a good time.

  • Eagle in VT

    I have to admit, I’m not terribly concerned about other teams copying what the Birds are doing. I don’t believe I’m saying this as a pie-eyed optimist either.

    My confidence is predicated on my belief that the value in what Chip brings to the table is his ‘systems view’ of football. In “The Fifth Discipline” Peter Senge talks about ‘systems thinking’. In a nut-shell, systems thinking is the idea that an organization should look at an entire system, from stem to stern, when considering ways to improve a process. The idea is that changing one part of a larger system will have ramifications throughout the system and these impacts need to be considered; nothing is done in a vacuum.

    In my eyes, this is the fundamental value that Chip brings to the Eagles. He has examined every element of the system and addressed them each in the context of the entire system. From player evaluations, wrist and knee measurement, ideal measurables by position and a host of other sports science initiates, to the practice regiment with music, use of tempo, scheme design and a host of other things not mentioned, I believe he has identified the key elements to the system and has been working on refining the entire process for years.

    Other teams will surely try to copy what we are doing, but their inability to replicate the entire system will limit the desired impact. That will dampen the buy-in from the players which will further depress results, and so the spiral will go. Even if other teams are capable of implementing several of Kelly’s processes, Chip has a significant head start on the continued improvement element and has proven he has the cognitive chops to continue refining the system.

    I truly believe we have a bright future ahead of us.

    On another note entirely, a recent Birds 24/7 article noted the high attendance at the Eagles OTAs. Has ‘high’ been quantified and benchmarked versus other teams?

    • TNA

      well said. one of the reasons why I think Villanueva, who studied systems engineering at West Point, could have a role on the team even if he doesn’t make the team as a player.
      Could also point to Goode’s academic background as an industrial engineer…

      • Eagle in VT

        Chip certainly seems to have crystal clear vision of what he’s looking for in players and it wouldn’t surprise me.

    • TNA

      Another point – successful companies have implemented all sorts of systems perspectives for years – resulting in things like Balanced Scorecard – it’s a very neo-liberal/soft power way of approaching the world, and it’s interesting to see it play out on the gridiron against perhaps “hard-power” regimes focused completely on building teams based on older-school perspectives on player evals.

    • JofreyRice

      yeah, I imagine the profile of how the team is built and managed will probably come to more prominence if they can win a playoff game.

      • Eagle in VT

        Agreed, but I’m also confident that will happen sooner than most would likely predict.

    • 76mustang

      Add to this that you have an owner in Jeff Lurie that has committed funding to accomplish these changes – no small investment I’m sure. Fans want to decry the cap carryover as proof that Lurie’s about making money, not winning SBs. The cap is a finite budget that each team has to operate within – just a guess, but I think the Eagles are in the top 5 of organizations spending on their team infrastructures – coaches, scouting, facilities, FO personnel, i.e. the engine that drives the team. If Chip didn’t have an owner willing to invest in his vision the way Lurie has (and how Phil Knight did at Oregon), it’d be a slower evolving process for sure…

      • Eagle in VT

        It’s true, he should get more credit as an owner. What’s more, if he weren’t willing to make the investment, I’m not sure we’d have Chip here. Fortunately for us, he opened the checkbook.

    • Max Lightfoot

      Input, throughput, output.

  • jabostick

    Even if players could bring knowledge of what is being done/measured (and I suspect it is only a partial amount of the program), its not enough to just have the info. How it is used and what adjustments it leads to is a whole other (and more important) component. You can only reverse-engineer so much.

  • Honest_T

    I recall reading one of the players mention the use of platelets last year, as part of the “recovery” the players speak about. If that is the case, it really does require a full commitment from the organization, because I think that involves collecting a person’s blood, potentially separating it using a process called fractionation, and infusing it back into the individual later. This aids in recovery because it boosts the players white blood cells and oxygen levels, resulting in faster recovery.

    If this is the case, it requires a significant investment in infrastructure and medical capability. Cyclists that were blood doping used a similar procedure but also used the anemia drug Epogen to boost platelet levels even higher. To be clear I don’t think the birds are doping, as they are just using the players own blood to temporarily boost the levels of the things that are naturally occurring in his blood that help him recover faster.

    I am just speculating here, but given the level of secrecy and the buzz words like “recovery” it is my guess as to another element of the overall commitment to peak performance.

    • JofreyRice

      interesting, thanks.

    • Maggie

      I always understood that an infusion of the separate components of the blood was to increase the RED blood cells, thereby increasing the oxygen uptake and use. The white cells were thought to fight infection. A dramatic increase in the white blood cells and decrease in red is the principal indicator of leukemia. Please explain further. Thanks.

      • Honest_T

        You are correct, it is red blood cells not white that are separated and then re-infused. Interesting that US special forces use this before missions.

    • Johnny Domino

      Holy Lasse Viren, Batman.

    • Reasonableeaglefan

      I think you are confusing 2 different procedures. The procedure involving platelets is sometimes refered to as blood spinning. Blood is drawn, put in a centrifuge and separated into components. The platelets are injected at sites of injury and inflammation with the idea that it will speed healing. The portion that ends up being injected is called platelet rich plasma or PRP.
      The one cyclist used is called blood doping. A couple units of blood is drawn and stored a weeks ahead of a big race. Your body regenerates the missing blood and so when you give the stored blood back just before race time, you have additional red blood cells to carry oxygen. I’m not sure if this is been done by special forces, but this is considered a PED and it is illegal. PRP is legal.

    • paul from nc

      If they are doing the platelet process, that’s a scary thing and could lead to serious problems. Not to mention possible issues from the league regarding doping.
      Let’s hope the recovery issues are not from that.