Wake-Up Call: Kelly’s Outside Influences

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

An author and public speaker by the name of Simon Sinek appeared at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia earlier this offseason to discuss concepts from his new book, Leaders Eat Last, “which explores how great leaders build confident teams by putting the needs of others first.” The main focus was the chemicals in our brain that influence our behavior and impact leadership capabilities.

Chip Kelly was among those in the audience.

One interesting thing about Kelly’s approach to his job is how frequently he looks outside his realm in hopes of gleaning something useful that he can pull in.

A good example came during a training camp practice last August. The Braves were in town to play the Phillies and a handful of the players and coaches decided to check out the Eagles for a day. Kelly was standing with the punt returners during the special teams portion of practice like he had so frequently that summer, as he worked to improve the group’s tracking skills.  A light bulb went off and Kelly dipped suddenly into the crowd and pulled a couple Braves onto the field to get some pointers. Who knows more about tracking balls than baseball players?

“I’ll take tips from anybody if they work,” said Kelly. “You’ve got pro baseball players that give you a better understanding of things. You get some experts here, you’re going to ask them.”

He goes to the hometown teams as well to expand his knowledge base.

 “I think we can learn from all of them. We’ve had a few come visit. Craig Berube was here the other day. I think the job he did taking over in the situation he took over in, I thought it was remarkable. Got a chance to visit with him during the season a couple of times. He had a chance to watch practice. I think he’s a guy. I visited with Brett [Brown] since the Sixers season ended and we’ve had a few real good conversations, and kind of what they’re trying to do and what we’re trying to do. I think there are other guys. Fortunately, for me in the city, I had a real good visit with Ryne [Sandberg] when I had a chance to go over there right when they got back from spring training and had a chance to talk to him a bit. But there are other guys in other sports — [Heat coach] Erik Spoelstra has been out to visit us when we were at Oregon and he’s been here to visit  — there are a lot of different people in different sports, and I think we can learn from.”

Kelly brings in guest speakers to address his team and offer a different perspective. The night before a game during his talk at the hotel, he’ll often draw on stories from the outside world — from extreme kayaking to Warren Buffett  impersonators — that hold an applicable message.

He studies the military, and is particularly drawn to the Navy Seals.

I make it a habit of trying to study high performance organizations and it doesn’t have to be football,” he said. “It can be the military, it could be a business, it could be sports teams from other sports besides ourselves. I think we’re just trying to get better.



If Kelly had it his way, the NovaCare Complex would be a building without doors. 

One national writer believes Kelly is one of the 10 most influential people in the game.

Josh catches us up on the latest happenings in the division in his NFC East roundup.


Jeff McLane writes that Kelly is a stickler for discipline, even when it comes to something like ensuring his players stay on the walkway and off the NovaCare lawn.

Kelly’s keep-off-the-grass rule dates back to Oregon. The “why,” according to Eagles rookie and former Ducks receiver Josh Huff, is “don’t take any shortcuts in life, and always do the right thing even though the wrong thing might get you to the door quicker

“What you try to get across to guys is you have to think about things,” said Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who also worked with Kelly at Oregon. “Maybe you’re not going to think about it as deeply and say somebody mowed that lawn, somebody spent hours preparing that thing, but I think as you’re around really good people, good people don’t do that.

The division isn’t looking very daunting, says Tommy Lawlor. 

I just don’t see the Giants, Skins or Boys as likely playoff teams, barring something major happening.

The Giants have a new offensive coordinator and new offense. That could help, but the O-line still has issues and the front seven might be a major mess. The Skins have a new head coach and that can be a good or bad thing depending on how he works out. They were just 3-13 a year ago, but really fell apart, losing their final 8 games. The Boys are the kings of 8-8, having finished with that record for 3 straight years. The defense will now be run by Rod Marinelli, but a coaching change won’t make up for a lack of talent across the board.

No one is saying the Eagles are perfect, but they sure seem to be the dog with the least amount of fleas.


Vacations are over. Training camp starts this week. We’re ready to roll.

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  • TNA

    I heard a rumor CK was next going to leverage intergalactic inspiration by having the players practice blind with a blaster shield helmet and have them feel The Force. Apparently Han Solo wanted to check out practice but was barred from entering because of his lack of faith in the Force.

    • Kevin

      Shady: “Coach, I tried to run through the.. ”
      Chip interrupting McCoy: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

  • TNA

    Perhaps the Eagles players can pass on what they learned from the Braves to Domonic Brown and Revere.

  • Bullwinkle

    Kelly’s intellectual curiosity, focus on doing things right, and efforts towards continuous improvement are remarkable and admirable. It definitely should help players perform better. Now if he can only get the right players together at the right time, and have a little bit of luck.

  • 3 Finger Lenny

    dom brown & Ben Revere are the 2 worst OF’s in mlb

    • moesus

      Good thing Chip didn’t have them out there then, huh?

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    i’m all-in on Kelly, but hope he doesnt push too many of the ‘stay off grass’ ideals. couple are ok, get where he’s coming from, but that’s really a college thing. sure the olders guys know within seconds of meeting Kelly Eagles arent being run like any other organization. however can see too many of those rubbing 10 yr multi-millionaire vets the wrong way.

    • Breakerdog

      CK has made it pretty clear that you either buy in or GTFO. No matter who you are. As long as they are winning it will be all good. Players see that he is all about improving and extending their careers. If they can keep winning 10 games a season, CK will continue to be the unquestioned Belichekian coach. Put up a couple of 8-8s and every one here will be calling for hid head.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        it’s fine and all, certainly rookies and year 2 or 3 guys coming in now will follow. i’m picturing Peters being tired and cutting corner, that a ton different than Jax. let’s not get carried away with this buy-in or GTFO BS, teams will Super Bowls with talent, coaches are certainly needed and can be difference b/t 3-13 and 10-6. the NFL is a small circle, too much of this nickel and diming will wear guys out. let’s not forget these are grown-@$! men making millions, they have options

        • Max Lightfoot

          I hear you. Good point. It is easy to get carried away with all the Chipology Genius stuff. And after a while, players stop listening – it just happens. Plus, if you’ve played any team sport at all, you realize that all sorts of personalities factor into any group effort. Nonetheless, Go Eags!

        • bill

          I think you hit the nail on the head at the end, but not in the way you meant to – these are grown men. If they can’t act like it, and take responsibility for the impact their actions have on those on their same team, they have deeper issues that ARE going to cause problems for the organization eventually. It’s really not too much to ask that, if they want to be treated as grown men, that they treat others with the same respect.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            right, not disagreeing with anything, i’m more worried about extrapolating what we dont know. some discipline is great/needed. but let’s not act like there isnt a breaking point and obviously beginning yr 2 probably no where near it. now, kelly seems to have a tremendous repour with the players, so i can easily assume he’ll have some leeway. but these are 23-29 alpha of the alpha males walking around with millions, all from various backgrounds, and let’s face it, some of the greatest NFL talent ever put on the field isnt in a nice neat PC package. talent wins.

        • Kev_H

          My guess is most players, especially successful vets like Peters, appreciate a professional work environment. Players rarely have long, successful careers by mistake. Talent will get you on a roster, disciplined, hard work makes you a star. I’m sure things have changed slot since then, but I went to all the Gulf Coast spring training sites in 1986. George Brett and Mike Schmidt stood head and shoulders above all others in every little drill. They cut 0 corners, while their equally talented “peers” were yucking it up, lollygagging around, and sneaking off for smokes every few minutes.

    • bill

      I think the key is that this is different from Coughlin’s “5 minutes early” shtick. There’s an actual point to the rule, and it has consequences throughout the organization. One of the reasons that hazing has been winked at throughout the years is the need to get newcomers (often with outsized egos) to understand the needs of the organization and respect the roles and interests of other individuals who work within it. Hazing (in its most appropriate form) forced the newcomer to fear the organization’s structure and comply with mandates for that reason. This is similar to the military boot camp system (especially how it used to be).
      Kelly’s system is more of a modern approach to this. His rules are there, and he explains them and communicates them meticulously. The rules are not arbitrary; you don’t walk on the grass because it’s disrespecting the contributions of other members of the organization, no matter how small or faceless they are. It makes the point that they need to respect each other, no matter if you’re the star RB or the special teams fringe guy – it’s about respecting each other as adults and committing to the organization’s goals. And I think the point’s been made that if you can’t do those two things, Chip doesn’t want you on the team, even if you are a very productive veteran. Organizations break down over these very simple things time and time again. Chip understands this, and works to inoculate his organization from these breakdowns. And the players, from the quotes in the article, seem to understand the purpose, due to Chip’s communication abilities.

      • Charliefoxtrot

        Great insight. I’ve worked with guys who had a big influence on me, and you understand that you are learning a value system, at the end of the day.

        A value system that spills over into your daily, non work life, in which you see similar improvements. It makes you willing to do anything to help the guy who helped you. It’s not some Schiano type rule for rules sake. Here’s a leader who helps you as a player earn millions more than you could otherwise (Coopers production as an example) as well…Kelly is Zenning the eff out of these young men and changing their lives forever.

    • Token

      Hes just not a coach thats gonna be average. This guy is either gonna win us a Superbowl or hes gonna leave this team a wreck in a few years with a below average roster filled with ST aces while guys like Boykin and Cox go elsewhere.

    • Explorer51

      As long as the vets are like Barwin we’ll be OK; these are my favorite few quotes from that Jeff McLane article:

      “It goes back to, he cares about the whole thing,” Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I love it because [you should] show respect, walk on the sidewalks. Don’t walk all over the grass.

      “You would never think a head football coach wastes his time spending that moment to discipline. But he does.”

    • JofreyRice

      I appreciate where he’s coming from, but I agree I’d kinda hope he limits those things. If we’re using the military as a comparison, having an area you can’t walk on to instill discipline is “basic” training; instilling core values in special circumstances, knowing you’re not going to maintain that level of strictness and pressure indefinitely. I’d hope these guys can move onto something less basic.

    • EagleDuck

      I actually think he’s running things like any high performing organization. He’s just not running it like any other football team we’ve ever seen…
      I work for a fortune 500 software company and make a decent salary. When they tell me not to walk on the grass, I act like an adult and don’t walk on the effing grass…
      Chip is really just running the Eagles like any quality CEO runs his company. He expects his employees to fall in line and be ‘company men’ instead of the special snowflakes that many athletes believe themselves to be.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        difference is, colleges put out 100,000’s of us’s a year, they only put out couple elite NFL talent-sorry, jason peters is a snowflake. long as he buys in, i’m good. i’m all for it now, guy won 10 games with not much, yeah, dont walk on the f’n grass…but in 2 yrs if he’s 8-8.

        • EagleDuck

          Understood. I think we just have different ‘world views’ when it comes to football players and whether or not they deserve special treatment. No biggie.

          • cliff h-MOAR white goons

            special treatment depends on who…casey matthews, no…shady and JP, yup! i’d have given TO a contract inbetween situps in his driveway

          • Kevin

            I’m with you EagleDuck. High performing organizations expect everyone to abide by the company norms and standards because they are there for a reason. It doesn’t matter if you are at the top or bottom. Special treatment often brings discord and disharmony and sets the organization up for future problems. Clear vision and expectations and adherence to those are what is needed. I think Chip’s approach is fascinating and spot on correct. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

    • Kev_H

      I think it might be the difference between being a champion and just being good, we will see. If guys can’t do something as simple as stay off the grass every day, can you count on them in a playoff or Super Bowl game?

  • JofreyRice

    I agree with Lawlor. I’m not a fan of Jay Gruden. I do think they’ll hit on some big plays, and provided Griffin learns how to avoid those hits, I think their offense can be fairly decent, but I don’t see Gruden as a great CEO for an organization. If Dallas’ defense is anything other than one of the worst units in the league. they might have the best chance of giving the Eagles a run, but with the injury and potential for locker room blowup there, I don’t think that’s likely.

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      I don’t discount the rest of the division as Lawlor does. While I don’t think the Cowboys have a shot, I think the Giants and Skins have the ability to surprise some people and make noise in the division. Whether they do is a different ball game, but they makings are there. Obviously the D for all three teams is the biggest question mark, but all three can put points on the board which should keep them in games.

      • anon

        Division games are always unexpectedly tough. I’m sure everyone had us counted out last year as well.

  • MagatBrackendale

    About staying off the grass. It’s as simple as recruits in basic, marching and drilling “present arms” hour after hour and day after day. Or endlessly spit polishing boots or scrubbing barracks. They will be doing none of those things in combat. They will, however, have learned self-discipline and teamwork.

  • PakEagle

    ‘Leaders eat Last’…. no way Andy Reid buys that book…..or asks his players to read it!

    • MattE

      this is hilarious