When Peter King of The MMQB wrote about Chip Kelly earlier this week, he compared the Eagles’ head coach to Jimmy Johnson.
Before his first training camp practice of the season on Saturday, we spent time in his office, and when we parted, I thought how much he reminded me of Jimmy Johnson when Johnson entered the league 25 years ago. Respectful of the other coaches and teams, but they aren’t going to dictate what he’s going to do. Totally confident that his style will work in the NFL. Unlike Johnson, Kelly’s not brash on the outside. Like Johnson, he knows deep down his way will win. Johnson brought a small, fast defense into a league that was going bigger and bigger. It worked.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie read King’s piece and was asked about the comparison.
“It made me think a little bit when I saw Peter’s column,” Lurie said. “There are some similarities there. I don’t know if you can carry it all the way. But certainly, Jimmy was very cognizant of what it took to bring a team together. People focused on his bravado and his intelligence and all that, but he comes from a pretty savvy psychology background. And he had a feel for what brings 53 men together and your staff together.
"And Chip has a lot of those qualities. He knows what it takes to have a common purpose to bring people together. And it’s not about who’s the best team on paper, what team has the best stats, what team accomplishes this. It’s not about who runs the fastest offense. It’s just about how to bring people together in a common goal where you can compete against 31 other teams trying to do something similar. And they have a similarity that way and a self-confidence."
Of course, the cupboard is not as bare for Kelly as it was for Johnson, who had a gradual build in Dallas, going 1-15 in 1989, then 7-9, then 11-5 before winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
Kelly went 10-6 in his first season. But in the NFL, there are no guarantees of a linear, uphill progression.
Asked if his expectations have been raised for 2014, Lurie said: "Yeah, it’ll rise every year because you want to get better and better. You never want to plateau out. So yeah, I think just getting better every day is my expectation."
As national media types come in and out of Philadelphia during training camp, they often remark about how the Eagles do things differently than other teams around the league.
Clearly, people are watching. And if what Kelly is doing produces results, others will try to replicate parts of the Eagles' program. Lurie was asked if he's already fielding calls about some of Kelly's methods.
"To some degree, yes. What I get more calls on is just a little bit how to conduct coaching searches," he said. "We’ve been successful with Andy Reid and with Chip and there’s been a patience involved and analysis going into the process and sort of a strategy not to rush it and to really think it through. And try to hire somebody you hope to work with for a long time. That’s what you get more calls on. Everyone knows we don’t answer much on the sports science stuff, so it’s hopeless to get much out of us on that."
WHAT YOU MISSED
Talking Kelly, DeMeco Ryans and Fresh Prince in my practice observations.
T-Mac's camp notes include Michael Irvin's thoughts on Jordan Matthews.
LeSean McCoy has dropped some weight and feels like he's 23 again. No more Doritos at midnight, he says.
"Urban Meyer also said he learned more in the 3 days with Chip Kelly than he has in years!" What they're saying.
T-Mac checked in with Marcus Smith, who is running with the second team now.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Andrew Kulp of The 700 Level says you should buy into the Matthews hype:
Yet Matthews doesn’t necessarily need 1,000 yards for his rookie year to be considered a success. To begin with, he only needs to supplant Jason Avant in the slot—and that shouldn’t be very hard.
Avant’s production can be replicated with ease. 38 receptions? 46 active wideouts recorded at least that many catches as a rookie. 447 yards? 53 out-produced that in their first year. Two touchdowns? 75 managed to find the end zone at least twice while they were still learning the ropes.
It’s becoming increasingly commonplace for rookie wide receivers with Matthews’ type of pedigree—selected No. 42 overall out of Vanderbilt—to contribute right away. Last season alone, 12 rookies bested Avant’s totals in at least two of receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Bob Ford of the Inquirer wonders whether Brandon Graham will even make the team:
The 2010 first-round draft choice, 13th overall, was taken as a defensive end for his pass-rushing ability. He was limited by injury in his first two seasons but appeared to come into his own in 2012 when he recorded 5 1/2 sacks. Just as Graham arrived, however, Andy Reid departed, and the Eagles switched to a 3-4 defense under Kelly that turned Graham's world upside down.
As an outside linebacker, Graham had to make the same transition as Trent Cole, learning to add pass coverage to his skill set. Last season was a slow transition for Graham, who got onto the field for only 27 percent of the defensive snaps. This season, depending on how the coaches view his progress at the position, his snaps might be coming somewhere else in the NFL.
"It is a lot different, but I've come a long way, and I think the coaches see that," Graham said. "We've got a great team here. I would love to be a part of it because I know where we're going."
Another practice today before players get the day off on Saturday.
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Josh Paunil contributed to this post.