Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Johnson/Kelly Comparison

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

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.”


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.


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.

Don’t forget to pre-order your Eagles Almanac.

PDF: $10

Paperback: $25


Josh Paunil contributed to this post.

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  • Eagles4Life

    It is really sad how badly we screwed up in that 2010 draft. Smh.

    • whiskeybill

      I will never forget how excited I was during the 2010 draft when they traded up in the first round with Earl Thomas on the board. I literally jumped out of my chair only to come crashing down when I saw Brandon Graham flashing on my TV. That pick still kills me even today, could you imagine where this team would be if they didn’t blow that pick?

      • JosephR2225

        Just to Recap:
        1. The Eagles acquire the 13th overall pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for picks 24, 70 and 87.
        2. The Eagles select Brandon Graham with the 13th overall pick.
        3. The Seahawks select Earl Thomas with the 14th overall pick.
        4. The Dallas Cowboys acquire the 24th overall pick (previously held by the Eagles) and select Dez Bryant.
        5. The Eagles select Nate Allen with the 37th overall pick.
        6. The Browns select TJ Ward with the 38th overall pick.
        7. The Broncos select Eric Decker with the 87th overall pick (previously held by the Eagles).

        If you need me for the next few hours, I’ll be in my room with the lights off, crying my eyes out.

        • aub32

          Wow. We could’ve easily had Thomas and Ward next to one another. Thanks for ruining my morning.

        • CHRIS – CB with dreads

          That’s one way to ruin a Friday.

        • Chuck Dougherty

          ugh..thanks for reminding me.. that was a black day for me…

        • Eagles4Life

          Let’s not forget how NaVorro Bowman went at 91 and we were actually linked to him before the draft.

          Then to top it off, we have FOUR picks in the 4th and come out with Trevard Lindley, Keenan Clayton, Mike Kafka, and Clay Harbor. This is the same round that Walter Thurmond, Aaron Hernandez (I know), Dennis Pitta, and Geno Atkins get taken.

          El Oh El.

        • whiskeybill

          That day literally ruined the draft for me. I don’t even bother researching players until we’ve drafted them anymore because I was so mad at how bad we screwed that up. Thanks Andy!

        • I can’t upvote this post. just too painful

        • Jason

          I can live with that draft if it means that we win a SuperBowl with Kelly. If Reid does a better job with that draft, we might be looking at another NFC Championship game. But we also might be looking at a Reid vs Kelly’s Redskins for a decade

        • mikey mike

          Im so mad I just read this. $@!##!

        • dnabrice

          And you wonder why they don’t do the draft night party any more!!!! I remember thinking I would be home by the time the Eagles picked, but they traded up and then it all fell apart…

        • JohnA

          It really might be that the worst thing about Nate Allen has been his coaching. Looking at how much his tackling improved last season he might just start playing like a first round pick this year.

          I’ve got nothing to say about thre rest, it never happened. No. Dammit.

      • Jason

        I was watching that with my Brother-in-Law (a Seattle native and huge Seahawk fan). We both said after the Eagles traded up, that there goes Thomas. After Graham was announced he started laughing and asked who was that. I just went and had another Blue Moon

  • John Paine

    I’ll feel bad for Brandon Graham if he gets cut. Even if he winds up getting picked up somewhere else, I’m sure it’ll be as a 4-3 DE. But he dropped weight to play OLB, and he wasn’t exactly big for a DE to begin with (Duh, Andy drafted him). I imagine that’s going to make it hard for him to show well wherever he’d wind up landing.

    • FluxCapacitor

      I feel bad for him also…just caught in a tough situation for his skills. He will do really well once he gets back into a 4-3, I fully expect to hear his name a lot once he does that.

      • dnabrice

        Kind of like Chris Clemmons and Derrick Burgess???

        • FluxCapacitor

          Let me think about that…no.

    • Bullwinkle

      It’s interesting that Peter King mentions that Johnson won with a small fast defense. That’s what the Eagles were going for (“fastballs”) and that is why Graham was drafted. It didn’t work out for Reid and the Eagles. I guess nowadays a big defense like the Seahawks is best. Bigger is probably better in most cases, but perhaps the most important factor is talent.

      • Max Lightfoot

        Please don’t say “fastballs” any more. It still makes me ill. =/

    • shady25

      Wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in Detroit with Washburn or with someone like Jacksonville or the Jets. Chicago also plays a 4-3

      • jpate

        I don’t think Washburn was a big fan of him, he buried him behind Babin until Babin was shipped off.

        • shady25

          Got a point there. I don’t think he makes the final roster. Think they will try to get a trade and hold him as long as they possibly can before releasing him. He won’t make it through waivers. Think the first 4-3 team will snatch him up.

    • would not be surprised if he was signed by KC.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    better than being compared to Spurrier

    • JosephR2225

      2013: Spurrier and Petrino
      2014: Johnson and Walsh

      The national guys are making it tougher and tougher to take them seriously.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    speaking of Cowboys, trolling couple of their sites, ‘efense is struggling to no end. fans are trying to spin it as ‘top line in the league’, which is probably a stretch though i think it’ll be solid. writers are semi-homering it, but they have a couple ‘sheil-likes’ that tell the truth, and it’s D-Line and LBers are terrible. best part is, DL is so overmatched that guys are going down left and right with minor injuries and we all know they have no depth. when one writer was pushed to come up with solid player on ‘efense, best they could come up with was a 7th rd CB.
    cant see how ‘Allas can believe they’ll have the best OL in the league either. maybe i’ve marinated in too much Kelly Kool-Aid (TM-some enterprising kid needs to sell that at home games), but beating up on 3rd rate scrubs isnt pushing anyone. that rookie, Zach Martin, is going to be shocked come Sundays when instead of seeing broken down UDFA after UDFA to embarrass, he’s seeing legit NFL talent.

    • xmbk

      Let’s not get carried away, Melton is going to give Martin plenty of good reps. But hearing Dallas fans say they’re going to pound the ball this year is amusing. Maybe more than last year, especially with a lead. But it’s hard to pound when you are down double digits.

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        they better hope Melton has no setbacks in his ACL, have a ton riding on him.
        even if they get up by 14, which is doubtful since it’d require a couple stops, no lead will ever be safe. plus, Romo has free reign to audible, so really doesnt matter what the 3 or 4 guys calling the plays signal down, Romo will end calling whatever he wants in the huddle.

      • jpate

        I’m sure Melton is a solid player but it’s not like he’s Suh or Atkins. I’ve never even heard of him until last year. And before last year which he missed anyways the Bears had a pretty good front 7 around him so let’s see how he does on his own.

      • aub32

        Even if they tried to go run heavy, I don’t think Murray could handle 25+ touches a game.

    • Zach Martin is going to be a good one, and Smith is already one of the top LTs in the league. They aren’t the line of the early 90s by any stretch, but they can be good. The rest of that team, including the coaching staff and front office, is a dumpster fire.

      • aub32

        Their offense is legit. Though it lacks depth. The defense is just so bad on paper that I doubt even that offense will be able to keep up.

        • I’ll refuse to admit they’re legit until I see Romo and Murray make it through 2 games. Too much hinges on their health, and as you said they have no depth. Also counting on Witten to maintain all-world status, curious if he’ll have to stay in more this year to help on the right side.

          • aub32

            They did pick up Escobar to help out in the TE position. Honestly the only team that doesn’t have a young budding TE in the division is NY. I do think an injury to Romo will all but guarantee they will have a top 5 pick in 2015. Murray has gone down before and the offense wasn’t halted. The improvements to the O line should allow even a mediocre back to do something. Plus, despite all the “we intend to run the ball” hullabaloo I doubt they get the chance. The D is so bad that I don’t see how they aren’t one of the league leaders in pass attempts. That does support your point that Romo is less likely to finish the season. He’s a tough guy though. So I won’t count him out.

          • Dominik

            Funny thing is: what will they do if Romo is injured and they get a top 5 pick? They literally can’t cut him, and I mean it like I say it. 37,408,000 dead money if they’d cut their then 35 year old QB.


            2016, for 36 year old Romo, it would be $19,135,000. I’m not making that stuff up.

            2017 10m and finally, 2018 is the time they could cut him at a reasonable price of 2.5m dead.

            Do you really want to draft a young QB with that top 5 pick? You have cap hits of 27,7m, 17,6m and 21,5m in three years for Romo in the books. You need to let this guy start.

          • MattE

            wow…. words…… none.

          • JohnA

            Honestly, if I was in charge of that Train-Wreck…I would draft the QB. Make Romo the most expensive backup in the league. But since Jimmuh made it the way it is, it won’t change. He won’t wake up smart anytime soon.

  • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

    Just a note Sheil, JJ was 1-15 in his first year, which was ’89.

    • sdk152

      Fixed… thanks! -SK

  • Merican Icon

    What a waste of money!

  • TNA

    In the style of Peter King – two things I think I think…

    I think if CK was head coach for NYG, WAS, ‘AL, I would still be giving him respect. It’s hard not to be impressed although confirmation bias would probably have driven me to only read negative things about him and his approach (e.g. “gimmick”, “lucky by landing at a spot with intact OL and Shady”).

    I think I would like to see what happens when Cary Williams tries to take out Jordan Matthews towards the end of one of his “finishing” runs when he may have gotten used to just running it out with the defense getting ready for the next play. Is he going to take it like Maehl or respond like Shady / Maclin?

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      sort of like to see what J-Matt would do. i cant hold it against Maehl for not reacting like shady/mac. he’s got bigger fish to fry, like to make the team as 6th WR or other positions getting another guy on back end of roster. bet under that halo like exterior, there’s one competitive SOB burning. cant push himself like he does in everything, and not look at everything as a challenge.

  • Niels

    Hi Guys- Want to purchase a version of the almanac, but can’t find after some looking what is included in the pre-order special. You might want to mention that somewhere.

    • CHRIS – CB with dreads

      PRE-ORDER SPECIAL: You write your own paragraph prediction for the Eagles’ 2014 season and we’ll print it in the book! That’s at $40, which also includes 2 copies of the paperback (perfect for a gift), plus the PDF.

      • Niels

        Got it. Thanks!

  • Jesen

    Speaking of Coach Kelly. Read this quote from another article today. He was attending the Nike clinic back in 09 and had this to say about his strategy for running… “We want to get off the ball and be a physical, downhill-running football team,” Kelly said back then. “This is not a finesse play. We teach our offensive linemen a block we call the bust block. The idea is to bust their sternums against their spines on every play. We want to come off the ball, create a double team, knock the crap out of the defender, and deposit him in the linebacker’s lap.”

    The “bust block”! I didn’t think my crush on Kelly could get any stronger, but after reading that description of how he wants his lineman to block it got a whole lot stronger.

    • JohnA


  • Anonymous

    Andrew Kulp knows what’s up ;)

  • MagatBrackendale

    Chip Kelly reminds me most of Chuck Noll. Always teaching. Would correct flaws in linemen who were going to be cut, just so they would have a better chance of playing elsewhere. Always learning. Would ask a safety who allowed an interception what his thought process had been and how to prevent a repeat. Close attention to details. Practice how you play. Having some interests outside of football to keep fresh. Options for the quarterback to call. Several years after winning his 4th Super Bowl he won Coach of the Year because his team was one game away, without all those HOF’s. Every time I read something Kelly said, it sounds familiar.