Eagles Wake-Up Call: Slow Down, Chip
Tempo is a way of life at One NovaCare Way.
The production is streamlined under the fast-thinking, fast-talking Chip Kelly. Practice, lifting, meetings, meals and of course the offense is about speed and (in theory) efficiency — getting in and cranking out and reloading for the next explosion of activity.
Not a minute of time is wasted. Kelly even conducts his interviews from a media tent on the edge of the practice field so he can sprint right onto the gridiron the moment his mandated time with the press is over. The players’ schedule is jam-packed but the conveyor belt keeps them moving from station to station so that before they know it, they’re hopping on their hoverboards and heading for the hills.
Kelly did not stumble upon this design haphazardly. He studied high-functioning operations from the military to Fortune 500 companies; carefully built a system that cuts out wasted movement with an emphasis on maximizing output and supporting his Sunday style.
There are advantages to be gained by living in top gear but it isn’t without its drawbacks, particularly when it comes to relationship building.
There are already well-documented instances where lack of rapport with players has hurt this head coach. Go back to the comments of LeSean McCoy and Brandon Boykin on their way out the door, peel back some of the words brought on by pain, and the message seems to be this: he didn’t connect with me.
“There were times he just didn’t talk to people. You would walk down the hallway, he wouldn’t say anything to you,” said Boykin.
“You can come talk to me whenever you want to come talk to me,” Kelly said in August when asked about the defensive back’s comments. “But we also have a pretty structured day where guys are in meetings. I don’t just sit and walk around and say, ‘Let me go and grab him and let’s sit down and have a coffee together.’ When they get here, they’re doing stuff. Especially in the offseason we’re limited with our time. You get guys for four hours, there’s not a time we’re all sitting around, holding hands singing ‘Kumbaya’ together. We’re in meeting rooms, we’re getting stuff done. They’re in the weight room, they’re getting stuff done. They’re in the training field getting stuff done and then they’re outta there.”
It appears little has changed in that respect. The busy work has certainly not slowed down since the season hit, and the environment is still not conducive for players to form a meaningful bond with their head coach.
“He has his different days,” said Lane Johnson of Kelly. “It’s just more kind of when you get here, it’s kind of all just work, work, work. There’s different coaches. There are some coaches that are players coaches, some coaches that are all business kind of like [Bill] Belichick and stuff like that. I kind of see him as more like that.
“He kind of has to control everything around here. I think everybody has more personal relationships with their position coach because it’s the guy you spend the most time with. And [Kelly’s] kind of like a manager, overseeing everything. That’s kind of how I see it.”
Added Dennis Kelly, who joined the team in the last year under Andy Reid: “When we’re here, we’re always moving from one thing to the next so there isn’t a lot of shooting the s**t just because we are trying to make sure we have everything covered. There’s obviously still relationships here and the coaches when they can they try to talk, we try to talk, but it is always a hurry-up-to-wait kind of thing, like it is I’m sure in a lot of places.”
Many are wondering about the state of the locker room and the vulnerability of the head coach following the disturbing 45-17 home loss to the Bucs Sunday. It would be unfair — at least based on personal reporting and observation — to suggest the locker room is on the verge of revolt. But there is also little evidence that this team is inspired to fight on behalf of its head coach.
Maybe that sentiment exists in some individuals, but there are others who find Kelly’s approach to be impersonal and have trouble connecting with him.
Part of it could simply be a design flaw. Kelly appears to welcome feedback and has apparently made concessions since arriving in Philadelphia. For instance, several players say that he has pulled back on both practice intensity and length this year based in part on player input.
Or, as Dennis Kelly put it, “He’s not kicking our ass all the time.”
“You can go in and talk to him,” said Johnson. “It’s not like he’s a tyrant or anything like that. When things are going bad, you can talk to him. He’ll take things into consideration.”
Johnson has never taken advantage of the “open-door policy” himself, he said. Any concerns he’s had have been delivered via offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. Johnson also revealed that Chief of Staff James Harris, whom Kelly brought from Oregon, is “the middle man to kind of communicate between us and [Kelly] — and that’s kind of how things get solved.”
That seems all well and functional, but lacks a personal touch.
Kelly finds himself in a critical moment perhaps earlier than anticipated. The plan has gone to hell and the season right along with it. Much of the fan base has turned on him and questions abound as to whether he’s the right leader for this team moving forward. That doesn’t necessarily make him unique. Most coaches hit a nasty downturn every so often. But does he feel like he has a tight enough bond with his players to weather it?
“Yeah, I mean, that’s what this deal is all about,” he said. “We’re with our players consistently. We spend a lot of time with our players in individual position meetings, group settings, and all of those things. So we lost a football game. I don’t think it’s time to say, ‘Hey, we don’t believe ‘this’ is ‘this’.’ We got outplayed; we got outcoached; didn’t do a good job coaching in that football game, and that’s what it is. But that’s all it is, and we need to move forward. It’s not, we need to change [the] set up [to] our day or do anything like that.”
Nothing drastic, necessarily. But it might prove beneficial to have that cup of coffee; to put away the stop watch in the name of some old fashion human interaction.
It could get ugly over the next several months. Hearts and minds are what count right now.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The scene at the Linc Sunday through the lens of our standout photographer, Jeff Fusco.
Josh Huff on lack of snaps; Sam Bradford cleared; and Jordan Hicks talks for first time since injury.
The latest on the injury front.
“No one should have to be riled up to have some pride for the name on the back of their jerseys. Eagles-Bucs, The Day After.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Bob Ford wonders what Jeffrey Lurie must be thinking.
Like the majority of his paying customers, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie didn’t see the end of Sunday’s game, preferring to turn from the field in his private box and take an early elevator to the lobby level and from there straight into the locker room.
He made it safely inside by the two-minute warning, which is a lot more than you can say for the team. They endured the 45-17 beating against Tampa Bay until the last tick, kept their heads down through a tunnel exit still rimmed by the vultures of defeat, and trudged up the concrete ramp toward whatever fresh hell the rest of the season might hold.
The Eagles are Lurie’s billion-dollar baby and he will be the last to admit he put it in the hands of an unqualified nanny whose self-assured bluster was unmatched by an ability to provide proper care. That is how things look at the moment, though, and even an owner always deliberate with his decisions must be fast realizing that this era probably isn’t going to end well.
Jimmy Kempski questions Kelly’s wide receiver rotation.
Kelly has willingly admitted that defenses dictate what the Eagles do offensively. Some (self included) would argue that good offenses make the defense adjust to them, not the other way around, but even if being a completely reactionary offense is the way to go, it doesn’t explain why a borderline useless Miles Austin is playing over a guy who might actually make a play here and there.
When pressed on Huff’s lack of playing time, Kelly said, “He was rotating with Nelson [Agholor] on the other side. Again, a lot of it is coverage dictated. So if you watch the tape, we didn’t get much man free after that snap. Specifically, it was a lot more Cover 2 with two high safeties and guys rolled up on the outside receivers.”
So if I’m understanding that correctly, Huff was rotating with Agholor, and Austin was rotating with Riley Cooper?
I have a radical idea, and please, hear me out on this one. How about if Huff and Agholor just, um, play. And then, Cooper and Austin, you know, don’t.
We’ll speak to the coordinators before today’s 10:50 practice.