I was ecstatic when I learned on Wednesday that Chip Kelly will be the Eagles' new head coach. Kelly was my No. 1 target when this process began and I didn't think the Eagles had a shot after he initially decided to stay at Oregon. Getting him was a great move. I can't promise it will deliver great results since all hires are risky. After all, Bill Belichick failed at his first stop and Jimmy Johnson at his second. The point is that I think the Eagles got the best available coach.
I'm sure by now you know some stuff about Kelly. He loves an up-tempo offense. He loves to be creative on offense. Kelly was 46-7 in four years as the head coach at Oregon. He likes to take risks and is a very aggressive coach. That's all well and good, but the more important issue is what he'll mean to the Eagles in a more specific sense.
You can think of him as an offensive version of Buddy Ryan. That thought should make some fans happy. Ryan believed in attacking the quarterback relentlessly. He boiled it down to a simple idea. We'll bring one more rusher/blitzer than you can block. If the line was getting the job done, Ryan would leave it at that. If they were getting handled, a linebacker might start blitzing. Then another. If that got handled, get ready for the safety blitz. Ryan wasn't stopping until the quarterback went down.
Kelly has a similar thought on offense in terms of math. If the defense keeps both safeties deep and is just playing with seven men in the box, he wants to run. Through scheme and use of his blockers he expects to handle the front seven. If a safety does come down in the box, Kelly will throw the ball. That situation means he's got a numbers advantage in the passing game and he'll stick with that until you adjust. People tend to think of Kelly as an offensive guru, but he'll tell you, like Ryan, this is just basic math. You create advantages and attack accordingly.
Both Kelly and Ryan are similar in the sense that they are greedy. They built dynamic units and held them to high standards. Good wasn't good enough. Kelly pushed his Oregon offense to be great. Ryan did the same thing with his defenses in Chicago and Philadelphia. Both men always wanted more out of their units. That's a good thing. Greatness doesn't come easily. Players must be pushed and prodded to do great things.
I'm sure you'll see some Dick Vermeil in Kelly. Vermeil came to the Eagles after coaching in college for a couple of years (for a Pac-12 team no less). Vermeil brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the game. His players loved that. Kelly will likely have some of that in his style. He won't be exactly like Vermeil, but the college background will come out in his coaching style. Working with college kids brings something out in you. That will be with Kelly for at least the first few years.
Vermeil could be extremely emotional (world's most frequent crier?). Kelly won't go to that level, but I do think emotion will be more of a factor than in recent years. Kelly's pre-game speeches in recent years were geared toward 20-year old kids. He'll adjust for the NFL, but some emotion will show through.
There will be a lot of Andy Reid in Kelly. Both men are extremely organized and detail driven. Reid got the Eagles job in part due to his famous blue binder where he had all sorts of schedules and details already mapped out. Kelly ran his Oregon program like a professional organization. He planned out practice so that not one second was wasted. This even went back to his days at New Hampshire. Jon Gruden told a story once of his dad, who was an NFL scout, talking to him about this crazy coach at New Hampshire running the fastest practice he'd ever seen. Kelly has specific ideas on how he wants everything done. This is good because assistant coaches and players know what to expect. Kelly will tell you that everything you do can help you win on gameday to the point that he even talks about what he wants to see when players stretch before practice. That's a level of detail that most coaches don't go to.
Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac.
Reid was an aggressive coach when he began his Eagles career. Remember the onside kick to start the 2000 Dallas game? I'm sure Kelly would admire the heck out of that. Fake field goals with Koy Detmer and David Akers happened on a "regular basis" back then (meaning at least once a year). There was a fake punt in 2002 when Brian Dawkins scored a touchdown. Reid taught the Eagles to attack and be aggressive on offense, defense and special teams. That attitude flowed through the team and they took pride in it. Kelly was extremely aggressive at Oregon. He's famous for going for it on fourth down and going for two instead of kicking the extra point. We don't know how much he'll stick to that in the NFL, but I believe his bold nature is one of the reasons the Eagles wanted him. Even if Kelly dials that stuff down by half, he'd still be the most aggressive coach in the NFL.
Kelly loved to go for two after the first score of the game. That meant Oregon was up 8-0, 8-7, or 8-3. Either way, there seemed to be an effect when the opposing team saw the eight on the scoreboard. It threw them off. The Ducks loved it. The beauty of this is that Kelly wasn't afraid to fail. There were times when they were suddenly down 7-6 or just up 6-3 because the conversion didn't work. That was OK with Kelly because he had such confidence in his offense. He knew they'd score soon and could go for two at that point and get back to even. That attitude came out in the players as well. There was no panic when something went wrong. Failure wasn't to be focused on. Learn from it and be ready for the next opportunity.
Reid and Kelly will be somewhat similar in their media messages. Ryan couldn't wait to get in front of a microphone and talk about his defense or his team. He wanted to brag to the world about what was going right. Reid always took the blame when things went wrong, but praised the players when things were good. Kelly will follow Reid in this area. After Oregon's bowl win, Kelly talked about his senior players and their great leadership and made sure the media didn't spin the story his way. He wanted his players to get the credit. At halftime of the Stanford game when his team was struggling, he told the reporter that he had to do a better job of calling plays. He took the blame.
Ray Rhodes is worth mentioning here as well. He wanted an offense that was built around the running backs. The Eagles had Charlie Garner when Rhodes was hired. His first couple of key moves were to trade for fullback Kevin Turner and sign running back Ricky Watters. That gave Rhodes the backfield he wanted. Then he went and spent a pair of draft picks on more help, one a runner and one a fullback, Fred McCrary. In 1997, Rhodes spent an early third-round pick on Duce Staley. Rhodes didn't just get these guys for the heck of it. He made them the center of the offense. The system was built around the running backs.
The Eagles ran a truly balanced offense for most of the Rhodes era. Reid came in and brought a more advanced passing offense, but as we know it was too pass heavy. The offense lacked balance and that hurt the team. Reid was truly a passing coach. Kelly is an offensive coach. He wants to move the ball, but doesn't care whether it is in the air or on the ground. He likes to say his teams are equal opportunity scorers. At Oregon, the best players he had were running backs so they were the focal point of the offense.
In 2010, Kelly's star runner was LaMichael James. He led the nation in rushing. Four other players had more than 200 yards. Kelly was feeding his workhorse, but also getting the ball to other runners. In 2011, James once again was the nation's leading rusher. Kenjon Barner had 939 yards. De'Anthony Thomas was third on the team with 595 yards. Three other players all had 200 or more yards. Kelly is committed to not just running the ball, but using a group of running backs. Reid did this at times in his tenure, but Rhodes believed strongly in it.
Kelly will take over an Eagles team with
We have fond memories of Vermeil, Ryan, Rhodes, and Reid. All four men did some good things with the Eagles. Two of them even got us to the Super Bowl, but unfortunately weren't able to win it. Can Chip Kelly break through and lead the Eagles to a championship? That really is the $64,000 question. I don't know if Kelly will pull that off, but I do believe in him and think he's the right man for the job. Jeffrey Lurie made a good hire with Rhodes. He made a great hire with Reid. If the trend continues upward, something tells me we'll all be happy with the results Chip Kelly delivers.