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How Chip Kelly Won Over The Team

Posted Jan 13, 2014

It wasn’t always an easy sell, especially not at the start. The Eagles were coming off a thoroughly disappointing 4-12 season that forced Andy Reid's departure and morale was low. Players were unsure of what would come next and how the situation would improve.

Enter Chip Kelly.

He was the Eagles’ top target all along and agreed to become the 21st head coach in franchise history. Kelly came from Oregon, where he was highly regarded for his innovative offensive mind and sports science approach. There was a strong sense of skepticism from the outside, and it admittedly took some players a bit of time to believe in Kelly’s approach. Soon, however, the players could feel the results with regard to their bodies and see the results on the field. A short time after Kelly started working with the players, everyone bought in completely. Kelly’s first season with the Eagles might have ended on a disappointing note in the playoffs, but there is no question it was a rousing success that signaled even better things on the horizon.

“He’s a great leader,” tackle Lane Johnson said. “All the changes were for a reason, and he told the guys that. Everyone believed and bought in, and he got everyone to put it all on the line. There’s that foundation now, and it’s only going to get more in sync, stronger and better moving forward.”

Johnson was a rookie in 2013. Safety Nate Allen was a part of the 2012 four-win season.

“Just seeing how far we’ve come from last year,” safety Nate Allen said of what will stick with him most about what Kelly was able to accomplish. “We’ve got a lot of new faces, but we’ve got a lot of the same guys from last year. Just the way things are run and the system and just how detailed everything is. He’s got a good system, and I enjoyed it this year. It was a lot of fun.”

Kelly’s first task upon arriving was getting the veterans on board, and it didn’t take long for that to happen. Once they bought in, the rest of the players followed.

“Coach Kelly, first and foremost, he knows what he wants, he knows how he wants it, and he’s a great motivator,” linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “He gets the guys going, gets the guys believing in what he wants them to do. And I feel like he’s a really, really great leader. That’s one thing I learned from Coach Kelly this year. He’s a great leader. And he’s a great football coach.”

“He always has a plan and he always has a reason for the plan,” All-Pro guard Evan Mathis said. “He’s not the type of guy that just tells you to do things. And you could see it from the beginning that he’s a very intelligent guy. He cares about his coaches. He cares about his players. And we all bought in Day One with this guy. I think that’s part of the reason we had some success this year.”

Tight end Zach Ertz is one of a handful of younger players on the roster who saw Kelly’s success up close prior to arriving in the NFL. He didn’t need any convincing that his new head coach would prosper at the pro level, and he sees the 2013 season as just the tip of the iceberg.

“(Kelly) didn’t have to make me a believer, to be honest,” Ertz said. “I was a believer before I even got here, saw him first-hand for four years up at Oregon. He’s such an amazing coach that he can lead all these men to one common goal. I think the sky’s the limit for us and him personally.”

In addition to the results on the field, it was Kelly’s demeanor and interaction with his players that resonated most. He was able to skillfully toe the line between players’ coach and authoritative figure, all the while managing to keep his players motivated and accountable. Kelly also did something simple that not many other coaches do - he listened to his players and adopted their suggestions.

“Anything that we felt like would be better, he was always open to it,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “Just being a players’ coach. Everybody really responded to that positively. On gameday he made sure we were healthy. He made sure we were fresh. And we wanted to play for him.”

It has been written how Kelly truly cares about his players and that each one can feel it. It’s not just a narrative, either.

“The way he took care of us, the way he just bonded with us, it was more like a family environment here,” rookie nose tackle Bennie Logan said of what struck him most about Kelly. “It got a lot of guys to just buy in to what he was saying, what he was telling us and just went from there. And that’s the reason why we had success his first year.”

That “family environment” was missing in recent years but is undoubtedly back now, and it is just one ingredient in what makes everyone so optimistic about this Eagles team as it enters the offseason.

With Chip Kelly aboard, there is a genuine sense around the team, on the outside and, most importantly, inside the locker that the sky’s the limit.

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