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Eagles Get Their Man In Kelly

Posted Jan 16, 2013

I knew something was going down, and that it was big. “All good,” said Eagles president Don Smolenski, smiling, inviting me into the office at the NovaCare Complex. All good, indeed: The Eagles never gave up on Chip Kelly ...

How all of this happened, how Chip Kelly went from being a “secret” meeting with Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Smolenski after his Oregon Ducks football team blew out Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl to “staying” at Oregon to now being named the 21st head coach in franchise history … I can’t wait to hear the story. I can’t wait to hear how the Eagles interviewed at least 11 very qualified men to become the head football coach and then circled back to the lead guy on their “board” – footballspeak here – and got him.

When Smolenski told me it was Chip Kelly, the reaction was pure shock, and joy, and curiosity. Kelly, the brilliant offensive mind who helped evolve the game of college football – and, as we have seen in the last couple of years – also helped evolve the offensive game of football in the NFL, is a great get for the Eagles. He has long been identified as a brilliant football strategist and free-thinking football coach. He does things his way, which helped put Oregon on the football map as a national powerhouse the last four seasons.

There is so much to digest at a time like this and we’re all going to need some time to understand how it happened and why Kelly reversed his field and accepted the Eagles’ offer … I don’t know. I don’t even know what is fact and what is fiction from the time the story broke a couple of weeks ago that the Eagles were interested in Kelly and that he had instead decided to remain in college.

Thing is, though, Kelly never actually said anything, at least publicly. The reports indicated that Kelly was rebuffing any interest in coaching in the NFL, and so the Eagles then went about the business of due diligence. They interviewed all of these outstanding coaches – Gus Bradley, who was in town on Tuesday for his second interview with the team, had a great interview, as did all the candidates, and was very highly considered by the Eagles.

In the end, though, through casual conversations with Kelly, through keeping the lines of communication open, through having a great relationship with Kelly – and all of the candidates, for that matter, and Roseman deserves a lot of credit here for working the phones night and day – the Eagles and Kelly talked more seriously of late and, here we are.

A deal is done.

In Kelly, the Eagles have a head coach who has an aggressive vision of what is a football program should look like. There are going be things, I’m sure, that will be vastly different from the way Andy Reid ran things, or the way Ray Rhodes ran the show or, maybe, the way any coach conducts business. His is a high-flying style that gets the most from his players. Oregon’s recruits, if you follow that kind of stuff, aren’t exactly five-star players coming out of high school. They were a lot closer to 5 stars upon leaving Oregon, however.

Kelly is known for his offensive mind, and there are natural questions about how his spread offense at Oregon will translate to the NFL, and to the personnel on hand. It isn’t difficult to envision LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and a talented stable of running backs benefiting from the style.

Then again, Kelly can adapt. He’s an innovator, and those kinds of football minds use what they have and make it great.

 He is an intense, highly motivated coach who imparted that sense of urgency on his team at Oregon. One of his most telling quotes is this: "Our goal every day is to win every day."

That says a lot, doesn't it? Kelly wants his plays to have maximum focus and to devote maximum energy into every day, and to "win every day." That's the mindset for Kelly and, now, for the Eagles.

And then there's this gem from Kelly, who is known to be entertaining -- witty, biting, thoughtful and introspective -- with the media: "(Play calling) is driven by the players that you have … you can't be a riverboat gambler if you are coaching the Little Giants.”

That’s where we are right now. A state of shock and a feeling of euphoria and so darn many questions that Lurie and Roseman and Smolenski have to answer. It took them a tad over two weeks to get their man, and in the end they landed the Chip, the big Chip. Chip Kelly is the one to lead the franchise into the future.

Chip Kelly's Head Coaching Record At Oregon
Year Overall Conference Bowl Result Rank (AP/Coaches)
2009 10-3 (.769) 8-1 (1st) Reached Rose Bowl 11/11
2010 12-1 (.923) 9-0 (1st) Reached BCS National Championship 3/3
2011 12-2 (.857) 8-1 (1st) Won Rose Bowl 4/4
2012 12-1 (.923) 8-1 (T-1st) Won Fiesta Bowl 2/2
Total 46-7 (.868) 33-3 (.917)    

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