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Kelly: Great Start With Media, Fans

Posted Apr 16, 2013

A good press conference isn't going to matter a bit when the whistle blows and the games begin, but it's all we have right now and, boy, is Chip Kelly saying and doing all the right things ...

The Eagles opened their pre-draft minicamp on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, a closed-to-the-media practice in which the players wore helmets and no pads, and the work was fast paced, the repetitions were high and the players had their first taste of Chip Kelly's practice blueprint.

In the end, though, it was Day 1 of many days before we roll into September and the regular season and I'm not sure anybody is going to reference April 16 when the roster trims to 53 players and we focus on Week 1 of the Games That Matter.

Chip Kelly

You know by now that Kelly masterfully handled the media that hungered for some information. Who took the reps as the starting quarterback, the reporters asked Kelly after the head coach made his introductory remarks?

"Nick (Foles) was, Mike (Vick) was, and I think Dennis (Dixon) actually got some reps with them. We're just rolling," Kelly said.

Excellent stuff. An answer, and an honest one. No need to sidestep, no need to "table" the response. Kelly was just warming up.

"First team means nothing to us," said Kelly when asked about the depth chart and the importance of it. "It's how many reps can we get? I don't care if you were in first-team reps, second-team reps, third-team reps. We don't grade you any differently.

"Our whole mantra right now is I don't care who is in with the ones, who is in with the twos, we've just got to make sure we've got 11. So let's just roll, get some reps and get some film we can teach off of."

Kelly is a refreshing head coach, filled with his own ideas and process of how to run a football team. It is dramatically different around the NovaCare Complex in just about every way, and the energy is off the charts. Everyone has bought in to what is new, what is different and what is -- key word here -- fun.

Kelly is the reason. He is just doing what he believes will help the Eagles win football games. In the meantime, my goodness, he is great with the media and he is great in his public appearances and there is no question that he has invigorated a fan base in need after the 4-12 clunker last season.

When asked, for example, if he felt the first draft of his regime would be a "signature moment," Kelly responded without an ego, minus a throne.

He doesn't care a whit about defining anything except winning games.

""Honestly, I'm not that philosophical. I want to come out of it with the best players. Hopefully, my goal is we have a lot more drafts," he said. "So you could say it's your signature draft if it's your only draft. I plan on being here more than one year, so our whole goal is 'Can we improve this football team,' and that's it.

"But I don't look at it as 'This is a defining moment of what we're doing. When people look back 10 years, 20 years, who was the pick and all of those other things, I'm not that deep. I can tell you that we're just trying to get the best player we can."

I've been around some entertaining coaches who were pretty good in press conferences. Buddy Ryan had a few favorite lines and a quick, biting tongue that made him a fan favorite and there is no doubt that Ryan's act with the media bought him some time as he built the Eagles into a playoff team. Rich Kotite answered questions, but he never won approval from the media or the fans and his years were marred by that friction.

Ray Rhodes went on his rants and snorted and snuffed and went off the tracks from time to time, but generally the fans liked his press conference performance until the Eagles slumped on the field.

Andy Reid was never much for bold words or actions. He believed in giving the media only as much as they needed and in never chiding his players publicly (although the George Hegamin incident early on, when Hegamin pushed the blocking sled the length of the field in front of the media after practice was the lone moment of public criticism).  By and large, Reid was reserved in his press conferences, understanding that wins and losses would ultimately dictate his "Q" rating.

It's going to be the same for Kelly, as it is for every NFL coach. Wins and losses are what it's all about. But for now, long before the season starts, Kelly has the fans on his side. He's simply outstanding with the media. Doesn't he seem like the kind of guy you want to hang with, chill out with and talk casually about the game of football?

I could listen to Kelly all day. He regaled the media for 29 minutes on Tuesday. It was a blast! Kelly, who came to town with a label of being reluctant in his dealings with the media, has been sensational with the press corps. He is quick with an answer, he anticipates questions well and he seems to have fun bantering back and forth with a group that is known as one of the most gnarly in the nation.

What it means when September arrives and the Eagles are in the heat of the season remains to be seen. For now, Kelly has helped in a big way re-ignite the fire and the passion and the fun the fans are having following this football team. He's been great, just great, with many more good times to follow.

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