Can Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly accomplish what no other Eagles head coach has been able to do…win a Super Bowl?
If the Eagles performance last season was any indication, then yes, Chip Kelly can bring a Super Bowl championship(s) to the city of Philadelphia. In just one season he turned the organization from fourth-worst team in the league (4-12 record), to NFC East champions with a 10-6 record. He also solidified the Eagles franchise quarterback in Nick Foles, and produced the NFL’s leading rusher in Lesean McCoy. In second place, just behind the Denver Broncos record-shattering offense, was the Philadelphia Eagles offense during 2013.
Granted the Eagles secondary was fairly ineffective last year, but in free agency Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman immediately addressed this concern with the additions of safety Malcolm Jenkins and cornerback Nolan Carroll. The Eagles also spent two picks on secondary players in the 2014 draft; cornerback Jaylen Watkins and safety Ed Reynolds. A promising 2013 draft pick, safety Earl Wolff, will also make his presence felt this year. The names don’t jump off the page like some of the more popular secondary players around the league, but Kelly knows which attributes his guys can offer to pile up some wins.
Special teams was another deficiency to which Kelly and Roseman acknowledged a need for improvement this offseason. The acquisition of running back Darren Sproles not only makes for one of the NFL’s most dominant rushing tandems (alongside Lesean McCoy), but Sproles will immediately bolster the Eagles return-game as well. With the loss of perennial special-teamer, safety Colt Anderson, linebacker Bryan Braman and safety Chris Maragos were brought in to provide coverage-depth during punts and kickoffs.
Although Howie Roseman should be highly praised for coercing Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon, if and when the Eagles win a Super Bowl the main factor will be Kelly.
Whenever Roseman is asked about his head coach there is often mention about Kelly being a great communicator. When a person in a position of authority is blessed with strong communication skills it makes everything easier. Being able to express ideas to others in a way they will understand exactly what is implied, while simultaneously creating an environment where players are not afraid to ask questions for fear of being ridiculed, is certainly admirable.
Chip Kelly is 100% football. Having no children and no wife permits an increased opportunity to focus on his passion. A former receiver that played for Chip at the University of New Hampshire, David Ball stated:
“There were times I would walk by him and I knew damn well in his mind there’s, like, a film session going on, there’s plays being run,” Ball says. “You know, some people took that as him being standoffish. But he’s not.” The two had an understanding. “He had a relationship with football,” Ball says. “I can relate in a sense.”(5)
Kelly’s somewhat cryptic, passionate, workaholic perception seems to have always been a part of him. In his high school yearbook, Chip’s quote was “Some people walk to work, others take their lunch.”(5) Translation: I’m going to work until the job is finished. As head coach of the Eagles his job is to bring the Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia. Technically he never finished the job at Oregon because in 2011 he lost to Auburn in the BCS championship, but perhaps the head coaching job for the Philadelphia Eagles was not to be passed on (Kelly had previously denied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 causing the Bucs to eventually settle on Greg Schiano).
As offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire, Kelly would spend vacation time visiting other football programs to pick the brains of coaches, observe the players, and then borrow what he found appealing.(5) “I got this from Nevada, we’re going to call it Nevada,” David Ball remembers Kelly saying at practice after one fact-finding mission. “Here’s the signal, we’re gonna dress it up. We can run it five ways …”(5)
“On Kelly’s first day as offensive coordinator at the University of New Hampshire, he taught quarterback Ryan Day how to quickly determine whether a defense was in an “over” or an “under” alignment.”(5)
Until that point, Day hadn’t figured it out. “He had a great way of simplifying things for you,” Day says. Kelly explained that all his quarterback had to do was find the one player, the “shade,” whose alignment changed the configuration of the defense to either the strong or the weak side. “He says, ‘Ryan, all you have to do is find the shade. If the shade’s strong, it’s under, if the shade is weak, it’s over.’”(5)
Sean McDonnell, a New Hampshire coach and close friend to Chip said the following about his buddy of 25 years:(9)
“You have to be pretty good when you’re around him because he’s good at what he does…He’s really sharp…I just saw how hard he worked, going to watch people, going to talk to people, trying to figure out how to get better…He uses the analogy when he works with the kids and around us: Be like a sponge. He absorbed everything he could. That is what made him so good.”(9)
Chip Kelly has coached special teams, linebackers, secondary positions, running backs, offensive linemen, and has been both an offensive and defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach at the University of Oregon in 2009.
In four seasons at Oregon, “Kelly led the Ducks to three Pac-12 Conference championships and four BCS game appearances. Kelly became the first Pac-10 coach to win an outright conference championship in his first season, sending the Ducks to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995.”(1) “Kelly went 46-7 during regular games and 2-2 in bowl games at Oregon.”(4)
Kelly shifted Oregon’s offense to breakneck-speed.
Fast might be an understatement when describing Oregon’s offense. When they’re really going, they get plays off in five seconds. Oregon fans will boo the chain gang moving the sticks on the sideline because they are holding up the offense. Oregon players tell tales of defenders saying that if the Ducks go any faster they’re going to vomit or pass out.(6)
Chip Kelly has stated numerous times that time of possession does not matter to him. Kelly simply wants to run as many plays as possible in 60 minutes. “What he’s really looking for are yards and points per minute.”(6) “Kelly’s practices are the stuff of legend. There is no need for wind sprints because no one stands around. At all. Not the players, not the coaches. Music is blaring. The defense sometimes plays with 25 players so the offense can get more precise.”(6)
The reason that Chip’s players can react so quickly is a credence to Kelly’s ability for simplification. “Players memorize thousands of words in songs, hundreds of movie lines, and many other things involving pop culture.”(6) “Why can’t players have instant recall of a handful of concepts? Heck, everybody knows No. 2 on a McDonald’s menu gets you a Quarter Pounder, medium fries, and a drink.”(6) Baltimore Ravens tight end and former Oregon Duck, Ed Dickson stated:
“It’s kind of easy, it comes with repetition. A lot of guys learn different. Myself, I just needed to be out there repping those plays. The more comfortable you get, the faster you’ll go. He wants to make it easier to where you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just going fast. Make it as simple as guys can learn it so you can go really fast. That’s the key, making it simple for your players so they can play at top speed.”(6)
In similar fashion to Kelly’s transformation of Nick Foles, “prior to Kelly’s arrival at Oregon, Dennis Dixon struggled in his first three seasons at quarterback. Under Kelly’s guidance, Dixon was the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate.”(1)
To be continued…
Sources for Parts I and II