Friday, February 5, 2016

Riding with the Chipper

Here we are in 2013, with the Eagles adjusting to Chip Kelly, who, like Dick Vermeil, came straight out of college.

Riding with the Chipper

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Three years after Dick Vermeil came to the Eagles, after it was apparent the former UCLA coach was building a winner, star linebacker Bill Bergey said this at a banquet: "In 1976 we got this little fellow from the Napa Valley. I'll tell you the truth, after two weeks of training camp I was thinking, 'This has to be the Harriest-high-school guy I've ever seen.' I was so tired at night I couldn't roll over in my bunk."

Odds are, Bergey wasn't telling reporters that in the summer of '76. His tale of initial wariness went down a lot better after the team had turned around and he and Vermeil had forged a close bond.

Here we are in 2013, with the Eagles adjusting to Chip Kelly, who, like Vermeil, came straight out of college. We tend to talk to the players only in carefullly chosen moments, sanctioned by the team. So far, everyone seems pretty enthusiastic about Kelly's approach. You hear a lot that when a player asks Kelly for the reasoning behind what he's asking the player to do, Kelly always has a good rationale.

How do they feel, deep down, about the individual smoothies and the brusque, frantic practice pace and the request that they get 10 hours of sleep a night? We don't know. Maybe three years from now, somebody will be telling funny smoothie stories at a banquet.

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But one thing that really is clear is that Kelly has the hammer. Anybody that seriously chafes at his methods right now is writing his own ticket out of town, and unless there is a contract dispute, that is something players very rarely wish to do. Generally they prefer the known to the unknown. Their wives and girlfriends don't like moving (and some players would tell you it's really hard to move both of 'em!)

When Howie Roseman briefly spoke to reporters a few weeks ago, the most memorable thing the general manager said was how glad he was the veteran players were buying into Kelly. There hasn't been much to indicate otherwise. DeSean Jackson dropped by the coach's office to talk about why he wasn't practicing with the first team for a few days, something Jackson said was satisfactorially cleared up. Michael Vick wished aloud last week that Kelly would name a starting quarterback before training camp, something Kelly has clearly stated he will not be doing. (And something Vick, in 2013, lacks the leverage to force.)

Those are the only hints of trouble so far, and they don't amount to much, though people way outside looking in have tried to imply that maybe they do.

So far, my impression is that Kelly is going to treat his players like grownups. If Cary Williams wants to continue to fight the silly sconce wars all summer, I don't think Kelly cares, until that somehow becomes a distraction for the rest of the team. The coach clearly feels he has better things to worry about.

The other edge of that sword is that if you're used to getting your fanny kissed all the time, well, you're on your own there, too. Yes, DeSean, you're gonna have to learn all the routes for all the positions. Mike, you will be named the starting quarterback when you move the team better than the other quarterbacks do during preseason games. Those things don't happen, well, nice knowin' ya.

I think Kelly has great confidence in what he is trying to do, and that players see that, and aren't resisting anything. Trent Cole is working very hard to become an outside linebacker at age 30. If it's because he feels he has no alternative, rather than because he thinks it's a swell idea, I'm not sure that really matters.

Today on On the DNL blog, now DeSean Jackson says "the team" wants Chip Kelly to decide on a quarterback now.

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