Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Eagles interview Marrone, Kelly

Friday night, the Cleveland Browns had all but signed Chip Kelly as their new coach. Today, Kelly seems to be interviewing with the Bills and the Eagles, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Eagles interview Marrone, Kelly

Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone leads his team on to the field for an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. Syracuse opens the season at home against Northwestern on Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone leads his team on to the field for an NCAA college football game against Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh. Syracuse opens the season at home against Northwestern on Saturday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

Friday night, the Cleveland Browns had all but signed Chip Kelly as their new coach. Today, Kelly seems to be interviewing with the Bills and the Eagles, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Eagles officials were en route to Arizona Saturday morning, a source close to the situation confirmed. That's where Kelly remained after his Oregon Ducks defeated Kansas State Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl.

But Arizona also is where the Eagles are going to interview Syracuse coach Doug Marrone this weekend, a source close to the situation told the Daily News.

Marrone, 48, has the NFL background that seems important for a college coach making the transition -- he was Sean Payton's offensive coordinator in New Orleans for three years before he took the Syracuse job, and was the Jets' offensive line coach before that.

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Marrone interviewed with the Bills on Friday.

Eagles officials are scheduled to be in Denver Sunday to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Various reports say Kelly remains close to a deal with the Browns, but it is interesting that he is going through with other interviews. Interesting enough for your Eagletarian to offer up the Kelly story that originally was supposed to go in SportsWeek Saturday, before the Kelly-to-Browns reports erupted Friday evening.

Here it is:

By Les Bowen

GLENDALE, Az. --- In games, Andy Reid's offense was never noted for the brisk pace of the play-calling, but when Reid coached the Eagles, he did demand a high tempo in training camp and in practice. "On the hop!" Reid would bark whenever his players lagged, getting in and out of huddles.

If the Eagles hire Oregon coach Chip Kelly to succeed Reid, practice will get a turbo boost. Kelly is known for preparing at a fire-drill pace, with loud music blaring, as a challenge to get players ready for hostile enviornments.

Kelly yells "Tempo! Tempo! Tempo!" at his Ducks.

Nick Aliotti, Kelly's defensive coordinator at Oregon, who has spent 20 years at the school in three different coaching stints, was not a huge fan of this approach when Kelly first took over for Mike Bellotti in 2009.

"I hated it. The pace in practice was so fast, you don't have time to coach your guys," Aliotti, raspy-voiced, said late Thursday night in a University of Phoenix Stadium hallway after the Ducks' 35-17 Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State. "But we've learned that that's OK. The more reps we get and the faster we play, the easier it is on game day. Then we teach 'em off of film (instead of stopping practice.) I would never want to change that."

Aliotti said he does have time for on-field instruction, during individual drills. But once the whole team is practicing, corrections are made off the film, not live.

"We go as fast and as hard as we can for as long as we can, and then we cut the plays off that we need to cut off in film session ... You throw it all at 'em and see what sticks," Aliotti said. "Eventually they get it, if you keep doing everything over and over and over."

Aliotti, who spent three years in the NFL as an assistant in the '90s, was asked the question everyone is wondering, as Kelly, 49, begins to sort through NFL possibilities. Will Kelly, who has never coached in the pros, translate to the NFL?

"Absolutely. If you're a good football coach, you're a good football coach,"Aliotti said.

Kelly wouldn't talk about the NFL while he was preparing for the bowl game. Afterward he said he would confer with agent David Dunn and see what Dunn had lined up for him. He said he wanted the matter settled quickly.

Reports indicated Kelly would stay in Arizona this weekend to interview with the Browns, the Bills and the Eagles, something the Eagles have not confirmed. But they also did not confirm their Thursday interview with Penn State coach Bill O'Brien until O'Brien announced he was staying at Happy Valley and the matter was moot.

One reason college coaches haven't often translated well to the NFL is the workload. NFL hours are much more demanding, particularly in the offseason. Aliotti said he didn't think that would be a concern with Kelly.

"The guy's a very sharp, witty, intelligent person. He's a football junkie. he's not married, he has no kids. That allows for a lot of football," Aliotti said.

Kelly is an offensive coach. If his Oregon setup is any indication, he will hire someone to run his defense and won't meddle.

Eagles linebacker Casey Matthews, who played at Oregon, said Kelly would come over and watch the defense here and there but didn't really get involved.

"Chip has not said one word to me on the headset in four years as a head coach," Aliotti said. "He's never been in a meeting, he's never questioned a call. He's never said anything when we've played badly. He doesn't say a whole lot when we've played well. He's left me completely alone. It's been unbelievable autonomy. It's been a fantastic relationship. I really appreciate it."

Kelly came to Oregon as offensive coordinator under Bellotti in 2007, from New Hampshire, where he'd played as a defensive back and then coached since 1994. Aliotti said that in his interview, Kelly made a huge impression on Bellotti's staff, but they came away sensing Kelly didn't really want to leave his home state.

"We all called him and talked him into taking it. We liked the person, we liked what he was all about. We liked the energy," Aliotti said. "Maybe we all felt or saw something. All of us, assistantwise, called him and told him to take the job.

"He was not gonna take it, but he finally came to his senses."

Kelly got off to the worst start imaginable as head coach, after succeeding Bellotti in '09. The Ducks went to Boise State and suffered an uninspired upset loss, 19-8.

Running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player after the game and Kelly ended up suspending him for the year. A fan named Tony Seminary wrote an angry letter to the coach, alleging "consumer fraud," and noting that he'd wasted $439 traveling to the game.

Kelly sent Seminary a check for $439, which Seminary never cashed, and later returned to Kelly. The gesture received national notice, and helped give Kelly a national profile.

People around the program say the most important thing about Kelly is not the run-option spread offense he has pioneered, but the atmosphere he has fostered. Since that pratfall at Boise State, the Ducks don't seem to have games where they don't show up, or look flat. That seemed a possibility in the Fiesta Bowl, with one-loss Oregon disappointed not to be playing for the BCS title, but the Ducks took a 15-0 first-quarter lead.

Oregon is not a hotbed of high school football talent, but Kelly is 46-7 there. The 2012 Ducks were an overtime loss to Stanford away from playing in the championship game. That speaks very well of Kelly as a strategist and teacher, but it also might have something to do with why a lot of people think he might be willing to leave.

The NCAA has investigated the Oregon program's ties to a Houston-based trainer and advisor to high school players named Willie Lyles. Oregon paid Lyles $25,000 for a dubious "recruiting package" of information.

No sanctions have been announced, but they are said to be looming. It's very difficult to build a national program at Oregon in the first place; if the Ducks were to lose scholarships or suffer a bowl ban, Kelly might not be able to produce the kind of results that will keep the NFL so intrigued.

"Our players, we have a great relationship," Kelly said after the Fiesta Bowl. "I want what's best for them, and I think they want what's best for me."

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Eagletarian is your home for comprehensive coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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