ATLANTIC CITY - New Englanders Bill O'Brien and Chip Kelly are old coaching friends who happened to be the Eagles' main targets when management set out recently to replace Andy Reid.
O'Brien decided to stay at Penn State after an eight-hour interview on Martha's Vineyard with Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman. Kelly ultimately took the job, after first deciding he wanted to stay at Oregon.
The Eagles have said Kelly was at the top of their list, but because he was involved in the Fiesta Bowl, they met first with O'Brien. We don't know they would ever have gotten to Kelly iif O'Brien had decided he was ready to leave State College.
So all of that was hanging in the background Friday when O'Brien appeared at Harrah's Resort to be honored as the Maxwell Football Club's Collegiate Coach of the Year.
"I know Chip very well. He's one of the brightest coaches I've been around. He's a very bright guy," O'Brien said. "He's a quick-minded guy; he thinks well on his feet. He's got a lot of great ideas, he's creative. He knows how to surround himself with really good people, which he's done in Philadelphia. Philadelphia fans can expect a very exciting, competitive football team."
Since Kelly took the job, they've been texting one another fairly frequently, O'Brien said. Hmmm. What about?
"That's between him and me. Just good conversations about football."
Earlier, O'Brien accepted the Tom Brookshier Spirit Award on behalf of his 31 seniors last season, who stayed with the program and built a solid 8-4 year in the aftermath of what has to be the most wrenching scandal in the history of college sports.
O'Brien talked of how much he owes them for what he called "one of the most enjoyable years I've had in coaching."
The Penn State seniors are scheduled to attend Friday night's banquet. They all arrived with O'Brien Thursday night, he said, and "hung out 'till midnight just talking."
Other O'Brien highlights (pretend this is a Penn State blog for a minute)
*Year 2 is "much more comfortable, because you have a much better working knowledge of your players, from an acamdeic standpoint, a skillset standpoint, a health standpoint ... You understand where they fit better, who they are better."
*O'Brien ended last season with 68 scholarship players. he expects to have around 70 this season, he said, as Penn State labors under the scholarship limits imposed by the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
*Penn State players are still free to transfer without sitting out, up up until the first day of preseason practice. O'Brien said he doesn't have a feel for whether anyone else is leaving. "They're more comfortable with our expectations, with their own expectations" than when O'Brien first arrived, he said. "We're very aware of it. We're always aware of it. It's something we definitely try to stay on top of. We try to make sure the kids understand where they stand in our program. That's what we do. We don't sit there and worry about it ... We just try to be honest and truthful and make sure the guys know where they stand."