Eagles finding a new gear
THERE IS ONE difference between Andy Reid's Eagles and Chip Kelly's Eagles that we will notice right away. Chip Kelly hates calling timeouts, would rather burn a play most of the time.
This, of course, is the polar opposite of how Reid and his various offensive coordinators operated over 14 seasons. The Reid Eagles could rifle through two or even all three before the second quarter began, and it was not unheard of that the first drive of a third quarter - after significant halftime strategizing - would be peppered with one or two as well.
Kelly's aversion to pressing the pause button goes back a long way, back to his days at the University of New Hampshire, where his accelerated offense took form. Sean McDonnell, his friend and the UNH coach then as he is now, has said that it was not unusual for halves and games to end with a couple of timeouts still at his team's disposal. Kelly never wanted to give the other guys any longer than was absolutely necessary to figure out what was going on, which is why one timeout - called amid a fast and successful drive - will forever stay with the UNH coach.
"We had just gained big yardage and were lining up for another play and he asked for the timeout," McDonnell recalled last winter, after Kelly had been hired by the Eagles. "I asked why he did it. And he said, 'I was thinking too fast. I had to slow myself down.' "
Kelly is not likely to do that at the start of this season, or even near the end of it. Working to find the balance between plays that will work in the pros and those that will not, tapering his offense to the talents he inherited and drafted, Kelly's cadence thus far does not seem too out of the ordinary. At times this preseason his offense has hinted at what he hopes to someday achieve, but more often confusion and mistakes have glued up the works.
"We want to know the offense like coach Kelly knows it," veteran Eagles receiver Jason Avant said. "We want to get to the point where we know the deep intricacies of the offense without him having to tell us on the film. It's a learned game-experience challenge. We're going to learn from some of those mistakes and hopefully those mistakes won't dictate the outcome of a game."
In a league in which wins and losses habitually pivot on just a few plays, Avant's hope is more like a prayer. With a defense whose talent level suggests it will be among the worst, the Eagles' offensive warts will be magnified. And with an offense that by definition does not absorb much time on the clock, one mistake that inhibits the opportunity for points - or worse, erases them - could be enough to doom them.
That would seem to imply a high level of impatience for a new coach already under the microscope for his out-of-the-box thinking. That's what some veterans anticipated anyway, fans and media folks, too.
"For some reason I kind of had the feeling about him that if you didn't get it right away, he would move on and leave you behind," veteran offensive lineman Todd Herremans was saying. "I guess I just kind of thought that if you didn't get it, you just weren't one of the guys he wanted. But he takes the time to explain a reason for everything we do. He will take the time to explain plays, the reasoning, the reason why we're lifting this, or the reason why we're drinking this."
Said Avant, "One thing I enjoy about him is that he is humble enough to interact with each player. And to coach them up individually. You have the ability to ask him why and he won't get offended."
"He gives you a reason for everything we do," Herremans said. "And he does it in a way you understand it. He doesn't come at it screaming at you so all of a sudden you shut down. He wants you to understand why."
We have no idea yet if Kelly will make a great or even good NFL coach. What has been re-emphasized, however, is that he is a teacher first, equal parts scientist and philosopher. Amid his wiseass answers and obfuscation this summer, Kelly has occasionally given us a glimpse of this, like when he was asked the other day about the "Win the Day" philosophy he has preached since arriving at Oregon.
"I think too many people see too far down the road," Kelly said. "You can talk about championships all you want. But if you don't take care of what you are supposed to take care of today, it really doesn't matter what your long-term goal is.
"Maybe we just weren't smart enough to look long-term. We can control today. And if we do it, go to bed, get up tomorrow and do it again. It's about being consistent with your behavior. And I think too many times, everybody talks about the big picture, but they neglect to look at what the small picture is. It's an accumulation of things on a daily basis that gets you to where you are a year from now."
And where is that? That is the intrigue of this season, honestly. We will find out if his breathless pace can survive the limitations of smaller NFL rosters. We will find out who among the mistake-filled group left behind by Andy Reid can be reformed into versatile, sharp-thinking players, and who can not.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon