Getting hip to Chip
ONE OF the most charming stories from Chip Kelly's days at Oregon came when a disappointed fan was so disgusted with the Ducks losing Kelly's debut game in 2009, he sent the coach an invoice.
It wasn't just that Oregon lost at Boise State, 19-8, on national television, but Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player square in the jaw afterward. Even if the BSU player was taunting and got what he deserved, it was such an inauspicious beginning to Kelly's head coaching tenure. Oregon alum Tony Seminary sent Kelly a bill for $439 in travel expenses. Seminary was stunned when Kelly sent him a check, which Seminary never cashed.
"I think you can learn from the games that you win and learn from the games that you lose," Kelly said before last year's Eagles' opener. "Do I want [someone to throw a punch] in this game? I hope not."
MY FAVORITE instance of Chip being Chip came last August, when he named me the Eagles' starting quarterback.
Kelly, harried by reporters (darn those reporters!) who wanted to know how he possibly could avoid naming Michael Vick the starter over Nick Foles, given Vick's 13-for-15 performance through the first two preseason games, was trying to make the point that naming someone a starter in the preseason wasn't that big a deal. So he said if we had to have a name, fine, Les Bowen was the starter.
My tenure only lasted a few days, before Kelly had a chance to sit down with Vick and Foles and tell them what they'd undoubtedly figured out - that Vick had won the preseason competition. Of course, Mike, like me, eventually fell victim to Chip's fickle nature (also to Foles throwing seven TD passes in Oakland, and Mike not being able to stay healthy.) By Thanksgiving, Chip had sarcastically proclaimed Nick the starter for the next thousand years.
But Mike and I know Nick shouldn't count on that.
THE MOMENT that best defined Chip Kelly came after the Eagles lost a home game to the Chargers that they just as easily could have won.
In his postgame news conference, Kelly admitted that he didn't know a timeout would have allowed him to keep then-starting quarterback Michael Vick on the field. Kelly also admitted that his play-calling late that game allowed the Chargers too much time for a game-winning drive.
It's not just that Kelly reacted with candor and accountability, and did so immediately, in his second game as an NFL coach. Yes, those comments earned him huge equity with reporters and fans, and even more clout with his players.
Those comments afforded observers a glimpse into Kelly's mind. He didn't care that people would point out his lack of experience at the NFL level.
For Kelly, ego is nothing.
Outcome is everything.
For Kelly, there is no shame in innocent ignorance, as long as it is addressed and the behavior not repeated.
Shame lies only in willful ignorance.
WHEN ANDY REID was the Eagles' coach and wanted to go to a Phillies game, he usually had someone from the organization call over and arrange for him to enter through a private entrance so he wouldn't have to mingle with the common folk.
Reid liked the city's sports fans, liked their passion. But he liked them a lot better from a distance.
Not Chip Kelly. The guy owns a place in Center City. He eats and drinks and shops in the city. He is as approachable as an insurance man and enjoys shooting the bull with the natives.
When he goes to a Phillies game, he picks up his tickets himself and enters through one of the main gates and sits with the working-stiff peeps, not up in a hoity-toity luxury suite. Maybe all of that will change if he has a losing season and the fans unload on him. But I doubt it. He is who he is.
Asked recently about the perception that he doesn't take himself or anything else too seriously, he replied: "I have great respect for the game [of football]. I always will have great respect for the game. But I don't think anybody should take themselves too seriously. I take my job very seriously, but I don't take myself very seriously."