Chip Kelly is a rookie coach making some rookie mistakes
The great irony about the coach who likes to go fast is that he also seems to have a decent amount of patience. It is difficult to tell for sure, because Chip Kelly's fortitude was never tested at the University of Oregon the way it will be during his first season as an NFL coach.
Friday, in fact, was a new experience for the Eagles' rookie coach. A little more than 13 hours after his team's 26-16 loss to Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, Kelly answered questions as the coach of a team sitting on a two-game losing streak. It was the first time as a head coach that he had lost consecutive games in the same season. His only other two-game losing streak was when Oregon lost the national championship game to Auburn in January 2011, then was beaten on opening day the following season by Louisiana State.
A third straight loss, to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Eagles' next game, seems likely, and the last time Kelly was on a coaching staff that lost three in a row was in 2007, his first year as the Oregon offensive coordinator.
Patience may be loving, kind, a virtue, and some other things, but it has never been a lot of fun.
"I think you draw on the positives," the coach said when asked about dealing with losses. "What did you do well? And then you look at what correctable mistakes occurred in the game and address them. That's what I talked about in the locker room after the game with our guys. The people that are going to fix this right now were in the locker room [Thursday] night. It's our coaching staff and our players. We'll get together as a group and get ready [to] put a game plan to go play the Broncos."
Not sure if that's the exact words spoken by Gen. George Custer before the Battle of Little Big Horn, but the Broncos are just as heavily favored as Sitting Bull's Lakota squad, and this will not be the last time Kelly's troops will have to overcome long odds.
The giddiness that accompanied the Eagles' opening-night win over the Washington Redskins has been replaced by the reality that Kelly has a tremendous rebuilding project on his hands, which was the prevailing opinion before the season started anyway.
The coach was asked Friday about rookie right tackle Lane Johnson, the team's first-round draft pick who played well in that opening win at Washington but has struggled in the two games since.
"We just have to continue to grow him," Kelly said. "One thing I know about Lane that we love about him is that he very rarely makes the same mistake twice. So part of this game is that you're a by-product of your experience. Lane's experience so far is three regular-season games and a handful of snaps in the preseason."
Those same words fit Kelly's personal situation. The coach has had his own growing pains since that exuberant win at FedEx Field. He didn't know he could use a timeout to keep a banged-up Vick in the game at a crucial point during the loss to the San Diego Chargers, and he went for a two-point conversion in the first quarter of Thursday night's game when an extra point would have been just fine.
"If you get a chance to steal a point here or there, in the long run, it can really benefit you," the coach said. "That's always been our philosophy. Does it mean we're going to do it all the time? No, I think you pick and choose it."
Kelly said a missed assignment prevented the Eagles from getting the two points, but that's the explanation for most foiled plays. It doesn't change the fact that if the Eagles had lost by one point instead of 10, that two-point conversion would have been the main story instead of a sidebar.
It was an aggressive miscalculation that might have given the Eagles momentum if it had gone the other way. Reid's first playoff run was triggered by an onside-kick recovery on a searing hot opening day against the Dallas Cowboys.
On the other hand, when would haves and could haves start to pile up, it's never a good sign for the head coach.
For now, however, patience and serenity are the proper way to proceed for the coach, his team, and the fans.
Kelly was asked if he was still in the process of learning what does and does not carry over from his days of dominance at Oregon. He said going for a surprise two points did not fall into that category.
"It's not a tactic that worked at one level, but doesn't at another level," Kelly said. "I know whether you play Pop Warner football, high school football, college, or the NFL, if you don't block your guy at the point of attack, he's probably going to make the tackle."
Kelly seemed to miss the point literally and figuratively in this case, but he wasn't about to apologize for what happened.
He did apologize for one thing Friday. His cellphone went off in the middle of his news conference, which caused the man in a hurry to stop everything.
"I have no idea what's going on right now," he said, then smiled and sheepishly pulled his NFL Network cap over his face.
Contact Bob Brookover at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.