Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philadelphia Eagles hire Oregon's Chip Kelly as next head coach

Story Highlights
  • The Eagles just confirmed that Oregon coach Chip Kelly has agreed to coach the Eagles.
  • Kelly was widely seen as the Eagles' top priority when the search began.
  • Kelly had originally turned down the Eagles to stay with the Ducks.
Gallery: Eagles hire Oregon's Chip Kelly to fill head coach postion

The Eagles confirmed a report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who turned down the Eagles to stay with the Ducks, has now agreed to coach the Eagles. He is flying into Philadelphia this afternoon and will be introduced at a 1:30 p.m. Thursday news conference.

“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” team chairman Jeffrey Lurie said in a release. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”

No details were available, but a fair assumption might be that the Eagles upped their financial offer. There was much speculation that Kelly got a raise from Oregon to spurn the NFL, but no one ever confirmed that.

Kelly, 49, was widely seen as the Eagles' top priority when the search began, but after a nine-hour meeting Jan. 5 in Arizona, two days after the Ducks' Fiesta Bowl triumph over Kansas State, Kelly said he was staying at Oregon.

However, Kelly was never quoted on the matter, and an Eagles source said Wednesday that when general manager Howie Roseman went to the NCAA coaches’ convention in Nashville Jan. 8 to talk to Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, a “mutual friend” of Roseman and Chip Kelly saw Roseman at dinner and pulled him aside. Chip really liked his interview with the Eagles, and wasn’t 100 percent solid on staying at Oregon, the friend confided.

The source said Roseman reestablished contact, and talks heated up last weekend. But having been burned once, the Eagles kept other options open; in fact, their second interview with Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was so good Tuesday they were ready to offer Bradley the job, if Kelly didn’t take it, the source said. It’s unclear whether they told Kelly that, but he gave them a conveniently-timed “yes,” and they allowed Bradley to continue on to interview in Jacksonville.

The source confirmed what everybody already figured – the Eagles went into this search with Chip Kelly and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien as their top targets.

As Lurie’s statement reflects, Kelly is the personification of the young, offensive-minded innovator Lurie outlined when he fired 14-year coach Andy Reid. His biggest negative is that he never played or coached in the NFL, and at the Fiesta Bowl, he seemed more wary of than interested in the league.

Asked by the Daily News after the game if he had an impression of Roseman, from Roseman’s scouting trips to Oregon, Kelly said: “I can’t DO an impression of him. I’ve met Howie twice. He was here a couple of years ago and I think he was here in September … my interaction with those guys is really, 5, 10 minutes – ‘these are the (players) you might want to look at.’ ”

Sean McDonnell, head coach at Kelly’s alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, where Kelly was an assistant from 1994-2006, talked at length to the Oregonian about Kelly’s gambling mindset.

"What I love about him is -- I compare it to a quarterback," McDonnell said. "There are two types. Both have the 'it' factor. But one will go for it, and the other won't. One is an 'Xs and Os' type, while the other is instinctual combined with the 'Xs and Os.' He's that. He's the guy you know in certain plays, it's not even in the read but he's going to go for it. ...

"He's Brett Favre. I want that in a coach. I want someone who is playing every game to win, even if it costs him a few. That's what I want. I'm sure he sleeps pretty well at night knowing that he goes and believes in what he does."

McDonnell – part of a very small circle of people who are close to Kelly, who is unmarried – told The Boston Globe that Kelly “never met a fourth down he didn’t like. If we had a fourth and 7 and were trying to kick a field goal or send the punt team out, he would say, ‘Sean, come on, I know we can make this.’ ’’

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. Oregon defensive coordinator Nick 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.

"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 Mike Bellotti in 2007, from New Hampshire, where he'd played as a defensive back and then coached since 1994. 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 much of 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 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 have been 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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    Yes! An innovator is just what we need.
    No! Things are different in the NFL.
    Maybe! Dick Vermeil did OK out of college ball.
    Les Bowen Daily News Staff Writer
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