NFL Meeting Musings: Is Eagles coach Kelly a revolutionary, or not?
New Eagles coach Chip Kelly enters the league with a lot of new ideas. Will they work?
PHOENIX -- It's bound to be fun ride with new Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, like it was in Oregon. But after listening to him speak here for the first time, I get the idea he enters the league with a big chip -- no pun intended -- on his shoulder, ready to battle all, especially questions about his style.
Who exactly is Chip Kelly?
Is he this mad scientist of a coach with all these wild and wacky ideas that buck conventional thinking, or are his core beliefs really no different than the other coaches who sat at tables near him here at the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday morning, masked by his reputation for being cutting-edge?
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The answer: probably somewhere in between.
One thing is certain, if you have a perception of the guy as a coach from his days leading the Ducks, you might not want to believe it.
At least that's what he said when I asked him about it.
"I don't pay attention to perception," Kelly said.
Kelly, a coach who has never worked even one day in the NFL before taking over the Eagles, sat surrounded by reporters at his first media opportunity and seemed to fight the idea that his ways were that much more radical than others.
But there is no hiding that they are indeed different. His offense is an up-tempo, speed offense that plays fast, works fast, practices fast and is willing to take big-time chances. He goes for it on fourth down more than most coaches. He goes for two at times when others wouldn't -- like after the first touchdown in his team's Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State -- and he plays loud music in practices that are much shorter than most NFL coaches usually have.
"What is convention?" Kelly said when asked about his going against the grain and going for it more on fourth down. Then he chimed in with this: "Reality and perception are two different things."
Look, I am all for a guy who believes in what he does. And I don't think you need to change just to be like the others. But there are a lot of things different about the NFL game than the college game.
Biggest one: These are grown men, with families, playing a game as a profession, not for a scholarship and the pride of the school. Things you can get by with in college won't fly in the NFL.
Kelly is a big believer in the science of sport. That's why he hired a guy on his staff to work with the players. They will work on nutrition. Sleep. Rest. All of that, he feels, helps make the athletes play better, and more important, helps them play fast -- his way.
Asked the optimum number of hours of sleep a player should get, Kelly said 10-12.
Good luck with that one.
But as I listened to him talk, I looked over at the next table and saw Giants coach Tom Coughlin, a coach with two Super Bowl rings. Coughlin came into the NFL from Boston College, and he also came with a long list of beliefs that are a lot like Kelly's. He preached nutrition. He set the menu in the team's lunchroom. He monitored how they slept.
So I asked Coughlin if it’s easier to instill that type of mentality in the college game.
"I don’t know if the right word is easy," Coughlin said. "The whole concern is getting them to believe that you are doing what is best for them."
So is it tougher to do on this level?
"The totality of it, sure it is," Coughlin said.
Coughlin once tried to hire Kelly as a quality control coach with the Giants, but he turned Coughlin down. Now he will have two key games against him in the division every year.
It will be interesting to see if Kelly changes, or if he truly is more conventional than we think.
I get the feeling he's just using lip service when he says that type of thing, and that he's just trying to avoid being perceived as a coach who's doing it his way and proud of it, almost as a reverence to the other coaches in the league, who have been doing it a certain way for a long time.
Here's what I say to that for Kelly: Embrace it. Be who you are. Change isn't always bad, but just remember the most important NFL rule of all: Make sure that your quarterback stays healthy and, please, don't expose him to hits more than you should.
If Kelly has the right guy, and he stays on the field, the football part can and will work. He is smart. He is passionate. And he loves speed. The NFL is a speed game, and he is first and foremost a speed coach.
"They have a sprinter's mentality," Coughlin said.
I, for one, can't wait to see it -- and that chip on Chip will make it even more compelling theater to watch.
-- One of the things the Giants are concerned about is the play of their offensive and defensive lines. Jason Pierre-Paul, who had a monster year in 2011, tailed off some in 2012. He was heavy for much of the early part of the season, but he got the weight off late. It wasn't like he was far, but the extra weight appeared to slow him down. "I want the guy back who could jump and touch the goal-post easily," Coughlin said. I would look for a learner Pierre-Paul in 2013.
-- Mike Shanahan said the option helps quarterbacks stay healthy. He said it makes the defenders react rather than just going after the quarterback. If you say so, Mike. At least Shanahan said he wants Robert Griffin III to slide.
-- Kelly said he expects left tackle Jason Peters, who missed last season with a torn Achilles tendon, to be back working in full April 1 with the rest of the team. That's good news for an Eagles offense that struggled up front in 2012.
-- The Packers recently sent their entire defensive staff to Texas A&M to get a better grasp on the read option. After what happened in their playoff loss to the 49ers, it makes sense. "Frankly, the fact the defensive staff was on the road together, the camaraderie of the trip is a real benefit," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Anytime you put a group of six to eight coaches on a plane, in vans, driving to a school, they talked football from the time they walked into the airport and were talking football on the way out. That’s the kind of stuff every coach misses. Kevin Sumlin and his staff are very gracious and there’s a ton of feedback going back and forth. Kevin was in the room the whole time giving an offensive perspective. Our defensive staff was in the room with their defensive staff, it was a conversation that was very, very helpful and I’m sure there will be some things we take away from that visit."
-- I keep hearing more and more talk from general managers that they don't like this quarterback draft class. Would it be a shock to see one fail to get drafted in the first round? That's probably a stretch -- but not out of the question.
-- Why do I really think Dwight Freeney winds up in Baltimore? It just makes sense.
-- So backs can't use the crown of their helmet as a weapon anymore? So what. It's dangerous anyway.
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