There's a lot to love about Chip Kelly. But one simple thing I enjoy is his press conference demeanor. Like Andy Reid before him, Kelly isn't going to give out any useful information. While that may rankle the beat reporters, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the way Kelly always manages to say something interesting, even when he's not saying anything. Forget "We'll have to look at that." The new coach isn't afraid to poke fun at a reporter or turn a question on its head, and he's quick with the one-liners. His most recent 15 minute question and answer session on Monday was a tour de force. Here are some of the best lines:
Hypothetically, Chip, what are you looking for in your offensive coordinator?
"I don't mean to say it this way, and I'm not being gruff, but I'm not a hypothetical guy," Kelly said. "Hypothetically, I want a guy who can score a billion points in a game."
About those darn fast practices you ran at Oregon — can you replicate that in the NFL?
"You have to adjust to the numbers," Kelly said. "The Philadelphia Eagles are a football team, not a cross country team. If we go at the pace that we practiced at Oregon, we'd have a real good cross country team. But we're not playing at Valley Forge Park."
Alright, Chip, what about the defensive coordinator?
"I'll give you a new word -- Shutoutability. That would be the one, overriding quality," Kelly joked. "I'm not sure how we can define that, but that's a pretty good word. ... If you have Shutoutability, I need to talk to you."
* * *
We're currently in the dark about the Eagles defensive coordinator, which will be the second-most important coaching role on the team. All we have are a few names of likely assistants: DL coach Jerry Azzinaro seems to be following Kelly from Oregon. Other college coaches, namely Rick Minter and Bill McGovern, have also been rumored.
On the offensive side, most of the coaches seem unlikely to share Kelly's background in the hurry-up, read-option spread offense. He is supposedly keeping Duce Staley on for the running backs and moving Ted Williams to tight ends (odd if only because Williams has been a consistently great RBs coach since he started in 1997). The big rumor is that Pat Shurmur, former Reid assistant for a decade and most recently the Browns head coach, is coming back on board as offensive coordinator.
Hiring Shurmur is a fascinating move that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense on the surface. Why bring in someone who has spent his career teaching the West Coast offense, rather than one who is more compatible with the head coach's schemes? Kelly painted an interesting picture on Monday:
“I think you need a lot of different personalities. I think if not, everything’s the same. And I think for you to flourish, there’s a lot of different things you need. You need really, really smart people. I think you need people that are dedicated. And sometimes, you need people that are just a little bit off too, so it’s a rare combination. But I don’t want everybody to be the same because I don’t think we’d grow as a group. I think we need to challenge each other.”
Kelly is still going to mastermind the offense and call the plays, one assumes. The Eagles aren't going to retain the same offensive system that they've run for years. But as long as they can coexist, adding a completely different perspective could be quite positive. Kelly is a run-first coach who doesn't have experience attacking NFL defenses. Adding a veteran voice who can tutor quarterbacks and help him out in the passing game might help smooth out that transition. Kelly also warned against tying people to one scheme or another. Shurmur's only 47, and he might get another shot as a head coach down the road. A partnership with Kelly (i.e. learning as well as teaching) is potentially beneficial to him as well.
* * *
Do we want a GM who spurns Tommy Lawlor at the Senior Bowl? I think not:
So I’m standing there watching the OL drills and trying to find us a tackle or guard to draft. Howie walks over and stands kind of in front of me. There is a pecking order where coaches, GMs, and senior scouts can stand where they want. The rest of us deal with it. Howie wasn’t rude, just wanted to be as close to the drill as possible. Anyway…I figure I’ll just play it cool and watch the drill. Howie looks around between reps. He glances at me, since I’m wearing an Eagles shirt. I’m still locked into the players. I can feel he’s staring at me so I make eye contact. He’s confused because he sees the shirt, but knows I’m not part of his staff and he’s never seen me at the NovaCare. I mention I write for the team’s website, shake his hand, and mention what a great day it is (safe, general comment). Howie just walked away, probably because he didn’t want me seeing who/what he was watching. Would have been nice to have more than a 10-second conversation, but I got the vibe that forcing the issue would have been a bad idea so I let him be.
Photo from Getty.