One of the interesting things I found out while digging for info in Mobile is the culture change that is going on. Chip Kelly is adjusting to the NFL, but the Eagles are about to start adjusting to Kelly and his way of doing business.
Back in 1999 there was a change from Ray Rhodes to Andy Reid. The men were very different, but both were NFL assistants that spent time in the Walsh/Holmgren system. They were more alike than many people might realize. The big difference was planning, structure, and vision. Rhodes was building a team to win right away. Reid spoke of building a program, something that could sustain beyond one group of players.
Reid benefited from the fact that Joe Banner and Jeff Lurie had learned from mistakes during Rhodes tenure and hired GM Tom Modrak. That helped set up a good power structure that allowed the Eagles to function as a more cohesive organization under Reid.
Reid was more innovative than Rhodes, but not in a significant way. Both men ran the WCO. Both preferred the 4-3. Both men learned how to do business in the Walsh/Holmgren world. Andy never worked for Walsh, but since Holmgren based what he did on Walsh’s ideas, it is still the same basic coaching tree.
This time around the coaching change features some real differences. Chip Kelly isn’t an NFL guy. Heck, he’s not even a conventional college coach. Chip truly is an innovator. He’s the guy people go to in order to learn something new.
Chip is cognizant of the fact his ideas are going to be different. He’s bringing several members of his Oregon staff along to help show the Eagles what he wants done. You see, most of the assistants have to learn what Chip wants just like the players do.
I think Chip was wise to put together a staff from a variety of places instead of just loading up on Oregon guys. He had a good staff there, but not one that was ready to take over an NFL team. The fact Chip didn’t try to bring all of his assistants here is a good sign. That tells me that Chip understands he can’t just try to replicate Oregon in the NFL. He’s got to adjust.
Chip does want to do things his way for the most part and that means he needs help in teaching his methods. Jerry Azzinaro isn’t here to run the defense. He’s not going to implement a special scheme. He is here to coach the DL and to set the tone for how Kelly expects guys to practice.
Josh Gibson was part of the Football Operations staff at Oregon. One of his primary duties was to oversee recruiting. He knows what Chip wants in players. You would think he’ll be a good liaison to the Personnel Dept in Philly. He won’t tell Howie Roseman who to pick, but he can help explain what to look for in players.
Greg Austin spent offseasons helping to develop young players at Oregon. During the season, he helped run the scout teams in practice. He is a former Nebraska OL that can relate to young players, but also understands how to sit in an office and grind away all day with tape study and note-taking. I’m sure he’ll be a good asset to the coaching staff. Austin knows the kind of information that Chip wants in scouting reports.
Matt Harper is a former Oregon DB that worked with the special teams units. He would make a perfect assistant STs coach. Harper could also help coach the Safeties if needed. That’s a position he played.
Todd Lyght is a real interesting person. He was a star DB in the NFL for years. He left football for a while, but then decided to try coaching. He did so at the high school level and wanted more. He then became an intern for Kelly at Oregon (there were restrictions on how big the staff could be and no other positions were open). Lyght was an assistant in 2012. He is very new to coaching, but his background means he knows football, even NFL football. Lyght would make a good assistant to the DBs coach. NFL players will respect him because of his background. Chip has to love the fact that a former NFL star was willing to be an intern at age 41.
You also have James Harris coming over. He worked with the football staff at Oregon as a nutritionist and player adviser. I’m sure he’ll work in a similar capacity with the Eagles. Harris specialty was his ability to connect with players. He’s a good listener and communicator. I don’t know what specific benefits Harris presence will bring to the table, but he was important at Oregon. There he was a big brother type to many players. That may not translate as well to the NFL. If he can help with the young players, there could be excellent value in that.
Notice that none of these guys are coordinators. Only Azzinaro is a veteran coach. Lyght is 43, but the other coaches are in their 30’s. Chip isn’t bringing a group of older coaches to push the Oregon Way down anyone’s throat. He is bringing young guys that can work with with the coaches and players to show them what Chip wants. These coaches are also hungry and driven. They will do whatever is asked of them and there will be no complaints. Since most didn’t have positions of major authority I don’t think you fear any turf wars with members of the Eagles support staff, Personnel Dept, or the new coaching staff.
Notice that several of the assistants are on the defensive side. Chip is going to be very hands on with the offense. He can teach those coaches and players exactly what he wants. “Here’s how we teach. Here’s how we prepare. Here’s how we practice. And here is how we play.” Whoever runs the defense will be new to Kellyball. He’ll need some help.
The Eagles wanted change when they hired Kelly. They wanted him to come in and work his magic. They know this meant a merging of the worlds…Eagles and Oregon. For the last 14 years, things were done Andy’s way. This meant everything from choosing players to coaching them to strength training and rehab.
Barry Rubin is out as strength coach (I liked him quite a bit). Rick Burkholder is out as the trainer (also liked him). The coaching staff will be almost entirely new. There aren’t going to be changes to the Personnel Dept, but now Howie and company have to learn what Chip Kelly wants in a player.
Chip has talked to his Oregon guys about how to work with the holdovers and new coaches to get everyone on the same page. I’m sure there will be some butting of heads as there always is when you combine different things, but I don’t expect there to be any major issues since such a housecleaning has taken place.
Chip and the Oregon guys know they must learn the NFL’s style of doing things so they can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Chip has publicly acknowledged that he may not be able to practice exactly the way he wants due to CBA rules and a smaller roster of players to work with. I like the fact that he understands the NFL isn’t a bunch of idiots and he’s not the savior riding in on a unicorn to save the day. Jimmy Johnson had great success in Dallas because he found the right balance of doing things his way and sticking with tried and true NFL methods.
For the last 14 years the Eagles were Andy’s World. Now that has changed to Chip’s World. It is too early to see the differences to those of us on the outside, but change is coming. And that’s a good thing.
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I’ll post a DC update, including Spags talk, on Saturday.
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Because of the Senior Bowl coverage, I held Gimpy’s MAQB column a few days, but it is posted now.
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Darrelle Revis might be on the market. Am I interested? Really tough question. The guy is rehabbing a torn ACL. He’s going to be a free agent in 2014. What is fair compensation for him?
When healthy, Revis is one of the most dominant players in the NFL. We just don’t know when or if he’ll get back to that point. Adrian Peterson is a real freak. We can’t expect all players to rehab like that. Fool’s gold.
I would make a call about Revis, but can’t overpay for him. Too many negative variables.
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We are scheduled to record an H2H show on Friday night. We hoped to do them in Mobile, but were watching practice, writing about watching practice, or drinking and digging for Eagles rumors. Priorities.