Pete Carroll won the Super Bowl and that completely erased the old perception of him that he was a college coach and couldn’t fit in the NFL. Back in 1992 and 1993 Jimmy Johnson proved a college coach could win big in the NFL. Can Chip Kelly?
“I like Chip’s approach,” said Johnson, who was in New York last week promoting Fox’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII. “For instance, when we came in the league, we played a [defensive] coverage. Phil Simms told Bill Parcells when we played the Giants, ‘Hey, they’re playing that college coverage.’ And Parcells said, ‘You better learn that college coverage because these guys know what they’re doing.’
“It was Cover 2. Now everybody in the league plays Cover 2. Hey, it was successful for us in college, so I said it will be successful for us here. And I think Chip Kelly is taking the same approach.”
Both Kelly and Johnson are smart enough to make some changes to their schemes, but they also were confident enough to stick with the ideas that made them so special in college.
There is no magical formula for college coaches. Johnson was a bit of a tyrant. Carroll is Mr. Positive. Kelly has been more like a benevolent tyrant. The thing that helped these men to be successful is that they were true to themselves. Coaches must be sincere in order for players to respect and to respond to them.
Johnson didn’t fake being a hard ass. Carroll’s enthusiasm is genuine. Kelly is harder to sum up in a word or two, but he’s not the least bit fake. Players love him. You can’t constantly motivate players with rah-rah speeches. Players must be motivated in a way that they buy in to the coach’s philosophy and make it come to life all year long, not just on Sundays. So far Kelly has done a masterful job of this.
Johnson won big at Dallas, but was less successful in Miami. The longer he stayed in the NFL, the less effective he was. I’m curious to see how Carroll will do. Johnson built up a great Dallas team. They had a ton of young talent. Johnson left Dallas before the team got old and he had to go about replacing key guys. Miami never got good enough for Johnson to have to worry about losing young stars.
Seattle is loaded, but Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are all on their rookie contracts. Can the Seahawks keep all those guys? How effectively can Carroll replace them?
You can argue that Johnson caught lightning in a bottle in Dallas, with so many player moves panning out so well. You can say the same thing about Carroll right now. Time will tell if Kelly can do that as well.
One thing that may have helped all 3 coaches is knowing the college talent so well after first coming to the NFL. Johnson mentioned this.
Johnson also said that Kelly’s selection of players in his first draft was comparable to how he drafted in his first few seasons. Three of the Eagles’ first four picks were players who were on teams that beat Oregon during Kelly’s tenure. He also selected prospects he had tried to recruit.
Johnson tried to enlist Aikman and Smith before they went to Oklahoma and Florida, respectively. And he coached Irvin at Miami.
“If you’re in one of the top college programs, you’re going to know the top players,” Johnson said. “And so, when you go into professional ball you get an opportunity to draft those players. . . . You’ve probably already been in their homes. So you know them as a person.”
It really will be exciting to see how Kelly does in this year’s draft. I know he won’t be making the selections all by himself, but he will have a major influence on who the Eagles choose. Kelly showed good instincts last year with the players the Eagles brought in. Another strong draft class could go a long way to making the Eagles a legit Super Bowl contender.
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You guys have asked a lot of free agency questions. I have only done preliminary work on them. I’ve focused more on the draft. I’ll start mentioning free agent targets more in the coming weeks. I don’t anticipate the Eagles being overly-aggressive, but they could look to add a starter and a key role player or two.