Meet Brian Kelly

Posted: January 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 86 Comments »

I mentioned Brian Kelly a couple of times in the last week, but never took him seriously as an Eagles coaching candidate. He just led Notre Dame to their best season in a long time and I just questioned him both wanting to leave and whether he fit the NFL. He comes across to me like a college coach. That’s not an insult, just a perception.

Naturally I was surprised on Wednesday night when it was announced that the Eagles had already met with him and were going to talk to him again. This is not casual interest. This is serious.

Before we get into Kelly’s background, let’s talk about him in the moment. Mike Florio swears this is just a ploy by Kelly to get a raise. I don’t buy that. Kelly just led ND to the title game. He was going to get a raise anyway. There is no upside for him in flirting with the NFL unless it is to get ND to relax some eligibility standards or give him some more power in some other area (no idea what that would even be). Kelly was going to get his money.

Is he interested in the NFL? Must be at least curious to have the meeting with the Eagles. When word of the meeting gets out, it can affect recruiting. You don’t meet with an NFL team unless you have a specific agenda. You either want money/power or you want the NFL job. In this case, I’m assuming Kelly has NFL interest. This could all turn out to be a ruse. We’ll just have to wait and see. The complicated part of this is that Kelly has no NFL experience or ties. He’s said that ND was his dream job. If true, why flirt with the NFL? Kelly is a guy that has climbed the coaching ladder, stop after stop, and might be ready to test himself at the highest level.

I have followed Brian Kelly’s career since he was at Central Michigan (CMU). I remember watching their team in 2005. They went 6-5 (first winning record since 1998) and the team was impressive. They played hard and were well-coached. I didn’t know who Kelly was, but remember hearing the announcers talk about his background.

Kelly was a legend at D2 school Grand Valley State. He was promoted from assistant to HC at the age of 28. He didn’t have a losing record in his first decade on the job. Most years he won 8 or 9 games. The problem was that GVSU lost in the playoffs. In 2001 they made it to the title game before losing. The next 2 years, GVSU won national titles. In that 3 year span, the team went 41-2.

What pushed GVSU over the top? Kelly did. He decided that he had to recruit at a higher level. He went after a kid named Curt Anes, a Michigan prep star. Anes had no intention of playing at the D2 level. He turned down offers. Kelly sold him on the idea of coming to GVSU. The team struggled initially even with the young talent. That’s when Kelly installed the spread offense. You could say it worked. Check out this blurb:

“The 2001 team ran a no-huddle offense that averaged more than 600 yards and 58.6 points. Nott (the SID) had to start keeping statistical averages by quarter, since most of the starters rarely played in the second half.”

Even more impressive, Kelly remained adaptable.

” In the first round of the playoffs, Anes tore every ligament in his knee, when his leg stuck in the field and twisted so far around that he said his hamstring hit the ground before his calf did; the calf muscle ripped off the bone. The following week, Kelly installed a wishbone offense, and the Lakers still advanced to the championship game, which they lost.”

The next year Anes stayed healthy and the Lakers (awesome nickname, huh?) were absolutely dominant and won the title. In 2003 Kelly had to mix in a lot of new faces. He had lost a great Senior class the year before. The offense wasn’t as consistently explosive, but the defense stepped up and played at a very high level. The new players and new focus led to old results…another title.

I know it is awkward to try and put D2 results into context. I think it is important to understand that Kelly was self-aware enough to see that winning and being good wasn’t good enough. He then made a direct effort to upgrade his talent. He changed his schemes. The team did have more success, but that wasn’t good enough. He pushed them to win a title and they did. Then he pushed them to win another title. They did. It was in this period that Kelly showed a great ability to lead and motivate. His teams dominated. They wanted to be great. There was a 20-game winning streak. 29-game in the conference. They won on the road at I-AA opponents. They dominated in the playoffs. One win was 44-7. Another game was 50-7 at the half. Kelly pushed and his team responded.

Kelly also learned a lot about running a program at GVSU. His background is defense, but he became an offensive guru because it needed to be done. You have limited resources in D2. If you want something done, you do it yourself. You have to truly love the game at that level. Kelly’s first assistant coach job at GSVU paid him $4000 a year. That was the 1980’s, but $4K still wasn’t much. Kelly loved football. He wanted to be a coach. He wanted to win.

After conquering D2, Kelly moved on to CMU. That program had been struggling for a while. Kelly went in with his systems, schemes, and ideas. He wanted to see if they would work at the next level. CMU went just 4-7 in his first season (Kelly’s only losing season…ever). That improved to 6-5 and then 9-4 with a bowl win. Not only did Kelly turn CMU into a winner, he left enough of an imprint that the program has been relevant ever since.

CMU had no one drafted from 1997-2004. The school never had a 1st round pick and only one 2nd rounder (1985). There were 2 players drafted after Kelly’s first season. There were 3 drafted after his third season, including a 1st and 2nd rounder. Joe Staley arrived at CMU as a TE. Kelly immediately moved him to OT. Staley became a star and the Niners took him in the 1st round of the 2007 draft. Kelly didn’t recruit these players, but he developed them. Kelly did recruit a 6-5, 240 TE named JJ Watt, but never did get to coach him.

Kelly showed here that he had the ability to identify where players fit and also to push them from being good to being great. In his first season under Kelly, DE Dan Bazuin led the nation in sacks with 16 and TFLs with 26.5. Bazuin had 9 sacks after his first 2 seasons. He had talent, but Kelly was able to drive him to become a star college player and 2nd round pick.

In 2007 Kelly moved to the University of Cincinnati. Mark D’Antonio had done a solid job with the program before heading to Michigan State. Cincy was 8-5 in 2006. In Kelly’s first year, the Bearcats went 10-3. Let’s again try to put the numbers into perspective. Cincy had not been an elite program since the days of Sid Gillman in the 1950’s. They went over 50 years between 10-win seasons. Kelly did it each season, going 10-3, 11-3, and 12-0.

Kelly’s spread offense delivered big numbers at a school that was known more for defense than offense. By 2009 Cincy was 11th in yards and 4th in points in the nation. Kelly was getting the most out of his players. Kelly developed Mardy Gilyard into a star WR. QB Tony Pike went from 5th on the depth chart to being an NFL draft pick. Kelly took TE Connor Barwin and shifted him to DE. In only one season at DE, Barwin had 11 sacks and finished 16th in the nation. He was drafted in the 2nd round. Jason Kelce was shifted from LB to OL and became an impact player and NFL starter. Kelly recruited players like DT Derek Wolfe, RB Isaiah Pead, DT John Hughes, TE Travis Kelce, and DE Walter Stewart.

Kelly told his Cincy players they would win a Big East title the very first time he spoke to them. Several snickered. Cincy went 17-4 in Big East games and won 2 league titles in his 3 years. Kelly set the bar high and drove his players toward that goal.

Notre Dame hired Kelly prior to the 2010 season. The Irish had gone 13-12 in Charlie Weis’s final 2 years. They went 8-5 in Kelly’s first year and with a couple of breaks could have won 10 games. Kelly’s reputation is on offense, but ND’s biggest jump with him came on defense. They were 86th in Weis’s final season. That went to 50, then 30, and all the way up to 5th in yards allowed in 2012.

Player development was once again part of Kelly’s impact. LB/S tweener Harrison Smith moved full-time to Safety and became a 1st round pick. WR Michael Floyd was pushed and prodded and played his way to being a 1st rounder. Manti Teo was a good LB in 2011. He lost weight and worked hard on his cover skills. He had a great Senior season. TE Tyler Eifert has developed into an elite player. The defense has several young guys who have a chance to be big time stars.

* * * * *

Brian Kelly isn’t loved by all. You don’t change jobs the way he has without hurting some feelings. You don’t push players as hard as he does without bruising some egos. He might be even harder on his coaches than he is his players.

Kelly is very driven. He pushes everyone around him. Some people don’t care for this, but the majority of his players buy into Kelly’s ideas. One of the big reasons is the Kelly is a great communicator and motivator. One of his former players remarked that Kelly “could sell water to a whale”. This ties into Kelly’s political background. He did some work in politics before getting into coaching and learned a lot of valuable lessons. He knows how to press the flesh and hit the streets to talk to the public. Kelly understands the importance of getting your message out there.

When Kelly got to Cincinnati, the school had poor facilities and limited fan support. Kelly knew he had to get to work off the field. “I realized at the beginning that I had to be at every chicken dinner, at every bar, at every community-service event, so the city could see the passion that I had for the program,” says Kelly. “That was the way to build support for it—that and winning games.”

He can sell his ideas to his players. He can sell his team/program to the public. It’s all about getting people to do what you need them do. Kelly the coach is also Kelly the salesman and Kelly the politician. X’s and O’s only go so far. You must be able to motivate and communicate. You must be able to lead.

* * * * *

Kelly is a leader. This has been evident from almost the beginning.

“Mike Kovalchik did two tours in Vietnam. Marines. Recon. Boots on the ground. He was a first lieutenant, a kid in charge of kids.

“There are certain things I can’t talk about,” he said of his time in Vietnam.

But Vietnam taught him an important lesson: A leader is a leader; age doesn’t matter.

Kovalchik left the military after 6 1/2 years and became athletic director at Grand Valley State, a small college on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. In 1991, Kovalchik was hiring a new football coach.

About 75 people applied. Many applicants had several years of head coaching experience. Bo Schembechler called him, trying to promote some of the young coaches at Michigan. And Ara Parseghian did the same thing for Notre Dame assistant coaches.

But Kovalchik trusted his gut and hired a young guy already on staff — Brian Kelly, a smart, intense, charismatic Irish Catholic, who was only 28 and had no head coaching experience.

It was a bold, risky decision. But age didn’t matter. Not to Kovalchik. A leader is a leader, whether it is on a battlefield or a football field.”

Tim Selgo was an Associate AD at Toledo and worked with coaches Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel. Selgo became the AD at GVSU and met Kelly in 1996. You could say he was impressed.

“I remember when I first met Brian and started talking to him — and keep in mind I was 38 years old at the time and Brian was 34 — I remember thinking to myself, ‘This guy is every bit as smart as Saban and Pinkel.’ I really thought if we could get a couple of things done with our facilities, we could really get it going.”

Selgo got Kelly to start doing fundraising. That led to better facilities. That helped lead to the national titles. GVSU hasn’t been the same school since. Enrollment has doubled and it has grown tremendously in the last 15 years.

Administrators see Kelly’s leadership qualities. Players and coaches see them as well. Kelly’s forceful personality isn’t for all, but you cannot ignore the results, on and off the field.

* * * * *

This is all great, but would Kelly succeed in the NFL? He does have many of the qualities that you want. He was able to build and rebuild programs. That kind of success at multiple stops shows you that he has systems that work. This isn’t luck. This isn’t all about the players. This is Kelly’s coaching style and methods.

He’s able to let players know what is expected of them in a way they understand. He’s able to get them to buy into his ideas on what it takes to be part of a team. Kelly convinces the players that they can do great things if they will just listen to him and work together.

Kelly is adaptable, both schematically and to his environment. He loved to throw the ball all over the field in the past, but injuries at Cincy forced him to alter his attack one year. I already covered the time at GVSU when he put in the wishbone attack for a game. ND won with the running game and defense in 2012. He’s done it all.

As for environment, Kelly thrived at a D2 school, a MAC school, and Big East school, and friggin’ Notre Dame. He did whatever was needed at each stop. He was able to create fan support at Cincy by being active in the community (and winning). Kelly didn’t have to sell Notre Dame. There, he simply had to live up to huge expectations on the field.

Maybe my favorite trait is Kelly’s ability to turn good into great. This absolutely is something that applies to the NFL. Think about the 2012 Eagles and how many underachievers there were. Kelly would change that. Not everyone would respond, but more than a few would. Kelly sells the player on the idea that he must push himself to be the best player he can. For some reason, guys buy into this. It somewhat ties into an old Bill Parcells axiom: don’t let good enough be good enough. Always go for great.

I really believe that the inability to work psychological angles and push buttons hurt player development for the Eagles in recent years. Andy Reid seemed to treat his players in a trusting, respectful way. Kelly would be much more demanding. He would be confrontational. He would turn off some players, but if he just connected with a few guys, it would be huge. The Eagles had many good and very good players under Andy Reid, but few great ones.

Kelly has put together good coaching staffs over the years. His former assistant Butch Jones succeeded him at CMU and then Cincy. Butch is now the coach at Tennessee. Charley Molnar is now the HC at UMass. Chuck Martin took over GVSU when Kelly left and kept the program at a high level. Current DC Bob Diaco is a hot coaching candidate. Kelly doesn’t have NFL guys working for him, but he clearly understands the importance of a good staff. He’s made some great hires over the years.

I don’t know what Kelly would do in the NFL in terms of schemes. He’s used both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense. He loves the spread offense, but would not use that system in the NFL. Kelly would adapt to his environment. There would be some elements, but he’d update the scheme for the NFL. I’m sure Kelly would hire plenty of NFL guys so that he could successfully make the transition to the pros. Kelly is obsessed with success. He’s not going to stubbornly do something that won’t work or isn’t working.

* * * * *

I still have mixed feelings about Kelly.  His lack of NFL experience or ties is a legit concern.  I was surprised to find out how much Brian is like Chip Kelly.  Both have small school backgrounds.  Both know offense and defense.  Both love to spread you out and attack mistmatches.  Both Kellys are very driven and very successful.

Brian Kelly did grow on me the more that I read about him.  He didn’t just win at 4 schools.  He did so in a methodical way.  That means you can repeat that success at other times and in other places.

I do question how Kelly would do with working with highly paid staff members and star athletes.  You need him to be tough and to push buttons, but he would have to do so in a way that wasn’t over the top.  He’s been very over the top in the past and is working to try and dial down that part of his gameday demeanor.

Jeff Lurie said the number one thing he wanted was a leader.  Brian Kelly is absolutely a leader.  Kelly would need to sell Lurie and Roseman that he can adapt to pro football and win in the NFL.  If he does that in the follow-up interview, watch out world.  In a year when there isn’t a compelling “must have” candidate, Kelly is definitely someone to watch.

* * * * *

Misc links:–potential-brian-kelly-jump-to-nfl-would-rock-notre-dame–034152185.html,202207


86 Comments on “Meet Brian Kelly”

  1. 1 Jamie Parker said at 4:18 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Damn, Tommy. I think you could sell water to whales and ice to eskimos. You’ve managed to make this Kelly look better than the other one. Then again, this Kelly made to the ‘Bama game and the other one didn’t. This Kelly actually beat David Shaw’s Stanford team. Maybe this is the Kelly we wanted. I guess Vick was right all along.

  2. 2 JulzPE said at 4:37 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Another excellent write-up Tommy. Not as sold on him as I was with the Chip variety of Kelly, but much more intrigued by the idea than I was before. The lack of NFL ties is a bit concerning, would have to see how the hiring aspect goes.

    Question for you/the masses, sorry if I missed it but how many Bowl games has he won during his College career?

  3. 3 Anders said at 7:39 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    He is 3-3 in Bowl games according to wikipedia

  4. 4 Davesbeard said at 6:34 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Wow, based on the little snippets I’d read and my general perception of him I was not a fan. Your article just changed that, in fact I think that’s the biggest endorsement of any coach you’ve given!

    Very glad to finally see the Eagles interview a candidate to really follow.

  5. 5 Anders said at 7:31 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, you just sold me 100% on that Brian Kelly could be the right man for the job.

  6. 6 D3FB said at 7:59 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Amazing write-up. Your links section is twice the size of any research paper I’ve ever done. I’m just slightly terrified that if this drags on any longer, you’ll convince be that Spuds needs to be the HC with Roob running the Offense and Jimmy Bama installing the greatest defense of all time.

  7. 7 TommyLawlor said at 10:03 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    That article is half-way written.

  8. 8 D3FB said at 10:48 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    The horror.

  9. 9 A_T_G said at 5:21 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    You know, since my in-home LASIK, I see everything in triplicate. I know that I threatened a lawsuit as a result, but I was just thinking…

    With 33 guys to work with, I could probably design some swarming defenses and devastating blitz packages. If you can write up one of these things for me, I can work with Jimmy as assistant DC.

    I’ll even pimp your sunglasses on TV, which will also hide the disfiguring scars.

  10. 10 TommyLawlor said at 12:29 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    God bless you. And get to work on that D!!!

  11. 11 dawkinsfan said at 8:02 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Incredible article. One of the reasons I read IB daily. Tommy, you have a way of using research and great experience to put forth your opinion in a non-offensive way.

    I think any of Jay Gruden, Bradly, Kelly, or Saban would be interesting and a good coach with the talent on our roster.

  12. 12 austinfan said at 8:03 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    I like Brian better than Chip, but I think there would be a two year transition, with no pro experience he’d have to get a feel of what works by trial and error, the jump from college to pro is simply greater than any level of college – but unlike Saban, Kelly doesn’t depend on talent but coaching, which makes him better suited for NFL parity, and unlike Chip, Brian has more experience adjusting his schemes to his personnel, and more experience working at different levels as a HC and at building programs.

    Brian would be a long-term commitment, but the biggest fear I’d have is would we be the team to “train” the next Belichick, only to see him succeed elsewhere after he burnt all his bridges in Philadelphia?

  13. 13 TommyLawlor said at 10:03 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Agree with the trial and error. Hope is that smart guys learn fast.

  14. 14 Ark87 said at 8:07 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    seems like a very smart guy with some good x factors. This would be a hire that fans may have to be patient with. His history says if you give him 3 years, he will adjust to his environment, personnel, and just the cultural and physical differences of the NFL.

    My biggest concern isn’t that he’s never coached in the NFL. His history shows he is smart enough and motivated enough to learn and rise to the top with time.

    My big concern with great motivators in college is that techniques that work on broke kids that have a longshot at their dreams don’t necessarily work on grown men that are incredibly wealthy and talented.

  15. 15 Anders said at 8:17 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Agree 100%, the motivational part will be his biggest obstacle

  16. 16 TommyLawlor said at 10:53 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Jimmy Johnson, Jim Harbaugh, and Pete Carroll would disagree. I know there are plenty of failures, but Kelly is so systematic that he’s like an NFL coach.

  17. 17 Ark87 said at 12:04 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I understand he’s systematic. And I didn’t say people who are great motivators in college can’t motivate NFL players. But it is my concern. When it comes to being a motivator, many coaches are a 1 trick pony. All coaches who move up the coaching ranks have had inspire their units to be great. When they get to a place where the team doesn’t buy in, that can be in. They aren’t dumb, they try other approaches, like riding away off the field on a motorcycle…but you’re practically wearing a sign “I’M DESPERATELY TRYING TO MOTIVATE YOU”.
    Brian Kelly hasn’t coached anywhere long enough to know for sure that he is a natural motivator or just a guy with a really nice trick.

  18. 18 TommyLawlor said at 12:46 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    There are concerns..sure. The smart coaches know which buttons to push. Jimmy Johnson knew when to humble his guys and when to praise them. John Madden was a master in that area. Parcells had his moments.

    Kelly could be like them or could be a 1-trick pony. Won’t know until we see him try it, if that ever happens.

  19. 19 Ark87 said at 1:04 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I’m definitely willing to find out. The guy has had nothing but success. Somebody will figure out what he can do in the NFL, I’d hate to watch somebody else discover it if he is the next Jimmy Johnson.

  20. 20 Iskar36 said at 4:28 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    “Won’t know until we see him try it”

    I think that is a fairly blanket argument. Heck, I could be a great NFL, and you wouldn’t know otherwise until you see me try. Obviously, in my case it is EXTREMELY unlikely. The question comes down to how likely would it be that Kelly is able to make the transition. I’d love to see the statistics of the success rate of college coaches making the transition to NFL HC. On top of that, is it different for college coaches who have zero NFL experience vs college coaches who have also spent some time in the NFL as well. I get the sense that the numbers are not great, but I don’t know of that is just the assumption with some anecdotal evidence or the reality.

    I fully agree with the concerns that Ark87 expressed. Lurie can’t just hope that Kelly will succeed. He needs to get Kelly to express his plans on how to adjust to the NFL and NFL personalities and make sure those plans are something Lurie/Roseman/Smolenski believe will work in the NFL.

  21. 21 Rage114 said at 8:22 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    There is no NFL experience but there is definately a track record of success. At each stop, I’m sure he had to deal with something he didn’t have to be concerned with at the previous level.

    I’m sure someone questioned whether he would be able to get through to D-1 elite players that were recruited their whole lives, for example. Yet, he did.

  22. 22 BreakinAnklez said at 9:28 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, awesome write-up. I don’t want to get hung up on one game but…the NC was the biggest game of Kelly’s life. And ND got beat on every level. Does it concern you at all that on the biggest stage, with over a month to prepare, Kelly got outcoached? Granted Saban is a genius and this was a great Alabama team…but ND didn’t look awfully prepared. Bama’s MO is running the ball and they ran at will. I know Kelly isn’t out there missing tackles, blowing coverage, etc…but still. I don’t know about you, but that is concerning to me. If this game was closer, I’d be all in after this write-up on BKelly…

  23. 23 TommyLawlor said at 10:02 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Bama was just more talented. Junior QB who won the National Title last yr going against a R-Fr.? McCarron played like he’d been there before, which he had. As for the ND defense? Lacy and Yeldon and the OL were just a buzzsaw.

  24. 24 BreakinAnklez said at 12:54 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Thanks for the response Tommy. I agree that McCarron vs. Fresh was heavy in Bama’s favor. I wasn’t expecting a lot of points on offense. I did expect much more from the ND defense. They just seemed completely off guard by Bama’s speed/toughness. Wasn’t sure if that had to do with some coaching or that Bama is just that much more talented (which I didnt think was the case- based on the “experts” raving about the ND Front 7).

  25. 25 jshort said at 10:04 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Kelly did a lot more with the talent on hand. there is parody in the NFL. I’ve really warmed up to this guy, and i am not a ND fan

  26. 26 Mac said at 10:22 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    While I love a good parody, I believe the word you are looking for is parity 😉

    Also, I agree with your premise, in the NFL a coach is even more important because the playing field tends to be level.

  27. 27 jshort said at 11:11 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    LMAO…..well the eagles were a ridiculous imitation of a talented team

  28. 28 Mac said at 12:07 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Well stated! Haha

  29. 29 Kanin Faan said at 9:36 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Sounds like Brian Kelly might be perfect for the ‘tweener’ role of HeadCoach/GeneralManager that Reid tried to make work a few years ago…

  30. 30 RIP Worms said at 9:50 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Dear God, Tommy, that was thorough. Apparently Brian Kelly’s not the only one who can “sell water to a whale.” You’ve sold me on every coaching candidate you’ve covered in-depth. Look out Bob LaMonte! There’s a new NFL coach super-agent on the loose….

  31. 31 miked718 said at 10:05 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Once again I’m completely sold. If he could translate his style to the NFL, he could not only push our good players to be better (it did seem like Reid had this ability once upon a time), but also weed out the locker room cancers with his aggressive and confrontational style. So DJax, DRC, Nnamdi and others would have to show their cards and decide if they want to be team players or they can leave and get a check elsewhere doing less work. Personally I’d much rather have a group of lesser athletes overachieving (10 wins, playoff game) than a bunch of overpaid stars doing the same thing. He seems like a coach that fans would also appreciate.

  32. 32 jshort said at 10:11 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Big Red said “change can be a good thing”. If this happens, he either gets the best out of his players or they can go see Andy

  33. 33 D3FB said at 10:51 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    DJax grew up alot this year, he got his money and now that he is financially secure, he isn’t making “business decisions”.

  34. 34 miked718 said at 11:16 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    True but that was still under Reid who I’m sure gave him a lot of chances. Brian Kelly: start going over the middle or I’m resigning chad hall!

  35. 35 ohitsdom said at 12:19 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Jax goes over the middle, it’s Maclin alligator arms you have to worry about…

  36. 36 D3FB said at 1:33 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I just want somebody to make Maclin block, or at least do what Asante would do and act like you are completely terrified of contact.

  37. 37 Mac said at 10:10 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    The difference between a team believing they can win the game because they are being driven by an excellent leader to achieve more than they thought possible VS. a team that believes they can win just because they’re talented and have stepped on the field is staggering.

    If the Eagles hire Brian Kelly and if the players respond to his style of coaching and he molds the team in his image… this could be the theme of 2013 vs. 2012.

  38. 38 Brett Smith said at 10:14 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    So is Brian Kelly a Jimmy Johnson type?

    I am ok with it… but I can see a 4 year run where by the end he burns out and sets all his bridges a fire.

    The question is will we have a Super Bowl in that time?

    We are not Cleveland… Phili fans (Me included) only want one thing the Trophy in the Case, preferably multiples. We are used to being a top team every year. Time for a real run at greatness. If Brian Kelly can get us there than I am all in.

  39. 39 TommyLawlor said at 10:55 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    Brian would not be a 10-year coach. He’d be 3 to 5 years. Maybe 6 or 7 if everything went right, but 10 is highly unlikely. His personality isn’t meant to be in one place that long anymore.

  40. 40 Brett Smith said at 11:10 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    The first year would be very interesting between B Kelly, the phili media, and the players that don’t buy in.

    If they hire him drama will ensue.

    Just guessing…

    I like him as a candidate better than I like the retreads or Jay “I am a goofball at heart” Gruden.

    Jay Gruden can keep his lackadaisical approach and his OC job in Cincy.

  41. 41 Brett Smith said at 2:51 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    My new vote…

    Brian Kelly, Rob Ryan, and some another annoying A for an OC.

  42. 42 xeynon said at 10:27 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    Why are people enamored with Rob Ryan? He’s got the name and the bluster, but his track record as a DC is mediocre at best.

  43. 43 bdbd20 said at 10:15 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    What’s your gut feeling Tommy? Do they know who they want and are just waiting (McCoy, Bradley, McAdoo) or are they still trying to find someone that gives them that warm fuzzy feeling?

  44. 44 TommyLawlor said at 10:56 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    I think they are legitimately checking guys out (sounds so dirty). I think they have a pecking order, but aren’t sold on anyone as The Guy yet. 2nd interview with Kelly will be huge. Interview with Bradley will be huge.

  45. 45 Eric Weaver said at 11:11 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    My hope was for Bradley with Norv as the OC. Banner went and spoiled that!

  46. 46 ceteris_paribus1776 said at 11:27 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    sounds like Norv is heading to cleveland as the OC for newly hired HC Rob Chudzinski

  47. 47 bdbd20 said at 11:37 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    I wanted Lovie-Norv, but Bradley with a seasoned OC would be nice.

  48. 48 Eric Weaver said at 11:11 AM on January 11th, 2013:


    I know this is an early request, but can you try to pay close attention to Will Davis, corner from Utah St. I’m reading a lot about him lately that he could be a riser.

  49. 49 TommyLawlor said at 12:47 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I’ve watched a little. Good cover guy. Poor tackler.

  50. 50 D3FB said at 1:42 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Thoughts on the younger Kelce? I was impressed from the bowl game, and from further viewing, he isn’t going to be a freakish athlete but I actually think he compares well to Celek.

  51. 51 ceteris_paribus1776 said at 11:47 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    The reason everyone gets a chubby about almost every possible candidate that is considered lies simply in understanding the market for NFL head coaches. On the demand side, organizations who are out in front of the hiring process are only going to seriously consider a few types of coaches: 1) currently successful coordinator and other positional coaches from successful organizations; 2) current extremely successful college coaches of two types, a) those with some NFL connections, or b) those without. The former will have a little more wiggle room in terms of their resume because of the NFL experience. The latter will not and must be particularly appealing for some reason because of that., 3) Re-tread NFL coaches who are either changing scenery or who are have not quite been good enough to take a team over the top. Reid, Marty, and Lovie fall into the former category, while Wisenhunt, Mularky, Shurmur etc. into the latter. These are the types of coaches you are going to see being interviewed.

    From the supply side, all of the current best head coaches on winning NFL franchises will generally not be on the market. It takes a few years of stagnant play to get them released. For that reason all current candidates NFL experience have some flaws. Moreover, you need to be a successful position coach/coordinator to be available for a head coaching if you’ve never had HC experience. Therefore, all of these candidates will be appealing but for their lack of NFL HC experience. You just have to take a chance with them.

    This is even more the case for a college coach. An NFL team isn’t going to interview a marginal college coach with no NFL experience. His resume will be fantastic and must offer unique experiences and perspectives to even be considered.

    This is why it is an easy sell for almost all of the candidates outside of the NFL re-treads. The real trick obviously is deciding which is best suited for your organization, and unfortunately that is something that is ex post revealed to fans and not ex ante predicted.

  52. 52 TommyLawlor said at 12:48 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Interesting stuff.

  53. 53 Scott Greenberg said at 11:54 AM on January 11th, 2013:

    he leaves jobs before they get tough. enough said.

  54. 54 ohitsdom said at 12:15 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    He leaves jobs after he builds a winning program and gets a better offer. How is that leaving before it gets tough? It was tough when he arrived, since they were all subpar programs (except arguably Cinncy).

  55. 55 Scott Greenberg said at 12:47 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    keeping it great is the tough part. things change very fast. reason why many coaches flame out. its easier to rebuild because you’re the new guy. his way or the highway. that’s the brilliance of AR.

  56. 56 Mac said at 12:29 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    That’s an interesting take.
    He get’s bored and needs to move on
    He is looking for the next challenge
    He wants to climb the ladder
    He wants more income
    He leaves before he wears everyone out with his personality

    Lots of possibilities for explaining why he leaves.

  57. 57 TommyLawlor said at 12:50 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    That’s a fair criticism, Scott. You still can’t ignore that he affects teams in a lasting way. GVSU stayed a football power. CMU has been solid for year. Cincy remains a good football school. Kelly leaves some kind of legacy.

  58. 58 Arby1 said at 12:21 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Arby loves Gus.

  59. 59 bdbd20 said at 12:22 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Is that you, Roob?

  60. 60 TommyLawlor said at 12:50 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Don’t make Monte jealous!!!

  61. 61 Mac said at 5:11 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, do you think Monte is going to “Jason Garrett” Jason Garrett?

  62. 62 Skeptic_Eagle said at 12:49 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, this was a fantastic, well-researched profile of Kelly. This blows away anything found on CSN or I don’t know if Kelly is the right hire, but kudos of the highest order for this tremendous write-up!

  63. 63 Scott Greenberg said at 12:51 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    on the other hand, he’s probably more ready to be an nfl head coach than say mccoy or bradley. this leads to the cowher problem of trying to find good coordinators when the head man doesn’t have a real specialty, offense or defense.

  64. 64 Mark823 said at 12:58 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    One of my concerns would be commitment, it seems like once he became a big name coach he only stayed at jobs for about 3 years. Which is okay but ideally you’d want a coach for the long term. But maybe since he’d be making the jump to the NFL he would stay for longer, though I don’t know you can assure that he won’t become enamored with another job and want to leave in a couple of years. But this was a great post, Kelly seems like a guy worth taking a risk on.

  65. 65 deg0ey said at 1:13 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I’d say pretty much every job he’s taken could be considered a ‘promotion’. The organisations he was working for got better with each stop and the same would be true if he came to Philly. If, in 3 seasons, he can engineer the same turnaround here as he’s done at ND, then there won’t be a clear ‘better’ organisation to go to.

  66. 66 Dawk4Life said at 12:59 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    This is a great piece Tommy. Really well done. If Kelly does become the guy, we’ll have to hope that he can scale up, but it seems like he would bring exactly what the current team needs.

  67. 67 ACViking said at 2:58 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Re: Brian Kelly as the Next Jimmy Johnson


    B-Kelly may be the closest thing to Jimmy Johnson — if he jumps from college to the NFL — in the past 20 years.

    Though Johnson didn’t spend time below D-I, he was an assistant, did a great job raising Okla State from the ground, and then took U-Miami to the stratosphere.

    Johnson clearly struggled his first couple of years in the NFL.

    But he was a great motivator. He had a keen eye for talent.

    And he was fortunate enough to have Troy Aikman coming out of UCLA during his first draft.

    Without Aikman, Jimmy Johnson doesn’t put together a team that wins three SB in 4 years (and misses a 4th only because Barry Switzer was the coach that year).

    I wouldn’t mind Brian Kelly at all. He’s a leader. And — like Jimmy Johnson — he’ll burn bridges here in a few years (HT: Austinfan).

    And like Johnson, let him leave the coordinating to others. Johnson used Norv Turner as OC. And Butch Davis as DC. The three of them all grew together as high-quality NFL coaches/coordinators. (Time seems to have shown that Turner & Davis were probably best as coordinators.)__________________

    But I circle back to the flukey draft process: Unless Troy Aikman’s around for the 1989 draft, Jimmy Johnson is not working on TV.

    Little’s changed since 1989 in terms of the *essential ingredient* for long-term success. You need an damn good QB to win over an *extended period*.


    QUESTION: Will it matter whom the Eagles chose as their coach if they don’t secure — or develop — a Top Shelf QB?

    How many teams with at least a half-a-decade of success develop a great QBs, as opposed to relying on high 1st Rd picks.

    Answer — not many (looking at 3rd-picks and lower).

    As the NFL moved to more of a passing league in the 1950s, there were just 2:
    1. Johnny Unitas – 9th Rd pick in ’55 by the Steelers, who cut him; and
    2. Bart Starr – 17th Rd pick in ’56 by the Packers. Starr had Lombardi. Unitas developed under HOF Weeb Ewbank.

    Then came the 60’s and the AFL, which again yielded only 2:
    1. Fran Tarkenton – 3rd Rd in ’61 with 3 SB appearances, who learned from the great but difficult Norm “Dutch” Van Brocklin, who understood QBing if nothing else; and
    2. Daryle Lamonica – 24th Rd in ’63 by the BIlls, who traded him to the Raiders from former Eagles WR Art Powell and a pack of smokes — where DL led Oakland to 1 SB and 5 AFC/AFL title games in 6 years. Lamonica played for Raiders managing general partner Al Davis — who’d learned the game from the maybe greatest passing expert Sid Gilman — and QB-coach/HC John Rauch then HC John Madden (who also developed Ken Stabler, a 2nd Rd pick.)
    NOTE: Roger Staubach was chose in the 10th Rd in ’64 but, I’d argue, only because of his 5-year Navy commitment. Otherwise, I’m guessing he’d have been a No. 1 pick.

    The 1970s — after college teams switched to the triple-option wishbone and veer offenses in the late ’60s — gave us a treasure trove of 6 QBs (again, Rd 3 or lower) who developed into great players:
    1. Notre Dame’s Joey Theismann from Toms River, NJ — drafted in Rd 9 of the ’71 draft by the Dolphins, who with HOF QB Bob Greise and former NFL MVP and super-sub Earl Morrall, let Theisman go to Canada after which JT joined the ‘Skins in ’74 and with the arrival of *Joe Gibbs* because a great QB;
    2. Bengals’ Ken Anderson, Rd 3 of the ’71 draft who developed under then-OC *Bill Walsh* and his WCO;
    3. Chargers HOF Dan Fouts – Rd 3 of the ’73 draft, who thrived after the great passing guru HC *Don Coryell* came to San Diego.

    4. Notre Dame’s Joe Montana — another product of *Bill Walsh* — and drafted in Rd 3 in ’79.

    There’s also HOF Warren Moon, a ’78 U-Wash grad, who went undrafted (for the worst of reasons) and — like Theismann — played several years in Canada before signing with the Oilers in ’84.

    As an aside on the ’70s, Coryell’s greatness was clear immediately after he jumped from college, SD State, to the Cardinals in ’73. As HC of the Cards from ’73-’77, he turned an 8-year journeyman college free-agent from So. illinois named Jim Hart into a 3-time Pro Bowler. And, after moving to the Chargers, Coryell elevated Fouts from mediocre to eventual HOFer. I’ve argued before that Coryell has had as much influence on the present-day passing game as Bill Walsh — both of whom trace directly back to the great Sid Gilman.

    The 1980s gave us only 1 “developmental” QBs (as I’ve defined that term — 3rd rounder to college FA): Rich Gannon, a Rd 4 pick in ’87 by the Patriots, who wanted him to change positions, and eventually cut him. More than a decade later, after joining *John Gruden* in Oakland — the only coach to make Bobby Hoying look like a competent pro-QB — Gannon became a 1x MVP, 1x Player of the Year, 2x All Pro, and 4x Pro Bowler.

    In the 1990s, the NFL didn’t produce a single developmental QB. There were some players who had a good year or two on playoff teams, like the undrafted CFL refugee Jeff Garcia. But that’s it.

    Then in 2000, the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in Rd 6 of the ’00 draft.

    And the line ends there . . . for now.

    Too soon to know if Russell Wilson (3d Rd pick) is on a Brady track. Or a Hoying track.


    So what does the data suggest?

    First, regardless of draft year or decade . . . it’s very hard to find a great QB who’s not a 1st Rd pick. (Even then, there are more flame-outs than successes.)

    Second, the handful of *developmental * QBs from the 1970s all had HOF coaches. (Warren Moon’s CFL coach, Hugh Campbell, was a legendary coach in Canada — but failed in the NFL.)

    All of which suggests that coaching does matter.

    Just look at Rich Gannon. And Bobby Hoying.

  68. 68 austinfan said at 6:05 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Not that simple, you ignored “failures” like Plunkett.

  69. 69 holeplug said at 9:01 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    huh? Plunkett went #1 overall in the ’71 draft

  70. 70 ceteris_paribus1776 said at 10:05 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Depends on what question you are asking. Conditioning on successful QB’s then asking how many were later round developmental QBs is interesting and informative. I think the point is not not that all or even most 1st round QBs are success stories, but that its even more rare to find a developmental QB in later rounds

  71. 71 TommyLawlor said at 7:59 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Great stuff.

    I do think Brad Johnson is worth mentioning. 29K yards in his career. SB title. 72-53 record as a starter.

  72. 72 Patrick said at 3:21 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, whats your take on the whole Jon Gruden thing? Do you believe that he has truly changed and is ready to develop an organization? Do you think the QB camp stuff made him fall in love with young players?

  73. 73 TommyLawlor said at 12:33 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    Possible, but he still makes me nervous. Al Davis was willing to trade him because things were rocky. Got to Tampa and won the SB, but then got GM Rich Mckay fired. Big ego. Can be disruptive.

  74. 74 wofj said at 3:48 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    I was all in on Bradley but you now have me thinking 1 – Kelly, 2 – Bradley.

    Another question Tommy: why no interest in Whisenhunt for Eagles? The guy is an OC and went to the SB with Phoenix for crying out loud, he must be damn good!

    He could be the Bellicheck, Coughlin, type retread who wins with his second team out of this mix!

  75. 75 TommyLawlor said at 12:32 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    I think Wiz did such a poor job with the OL and his young QBs that he’s scared teams off.

  76. 76 RyGuy552 said at 5:21 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Great piece Tommy! Must say I am really sold on Kelly after reading this.

  77. 77 RyGuy552 said at 5:42 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Great post Tommy. Must say this piece really sold me on Brian Kelly.

  78. 78 Anders said at 8:01 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy, I have a problem with the comment section, it wont load more comments when I press load comments. I use the Chrome (it works in IE)

  79. 79 TommyLawlor said at 12:31 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    That has acted up for me at times, but not consistently. I checked and Disqus is updated. Let me know if this continues to be an issue. I’ll do some checking.

  80. 80 Anders said at 6:49 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    It loaded fine this morning. thx 🙂

  81. 81 brs50 said at 10:31 PM on January 11th, 2013:

    Tommy I don’t know why you haven’t been snapped up by a big sports publication. I haven’t read anything close to this well researched, detailed analysis from any of the many that cover the Eagles and their coaching search. After days of reading the attempts to try to find something negative/controversial , the Eagles are desperate, the Eagles wiffed on their top targets, maybe the Eagles job isn’t desirable yada yada. Unlike this piece it’s mostly unsubstantiated conjecture from guys who don’t know what’s going on inside but have to write something. You refrain from the let’s call the Eagles idiots BS and put out serious information that the real fan wants to read. Keep up the great work and some big time editor some where will have to take note.

  82. 82 TommyLawlor said at 12:30 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    Thanks for the nice words. Let’s hope some editor agrees with you and does hire me.

  83. 83 Cafone said at 5:23 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    Yeah, that would be great, but I’m selfish: What are the chances they get you on the Eagles Draft Live program this year? I love the idea of that show, and love seeing/hearing Merrill Reese, but Spadaro’s constant “well, I don’t really know any of these players” drives me crazy. The opinions he does have on college players seem mostly to be an amalgam of views expressed by posters on the Eagles message boards. Any chance Spadaro puts his ego aside and gets someone who actually knows the college players on that show?

  84. 84 Anders said at 6:51 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    I agree with this. Its insane that none have picked him up yet.

  85. 85 Eagles Wake-Up Call: Decision Soon On Brian Kelly? - Birds 24/7 said at 6:31 AM on January 12th, 2013:

    […] Lawlor over at took an in-depth look at Brian […]

  86. 86 tdilla said at 4:16 PM on January 12th, 2013:

    I think Tommy could sell me on any HC at this point.

    As far as Kelly goes, I think he would be a good fit as far as personnel goes. I don’t think many of the Eagles players would reject his coaching style, save for maybe Desean.