New Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly had his introductory press conference on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex. After listening to him speak and answering questions, I came away reassured about a few things as well as impressed with the way in which he handles himself.
The initial concern I had was why he changed his mind about coaching the Eagles after he committed back to Oregon just 10 days prior, as I outlined here.
He wasn’t directly asked why he “changed his mind”, but he addressed his decision-making process and his level of commitment to being an NFL coach (i.e., would he go running back to college like Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino).
In his opening remarks before taking questions, he somewhat addressed the issue (all quotes provided by Eagles press release):
I probably took a long time with this decision and probably a lot longer than some other people probably wanted me to take, but I think for me, I’ve always coached and I’ve always been involved in this game because of the people.
I knew what this place was all about and it’s where I wanted to be. But I love my players. We had a great culture at Oregon, have an unbelievable coaching staff that has been together since I took over as a head coach and it was really knowns versus unknowns. For me, it was just very, very difficult to say goodbye to a bunch of men that I truly love and respect.
The way our players handled it when I talked to them the other day was nothing short of amazing to me. I probably cried more than they did, but they just wanted the best for me just [like] what I wanted for them.
I knew this was the place for me; it was just trying to figure out a way to do it the right way and I wanted to be the first to tell my players. I think a lot of guys want to know how this came out of left field, but again, I want to tell you how impressed I was with both Howie and Jeffrey that allowed me to do this in a manner where my players were going to find out from me first-hand and it wasn’t going to be something that they saw on a Twitter account or saw on a local TV station.
That part’s extremely important to me.
The game of football to me is always about relationships and the game of football to me is about people and you win because you have great people. I had great people at Oregon and it took a real special opportunity for me to leave them.
Then he was asked about the concern of the trend of some college coaches coming to the NFL and then leaving soon after to return to the college ranks…
“I’m all in. I think it was Cortez who burned the boats. I’ve burned the boats so I’m not going back. I’m in. I’m a NFL coach and this is where I want to be. If there was any indecision in terms of [not wanting to be in], I wouldn’t have made the jump. I made the jump and I’m here and I’m excited to be here.”
That was probably the most important thing he said. We definitely need to know he’s “all in” (something Andy Reid used to say too). He addressed the subject again after someone asked him how long it took him to realize he wanted to come to the NFL…
First off, it was a very difficult decision for me. Playing in the Fiesta Bowl, I made a commitment that I was not going to talk to anybody until after we play the game. My ultimate goal was to not get distracted by that and I think our players handled it really well. In 36 hours, I met with three great organizations.
It was more my timetable than anyone else’s timetable. I’m sure Jeffrey obviously would’ve given me a little more time to think about it, and I actually would. I’m not stringing anybody along. This thing was a very public thing and I’m not a very public guy, so part of that was a very interesting thing.
I made my decision and was comfortable in terms of it because of what I’m going back to. If the worse thing in my life was that I was going to be the head coach of the University of Oregon, I think a lot of people would trade places with me because it’s a really, really special place.
I was going back, working, and doing those things. I know Jeffrey and Howie had reached out and talked with my agent and just said they’d still be interested, and all I said at that point in time was that I’d think about it. I think actually, in hindsight, it benefited me because I wasn’t under the microscope and it wasn’t, ‘Do I have to make a decision now or what’s the timetable?’
When I did talk to Jeffrey, I said, ‘For me, I want to come but I want to do this the right way.’ To me, it was about how do I handle the people back at the University of Oregon and, as I go through this process and if I’m going to leave, what is the scenario that my players hear it from me and not from somebody else.
I think people used to say that we live in the information age, and maybe we live in the information overload age. There is a very human side to the game of football, and that’s what attracts me to it. It’s more of me making a human decision of looking my players in eye and that I’d be the first to tell them how much they meant to me and the reason I got this job is because of them.
I certainly understand that if we were 7-46 over the past couple of years, people aren’t talking to me. I’ve never taken a snap and I’ve never played a down, I had a group of kids there that I really cared about.
It says a lot about this organization that they let me do that. The fact that no one knew and it gave me time to think told me what a special place this was and this is why I want to be in this organization because they do things the right way.”
So basically, Kelly felt pressured to make a quick decision while being under the microscope of the media tracking his every move…
This quote provided by Les Bowen at Philly.com:
“Obviously, I felt this was the best spot, but there’s so much more that goes into it . . . What happens when I leave? Who becomes the next head coach? What happens to those players? You’re not just makin’ reservations for dinner,” Kelly said. “You’re changing not only your life, but a lot of other people’s lives . . . I don’t know how it happened, but I guess it was fortunate it did happen, that as they continued to go through their process and they reached out, I just said I’d think about it.
“It gave me an opportunity to think about it and not be kind of under that spotlight, because it’s a little eerie when people know how long you’ve been with people from an hour-to-hour basis . . . It’s a little creepy, to be honest with you.”
Nonetheless, “that was no” Kelly gave the Eagles Jan. 6, not some conditional I’ll-think-about-it, Kelly said. The Eagles didn’t necessarily hear it that way. “We never took no as a full no,” Lurie said. “We knew he was torn.”
I love that “we never took no as a full no” quote from Lurie. Since he’s a single man again, I wonder if he’ll have that same approach in the dating scene. The “creepy” comment from Kelly was good too…yes, we’re very creepy — and crazy — here in Philly.
We’ll be on your every move Chip, get used to it!
Anyway, after hearing all of this plus other tidbits from Lurie and Howie Roseman, it seemed that even though Kelly initially decided to return to Oregon, neither side felt the situation was over.
I can respect what Kelly said and the explanation given for how all of this went down.
Kelly “knew” it was going to be either the Eagles or the Ducks. He initially went back to Oregon because the comfort of what he knew, and the people he was involved with there, were too hard to leave.
Since the Eagles and Kelly never felt like the door was shut on coming to Philly, it allowed for follow-up talks between the sides over the course of the next 10 days after his initial interview.
Even though he technically did re-commit to Oregon, I can appreciate the whole he needed-more-time-to-think aspect over such a dramatic life-altering decision.
The fact he stated things like “you’re stuck with me”, “I’m all in” and “I’ve burned the boats” reassured me about his level of commitment to sticking with the Eagles for the long haul (assuming it goes well).
This is more important to me anyway because thoughts of Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino were dancing in my head. We don’t want someone that when the going gets tough, he gets going…back to college.
All in all, I came away impressed with Chip Kelly. He showed personality, he showed he knew about the Philadelphia Eagles and what they mean to this town, and he came across as a guy with no preconceived notions that transitioning to the NFL will be easy.
He also showed he was a class act by crediting Andy Reid as a positive influence for him to come to Philly. As a matter of fact, that shows even more class on Reid’s part!
Okay Eagles fans, even though I never wanted a college coach to take this team over, it’s time to get on board with Kelly. He comes in as the “sexy” hire and brings with him a sense of excitement for the future of this franchise.
I still have my reservations, but I’m an Eagles fan. I want every coach and player associated with this team to succeed (though I may have opinions from time to time as to whether or not they can succeed).
And like Kelly said, we’re stuck with him so we might as well hop on board.
it’s time to send the Gus Bus to the junk yard and climb aboard the Chip Ship…ahoy mates!