Published January 16, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – Evidently Phil Knight isn't the best owner in "professional" sports.
Chip Kelly will be packing up his Nike visor and leaving the cozy confines of Eugene, Ore., for the rough-and-tumble East Coast, specifically Philadelphia and its notoriously tough media market.
Kelly, unequivocally the Eagles' first choice to replace Andy Reid as the team's head coach, swerved us all by originally spurning Philly, along with Cleveland and Buffalo, to "return" to the University of Oregon earlier this month.
Whether possible NCAA sanctions, the assurance of power greater than oft- ridiculed Eagles general manager Howie Roseman or money played into Kelly's 180 will be answered in the coming months, but one thing is certain -- Jeffrey Lurie pulled out a big win for a franchise which was starting to look rather amateurish.
Kelly originally met with the Eagles owner, team president Don Smolenski and Roseman in Arizona after Oregon's Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State. The two sides met for almost nine hours in a wide-ranging discussion touching on football philosophy as well as management and organizational values and ideas.
Lurie was obviously smitten with Kelly, who eventually turned down the Eagles' offer. Plan B for the franchise, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, decided to stay in State College and Plan C, Notre Dame mentor Brian Kelly, felt South Bend remained the best option for him.
It was looking like such a circus at one point that the Eagles' public relations staff felt the need to fire off a statement back on Jan. 12 after Brian Kelly decided to stay with the Fighting Irish.
"There is no question we spent a considerable amount of time and effort looking at who we thought were the best collegiate candidates for our head coaching job," the statement read. "We did so knowing that there was a remote chance that these coaches would leave their current posts.
"We understood that going into the process, but we wanted to leave no stone unturned while trying to find the best head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. We have no regrets about the effort we made in that direction and we will continue to proceed as planned in our search."
It was an unconventional way to handle things. The typical tact would have been to decide on a candidate and then spin him as the next Bill Belichick even if the guy was 10th on the list.
The Eagles also interviewed Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick. They conducted a second interview on Tuesday of this week with Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley after meeting with former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden a day earlier.
But give Lurie credit. While doing his due diligence on the available candidates, he couldn't help shaking the feeling that most of the innovation in football these days is taking place at the college level. And to be fair, he's right.
Lurie and his lieutenants never stopped trying to sway Chip Kelly and "remote" turned into reality on Wednesday.
Kelly's loyalty to his kids at Oregon and the university itself can certainly be questioned, but what's indisputable is that he is on the cutting edge of offense, an aggressive, relentless play-caller who Belichick swears by and has taken the time to bring in and pick his mind.
"Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," Lurie said. "He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team."
Outsiders look at Philadelphia's quarterback situation and say Nick Foles is not a fit for a Kelly offense, which relied on the read-option and spread philosophies at Oregon.
But, that's not what Kelly is about. He's first and foremost an up-tempo guy. He wants to run 80 to 90 plays a game compared to your 60 and immobile quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have certainly flourished by playing basketball on cleats in the NFL.
Kelly can work with Foles, or any other signal-caller for that matter, as long as they have the mental capacity to create tempo, either by speeding things up and limiting defensive substitutions or slowing things down and using pinpoint accuracy to shred zone concepts. By limiting substitutions in today's specialized NFL world, you can put an incredible strain on any defense and its ability to handle a spread formation.
That's not to say Foles is the answer in Philadelphia but to pigeon-hole Kelly as a guy who needs an athletic, movement-heavy quarterback like Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson or RG3 is incorrect.
Under Kelly in 2012, Oregon averaged nearly 50 points per game (49.6) and his four-year scoring average with the Ducks was a whopping 44.7 points per contest.
That kind of production is not going to happen in the NFL, but Lurie is banking on Kelly's offense to bring excitement and energy back to his franchise.