Jeffrey Lurie will have to play referee between Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman

Posted: January 18, 2013

When Chip Kelly sat down with Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski in the Four Seasons hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. to begin what would become a nine-hour interview session on Jan. 5, Kelly told them some things they might have heard about him weren't true.

"These reports about me being power hungry. That's just not me," Kelly said, according to Lurie.

If that was welcome news to Lurie, imagine how it played with Roseman, who wanted to run his player-personnel department in collaboration with a new coach, but not have to engage in a daily power tussle over how the roster is built. Kelly, essentially, was promising that wouldn't be a problem.

"I'm a football coach. I'm not a general manager. I'm not a salary cap guy. I coach football," Kelly said Thursday during his introductory news conference.

That's the way the organization is being described on Day 1 of the Chip Kelly Era, with everyone on the same page. Of course, there are a lot of pages that must be turned to get the Eagles back into contention. Even reasonable people working in a spirit of collaboration are going to disagree sometimes, and no one can really predict what will happen then. That's because, aside from Lurie, there is no boss.

It is an interesting organizational chart Lurie has devised, taking the old vertical chart and flopping it onto its side to make a horizontal. Instead of a direct line leading down from Lurie to Andy Reid to the front office, now there are two department heads on equal footing - Kelly and Roseman - each answering only to Lurie.

The potential is there for conflict, and for Lurie to need to become both a referee and a judge far more often than was necessary when Reid was accorded all the final football decisions. If that is the role that develops, Lurie will have to accept it, or, somewhere down the road, he will have to give one of the two men the upper hand.

It will be an interesting process to watch, but on Thursday all of that was iced over with sweet promises and blue skies. Kelly is the man of the moment, the innovator who can see around corners before he gets to them, and Lurie said serving Kelly's vision is the top priority of the organization.

"It's always been a coach-centric system we've had," Lurie said. "The goal of the player-personnel department is to find the right players for a particular coach. It's not the vision of the general manager as to what kind of players you should have. It's how to maximize a coaching staff's vision and their sense of dynamic football."

So, theoretically, Kelly will tell Roseman what he wants, and Roseman will go get it for him. If the coach wants tall receivers, fast offensive linemen, nasty cornerbacks, burly linebackers, whatever it might be, the general manager's task is to haul in the players poured from those molds.

"Part of the interview process is to ask the coach what he is looking for at every position," Lurie said. "Howie's job is to find that kind of players at every position that Chip's looking for."

Well, it's hard to see what could go wrong with that, and, for the first season or so, nothing will go wrong, or not so you would notice. Lurie said he isn't going to be fussed if the team doesn't have a much better record in 2013. With a new coach, a new staff, a new organizational chart, a ton of new players and a new football philosophy in place, the owner is viewing improvement as a process.

Understanding that the clock doesn't start ticking until the second year, it is likely Kelly and Roseman won't make Lurie cast a tie-breaking vote very often. But down the road, as has happened elsewhere, the coach could be asking questions like, "I wanted a linebacker who could cover backs out of the backfield, and this is what you brought me?"

That's when the real refereeing has to begin. It's instructive to remember that Reid and player-personnel director Tom Modrak began almost as equal partners, but three seasons later Modrak was out and Reid had final say on everything.

Even a coach who isn't "power hungry" is win hungry. Kelly definitely has that in his personality. It is what drives him. In his four seasons at Oregon, he was the CEO of the operation, controlling every aspect of how to get those wins. He has to adjust now and, fortunately, everyone says that is a strong suit for him.

We'll see. The first page rarely tells the whole story, particularly if everyone is on the same page at the same time. Somewhere near the middle of the book, the plot will be revealed, and it might be a great one. That would be nice for everyone involved, and for the football team.

"You hope to make the best choice, and if you didn't make the best choice, then you're going to find another head coach," Lurie said.

It really is that simple a decision. At least it seemed that way on Day 1, when the birds sang and the skies cleared and Chip Kelly arrived to lead the football team and to begin separating the reports about him that aren't true from the ones that are.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at, or follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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