Kelly makes a good first impression as Eagles coach

Posted: January 18, 2013

OK, IT WOULD BE a stretch to say I missed Andy Reid on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex. But a job is a big part of the life of everyone who has one.

And for the last 14 years, covering Reid had been a huge part of my job as a sports columnist in Philadelphia. Actually, about half of my working life has been spent listening to "Big Red" humph, grump and growl his thoughts about the Eagles and the NFL.

So after Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie did his monologue to introduce Chip Kelly, it threw me a bit when the first words from the former leader of the University of Oregon Ducks were not, "OK, injuries."

And, as Kelly's introductory media conference went on more than a half hour, it was odd not to hear a single throat clear or a mea culpa of, "I've got to do a better job."

There were a few spine-shivering moments when Kelly made reference to making sure he "put players in the right situations," but, on this day, at least, Kelly was the anti-Reid.

He was informative, insightful and even a little bit fun.

Maybe my memory has faded over the past 14 years, but I don't recall Reid being so engaging his first day on the job in 1999 or too many of the thousands more after that.

It was a good first impression from a guy who clearly knew how to make a good one on his introduction as the most scrutinized man in Philadelphia sports.

It's sharp and mighty savvy for a guy from New Hampshire, who spent the last 7 years in Eugene, Ore., to say: "I know the second most important bowl to the Super Bowl, which is my goal, is the Wing Bowl. I'm not going to participate, but I understand what this town is all about."

Kelly probably said something wrong, but damn if I can recall it, while sifting through the myriad things he said right.

"I'm excited to be an Eagle, excited to get started, and we're ready to go," Kelly said.

OK, so that was straight out of the playbook of things you are supposed to say when getting hired as a coach, but that's acceptable.

The point is, a lot of things needed sorting out between the time Kelly was first interviewed by the Eagles and his hiring that seemingly came out of the blue after he was out of the picture.

He didn't seem to duck, dodge or parry any of them.

From explaining why he stepped out and then back into the picture for the Eagles; whether or not his so-called "read option offense" can translate to the NFL; why second-year quarterback Nick Foles wouldn't be ruled out as the guy who could lead that attack, Kelly had answers for everything asked.

Maybe things will change after Kelly settles in, takes the lay of the land and stakes out his turf. In Oregon, he had a reputation for sometimes being short-fused with the media, and he definitely noticed the standing-room only contingent stuffed into the auditorium at NovaCare.

Fans don't care, nor should they, about how Kelly ultimately relates with the media. That will be our issue to navigate.

Still, for this day, it was enjoyable to have an Eagles head coach answer questions without treating you as if you were the village idiot or a Soviet spy for asking them.

Of course, I don't think Kelly will remain as good as he was on Thursday, especially when things heat up and a coach who says he's "not a very public guy" swims more and more in the extreme fishbowl life that is head coach of the Eagles.

Maybe the biggest irony of Kelly's most excellent first news conference was that the guy he credited with giving him advice about dealing with Philadelphia was Reid.

"One person that I really want to thank with advice in all of this was Andy Reid," Kelly said.

Huh? What Andy Reid? You mean the one now coaching the Kansas City Chiefs after being fired by the Eagles?

"Andy reached out to me and told me about his experience here," Kelly said. "He just told me what this organization was all about.

"There's not a classier guy, and when Andy texted me [Wednesday] when I accepted the job, I told him I had really, really, really big shoes to fill. In typical Andy fashion, he said, 'Just be yourself and you'll be fine.' "

Kelly wouldn't know, but Reid giving him that advice is kind of rich. From the accounts of virtually everyone who knew him beyond the interview podium, Reid had 100 times more depth and personality than he displayed 98 percent of the time.

In public, or at least in media settings, Reid apparently perfected the role of being anything but himself.

Again, we won't know for sure, and a lot of things could change over the next few years, but judging by a first impression, Chip Kelly didn't come off like that.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: philly.com/Smallwood

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