A jam-packed NovaCare auditorium reeled in shock. Such bold imagery! Andy Reid, who occupied the chair Kelly sat in Thursday for 14 seasons, was not a metaphorical burner of boats. Andy just wanted to put those boats in the best darned position to make landfall, and if they ended up on the dadgum rocks, well, everybody had a piece of the boat-navigating pie, but it started with him.
Kelly, 49, was engaged, dynamic and personable in his introduction to Philadelphia as the Eagles' 21st head coach, emceed by team chairman Jeffrey Lurie, even if the former Oregon coach provided few specifics on key questions such as how he will tailor his spread-option attack to the NFL, whether he considers Nick Foles, Mike Vick or someone else his probable quarterback, how decision-making will go if he and general manager Howie Roseman disagree, and what shape the Birds' defense will take, under a coordinator Kelly has yet to hire.
Lurie wanted to make sure everybody knew he and his search team, which included team president Don Smolenski and Roseman, had conducted "an excellent process . . . a careful, targeted process" that netted a coach whose appeal, Lurie said, goes far beyond offensive gimmicks and trends.
"I talked to a lot of . . . iconic figures in the game, that are no longer necessarily part of an organization, so they're unbiased," Lurie said. "It was so outstanding - they thought this guy, they wanted to watch his every move. They knew he wasn't, like, just bringing the scheme . . . everybody knew this guy is a real thinker, and trying to be ahead of the curve at all times . . . The one thing that everyone kept saying to me was that this guy is a program-builder, a leader, and someone who always wants to be innovative and ask, 'Why?' "
Roseman said: "I can't stress enough, this isn't about Chip Kelly as an offensive mind. This is about Chip Kelly as a CEO who has a vision of what he's looking for. I think you guys are all going to be real excited to see his brand of football . . . He's got an incredible way of thinking about things."
Kelly said he knew after his 9-hour, Jan. 5 meeting with the Eagles after the Fiesta Bowl that "this was the place for me" if he was ready to go to the NFL. The problem was convincing himself to leave Oregon, where he was 46-7 in four seasons as head coach.
"It was a difficult decision, but when I first met with Jeffrey and Don and Howie in Phoenix, the passion for this franchise was very, very evident to me . . . it's an iconic franchise with a passionate, passionate owner and great, great people in this company," Kelly said. "That's the thing that struck me. I probably took a long time in this decision, probably a lot longer than some other people probably wanted me to take . . . I knew what this place was all about, and it's where I wanted to be . . . For me, it was just very, very difficult to say goodbye to a bunch of men that I truly love and respect."
On the offense question, Kelly emphasized that he doesn't need a running quarterback, and praised Foles, against whom he coached when Foles played for Arizona. He said you have to run schemes that fit your personnel. But Kelly didn't commit to anything.
"If you're going to ask someone to do something that they're not capable of doing, then obviously, that's a recipe for disaster . . . I analyze everyone that's in our program, in our scheme offensively, defensively and special teams-wise," he said. "It's got to be personnel-driven . . . Our offense is always going to be tailored to who's playing.
"I'm a huge fan of [Foles]. He's tough . . . We hit him as many times as we could hit him, and he just kept getting up and making plays. He completed a 13-yard pass lefthanded against us once, and I remember just standing on the sideline shaking my head, 'What do we have to do to stop him?' He's a competitor, he's accurate, so I'm excited about that."
But Kelly said he would study film before making any decisions on personnel, including Foles and Vick. The Eagles will owe Vick $3 million of his $15.5 million-plus salary if they don't ditch him at the start of the waiver period, 3 days after the Super Bowl. A source close to Vick said there have been no discussions with the team about Vick's future.
"Our sole focus and goal is that we're going to put an offense on the field that's going to score points," Kelly said. "There's nobody ruled in, there's nobody ruled out at this point in time."
Given Kelly's offensive orientation, and the Eagles' pathetic attempts at defense last season, it sure seems Kelly's defensive coordinator is going to be his most crucial hire. Kelly said he started calling coaches he'd like to bring in on Wednesday night, but he had no announcements for us. Many reports have speculated that Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who has extensive NFL experience, might run Kelly's defense. Fox 29's Howard Eskin tweeted that Kelly had interviewed Grantham and Alabama's Kirby Smart. Smart has much less NFL experience than Grantham, but he did coach the Dolphins' safeties under Saban in 2006.
Eskin said Oregon assistant Jerry Azzinaro will join Kelly as the defensive-line coach. None of these reports was confirmed by the team; in fact, an Eagles source said Kelly hasn't made any staff decisions.
Lurie has sketched out a different power structure than the Eagles had previously, when Reid officially had final say over personnel matters. The way Lurie and Roseman portrayed it Thursday, it will be Roseman's job to go out and get the kinds of players Kelly needs. Both spoke of the Eagles as a "coach-centric" organization. But apparently, Kelly will be able to tell the GM the type of player he wants at each position, not necessarily the specific player. Roseman will continue to run the draft. Lurie might have to moderate any possible disputes.
"One of the first things he said to us in that long, long interview [Jan. 5] is, 'I just want to collaborate. Any of these reports about being power-hungry or all that, it's just not me. I just want to be with a really good organization and work well with the player-personnel department and the general manager,' " Lurie said.
Kelly said he spoke with Reid and with another former Eagles coach, Dick Vermeil, about the city and the job. He said he knew the region pretty well from having recruited "South Jersey to Harrisburg" for the University of New Hampshire from 1992 to 2006 (except 1993, when he was at Johns Hopkins).
"I know the second most-important bowl besides the Super Bowl - which is my goal - is the Wing Bowl," Kelly said. "I'm not going to participate, but I understand what this city's all about, and I'm just glad I got an opportunity to be here."
On Twitter: @LesBowen