One GM says Eagles' Chip Kelly will be successful, but be patient

Kelly coaching at the University of New Hampshire in 2006.
Kelly coaching at the University of New Hampshire in 2006.
Posted: January 28, 2013

Have you had a chance to catch your breath?

Chip Kelly scoffed at the question.

"We're not running 40s," he said.

Kelly had arrived at the Senior Bowl only hours earlier, but the question was more about the whirlwind five days since he had been named the Eagles' new coach.

The man who runs an offense like Usain Bolt runs the 100 meters did not seem overwhelmed by the jump to the pros as he went about his business over three days in Mobile, Ala.

Still, there is "that great unknown," with Kelly, or any coach without NFL experience, as one general manager put it last week during a break between Senior Bowl practices. This GM predicted that Kelly would succeed, but only if everyone involved practiced the patience they preached.

"I don't know if that means he's going to win Super Bowls or that he'll be in the playoffs every year, but he will win," the GM said. "It's just going to take a little while, and here's why: No. 1, he doesn't have a quarterback; and No. 2, he has to find paid professional athletes that will buy in.

"That will take time. This isn't going to be an overnight deal or even a one- or two-year deal. And in Philly, and, quite honestly, with Chip as well, you wonder how much patience there will be if it takes two years or more to get that thing moving in the right direction."

Many cite Nick Saban, now the coach of national champion Alabama, when making the case against Kelly's succeeding in the NFL. There are many other examples of college coaches failing in the pros, but Saban's flameout after two years with the Dolphins was spectacular. It should be noted that Saban had NFL experience with the Browns in the early 1990s before taking the Miami job in 2005.

"When I went the first time - how you bring players to your team is different, how you manage your squad is a little bit different than the way you motivate younger players," said Saban, who chatted with Kelly for about 15 minutes during a Senior Bowl practice. "But to be able to do that, to make those transitions and still develop your players, I think, is a real key to being successful."

One of the men who will be charged with stopping Kelly's offense will be Monte Kiffin. The 72-year-old returned to the NFL a few weeks ago, when he took the Cowboys' defensive coordinator job. Kiffin spent the previous three seasons at Southern California trying to stop Kelly's spread offense at Oregon, often to little effect.

"I think it goes back to coaching - if you're a good coach, if you're not a good coach, if you're fundamentally sound and can get your players to play hard," Kiffin said. "Chip does a good job. Forget the zone read - just as a head coach he does a good job motivating players."

Here are some other Eagles-related leftovers from the Senior Bowl:

Quarterbacks. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon maintained their hold on two of the five top rankings at the position after a week of practices.

Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of Southern Cal, who skipped the Senior Bowl, are still the top-ranked quarterbacks, but Wilson and Glennon, along with Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, are right there behind them.

Like every quarterback in this class, it seems, they have flaws. Wilson, who has great pocket awareness, has average arm strength. Glennon, who throws the ball as well as any prospect, has mobility issues.

They also have measurables that could raise red flags with some teams. Wilson's hands are small (85/8 inches). He has attributes the Eagles could find attractive, and he said he ran an offense in high school that was very similar to Oregon's. But Kelly places great emphasis on the size of a quarterback's hands.

"Personally, I don't care how big my hand is if I can throw it as good as everybody else or better," Wilson said.

Glennon was listed as 6-foot-5 before the Senior Bowl weigh-in, but measured 6-62/3.

"I haven't been 6-5 since I was a sophomore in high school," Glennon said.

Quarterbacks over 6-6 have a history of struggling in the NFL. If the Eagles plan on keeping Nick Foles, it is unlikely Kelly would want two trees on his roster, despite Glennon's arm strength.

Quick hits. If the stories are true that Howie Roseman was a detriment to the Eagles' attracting top coaches, it sure didn't seem that way during Senior Bowl week. Sure, the young GM has gained some enemies around the league, but he has just as many supporters. The NFL doesn't have many, if any, universally loved executives. The league is just too competitive for rivals not to have some bad blood. . . . Washington's Desmond Trufant was clearly the best cornerback in Mobile. He is expected to go in the late first round, long after the Eagles pick at No. 4. Dee Milliner of Alabama is considered the only top-10 corner in the draft. . . . While Roseman said this year's safety class will have greater numbers, the draft is once again light on game-changers at that position. "Man, that safety is a tough one to evaluate in college football," he said.

Contact Jeff McLane at Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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