Eagles coach Chip Kelly offers insights on his approach, state of team

LES BOWEN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Eagles coach Chip Kelly spent more than an hour meeting with the media on Wednesday.
LES BOWEN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Eagles coach Chip Kelly spent more than an hour meeting with the media on Wednesday.
Posted: March 22, 2013

PHOENIX -- Chip Kelly sat with the national media for nearly an hour and a quarter Wednesday, his most extensive interaction with reporters since being named Eagles coach a little more than 2 months ago. Kelly was asked about many things, from the biggest challenge he has encountered in Philadelphia ("The Schyulkill," ha ha) to the type of athlete he prefers ("We want longer, taller people, because big people beat up little people").

But if Kelly's questioners had many agendas, the Chipper seemed to have one: combating the notion that he is going to try to turn the league upside down with his wild and crazy ideas.

The more the question assumed about Kelly's unorthodoxies, the testier the coach's answer.

Kelly was asked whether it's an advantage that the NFL doesn't have a "book" on him yet.

"We're not going to run some magical offense or defense," he said. "You're talking about the best coaches in the world at this level. They see everything we've done at the college level, and everything we'll do, they've seen before."

Another questioner wanted to know what Kelly would say to people who think his read-option is a passing fad.

"I'd say they could be right. Anybody can say whatever they want," Kelly said. "I don't have a crystal ball . . . Twenty years ago, if you would've told somebody we were going to throw the ball 65, 70 percent of the time, they would've told you that's a recipe for disaster . . . the game's always evolving."

Will he use read-option concepts with the Eagles?

"It depends on who your QB is. If you were my QB [probably not]," Kelly said. "You have to adapt.

"There's a genesis of this thing, and I don't think anybody's inventing anything new. It's a very cyclical game . . . Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman Trophy at Princeton [in 1951] running the single wing offense. He would have been a good zone-read quarterback."

Kelly said fans shouldn't look for him necessarily to go for it on fourth down around midfield, as he sometimes did at Oregon.

"All of my decisions are based upon my understanding of our players and what we can do and can't do. I don't know until I get an understanding of what we can do and can't do," he said. "If putting our defense on the field on the 40-yard-line isn't a good idea, we'd rather have the [opponent] inside the 10 or inside the 20, we're going to be kicking the ball more."

Asked whether he didn't use stats to determine fourth-down percentages, Kelly said that he did, but that he analyzes first-, second- and third-down stats just as intently.

"I was told there would be no math," Kelly quipped, referencing vintage Chevy Chase/"Saturday Night Live," when he was asked about taking a "Moneyball" approach to the game.

Kelly did not disavow his preference for pushing the pace, even when it comes to installing his systems this spring: "You teach the fastest learner, and everyone else has to catch up."

Kelly definitely didn't like an inference that playing music at practice at Oregon while practicing fast made him somehow different or controversial.

"Do we play music at practice? Yeah. Do we run quick-paced practices? Yeah . . . I've been to other practices where they do that, too," Kelly said. "The Miami Dolphins. They do that, they practice really fast. You watch the Dolphins practice. You watch the Patriots practice, they practice really fast. You can't play with a pace that Tom Brady plays on Sunday if you don't practice fast."

Another perception is that Kelly prefers to go for two after scoring a touchdown, as the Ducks memorably did in taking an 8-0 lead before they'd run a play from scrimmage in the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.

"But we don't [automatically] go for two. We line up in an extra-point formation, and if they don't cover somebody we take the two points. It's a different concept, I think," he said.

Kelly said Kansas State, caught off guard when De'Anthony Thomas ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, got only nine players on the field for the extra point, so the Ducks went for two. If the Wildcats had lined up 11, the Ducks would have kicked.

Happily, the whole hour-plus wasn't devoted to quarreling over perception. Here are some other salient Kelly topics:

* On free agency, the Eagles having signed eight players last week, seven on defense: "Yeah, we're really happy. We felt like we had some needs on defense that we had to address immediately. We felt like we could do that, so I'm really excited about getting April 1 to come around so we can work with these guys."

Kelly agreed that signing, for instance, an entire prospective starting secondary, makes it easier to take the best available player on draft day.

"You don't want to sit there with no corners. So you add a couple of guys in that situation, it gives you a little - I guess the best way to say it is - comfort, knowing you don't have to reach for somebody at No. 4 just because you don't have somebody at that position," he said.

* On how drafting a quarterback still might make sense, with so many already on hand: "It would make sense if they are the best player out there for us to take."

Would that QB have a hard time getting on the field behind Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon, and a cast of thousands?

"The best players are gonna get on the field, so if he's good enough, he's gonna get on the field," Kelly said.

* Kelly said he won't be meddling with defensive coordinator Billy Davis on game day: "Billy's running the defense . . . I never wanted to be micromanaged when I was a coordinator. I think it's a recipe for disaster."

* The Eagles will get 2 weeks of official conditioning work starting April 1, then the extra minicamp granted new coaches, which will last 3 days and start around April 15.

* Kelly said he hasn't gotten a definitive medical briefing, but as far as he knows, offensive tackle Jason Peters and the other 2012 injured players ought to be OK for minicamp.

* Asked about he and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur having run vastly different offenses, Kelly said: "We don't, though. That's the thing. From the passing game schematic standpoint, a lot of the principles we threw at Oregon were West Coast principles. We're very much on the same page. And the run game, we're very similar on the same page, except we hand it off out of the shotgun instead of being under center. It depends how you look at it. We run power schemes, we run sweep schemes, we run inside zone, we run outside zone. Pat did all those things in Cleveland."

* On the move of training camp from Lehigh to NovaCare: "I like the fact that we're there, because we're there all year long. There's not a transition. You're not moving, picking things up, going somewhere, and then turn[ing] around and coming back. Part of what I always wanted to do is get our guys in a rhythm of this is how we do things . . . The other thing that was amazing to me is when you see that building, and what it can provide to our players, from a rehabilitation standpoint, our weight room, video, all those other things are right there."

* Kelly has studied a lot of scientific research about athletes. "An elite athlete needs 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night," he said.

That one might be harder for some of his stars than learning a new offense or defense.

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