Kelly's draft decidedly different for Birds

Chip Kelly speaks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Chip Kelly speaks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Posted: April 30, 2013

It was only a moment during the long sweep of the three days of the NFL draft, and Chip Kelly was moving quickly, as always, through the NovaCare Complex hallways.

After more than a decade in which the football department was led by a man who arrived like a slow-developing storm front, Kelly is on you like a lightning strike from a clear sky. Around the corner and right there, locking in with eyes that betray nothing.

Kelly was on the way from the draft room to the auditorium to give an update to the media between rounds, and an organization official trailed in his deep wake, asking whether he needed this or needed that.

"I don't need nothing," Kelly said.

For the most part, he didn't. If the free-agency signing period was given over to general manager Howie Roseman to fill the lesser pocks in the roster with the castoffs of others, then the draft was an affirmation that Kelly is in total control of the team's future.

He got what he wanted and, often enough to be more than coincidence, Kelly got players with whom he had firsthand experience. Only one of the eight draft picks came from east of the Mississippi (not counting LSU; if you can spit in the river from campus, that suffices), perhaps signaling an end to the organizational fascination with the Southeastern Conference.

Kelly would disagree with those observations, just as he resists any other codification of his likes or dislikes. He is here to win football games. He is not here to win them with a certain type of player or a certain system or a reliance on offense or fruit smoothies. That's his story, and he stuck to it diligently during the draft. Football coaches are stubborn - heaven knows, we took a postgraduate course in that - and this one might be stubborn enough to play opposite his supposed style just to prove that he can and just to prove that you can't design a box to fit him.

"The whole scheme thing is [that] we're an equal-opportunity offense," Kelly said. "If we can wing it, we'll wing it. If we can run it, we'll run it."

Just to emphasize his point, Kelly took Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round, even though Barkley isn't very mobile, doesn't have a monster-strong arm, and doesn't appear to match the mold from which most of Kelly's college quarterbacks emerged. Kelly could have taken a shot at the more elusive quarterbacks in the draft but went against type instead.

"We're not trying to knock over milk cartons at a county fair," Kelly said. "It's about if you can put the ball in the right spot at the right time."

While this change of direction (if it was one at all) might have confounded the experts who predicted that Kelly would go after Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel, or Matt Scott, it should have delighted incumbent quarterback Nick Foles. If Kelly is willing to take a chance - albeit an inexpensive one - on a quarterback who doesn't run that well and brings more accuracy than power, then the assumption that Foles won't get much of an opportunity is dead wrong, too.

Kelly appears to dislike all assumptions about his methods and prejudices. His team will play at a fast pace, and presumably needs players capable of it, but even that bit of certainty requires an almost exasperated tutorial.

"I think people are confused with up-tempo," Kelly said. "It doesn't matter if you're getting in a huddle and walking up to the ball and snapping the ball with two seconds on the clock or if you're snapping the ball with 10 seconds on the play clock. It has nothing to do with when you're snapping the ball; it has to do with [the players'] athletic abilities. So whether we're going to be in the huddle . . . or we're going to be a no-huddle operation, that doesn't affect our assessment. We're not going to take a guy just because he played in an up-tempo offense."

So, naturally, Kelly was asked whether he liked first-round pick Lane Johnson because he played in an up-tempo system at Oklahoma. Turns out Kelly liked him because "you see a guy that is 6-foot-6, he's 300 pounds, and has 35-inch arms." Oh, sure. That.

The new coach might eventually tire of educating his audience, but hopefully he won't lose his willingness to share the kind of interesting information the previous administration kept carefully guarded. Kelly was perfectly willing to admit the Eagles liked four guys almost equally at the top of the draft, knew they would get one of them, but definitely had Johnson ranked fourth in the group.

"We saw the draft the same way that the other teams saw the draft. It went 1-2-3-4," Kelly said. (Andy Reid, given a similar question, would have said, "I'm not getting into all that. We got the player we wanted.")

Kelly also didn't mind sharing his observation that some NFL teams appear to do rock-headed things during the draft.

"When some people make a pick, you just look at it and sometimes go, 'Wow, that was an interesting pick. I didn't see that.' People may do that with us," Kelly said. (What would Reid have said? "Listen, every organization in the National Football League does a real good job with that.")

After 14 years of being told that every coach is a great coach and every player is a great player and anything can happen on a given Sunday in the National Football League, it is refreshing to see a lightning flash that is carried on a fast-moving wind. Predicting the weather became too easy around here, but that won't be the case this season. Lightning doesn't announce itself and it really doesn't like people thinking they know when and how it will strike.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.inquirer.com/postpatterns. Follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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