Chip Kelly is happy to have Zach Ertz on his side

"I think all the Oregon coaches that are here, they're still sour," new Eagle Zach Ertz said about his controversial touchdown catch that helped Stanford defeat Oregon last season.
"I think all the Oregon coaches that are here, they're still sour," new Eagle Zach Ertz said about his controversial touchdown catch that helped Stanford defeat Oregon last season. (DARRYL BUSH / Associated Press)
Posted: May 01, 2013

There was enough footage from Zach Ertz's all-American season for the Eagles to form an evaluation, but one play by the redshirt junior continues to resonate with coach Chip Kelly.

In Stanford's 17-14 overtime win at Oregon on Nov. 17, Ertz caught a game-tying touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter before the Cardinal handed Kelly and the Ducks their lone loss. The catch was initially ruled incomplete, but the call was overturned and the play ruled a touchdown. Kelly did not agree with the ruling.

Three months later, Kelly wore Eagles attire at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Ertz, one of the two top-rated tight ends, walked into a meeting with the Eagles staff. The first thing Kelly told Ertz was that he didn't think it was a catch back in November.

After the combine, Ertz sent Kelly a handwritten thank-you note. At the end, he wrote, "P.S. It was a catch." And two months later, Kelly made sure that Ertz was on his team by selecting the 22-year-old California native with the No. 35 overall pick.

"I haven't been into his office yet, but I'm sure we'll bring it up and talk about it," Ertz said after arriving at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex on Saturday.

The decision to draft Ertz in the second round showed just how much the Eagles value him. There were greater needs, and both Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman had raved about the depth in this tight end class. The Eagles could have waited to add another tight end later and addressed the defense in the second round. But they refused to pass on Ertz. He was the second tight end selected. Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert went No. 21 overall to Cincinnati.

"I think Tyler is a [heck] of a player, and he's going to have a great career over in Cincinnati. But at the end of the day, this situation was perfect for me," Ertz said.

After recording 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns as a junior, Ertz's stock could hardly have been higher. And he accumulated those statistics with an offense that suffered from growing pains early last year. Stanford had replaced four players selected in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft, including No. 1 pick Andrew Luck and top tight end Coby Fleener.

Stanford made a quarterback change in its ninth game last season, and Ertz scored in the first three games with new quarterback Kevin Hogan. He averaged more than six catches in six games with Hogan as the primary passer and four catches in the first eight games. It's reasonable to wonder what Ertz's production could have been in an offense with a more stable quarterback situation. Plus, Stanford runs the ball more than many college teams.

"I think I just want to be the guy the team can look for to make a play at the end of the game," Ertz said. "I got my number called very often this year, and I'm very grateful for everything that happened this year."

Kelly had been intrigued by the possibility of Ertz playing in his offense at Oregon. But Ertz committed to Stanford in October of his junior year of high school despite Kelly's efforts to bring him to Oregon. It would make for a great story to say Ertz was interested in Kelly's offense, but Ertz said he never had a choice.

"My mom kind of came in and said, 'You're going to Stanford.' So that's where I was going," Ertz said.

Stanford had a strong reputation for tight ends after 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh rebuilt the program. Harbaugh recruited Ertz and had the chance to pick him when the 49ers were on the clock with the No. 34 pick. Kelly feared that Ertz was going to San Francisco, but the 49ers traded the pick. Kelly then worried that the team that the 49ers traded with - Tennessee - would select Ertz before the Eagles had a chance.

Kelly can look to the former and current Stanford coaches for ideas on how to use Ertz, and he credited Stanford coach David Shaw for some of them. Kelly called Ertz a "mismatch nightmare" - something Kelly experienced first hand - and the Eagles will try to find different ways to utilize the 6-foot-5, 249 pounder.

"You could never isolate him into one spot, and whenever they got the mismatch he created, he made plays," Kelly said. "I didn't relish coaching against him, and I'm very, very happy that he is on our side now."

For evidence, Kelly can just put on tape of that November game in Eugene. Ertz had 11 catches that evening, including the one for the final touchdown. He will continue to hear about it as long as Kelly is his coach.

"I think all the Oregon coaches that are here, they're still sour," Ertz said.

Notes.

The Eagles have no interest in signing former Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a league source confirmed Monday. Tebow was released by the Jets on Monday after one season. . . . The Eagles released tight end Evan Moore and officially signed nine undrafted rookies: linebacker Jake Knott (Iowa State), running backs Miguel Maysonet (Stony Brook) and Matthew Tucker (Texas Christian), center Kyle Quinn (Arizona), defensive linemen Isaac Remington (Oregon) and Damion Square (Alabama), wide receiver Russell Shepard (LSU), guard Matt Tobin (Iowa), and punter Brad Wing (LSU).


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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