Kelly's candor is a breath of fresh air

Posted: September 13, 2013

YOU CAN TALK fast when you're telling the truth.

Chip Kelly talks fast.

When you do not lie and you do not spin, the words just roll off the tongue.

Even before his NFL debut Monday night, Kelly offered glimpses of his candor.

Afterward, and the next day, the Eagles coach delivered two football news conference the likes of which Philadelphia had not seen since before Andy Reid's awkward introduction in 1999.

Kelly was honest. Concise. Guileless.

This might change. Not every game will be a decided endorsement of his revolutionary offensive vision. His tongue might become barbed, and poisonous; but even that is palatable, as long as it never becomes forked.

Even now he might fib every once in a while concerning an injury or a scheme. He might decline to address a strategic topic here or there. He might lie by omission, but he is not issuing reports; he is answering questions.

What he won't do is tell you the sky is green when, clearly, it is blue, the way Washington coach Mike Shanahan did after Robert Griffin III's abysmal first-half performance Monday.

It doesn't seem to be a part of Kelly to tell you that your eyes betray you, and that only a football genius can correctly interpret what is going on.

Already, he has offered detailed acknowledgments of culpability and unpreparedness and self-analysis that Reid never offered. He is not the only candid coach in the NFL - Baltimore's John Harbaugh comes to mind - but he's the only one Philadelphia has had in quite some time.

There is much to be said for accountability, especially when it comes to selling a new product to a fan base long insulted by arrogance and obfuscation by its head coach and its franchise quarterback - both of whom took way too long to say way too little.

Kelly answers the way he coaches, Machine Gun style; no pregnant pauses, no rambling. He will insist on clear questions, and brevity is a bonus, but, generally, he delivers clear, brief responses.

He acknowledged that the play-calling was not perfect, that maybe the math was bad, that he needed to better understand what his offense can do with a 33-7 lead:

"It's four scores. How many possessions are left in the second half? Do they have enough time left on the clock? . . . The 4-minute offense, so to speak, is just as important as the 2-minute offense."

He acknowledged that, as the offense stagnated, the defense got tired and began to play passively: "We put [the defense] on the field a little bit. You have to be able to make some plays defensively, too."

He acknowledged that he overused running back LeSean McCoy and his featured receivers: "We need to rotate, especially at the skill positions."

He acknowledged, in the glow of a maiden win served to him by his offense, that he expected the offense to run even faster.

On Monday and Tuesday, he shed more light on his team in 25 minutes than Reid did in 14 seasons.

Forthrightness hardly equals success.

Between them, Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin have five Super Bowl wins, but zero transparency. Then again, John Harbaugh and Tony Dungy won with outright elegance.

Kelly isn't quite elegant, and he has his limits.

He wouldn't explain the concept of having tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters line up on the same side: "We told them to hang out there."

He made a joke there, but it was the right kind of joke; disarming, not disrespectful, not demeaning. Kelly is capable of both.

Kelly has curtailed the biting New England wit that he flashed as a collegiate king at Oregon but, frankly, made him look small during his first months in Philadelphia. It was beneath him. The temptation remains, but he is catching himself.

Learning to suffer fools with equanimity always is the last and most difficult step in achieving greatness.

Usually, it is best to redirect the conversation.

As such, with a trap game against the unsexy Chargers on Sunday, Kelly wouldn't answer anything concerning next Thursday's game against Reid and the visiting Chiefs.

He did, however, thoroughly explain why backup defensive lineman Vinny Curry did not dress in Washington (Curry is not a standout on special teams), and he explained the general exclusion Monday of backup free-agent tight end James Casey (wanting to force Washington into certain defensive packages).

He joked about receiving what must have been a flood of postgame well-wishes: "Do you want to know how many friends I have?"

Perhaps the root of Kelly's frankness lies in the phrase that defines the way he conducts practices, the way he runs games, and, so far, the way he conducts news conferences:

"Sometimes, we all take ourselves too seriously."

There is loads of truth in that.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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