Eagles' Kelly should have a better grasp going into Year 2

Eagles' Head Coach Chip Kelly runs to the field after the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 29, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
Eagles' Head Coach Chip Kelly runs to the field after the Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, December 29, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
Posted: January 13, 2014

There was a moment before the Eagles' playoff game against the Saints when owner Jeffrey Lurie, president Don Smolenski, and general manager Howie Roseman reflected on the previous year. For them, it started with a coaching search and ended with an NFC East title.

"It seems like a lifetime ago," Roseman said of the coaching search.

On Monday, Chip Kelly noted that he has been in Philadelphia not even for a full year. He was hired on Jan. 16, 2013, and is entering his 52d week as Eagles coach. The first six weeks were spent trying to put a coaching staff and a short-term plan in place.

This offseason will be different. Kelly knows his way around the facility. He has a staff and an established program and can approach his second year with a firmer grasp of the nuances of the job.

"We're at a different level now," Kelly said. "Everything was a first-time thing for us. It was our first minicamp, our first OTA, our first Phase 1 [of OTAs], our first free agency, our first draft. All those things are different. Now that we've got at least a year of experience, it'll be a little bit different here in the offseason."

Kelly said he and the coaching staff spent 20 hours a day at the NovaCare Complex at the beginning of last year. They lived at a hotel, with nowhere else to go.

Kelly was not able to meet with the players until April 1. For the first two months he was on the job, Kelly had no way to know how the players would fit into the scheme the coaches were building besides looking at film.

This year, the players will report for the Eagles' offseason program on April 21. Kelly can at least spend the next three months building a roster with an understanding of his personnel. He has already mapped out the schedule until minicamps conclude on June 19.

There are key scouting events such as the Senior Bowl, the combine, and pro days. Free agency begins in mid-March. Kelly must go to the league's annual meetings in late-March. The draft was moved to May 8-10, making April's schedule a little more barren before the players arrive.

The coaching staff will spend the next few weeks evaluating the season. Kelly warned against putting too much emphasis on the playoff loss to New Orleans. Kelly tried giving himself last Sunday to decompress, but coaches were still in the building. The offseason work has already commenced.

"We've got time to make sure we can really look at, how do we improve and how do we improve in every facet? How do we improve scheme-wise? How do we improve personnel-wise?" Kelly said.

Kelly insisted that there would be "no stone left unturned" in his evaluation. He said the Eagles would break it down to specific areas, cataloging what worked and how they can improve.

"We'll sit down and detail everything from a situational standpoint to games of four-minute offense, two-minute offense, third down, what are we doing there, coming out, going in, red zone, high red zone, kicking game," Kelly said.

The process will include signing players to new contracts or restructuring past contracts. That is one area that Kelly will avoid. Kelly said he's "not a contract guy." Roseman said he would keep Kelly "in the loop," just as he does Lurie.

"I want them to understand the rationale and logic of why we offer something to someone," Roseman said. "But at the same time, [Kelly] won't be involved in negotiating contracts with players."

Kelly has a major role in evaluating personnel for free agency and the draft. He's specific about outlining what he wants in players. Kelly said some players are great fits in the Eagles' scheme, and others are "tremendous players, but they may not fit scheme-wise."

Kelly emphasized it's "not just height, weight, speed." He said there are some "really good athletes" who fail to maximize their abilities because of intangibles such as passion for the game, willingness to learn, or a propensity to surrender in tough situations.

Kelly has identified measurable standards for players at particular positions. He said those numbers don't change, but they are hard to match in all areas. He gave the example of the challenges of finding a "6-3, 220-pound safety," and the impossibility of locating a "6-7, 350-pound guy that ran 4.2 [seconds in the 40-yard dash]." Concessions must be made.

"But I think you just can't drop your guard everywhere and just say, 'Well, we're going to be a little bit short here, a little bit short here, a little bit short here,' then all of a sudden your team is going to get run over," Kelly said. "I have said big people beat up little people. We believe that. But it's a different league.

"This isn't recruiting, where you can go out and offer and try to get them to come. There's a selection in the draft process, and we're not going to pick until the 22d [selection]. There's 21 other guys that we may covet, but we don't have an opportunity to get them."

When Kelly was asked what excites him about the future of the team, he pointed to the chemistry. He thinks the team can "build upon this," although it's not going to be the same group in the locker room.

Of the 53 players on the active roster at the end of the season, the Eagles have 46 under contract. But there are bound to be veterans sent packing, young players who are beaten by new players for spots, and turnover from the team's seven draft picks and free-agent signings.

That makes 2014 an unknown in its own way. Kelly might know what to expect and have more time to prepare, but his encore will come with a different roster and different scenarios.

Kelly said he's not one to rest on his laurels, and the fun is in what's ahead. He set the bar high after Year 1; the next few months are now devoted to preparing for Year 2.

"For a first-year standpoint, I think we have laid a foundation," Kelly said, "but we've got a whole lot of work to do."

Foles in the Pro Bowl

The results of Saturday's playoff games landed Nick Foles in the Pro Bowl.

Foles was named an alternate for the game last month. When the Patriots defeated the Colts, it left five Pro Bowl quarterbacks on the six remaining playoff teams. At least one will have to play in the Super Bowl, opening up a spot for the Eagles quarterback.


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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