Kelly molding the Eagles to his vision

Future Eagle Taylor Hart of Oregon gets set to wrap up a Texas back. Of the 15 players picked in Chip Kelly's first two drafts, nine had either played for or against him at Oregon, or he tried to recruit them.
Future Eagle Taylor Hart of Oregon gets set to wrap up a Texas back. Of the 15 players picked in Chip Kelly's first two drafts, nine had either played for or against him at Oregon, or he tried to recruit them. (Getty)
Posted: May 12, 2014

Chip Kelly took the joke in stride after the Eagles selected Stanford safety Ed Reynolds.

Did this kid transfer from Oregon?

"No, we broke the streak," Kelly said after two of the Eagles' three previous draft picks were Oregon products. "We did not recruit him. He played against us, yeah."

Of the 15 players the Eagles have selected in Kelly's first two NFL drafts, nine had either played for or against him at Oregon, or he tried to recruit them to Eugene. In some cases, Kelly faced a player that he also failed to lure to the Ducks.

Like another coach who made the successful college-to-NFL transition, Kelly has used his institutional knowledge of college players when drafting. Unlike Jimmie Johnson, he has not yet found his Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, or at least prospects with anywhere near the same impact.

(Insert your Marcus Mariota joke here.)

To be fair to Kelly, he hasn't had to fill key starting spots like quarterback, running back, and wide receiver through the draft, and his first two first-round picks (tackle Lane Johnson and linebacker Marcus Smith) weren't one of the aforementioned nine tied to his time at Oregon.

But what we have learned two years into the Kelly era, and after a whirlwind offseason in which receiver DeSean Jackson was released, is that he has taken full rein of the Eagles and is as immersed in personnel decisions as he is in coaching.

The head coach is naturally involved in the drafting process, and if he's a winner and wants to, can generally run the show. But in many instances, the coaching staff sets the parameters, and it is up to the general manager and personnel staff to go find the fits.

General manager Howie Roseman and his staff spent months crafting the draft board, when, in some ways - (and said with some humor) - all they had to do was look at the Oregon roster or a list of all-PAC-12 performers for their targets.

This year, third-round receiver Josh Huff and fifth-round defensive end Taylor Hart were Oregon products, joining five other Ducks already on the Eagles roster. Reynolds, who also came in the fifth round, faced Kelly's Oregon teams for years. And seventh-round nose tackle Beau Allen was once recruited by Eagles and former Ducks defensive-line coach Jerry Azzinaro before committing to Wisconsin.

Last year, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (Stanford), defensive lineman Bennie Logan (Louisiana State) and quarterback Matt Barkley (Southern Cal) all faced and beat Kelly's Oregon teams. Kelly saw cornerback Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) twice a season. And defensive end Joe Kruger (Utah) was recruited by Oregon.

"I do believe I have a knowledge because I've seen them in person," Kelly said Saturday during the final day of the three-day draft. "So I can weigh in on them with not just, 'Hey, my evaluation of them on tape is this.' . . . But it's not a 'Let's take him because I saw him live.' . . .

"We're still going to go through the whole process and let everybody weigh in. There's never been an instance where, 'Hey, I feel this way about him but everybody else feels this way.' "

With Huff, Kelly said he divorced himself from the evaluation. But Huff, who was forecasted by many analysts to be a late-round selection, said after he was picked that he was told by Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell and Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost that Kelly said he would take him in the third round, "and he kept his word."

Roseman said the pick was "on me."

Kelly said he would have taken Hart in the third, and would have with the first pick of the fourth if Roseman hadn't "guaranteed" he would still be on the board in the fifth. Roseman, it appears, fought for his guy, and the Eagles chose Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins instead.

Hart, as Roseman predicted, was there in the fifth. When Kelly called his former player with the news, he told Hart, "We're putting the family back together," according to the defensive end.

Kelly was asked how tiebreakers were broken in the war room.

"I haven't yet sat there and I want him and he wants him and then, you know, are we going to box for it? You know what I mean?" Kelly said. "It just hasn't gotten there. I think we can sit down and reason with it. But we disagree a lot, and I think that's a good thing. This isn't a building of yes men."

But you have to wonder how many from his coaching staff or Roseman and his evaluators are willing to tell Kelly, "No." Has he already earned that right? Some would say taking a 4-12 team and turning into a 10-6 division winner does.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear last month that it was Kelly who spearheaded the decision to part with Jackson. The team should be made in his vision, as it increasingly has been. They're his schemes, his measurables, and his culture.

In Chip the Eagles trust. Will it be enough?


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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