Eagles coach Chip Kelly is good at adjusting on the fly

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER One of Chip Kelly's strengths is the ability to think fast and adapt.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER One of Chip Kelly's strengths is the ability to think fast and adapt.
Posted: July 18, 2014

IT IS just over a week now until the Eagles begin Chip Kelly's second training camp. It is the time when conversations turn more into actions, when theories become at least a little bit more real.

And you wonder. A year into this thing, what do we really know about Kelly?

He is the Narrative Killer, the assassin of the preconception. Of that much, we can be certain. The most frivolous exercise in Philadelphia sports journalism is to ask Kelly a question whose premise presumes that the questioner knows what the coach is thinking. It really is a complete waste of time. Halfway through the question, or earlier, Kelly begins to smile as he listens to what is being presumed in the preamble before the question mark. The smile is the dead giveaway, that he is going to pull out a baseball bat from behind the podium and put the question (and sometimes, the head of the questioner) on a tee and launch him into the third deck.

Do not presume to know. Do not pretend to understand. There is only one certainty here, and that is the certainty that Kelly wants to use tempo as a weapon against opposing defenses. Sometimes he plays it faster than other times, but there is no doubt that tempo is the underpinning of everything - why they practice the way they do, and why they put such an emphasis on conditioning and nutrition and the rest.

But other than that? Dunno.

The reason for dunno is because Chip Kelly dunno. Oh, he is the smartest guy in most of the rooms that he enters. And he is as innovative and forward-thinking in the X-ing and the O-ing as anyone in his business. It is obvious that the man is very good at what he does, and the numbers last season suggest that he is better at it than most people. There are games, and portions of games, that the Eagles dominate because of that fact.

But the truth of it is that Kelly's best skill on Sunday might be adaptation. It is the thing that Andy Reid might have been the worst at, you might remember. Reid was great during the offseason and, once the season started, Reid also was great from Monday to Wednesday. Sunday, though, well, you know.

Coaching is a whole package - but as good as Reid was at drawing things up, and as good as he was at the care and feeding of his locker room, thinking on his feet was not when he was at his best. You saw it at press conferences and you saw it on the sidelines. The whole package was very good - but not so much the last part.

I always thought that they started slowly during most seasons under Reid because he was married to stuff - and it took a while for him to get unmarried. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would end up trading the play-calling duties, then trading back, about three times over the years during that unmarrying process. The run game would emerge after the bye in several seasons for the same reason - Reid needed the week off for the big reassessment.

There was a real turning-an-aircraft-carrier sense of things when Reid was around - and he usually ended up pointed in the right direction, and he won a lot of games. But it just seems different with Kelly. On Sundays, the boat is faster and it turns much quicker.

He is not about doing things His Way - Kelly is just about winning the game. Whatever works, works. Whoever's idea it was, fine. He'll beat you with two tight ends one week and with LeSean McCoy the next week and with downfield strikes the next - it doesn't matter. The offense will function with Michael Vick or it will function with Nick Foles, two very different quarterbacking styles. Kelly will enter the game with an idea and see it torn into pieces after 10 minutes and then begin with the real earning of his paycheck.

We are about to see the latest iteration this season with the departure of DeSean Jackson. The possibilities are many: Jeremy Maclin one week, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz the next, then McCoy after that, and then maybe Darren Sproles. They all look different, and they all have different strengths, and they all will feature in the game plan at some point, the game plan that, you get the impression, Kelly riffs off more than he follows by rote.

Just don't presume to know how this is going to play out. Because the truth is that even the smartest guy in the room doesn't know how it's going to play out once the referee puts the ball into play - which is one of the reasons Chip Kelly is the smartest guy in the room, because he is comfortable with the uncertainty.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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