Former Ducks coach looking for an edge in the NFL

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Chip Kelly says he hasnt had one day away from the office since he took over in mid-January as Philadelphia Eagles head coach.Chip Kelly has had no time to smell the roses, let alone breathe, since he was hired Jan. 16 as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

There was the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, free agency and the draft.

“Now it’s rookie mini-camp, our offseason program, OTAs (organized team activities), then veteran mini-camp,” Kelly told the Portland Tribune Wednesday in a phone interview from Philadelphia. “I’ve been in this office every day since I started. It’s full speed ahead until June 14.”

What, you thought the Chipster might be slacking?

The football junkie who developed his coaching chops at the University of New Hampshire, then took offensive innovation to a new level at Oregon, hasn’t changed his style one iota.

Kelly is working his tail off to bring a winner to the City of Brotherly Love, just as he did during his six years with the Ducks — the last four as head coach. Then again, the Eagles didn’t hand him a five-year, $32.5 million contract to use all of his vacation time.

The man sounds, well, juiced after his first four months on the job.

“It’s been fantastic,” said

Kelly, who turns 50 in November. “The people in this building have been unbelievable.

“I feel like I was real fortunate putting a staff together. I wanted to hire guys with the right mix. I wanted some college guys. Our coordinators all NFL guys. How quickly as a group we have meshed has been the key to our transition here.”

The coordinators are Pat Shurmur (offense), Bill Davis (defense) and Dave Fipp (special teams). Among the coaches hired from the college ranks were Jerry Azzinaro — who will serve as assistant head coach as well as handle the defensive line — and Todd Lyght (assistant defensive backs) from Oregon. Lyght was a graduate assistant during Kelly’s time in Eugene.

Also on the staff is ex-Duck Justin Peelle, who will be assistant tight ends coach.

Nobody can say Kelly isn’t on the cutting edge of just about everything. He has hired Shaun Huls — previously head strength/conditioning coach and combatives coordinator for Navy Special Warfare — as “sports science coordinator” of the Eagles. Kelly created the position for Huls.

Kelly said he has gone about his job very much as he did at Oregon.

“I don’t know if the NFL is much different, to be honest,” he said. “Some of that’s a little overblown. Rules when we can and can’t be with our players are very similar to the way it was in college. From a commitment standpoint, our players have been like the kids at Oregon. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done. That part has been really encouraging.”

One thing will be different, however. When asked if Oregon’s speed spread attack and no-huddle offense can work in the NFL, you could almost hear him shaking his head before the question was finished.

“I don’t think so,” Kelly said. “We plan to use elements of everything. But one of the reasons I put together a diverse staff was to bring a lot of guys with different ideas. You have to adapt to your personnel, no matter who they are or what level you are playing.

“I lucked out when I showed up at Oregon. Dennis Dixon was there. Then we could recruit to our needs around that. Here, (the offensive style) will be personnel-driven. We’ll see, but I don’t think it will look as much like it did at Oregon as some people seem to think.”

Will Michael Vick be the guy at quarterback?

“It’s just like we did it at Oregon,” Kelly said. “We’ll have an open competition. Every player comes in with a clean slate. We’ll get enough opportunities to see all of our guys in workouts and camp and then make a decision.

“Just because someone played a year ago doesn’t mean he will play. Doesn’t mean he won’t play, either. We’ll let them compete. The great part about it, the guys here love competition. They wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Four of the eight players Philadelphia chose in the NFL draft are from the Pac-12 — Stanford tight end Zach Ertz in the second round, Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth and both Utah defensive end Joe Kruger and Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer in the seventh.

“It talks to how good our league is,” said Kelly, still referring to the Pac-12 in his present. “Ertz is one of the top tight ends in the country. We know what Matt did in setting all the records at USC. Kruger is a tough hombre, and I’ve known Jordan since he was coming out of high school.

“We feel good about the guys we got. You’re not going to know how good that class is until two or three years down the road, but we feel comfortable in who we brought in from a character and football intelligence standpoint to go with their football skill set.”

Leaving Oregon, Kelly said, was a “very difficult” decision.

“I was very close to my players,” he said. “That was the one thing that held me back the most. We had a bunch of guys who did everything we asked. They loved playing football. They loved each other. Leaving a known — where you woke up excited to go to work every day because of who you worked with — to go to an unknown was difficult.

“At this point in time, though, it was a challenge I couldn’t pass up. The good thing is, since I’ve been here, the situation is very much the same. The people I’m working with are terrific. That part hasn’t changed. It makes me feel like I’m back at Oregon.”

Kelly grew nostalgic when asked what he takes from his six years at Oregon.

“A lot of great memories,” he said. “The people and the relationships there. (Athletic director) Rob Mullens, all my coaches, (strength/conditioning coach) Jimmy Radcliffe — I owe so much for everything I learned from him. The players were awesome. The people around that program on a daily basis made it a special place.”

He didn’t mention Phil Knight, but I’m sure Kelly misses him, too.

Does he worry about potential NCAA penalties at Oregon in regard to the Willie Lyles



Does he feel as if sanctions will come down on the Ducks?

“I’ve said the same thing all along,” he said. “I’m not allowed to comment until it’s over.”

Kelly brought out another old standard when asked what he hopes to accomplish in his first year with the Eagles. A winning season? A playoff team? A berth in the Super Bowl?

“I’ve never thought like that,” he said. “We just want to get better every day.”

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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