FanPost

I am a Chip Kelly fan: Here's what you need to know about your coach.


Hats off to David K and his awesome Q and A from an Eagles fan perspective. If you haven't read it, check it out! While I think he has some great insights, he's also an Eagles fan first. And while he's refreshingly objective, again, he's an Eagles fan first. I wanted to offer some perspective of someone who was an Eagles fan because of Chip Kelly rather than the other way around. I roll with Chip, so I'm rolling with the Niners Nation now.

Full disclosure: I'm a fan of Chip Kelly as a person and as a football coach. I've followed him as best I could since a friend in New Hampshire sent me a copy of American Football Monthly in 2005 which profiled Chip as a college coach on the rise. Obviously I couldn't watch the games but my friend told me to keep an eye out for the guy on the national stage and the magazine article made a similar case. At the time I was a huge college football nut (I still am); over the years, I'd latched on to a quarter-dozen football programs that I liked mostly based on things like my own affinity for the organization, the football program's integrity and the overall philosophy. Those teams were Navy, Penn State and Oregon. Navy because I aspired to be a naval airman growing up and I liked the way the Midshipmen carried themselves. Penn State because it was the college I wanted to attend and eventually the one I graduated from (though I was sold on Paterno's program long before I attended the university) and Oregon because my mom and dad bought me bed sheets with various NCAA mascots on them and I loved ducks growing up so I kinda latched on to Puddles the mascot before the football team itself. I was like 7 at the time.

A couple of years after being introduced to Chip Kelly from his New Hampshire days, it was announced that he would be coming to Eugene as an Offensive Coordinator. I was finally going to get to see what my friend had been raving about for so many years. I thought I knew what it was all about after watching Paul Johnson's Triple Option attack at Navy but my friend had a perspective that he could only share to a certain extent. He'd been able to see Chip Kelly's team in action as his sister attended New Hampshire at the time so he went to most of the home games. Truth be told, probably like many of you, I wasn't instantly sold on Chip Kelly the Head Coach because I didn't know what to expect from him. Unlike almost all of you, I liked the coach that Kelly was replacing, a lot. Rich Brooks (2 coaches prior to Chip Kelly) started coaching Oregon the year I was born (1977) and it took him until 1994 to find any real success (the program's first conference title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they lost). Brooks was a good coach, not great, but good. The important thing is that his best season (1994) was also his last and in finally finding that success, he really paved the way for Mike Bellotti.

Bellotti went on to build the Ducks program into half of the powerhouse it is today (Chip built the other half). He hired Chip Kelly as his OC and shortly thereafter handed over the keys to the machine when he took over as the Oregon Athletic Director. I liked Mike, and I liked Chip too, though he was very private and I still didn't know much about him. I knew I liked his offense and his style. He was fast, aggressive and made the most out of the limited weapons they had at the time. He took gambles (he was affectionately known as "Big Balls Chip" and it had nothing to do with Elephantiasis). But when he took over and especially when he started winning, reporters and writers began to dig into his past, question him on his football philosophy and hold his feet to the coals when they didn't agree with or understand something he did as Head Coach (his press conferences are some of the best football theater there is). It is from his time as Head Coach of Oregon where we find the most significant and telling details about who he is. This is a facet that an Eagles fan would not necessarily have whereas an Oregon and Chip Kelly fan will. We were exposed to these things before the notoriously rabid Philadelphia media spun them one way or another. So what follows is my perspective, as an Oregon Fan and someone who likes and respects Chip Kelly as a football coach and as a person.

Chip Kelly was successful. Just look at his record in 3 seasons versus that of most of the best coaches we've seen in the last 15-20 years.

Wins

Losses

Win %

George Seifert

38

10

0.792

Jim Harbaugh

36

11

0.766

John Harbaugh

32

16

0.667

Bill Cowher

32

16

0.667

Mike Tomlin

31

17

0.646

Brian Billick

30

18

0.625

Jon Gruden

28

20

0.583

Chip Kelly (Wk 17 W)

27

21

0.563

Mike Shannahan

27

21

0.563

Mike Holmgren

27

21

0.563

Andy Reid

27

21

0.563

Mike McCarthy

27

21

0.563

Chip Kelly (Wk 17 L)

26

22

0.542

Sean Payton

25

23

0.521

Pete Carrol

25

23

0.521

Tom Coughlin

24

24

0.500

Tony Dungy

24

24

0.500

Bill Walsh

21

27

0.438

Dick Vermeil

21

27

0.438

Bill Belichick

20

28

0.417

Chip did not want the GM role. He stated this when he came to Philadelphia. He had stated it in the past in regards to other situations and he denied even being the actual GM in Philadelphia (he hired Ed Marynowitz to do the GM stuff, he just wanted control of the 90-man roster). Based on the way Chip's rise to GM stature occurred and what I know of him by watching him and listening to everything he's had to say over the last 7-8 years, it's clear to me that he just did not want Howie Roseman to have control of the 90-man roster. Howie is not a football guy and Chip clearly doesn't respect him. Multiple football front office personnel have had issues with Roseman. While Gamble was in Philly to act as Chip's advocate, all was fine. Chip got most of the players he wanted and he was focused on football operations rather than being burdened with front office stuff; stuff which once again has never appeared to hold any interest for him (he visits other football coaches on holidays and in the off-season, he literally has no life outside of football and doesn't care about contracts and all that other stuff).

Unfortunately, it looks like Howie had Gamble fired or at least Lurie did it to appease Howie who reportedly often clashed with Gamble. This started the power struggle as Chip lost his football guy advocate in the front office. I suspect that Chip felt that it was either going to be him or Howie in charge and he wasn't going to let it be Howie. A lot of this goes back to the Eagles drafting Marcus Smith in the first round of the 2014 draft. Chip wanted a receiver based on what he's said about his draft board. He appears to have had Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin with 1st round grades. OBD and Cooks were off the board before the Eagles' pick at 26. They selected Marcus Smith. Now looking back, based on what Chip has said about Smith (that he was Howie's pick), the fact that Chip never really played Smith, the fact that Howie had managed that draft (by Lurie's and Chip's admission) and the fact that they lost out on Benjamin, I don't think Chip trusted Howie at all. They ended up with Jordan Matthews who is going to be a decent receiver and is a helluva guy (related to Jerry Rice too, no bullshit), but that's not the point. I doubt Chip was going to let that happen again. Chip did not want Howie to have any more control over the 90 than he already had and with Gamble gone, Roseman's power would only increase. So Chip jumped in feet first and hoped or assumed that he could just hire a football guy to do all the other stuff aside from controlling the 90 man. This was, in my opinion, Chip's only real mistake but it's one that's forgivable. The Eagles just had a pretty hard time finding someone to replace Kelly and reports are that this is largely because of Roseman's presence and his tendency to play Game of Thrones with the front office. Chip already has Gamble in San Francisco, I don't think you'll see him make any sort of power grab even if he wins 4 Lombardi trophies as long as he has a GM or a football guy buffer between him and the GM that allows him a reasonable amount of clout in terms of the 90 man roster (even if he doesn't have full or even official control).

Chip likely wanted the 49ers job because of Gamble, simply because he knows he needs that. He needs a football guy buffer between himself and the General Manager and when he had that in Philadelphia he was very successful. He had much greater success than most anticipated considering the Eagles went 4-12 the year prior and nearly the entire roster quit on Andy Reid who is almost universally liked as a "player's coach". As soon as Roseman played Game of Thrones with the front office and excised Tom Gamble, Chip Kelly likely felt that he was forced into a role he did not need or want and things went downhill from there. I doubt that Kelly even looked into too many other coaching gigs because he is fiercely loyal and doesn't tend to trust a great deal people (this is widely reported in just about every personal profile done on him going back to New Hampshire). Perhaps he took a look at the current coaching landscape and put all his eggs in the Tom Gamble basket because of that loyalty and trust rather than trying to build that somewhere else or going into a situation where he didn't even have that buffer. He sought out the 49ers, which some of the Philly media categorized as desperate....but maybe he knew what he needed and San Francisco was the only place to get it.

"Failure is part of success, an integral part. Everybody gets knocked down. Knowing it will happen and what you must do when it does is the first step back." ~Bill Walsh - The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership

Chip is not aloof or disconnected from his players, not normally anyway. Look at all the things his former players have had to say about him. Keep the players who were shipped out in context, but also note that there's some good and some bad. Now look at those not shipped out and exclude those from the 2015 season which was a disaster. Look at this .gif of Kelly jumping on the back of Jason Peters and saying "Love you brother!" Look at Chip Kelly running past his players to dive into a giant pool at the team's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Does this seem like a guy that has a poor relationship with his players? Does he seem like one who is aloof, distant and unapproachable? Now go back and watch his press conferences and look at the difference between when he was just running the football team and when he was responsible for the overall operation as a quasi GM. Totally different guy. I have a degree in psychology, but it doesn't even take that sort of an education to understand that people who are pressed into what they feel are undesirable but necessary and inescapable circumstances tend to feel constricted and either lash out wildly or become more introverted. Chip Kelly, to me, appeared to become the latter. And no matter what you try to do to isolate it, the tension upstairs always trickles down (reports were that Howie was trying to "poison" Marynowitz this season in his bid to regain power over operations).

Having said that, it doesn't mean that (A) Chip actually lost the locker room or (B) that even if he did, he could not have turned it around in the upcoming off-season. Wounds heal before OTAs. Memories are short and a coach who lost his grip on the locker room can grab hold of it and gain an even stronger grasp by admitting mistakes, pledging a positive message and guiding the team to move on. He could have said something like, "when you stand and overcome a significant setback, you'll find an increasing inner confidence and self-assurance that has been created by conquering defeat. Absorbing and overcoming this kind of punishment engenders a sober, steely toughness that results in a hardened sense of independence and a personal belief that you can take on anything, survive and win." ~Bill Walsh - The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership

What do you think Ron Rivera did this past offseason? Or do you think that the Panthers really physically improved that much? The Eagles dumped Kelly far too soon.

Chip Kelly is a good guy. All that special stuff that you saw teams doing for veterans during Veterans Day week, Chip Kelly had Oregon and the Eagles doing every week. He bussed in loads of our Armed Service Members and there always seemed to be a bunch of seats reserved for them and space on the sidelines. My wife and I parked in the lot next to the Novacare complex for the games we drove from just outside of Pittsburgh to get to and we'd be there to greet the busloads of soldiers as their busses turned into the complex before the games. I know this has nothing to do with him as a coach and I won't belabor the point; I just thought it should be mentioned.

Chip has not been figured out by the NFL. He took a battered, almost shattered and admittedly dejected team into Foxboro and beat the Patriots on all sides of the ball...at least as far a you're going to beat one of the best coaches and football minds who also has Tom Brady under center. You don't beat Bill Belichick at home with an offense that has been "figured out"...not ever. That's not even a narrative that someone with any measure of football sense would even entertain, especially since the Eagles didn't do anything all that different except bench Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray, both of whom were stinking up the field for most of the season. They ran the same plays. They played the same defense and special teams. The difference was, they executed.

In the end, when Kelly was focused on what he does best, coaching football and building a football program, he went 20-12, won the division once and had good relationships with many of his players. When he tried to stop Roseman from fucking with his universe and pressed himself into a role he's always stated he doesn't want, he was much less successful and much less Chip Kelly. Now, you'll probably get some Eagles fans on this corner of SBN salivating over the thought of Chip's demise because they're petty and some of them always wanted him to fail because he got rid of players they liked or even because he changed the defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 (seriously), but those guys should be much more worried that Howie still has his hands in Lurie's cookie jar and in essence, still has far too much control of the Eagles.

I realize that it might sound like I'm making excuses for Chip Kelly or auditioning for a stint in his nonexistent PR department, but I'm truly trying to be as objective as I can given what I know about him rather than just what I feel or think like you're going to see with many of the jaded Eagles fans who expected a Superbowl this year. Most of them called for Chip to be fired and they got it. What they didn't understand, and what I think Lurie is missing is captured by one last Bill Walshism, "I've observed that if individuals who prevail in a highly competitive environment have any one thing in common besides success, it is failure—and their ability to overcome it." ~Bill Walsh - The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership.

Chip was allowed, in fact even encouraged to fail and fail he did. He'll be the first to admit that. But he was given no opportunity to overcome it with the Eagles; a lesson they should have learned from watching Cleveland or even just from common sense....who fires a coach who produced a career winning record with their team who wasn't caught doing drugs, abusing animals or fondling children?

So you guys just got a coach who was highly successful in college, had a 26-21 record in 47 games (better than most coaches in their first 47) who was just spurned by the organization he tried to help build and was just humbled into affirming something he largely already knew; Chip Kelly just wants to coach, fucking score points and win football games. And that, Niners Nation, is when he's at his best.

You also inherited a bunch of his fans. I think most of us are pretty cool. We'll see how that plays out.

I used so many Bill Walsh quotes because (A) Bill Walsh is awesome and has always been a coaching hero of mine, (B) Chip Kelly is fond of Bill Walsh and references him and (C) that book is one of the best I've read and one I use in my professional, non-football life regularly.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.