Yesterday, Jennifer Lee Chan reported on Chip Kelly's most newsworthy comments to reporters at the annual NFC Coaches Breakfast. Kelly spoke for a full hour though, so there's plenty more ground to cover.
The 49ers have released only seven minutes of video so far, so I've reconstructed his comments from stories by Matt Maiocco (1 2 3), Cam Inman, the Associated Press, Martin Frank, Tim McManus, and Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated, among others.
Let's start by noting that there were many more reporters from Philadelphia than San Francisco, partly because the meeting was in Florida, but largely because this was the Philly media's first chance to question Chip after his firing. Pete Carroll, who's had some success as coach, had a total of two reporters waiting to interview him.
Pete Carroll walked up to his table this morning, saw huge crowd around Chip Kelly, shook his head and laughed. "Poor guy."— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) March 23, 2016
As Jason LaConfora of CBS Sports put it, this was
"a verbal brawl of sorts between Kelly and the [Philadelphia] media he thought he had escaped after his late-season firing by the Eagles ... It took only until the second question of the session before the Philly media commandeered Kelly, asking what he gleaned from the "autopsy" of his Eagles stint ..."
The results was a discussion that got deep into the weeds of Eagles front office dysfunction. Long story short, Chip said that
- He never threatened to leave or asked for GM powers in his battle with Howie Roseman
- "I would’ve been content to just go hire a general manager" he told reporter Martin Frank.
- Roseman, not Chip, negotiated the much-criticized free agent contracts with DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell
- Howie remained in charge of the salary cap and all contract negotiations
- Chip didn't even talk to Roseman, instead relaying messages through VP of Player Personnel Ed Marynowitz. "It was a weird situation," he acknowledged.
- Asked if regular communication would have made more sense, he replied "Yeah, you would think. It wasn’t set up that way."
If you can't get enough of the Eagles' front office Thunderdome battles, I've got a longer comparison of the explanations by Chip and owner Jeff Lurie in a separate article.
Perhaps because of the combative atmosphere, Kelly was defensive and in no mood for introspection or mea culpas about his failure in Philly. He deflected blame for any of the Eagles' problems, blaming injuries for the teams' offensive problems and the flops of DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso. Asked why he was fired, he replied "We didn’t win enough games."
What his response to Jeffrey Lurie's comments about wanting a coach with more "emotional intelligence"? Beat writer Les Bowen reports that Kelly said it would be "very presumptuous" for him to try to figure out what Lurie was talking about. "That's a question for him."
Thankfully, Chip covered topics other than problems in Pennsylvania. He riffed at length on the new NFL rule requiring ejection for a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, referring to the movie "A Few Good Men." Per Bedard:
"Ever see A Few Good Men? Why the two orders? Right? If you already have the ability to throw them out of the game, why do we have to put a second order in to throw them out the game? Throw them out of the game. If they’re not playing it the right way and you have ability to eject them, why do we ... There is already a mechanism. Private Santiago. Don’t touch him. Why the two orders? Right? You tell me."
Kelly even said a few words about the San Francisco 49ers, amazingly enough. Most of them concerned Colin Kaepernick. He repeated things he said at the Combine -- Kaep was injured, and people forget that. He can't talk football with him until April 5th, but has chatted with his most famous QB. Colin seems eager to heal and play again, whatever you might have read.
Asked if there was "even a remote possibility" that the Niners might cut Kaepernick before his guarantee kicks in on April Fools day, Maiocco reports, Chip was emphatic.
"(It’s) not even in the conversation. I don’t think you cut talent."
That comment produced gales of laughter among Eagles fans still salty about Chip's release of DeSean Jackson and Evan Mathis. Maybe that was the closest he could get to admitting mistakes in his previous job. Or perhaps this was typical pre-draft posturing designed to maintain Kaepernick's trade value.
Kelly went on about the dual-threat QB many have assumed is perfect for his system.
"Colin’s a mobile quarterback. You can use him in a lot of different ways that you don’t use a traditional NFL quarterback. You’re not going to use Colin the same way you use Tom Brady. He’s got a lot of skills. That’s why I’ve said, if he’s there on the fourth (of April), we’ll be excited. I’ve expressed that to him."
Bedard, for one, was convinced that Chip's interest was genuine.
It’s hard to listen to Kelly and not come away with the feeling that he would relish coaching a player with Kaepernick’s skill set. You could hear it when he gushed about how Russell Wilson and Cam Newton don’t get enough credit for their ability to throw the ball. Kelly saw firsthand what Kaepernick could do when the Eagles played the 49ers in 2014.
"He got flushed [from the pocket] three times and then he turned and threw a pass to the right sideline where I think Frank [Gore] was the last outlet on the play and just, his entire body and momentum was this way and it just came off his hand and stuck a hole shot.
"When he went to the combine I think he had the fastest ball speed. I mean he can spin a football. He can really throw it."
As far as contracts and trade negotiations, though, Chip was 100% hands off. Asked if Kaep had told him either that he wants to play for Chip or get traded, the coach replied:
"We haven't talked about any of that. ... I've had some good conversations with him but we don't, it's really not anything we've gotten into in terms of where his contract is, how things are going, all those other things. There's a business side to this deal and we've both expressed that but it's, he lets his business people handle it and we let our personnel department handle it. "
In other news, he denied offering a fat package of picks and players for a pick to draft Marcus Mariota last year. He was completely surprised by his firing
following, but has trust in Trent Baalke and the Niners' front office. Bill Belichick has been a major influence on him, and was supportive and helpful after he got fired. And he's looking forward to working with his players starting April fourth.