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Learning more about Chip Kelly's core philosophy

3 talks he gave to football coaches years ago are still the best glimpse into his thinking.

The Niners' new coach doesn't like to talk to the media much. At all.

In Philadelphia, he had a brief honeymoon for a couple months after his hiring, giving interviews and chatting on and off the record, and then he pretty much shut down. No one-on-one interviews with writers. Not even any leaks. He had a single round-table discussion with 15 or so beat writers each year, embargoed until the dullest part of the NFL calendar (June), and that was it.

Kelly has talked with several radio and print reporters since arriving in the Bay Area, which might be a new attitude or just another short honeymoon period before he clams up again.

Philly fans were left with a few lightweight TV appearances and his press conferences. Kelly can be expansive at pressers, given the right football question (much like Belichick), or launch into philosophical digressions and goofy references to silly movies, but generally he is in battle mode with reporters. He pounces on misstatements or poorly framed questions, rejects the reporter's premise, teases the beat writers, or simply says, "That's not the way we look at it."

Chip's dad is a retired attorney, and he seems to treat press conferences as hostile cross-examination, using every trick in the book to avoid being forced to give up his information. Basically he doesn't seem to like or respect the media much, and frankly I don't blame him. We're not "football guys." Few of us have much experience playing or coaching football at a high level.

Some of the coach's longer interviews have been with the few reporters who do, such as Larry Krueger of KNBR (who was a pro scout). Chip's longest interview in recent years (17 minutes) was a podcast he did with Ross Tucker (former NFL journeyman tackle) and Bill Polian, the longtime executive with the Colts. Kelly is amazingly more relaxed with these football guys (Jump ahead to 3:23).

Chip's speaks most directly when he's talking to other football coaches. Years ago, he spoke to coaches every offseason as part of Nike's "Coach of the Year" series of clinics, and three of these talks have been published in books. Granted, they are several years old. You won't hear anything about packaged plays or even the the NFL.

But if you really want to hear Chip's football philosophy in his own words, these are still the best source. You still hear him reference these concepts, and implement them in games, all the time.


"The Zone Read Option Game," in "2009 Coach of the Year Clinics Football Manual," ed. Earl Browning (Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice), pages 141-7. This talk is available for free online (by permission) at


"If the [offensive] line can get up two yards on the defense, the [running] back can [get 2 yards] too. We want him to jam the ball in the hole and be a tough runner. We do not want a jingle-footed back trying to hit a home run. ...

"We want the ball in the running back's hands. We do not want the quarterback carrying the ball. ... We want the quarterback to give the ball unless he cannot."


"Efficient use of practice time," in "2011 Coach of the Year Clinics Football Manual," ed. Earl Browning (Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice), pages 138-45. Again, it's online at FishDuck.

"Every single game on your schedule is a rivalry game. If the cross-town rivalry is game six on your schedule, and your circle it in red, you have told your team that the first five games do not count. It will be OK to lose a couple games during that stretch. Every game we play is the most important game of of the season. We approach every game as if it was the Super Bowl. ....

"I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm. ... if the quarterback is not tall, look at his hands. That is the biggest coaching point in finding a quarterback. How big are his hands, and how well can he control the football? The height of the quarterback is not the important thing. No one playing quarterback throws over the line. They throw through lanes in the linemen. The important thing is the size of their hands."

"Practice Organization," in "2012 Coach of the Year Clinics Football Manual," ed. Earl Browning (Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice), pages 493-524.  You will have to buy this one. Some highlights:

"This past year, we had 1,064 plays. We listed all the situations we had on those plays. You need to look at what you actually face in a game and practice those situations. It used to blow my mind when we did goal line for 20 minutes. We may be in a goal line situation three plays or fewer in a game. We are going to be a great third-down team. We had 197 third-down plays, which is 18 percent of the snaps. We spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday working on our third-down package.

"Your practice has to match what happens in a game. We practice the last play of the half. We practice what to do with no time-outs. Your organization for practice has to hit everything you have to cover. We were in second-and-long as much as we were in third-down situations. You have to work on the four-minute offense when leading and when behind. The game of football is about situations. You need to practice them. ...

"Coaches cannot talk to their players during a [practice] drill. If you want to talk to a player, you coach him on the run or sub for him. Do not stop a drill to talk to one player. The coach has to learn time-on-task. Everyone must be moving. We want players getting repetitions."

Thanks to Coaches Choice for publishing these talks and allowing FishDuck to post them online. Each book has dozens of talks from many top coaches. The 2009 book for example has Jerry Glanville on special teams, Mark Dantonio on quarters coverage and Monte Kiffin on Tampa 2 coverage.