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Chip Kelly at Day 3 of 49ers minicamp - Reading between the lines

Talking special teams and coaching clinics

Here is the final spring edition of our annotated Chip Kelly interviews, from his media session on the final day of mandatory minicamp. If you like, you can double check my work by reading the full transcript or listening to the original audio. Chip’s third press conference in three days wasn’t as long or varied as the first two, but he had a chance to get into detail about special teams, and also about his schedule the next couple months before training camp.

Any coaching clinics on your schedule?

“I’m not hosting a coaching clinic.”

The only thing Chip has written himself AFAIK, and by far the most detailed explanation of his coaching philosophy, was the set of 3 lectures he gave for Nike’s Coach of the Year Clinic while he was at Oregon. You still see reporters quoting them, including me (in yesterday’s “Reading between the lines” column).

Chip speaks directly and clearly to other football coaches in a way he does not to reporters because he respects them and is confident they'll know what he’s talking about when he gets technical. I've found that during interviews, both at the major college and NFL level, you need to state directly that you want a technical answer (e.g something about the formation or coverage, for example) or players and coaches will assume you don’t.

So naturally we’d love to see him do more coaching clinics (and publish the results), but he hasn’t shown any such inclination since he went to the pros.

Special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II was just saying you’re often in the special teams meetings. Is that something that you’ve always done or anything different with your routine this year?

“No. I’ve always been in special teams meetings. I think it’s an integral part of the game. Everything is so close in this league that the biggest chunk plays that occur in a game are in special teams. You know, you look at the Super Bowl. The biggest play in the Super Bowl was the punt return. It’s a key factor and I think I’ve always put a huge emphasis on it, whether I was at the college level or in the NFL in terms of what we can do and it’s really, a lot of times, the determining factor in winning and losing. So, I think it’s integral to be in all of those.”

Chip is not exaggerating when he says he puts a major emphasis on special teams. He devotes major practice time to it and has acquired players (Bryan Braman, Chris Maragos) solely for that purpose. It’s a cheap way to upgrade the team and it pays off. Against the Niners in 2014, his Eagles scored 14 of their 21 points on Teams.

In Rick Gosselin’s annual ST rankings, the Eagles rose from 28th the year before Chip and arrived, to 19th in 2013, #1 in 2014, and #5 last year.

Swinton obviously isn’t very old particularly for a coordinator and he’s never been a coordinator. What convinced you that he was ready for this?

“Well, I think first and foremost, the people that I trust in this league that recommended him. He came very, very highly recommended. At some point in time, it has to be your first job. And then we interviewed and interviewed him extensively and was just really impressed with him through the interview process. He’s kind of from the same special teams tree as my coordinator was when I was in Philadelphia. So, we spoke the same language and see the way teams are supposed to be played the same way.”

All that success in Philadelphia came under special teams coordinator Dave Fipp. He had never been a coordinator before, just an assistant for the Niners (2008-2010) and Dolphins (2011-2012), but his hiring was a huge success (as described above). When Chip got rehired, the Eagles did not give Fipp permission to negotiate with San Francisco.

Clearly Kelly sees Swinton as another home run promotion. I don't understand what he means by saying that Swinton is “kind of from the same special teams tree,” though. Darius has worked for the Rams, Chiefs, Broncos and Bears. Maybe they both worked for the same ST coordinator at some point but I’m not finding a name.