Sports

Eagles Chip Kelly no longer an NFL curiosity

Maybe now that his Philadelphia Eagles have won 16 of 20 games since the middle of last season, people will stop considering Chip Kelly that college coach with the gimmicky offense and non-conforming approach.

It worked at Oregon, sure, but in the NFL? The relentless tempo? The unprecedented philosophies?

The results mean that Kelly is no longer a curiosity, the outlier whose schemes would be quickly decoded by the higher minds on the NFL staffs.

At 9-3, Kelly’s Eagles match the best records in the NFC, are coming off a 33-10 drubbing of Dallas, and stand as the next hurdle for the resurgent Seahawks when they meet Sunday in Philadelphia – where the Eagles have won all six games this season.

Kelly led Oregon to a 47-20 win over Pete Carroll’s 2009 USC team, so Carroll is more familiar with the challenge than most NFL coaches heading into a game against the Eagles.

“You have to mention Chip and his concepts and approach when you talk about this offense because it is what he has constructed over the years,” Carroll said. “It’s innovative and it’s well-run and designed beautifully.”

Carroll and Kelly seem at opposite poles with their offensive preferences, Kelly’s attack cycling at a drumbeat pace, Carroll’s playbook closely resembling the ground game of the Canton Bulldogs.

But Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, who played for Carroll at USC, cited important similarities.

“They’re very similar in their make-up and the way they enjoy competing,” Sanchez said Wednesday.

They each created a culture of competition, he said, but also a recognition that each game is of grave importance. The season isn’t a marathon, as some suggest, but a series of 16 sprints, Sanchez said.

“Both coaches have this way of getting you mentally and psychologically prepared for that next week,” Sanchez said.

Kelly was reminded of his visiting a Seahawks practice in the fall of 2010 to watch how Carroll went about his business.

“I was impressed with how organized his practices were,” Kelly said. “What attention to detail he has, and the small things that people think may be minute, but can be the difference in winning and losing a game. (And) how he covered situational football all the time, how he puts his teams in competitive situations. It’s impressive to watch one of Pete’s practices.”

Kelly got a close look at Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson when his Ducks defeated Wilson’s Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl after the 2011 season.

“(He’s) just a tremendous competitor who has all the skills that you’re looking for in a quarterback,” Kelly said. “He can make every throw, (is) a very good decision-maker, has great pocket awareness, and he’s one of the top quarterbacks in this league.”

When Wilson was playing in the Rockies’ minor-league system and came to Eugene for a game, Kelly showed him around the Oregon facilities. “He was just a mature young man and you knew he was going to be successful no matter what he ended up doing, whether it was baseball or football.”

Kelly and Carroll are a couple of Pac-10/12 refugees who are winning in the NFL by staying true to their schemes and philosophies, regardless what hidebound NFL protocol may have previously dictated.

Sanchez cited Kelly’s offensive tempo (73 snaps per game), practices, and scheduled days off as refreshingly different.

To Kelly, it’s just a matter of being open to trying a different approach.

“I think you learn new things every day, no matter where you are, and if you don’t, shame on you,” he said. “I came in here with my eyes wide open. I think we did a good job of putting a staff together and surrounding ourselves with guys with a lot of varied experiences –not only in the NFL, but from college. They came from different places, so that part was good, and I learn from those guys all the time.”

With the Eagles’ record, though, it seems Kelly is the one teaching the lessons.

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