Eagles excited by potential of Kelly's offense

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Eagles excited by potential of Kelly's offense

Brandon Grahams reaction to his next head coach?

Two words.

Im hyped, Graham, the Eagles defensive end, screamed into the phone Wednesday, moments after the Eagles stunned the NFL world by announcing the hiring of former Oregon coach Chip Kelly as the replacement for Andy Reid.

Similar reactions from other Eagles trickled in while the news sunk in that Kelly, the offensive mastermind who built Oregon into a national powerhouse, would be the franchises 21st head coach.

Im excited No. 1, tight end Brent Celek told CSNs Derrick Gunn. I guess Im a little shocked, just because it was first reported that he was staying at Oregon, but hes our coach now and I cant wait to see how we do, how this offense runs. Im excited to get going.

And from the defense?

Hes a successful person, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins told the NFL Network. Hes had a lot of success and anytime you have somebody like that and his desire, hes going to do whatever it takes for us to be as successful here as well.

I dont know too much about him, but from what Ive seen and just highlights, Ive heard hes someone with a lot of emotion and someone who doesnt accept not being successful.

The Eagles just finished 4-12, their worst record ever under Reid, who was fired Dec. 31 after his 14th year and hired just four days later by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kelly, whose record-setting spread offense helped the Ducks reach BCS Bowls in each of his four seasons as head coach, is considered one of the brightest, most innovative offensive minds in the game.

But there are questions about whether his up-tempo offense can succeed in the NFL, along with his expertise in fielding a championship-caliber defense and assembling an experienced staff.

For a franchise that hasnt won a Super Bowl after 51 years of existence, the hiring of Kelly -- who has never coached or played in the NFL -- is rightfully considered risky and bold.

I have no reason but to be optimistic, right tackle Todd Herremans said via text message. Thats who they initially wanted.

Kelly had met with Lurie, president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman for nine hours on Jan. 5 at a Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Ariz., one day after the Ducks bounced Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.

Kelly had also interviewed with the Browns but announced on Jan. 6 his decision to return to Oregon for a fifth season. But his change of heart led to talks reopening with the Eagles, who quickly reached a deal with their top choice.

Yeah, I was definitely surprised, especially with all of the rumors that we had heard a week or so ago about Chip deciding to stay at Oregon and not come into the NFL, Jenkins said to the NFL Network. So it was a little bit of a shock today when I heard that.

One of Kellys first big decisions will be deciding on his next quarterback.

Its assumed that the mobile Michael Vick is better suited for the high-octane offense that Kelly ran at Oregon, but Vick will be 33 and is slated to make more than 15 million as he comes off his one of his worst seasons. He also hasnt played 16 games in a season since 2006 and sat for six weeks in 2012 after sustaining a concussion.

Nick Foles, the promising rookie who replaced Vick, lacks the speed and athleticism seen from quarterbacks who played under Kelly at Oregon but caught Kellys attention when his Arizona team battled Kellys Ducks in Pac-12 Conference games (see story).

Ill tell you what -- Im glad Nick Foles is graduating, Kelly told reporters after a 2011 game between Arizona and Oregon. I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. ... Nick is a hell of a football player. That kids a warrior. Hes as good as anyone in the country.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick invited Kelly to his practices and then implemented some of Kellys offensive concepts into New Englands hurry-up offense, which led the NFL this past season with 1,191 plays from scrimmage, 31 more than second-ranked Detroit.

Celek is convinced Kellys offense will remake the Eagles into a fearsome offensive team and maximize the talent of Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson and Pro Bowl halfback LeSean McCoy.

I think it will, just from the talent that weve got, Celek said. From what Ive seen just on TV ... its exciting to watch for sure. Theyre fast paced. Theyre up-tempo. And they score a lot of points, which is what we want to do.

Jenkins seemed slightly more apprehensive, although optimistic.

Everybody of course is going to have concerns about the coach and if hes going to be able to adjust to the next level -- the difference in speed, tempo and all of the things like that, he said. What type of schemes is he going to bring in and will they adjust? All of those are going to be concerns with people but his resume, regardless of what those questions are, is pretty impressive.

Its a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and sometimes if you can just win over your players, have confidence in them and get them to fight for you, a lot of times that makes all of the difference in the world.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel posts thankful message to Philly fans

Nerlens Noel's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't characterized by a whole lot of winning, but he'll still likely be remembered fondly by Sixers fans as being one of the original members of the process.

It's always an emotional time when a fan favorite departs for another city and a new team instead of seeing the championship aspirations many had for them in Philly through to fruition.

Noel posted an emotional message to his Twitter account on Thursday evening thanking the city of Philadelphia and its fans for the support they showed him through the ups and downs. 

The tweet contained the hashtag #Philly with a couple of exclamation points with a screenshot of a note that read:

What an exciting journey it’s been… To have such an amazing city embrace a kid from Boston coming out of Kentucky the way y’all did, is something I’ll truly never forget. And even through the ups and downs I never doubted the love here and that won’t change. Thank you to everybody that’s believed in me and supported through #TheProcess.

Love! -NN4

Noel was traded earlier in the day to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a conditional first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks.

Bryan Colangelo will address the media on Friday morning to discuss his rationale behind moving Nerlens.

Related:

>>Every reason why the Nerlens Noel trade was unjustifiable 

>>Video: Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid say their goodbyes 

>>Joel Embiid reacts to Nerlens trade on Twitter: 'Trust it'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

Joel Embiid: With Mavs, Nerlens Noel 'to get the chance he wanted'

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Nerlens Noel emerged from the trainer’s room in a red sweatshirt and made his rounds of handshakes and hugs. It would be his last time in the Sixers' training complex as a member of the team, marking the end of the longest-tenured player’s stay in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks on Thursday for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick, according to a source (see story). He went through a portion of practice and was removed from it because of the deal. 

Noel’s now former teammates had a strong reaction to his departure. 

“Nerlens, he’s my guy,” Joel Embiid said. “He’s been my best friend since I got to Philly and I’m happy for him. He wants to start. I think in Dallas he’s going to get the chance to start and they’re going to re-sign him and they’re going to pay him a lot of money. Here it was kind of hard for him to start unless they were starting us together. But I’m happy for him. He’s going to get the chance he wanted.”

Noel’s future with the Sixers had been in question for two years as he enters restricted free agency this summer. Last season, the team struggled to find a way for him and Jahlil Okafor, both true centers, to play together. This season, the logjam was magnified when Embiid made his debut and took over the starting role. 

Noel candidly spoke out about the overcrowding at the beginning of the season but that situation was sidetracked when he missed 23 games because of injury. Once he returned, he quickly was on the short end of minutes. 

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said in mid-December. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s--- out.”

The Sixers did figure out his role, later making him the defensive leader of the second unit as Okafor became the odd man out. The Sixers also considered the possibility of pairing Noel and Embiid in the starting lineup, as they did with Embiid and Okafor, but that experiment played out only over a handful of minutes. 

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Embiid said of not playing more alongside Noel. “I thought we should have tried that a little bit more. I think the few times we did, it actually looked pretty good offensively and defensively.”

Of the bigs, it seemed like Okafor would be the one moved at the deadline after being held out of two games because of trade talks. In the end, it was Noel as the one to go on Thursday. 

“He’s one of my favorite players here,” Dario Saric said. “He’s always ready for jokes, he’s always ready to enjoy every moment.” 

Noel was the only player remaining from Brown’s first season as head coach with the Sixers. Brown could not comment on the Noel trade because it was not official at the time he addressed the media. 

Ilyasova leadership missed
On Wednesday night the Sixers dealt Ersan Ilyasova to the Hawks for Tiago Splitter, a 2017 second-round pick and 2017 second-round pick swap rights. Even though Ilyasova played only 53 games for the Sixers, the veteran leader left his mark.

“He was a consummate pro,” Brown said. “He helped teach our young guys about that professionalism and helped contribute to our culture. He was good. You add those things up and we’re going to miss him.” 

Ilyasova’s departure affects those who played with him and behind him. Embiid credited Ilyasova for stretching the floor when they were in the starting lineup together. 

Saric, though, is perhaps the most impacted by the trade. Saric moved to the second unit when Ilyasova took over the starting role. He learned from his fellow international power forward, who helped him adjust to the NBA on and off the court. Saric is likely to get the nod as a starter. 

“For me, it’s hard,” Saric said. “I lost in Ersan some kind of mentor.” 

Brown also plans to play Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes at power forward at times, as well. If Covington slides over from small forward, Brown eyes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Gerald Henderson and Nik Stauskas as players who could fill in at the three spot. 

The Sixers will resume activity on Friday morning for shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. They will approach that contest without familiar faces on the court. 

“I lost two good friends,” Saric said. “But this is the NBA. This is part of the business, part of the job.”