Chip Kellys first exposure to Eagles fans was getting word Wednesday that numerous fans were tracking his flight across the country, thanks to a certain CSNPhilly.com Eagles writer tweeting out the link to flightaware.com that showed in real time the progress of his charter flight from Eugene to Philly.
Welcome to town, Chip.
I know there's a rabid fan base here, which is good, Kelly said. I got a text on the plane that I was getting tracked like Santa Claus, which was flattering, until I remembered that the Philly fans booed Santa Claus. So I hope they don't boo me."
Rabid? This is rabid: From 3 p.m. through 7 p.m., more than 1,100 people clicked on that flightaware link after it was tweeted out by a CSNPhilly.com writer.
That's more than a thousand people who decided to follow a computerized airplane blip moving slowly across a map of the United States.
I'm just excited to be here," Kelly said. "It's an exciting time and I'm ready to get to work."
Kelly, hired earlier in the day as head coach of the Eagles (see story), spoke briefly to reporters Wednesday evening at Northeast Philadelphia Airport, moments after his flight from Eugene landed.
When he was done, he and General Manager Howie Roseman gave out Eagles caps to about two dozen fans who gathered outside the terminal in support of the new coach.
One day earlier, Kelly wasnt even a candidate to replace fired head coach Andy Reid. By Wednesday evening, he was handing out Eagles gear to fans in Northeast Philly.
Kelly, who interviewed with the Eagles on Jan. 5, announced one day later that he was returning to coach at the University of Oregon.
At some point in the last couple days, he changed his mind.
Kelly was asked standing near the corner of Grant and Academy before riding down to the NovaCare Complex when he was asked what the Eagles did to change his mind.
They didn't, he said. I was sold on the Eagles the first time I met them. It was my ties to Oregon is what it was. It was a people deal.
I have great players there, unbelievable coaching staff and that's what made it hard, because it was a human decision. But the Eagles, I mean the Eagles are the Eagles. This is the NFL.
Kelly spent the last six years in Eugene, the last four as head coach after two years as offensive coordinator.
It was really tough to leave, he said. I left a special, special place. That's what probably took me so long to make a decision.
The challenge is what I was excited about. That's why I came. It's a great city. It's an iconic franchise. It's got an unbelievable owner Jeff Lurie. But I left some great people back at Oregon and that was the tough part."
Kelly is the first person to coach the Eagles with no NFL playing or coaching experience since Bert Bell in 1936.
"My dream is to just win, and this was the best opportunity for me to win, he said. I never thought a long time ago that I was going to be a coach in the NFL, but I'm excited about the opportunity.
E-mail Reuben Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.