Eagles hire Chip Kelly as head coach

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Eagles hire Chip Kelly as head coach

In a stunning reversal, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who withdrew from the Eagles head coaching search on Jan. 6 after interviewing and announced he was returning to Oregon, has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Eagles, the team announced Wednesday. He'll be introduced in a press conference Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Kelly, 49, replaces Andy Reid, fired Dec. 31 after 14 seasons.

Kelly had a 46-7 record in four seasons as head coach at Oregon after serving two years as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. He has no NFL playing or coaching experience.

Kelly and Penn State coach Bill OBrien quickly emerged as the Eagles' top candidates to replace Reid, and Kelly was hotly pursued by both the Eagles and the Browns, led by estranged former team president Joe Banner, before announcing he was returning to Eugene.

But a league source told CSNPhilly.coms Geoff Mosher that the Eagles and Kelly maintained contact in the coming days and that talks between the two sides heated up in the 24 to 36 hours preceding Wednesdays bombshell announcement.

After he had reentered the mix Kelly again became the organizations top choice, ahead of Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who would have been offered the job if Kelly had remained out of the picture, the source said.

We were that impressed with Bradley, the source added.

The Eagles found out about Kellys wavering commitment just two days after Oregons athletic director Rob Mullens had announced Kellys intention to return for a fifth season and three days after the search committee of owner Jeffrey Lurie, team president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman met with Kelly for nine hours at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The committee had traveled to Nashville last Tuesday to meet with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, another candidate for the job, at a coaches convention. There they heard from another coach close to Kelly that Kelly still harbored NFL coaching aspirations.

Roseman exchanged text messages with Kelly and his agent, David Dunn, and Lurie soon became more involved in talks until a deal was hammered out. When the search started, the Eagles were skeptical that they would be able to lure Kelly away from Oregon.

They didnt think all along that Kelly would leave, the source said. But we were still going to give our best shot.

By landing Kelly, the Eagles didn't just add one of the most coveted coaches on any level, they effectively ended speculation that their franchise was not an attractive one for top coaching candidates.

Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles, Lurie said. He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team.

Asked if his up-tempo spread offense can work in the NFL, Kelly admitted recently he doesnt know.

I don't think anybody knows any answers until someone does it, he said. The Washington Redskins are doing a pretty good job. The kid at Carolina Cam Newton has done a pretty good job. But it depends. I don't know. I've never coached in that league. I visited practices and talked to people about it.

The one thing about that, about everything, you have to have good players. Sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated. We don't play the game. I think college football is a personneldriven game, so is the NFL. Your job as a coach very simply is to put your players in positions to make plays, get out of the way and go make them."

Former Oregon running back LaMichael James, now with the 49ers, is certain Kelly's system will succeed in the pros.

One hundred percent, yes, James told CSNBayArea recently. I dont think anything can stop that offense NFL, college or high school, no matter what it is. I think Washington runs a similar offense, and I like the way they do their things, too. I think it would be kind of similar to that, I think a little faster though.

I think he can be one of the best coaches in the NFL. I respect him, hes a super-great coach, and thats the only thing I can say about him. Hes just great.

The Eagles were 4-12 this year after an 8-8 season in 2011. They havent won a playoff game since 2008 and last reached the Super Bowl in 2004, losing to the Patriots.

Kelly is the first person to become head coach of the Eagles without ever having played or coached in the NFL since Bert Bell, who founded the franchise in 1933 and was head coach from 1936 to 1941, compiling a record of 10-46-2.

Dick Vermeil went from UCLA to the Eagles after the 1975 season, but he had spent time previously in the NFL, as an assistant under George Allen with the Rams.

After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, Kelly began his coaching career at Columbia as defensive backs and special teams coach for the freshman team in 1990. He spent two years at Columbia, one back at UNH, one at Johns Hopkins and then 1994 through 2006 back at his alma mater in Concord, N.H., including 1999 through 2006 as offensive coordinator.

Bellotti brought him to Eugene in 2007, where he spent the last six seasons.

Oregon went 12-1, 12-2 and 12-1 the last three years, and the teams wide-open, innovative passing attack piled up points in a hurry and made Kelly one of the most highly sought-after college coaches in recent years.

Some skeptics believe Kellys high-octane offense wont work in the NFL because defenses are so much more complex than in college and because defensive players are so much faster that the offense loses its advantage.

But Kelly said if he coached in the NFL, he would adapt his offense accordingly.

There's a lot of ways to play football, he said. Trends go one way and the other. if you weren't in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else.

Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system. Anything you do has to be personnel driven. You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There's a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have? The key is making sure what you're doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.

Kellys hiring ends a wild 2-week coaching search that involved 11 candidates, including Bradley, who met with team brass for a second time on Tuesday.

Kelly is the third head coach hired by Lurie, who bought the Eagles from Norman Braman in 1994. The first two, Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid, were both named NFL Coach of the Year at least once.

Lurie hired Rhodes to replace Rich Kotite after the Eagles lost their last seven games in 1994, and he hired Reid after the Eagles went 3-13 in Rhodes last season, 1998.

The Eagles reached the playoffs in nine of Reids first 12 years but missed the postseason the last two years. Since late in 2010, they are 12-23.

CSNPhilly.com Eagles insider Geoff Mosher contributed to this report.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

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Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

Brian Dawkins, one of the most beloved Eagles off all time and a guy who clearly still hits the gym, was in Philadelphia on Thursday and was spotted at the NovaCare Complex to watch the team practice.

As you can see, Dawkins still has biceps as big as your waist. The team sharing a simple photo of Dawkins got fans all in a tizzy.

Was it a coincidence that Weapon X appeared just days before "X-Men: Apocalypse" is set to hit theaters? Only he knows.

For his part, Dawkins acknowledged that it's better to stay in shape than become a fat old man.

 

Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

In the final installment of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Today, we begin with R.J. Umberger.

R.J. Umberger
2015-16 stats: 39 GP, 2 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.6 mm cap hit

Dougherty: At the end-of-the-season media availability, Umberger said he expects to be bought out. And he will, unless general manager Ron Hextall can work some magic. He’s a goner.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Umberger expects to be bought out. It seems imminent at this point. Either way, the Flyers need to move on from Umberger.

Verdict: GO

Paone: To his credit, Umberger was a total pro as he went through his immense struggles this season. But to say the writing is on the wall for Umberger in Philadelphia is an understatement. It's like he sees a skywriter spelling it out in the clouds above him everywhere he goes. He even said himself that he expects the final year of his contract to be bought out sooner rather than later. His premonition will come true and the Flyers will take the $1.6 million cap hit that comes with it for next season.

Verdict: GO

Chris VandeVelde
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 2 G, 12 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $712,500 cap hit

Dougherty: VandeVelde is a Dave Hakstol disciple. He played for him at North Dakota and he played for him here. He was a cog on the fourth line, playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White all season long. But while VandeVelde kills penalties, he doesn’t do anything else. He has no offensive ability and, simply stated, is an AHL player playing in the NHL. The Flyers want to add scoring and to do that, someone has to go. And VandeVelde should be that guy.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Debating a fourth-liner’s status shouldn’t be one of the harder decisions, but it is in this case. That’s because Dave Hakstol adored his final unit of VandeVelde, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. However, the Flyers need better depth and VandeVelde is super cheap, so sending him to the AHL to clear a roster spot wouldn’t be a stomach-churning move. With a tiny cap hit, even an offseason trade is conceivable.

Verdict: GO

Paone: This is a tougher call than one would think for a role player of VandeVelde's ilk. On one hand, he, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare formed one of the most effective fourth lines in the entire league this season and an effective fourth line can be such a valuable weapon in today's NHL. There's chemistry there that you shouldn't want to mess with. On the other hand, VandeVelde is probably the most expendable and interchangeable of that trio. And with the Flyers needing as many roster spots as they can create, another younger and more effective player may be able to fit in there (Scott Laughton to start, possibly). That's why I lean toward saying VandeVelde won't be with the big club to start the season, despite his longstanding ties to Dave Hakstol. Roster spots are becoming more and more valuable in Philadelphia.

Verdict: GO

Jakub Voracek
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 44 A; Contract: Signed through 2023-24, $8.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: This is a no-brainer. He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer, and that kicks in July 1. He had confidence issues this season and battled injury, but there’s nothing of concern there. He should be healthy and back to his productive self next season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Obviously, this isn’t really a question. What is, though, are Voracek’s health and rebound.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: It's no secret the Flyers' star winger struggled with both production and injury this season, a year removed from his spectacular 81-point campaign that earned him a massive eight-year, $66 million extension. That extension just so happens to kick in this year, by the way. You're crazy if you don't think a motivated Voracek will be back in orange and black next season.

Verdict: STAY

Jordan Weal
2015-16 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Weal was basically a throw-in in the Vinny Lecavalier trade. Los Angeles didn’t want him because there was no room for him on its NHL roster, but the Kings would have lost him for nothing had they placed him on waivers. He came to Philly and didn’t do anything to impress. He’s a restricted free agent. He’ll probably get qualified, but shouldn’t. Let him go.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Ron Hextall knows a lot about Weal. The 24-year-old was often the first player on the ice for extra work before practice. I think there was more than one reason why Weal was included in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings. I say he’s back at a minimum rate but will head to the minors.

Verdict: GO

Paone: What exactly is Weal capable of at the NHL level? That's a really good question and one we don't have an answer to considering his lack of playing time with in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia this season. His injury after becoming a Flyer did him no favors, either. As I mentioned above when talking about VandeVelde, roster spots in Philadelphia are becoming more and more precious as the influx of talented prospects begins. Weal is really going to have to prove himself during camp to earn one of those spots. But, for right now, starting the season with the big club is a hazy picture for him.

Verdict: GO

Ryan White
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 5 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: White is everything the Flyers thought Zac Rinaldo would be. He brings energy, he’s physical and he can even score. He displayed the ability to play on the power play, which is a plus with a player in a fourth-line role. White should be back at least for another season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: White epitomizes what you want. He cares more about the Flyers than money. He’s a terrific teammate willing to do anything. And he’s understanding more and more how to score ugly. A perfect fourth-liner for the Flyers who will be re-signed.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: You want to talk about an almost-perfect fit? That's what White has been with the Flyers over the last season and a half. In 107 games as a Flyer, White has recorded 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. In his first five seasons in the league with Montreal, the 28-year-old forward had just five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 117 games. Even in a mostly fourth-line role, he's made an impact to the point he's earned Hakstol's trust enough to be the net-front presence on the Flyers' second power-play unit. He's a UFA who'll be due a bit of a raise, but White just meshes way too well to not bring back. He knows it, too, saying in his end-of-season media availability that money is necessarily the determining factor in negotiations with the Flyers. He'll be back in his familiar roles next season.

Verdict: STAY

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

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USA Today Sports

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.

Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.

It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.

Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.

Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.

“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.

Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.

“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”

There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.

Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.

“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”

Miss you and your dirt, Chase.

>>After The Slide, Chase Utley returns to New York prepared to face the vitriol of Mets fans [L.A. Times]