Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

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Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

They know exactly what every glance means, every hand gesture, every silent stare.

They speak Chip Kelly’s language, and they know what he wants before he even says anything.

They’re Kelly’s Oregon guys, and they’re a big part of his first NFL coaching staff.

“It was one piece of the puzzle you didn’t have to try to figure out,” said Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, who spent the last four years in the same role under Kelly at the University of Oregon. “They had been on a four-year interview with us, so it was just one piece of the puzzle that you didn’t have to concern yourself with.”

Kelly brought five coaches with him from Eugene: Azzinaro, assistant defensive line coach Erik Chinander, assistant special teams coach Matt Harper, assistant defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and assistant offensive line coach Greg Austin.

Harper, Azzinaro and Lyght were with Kelly his entire four-year tenure as head coach at Oregon. Chinander and Austin came to Eugene a year later.

Kelly said he knew as soon as he decided to take the Eagles’ job that he wanted to bring a bunch of guys with him to Philly.

“That was really important to me to get a bunch of guys in here that understood me and really kind of built it from the bottom up,” he said. “And Eric and Todd [Lyght], Matt Harper and Greg Austin are guys that are young coaches at Oregon that have been with me a couple of years and understood how I wanted things done and what my vision was.

“I knew I was going to hire coordinators that were NFL guys that haven't had the opportunity to work with me before. I have a tendency to talk really fast and I want things to be efficient. But I also know that I may forget to say something, and Pat Shurmur can go to Greg Austin and say, ‘What did he mean by that?’ Or the same thing with Dave Fipp and Matt Harper for those young guys.

“Now I can put together guys with NFL experience coming here, and those guys can say, ‘This is what coach means, this is how we operate.’”

And the Eagles will operate differently than they ever have before.

Kelly likes to practice at warp speed -- the same way he wants to play -- and that will be an adjustment not just for the players but for the coaches who haven’t worked under Kelly before.

“We know exactly what type of tempo he wants to run at practice, and we’ll be able to get everything moving exactly the way he wants it,” said Lyght, the former All-Pro cornerback with the Rams.

“The key for us is going to be get a lot of reps at practice and go at a high tempo. We know exactly the type of tempo that he wants and that way we can help bring the other coaches along and get them up to speed.

“I think having us here gives Chip a good foundation for exactly what he wants. Chip has a great vision for this program and where he wants it to go, and we want to develop this program into a championship-caliber team that can compete and win every time that we step on the field.

“The guys he brought with him, they’re exceptional coaches who know exactly what coach Kelly wants.”

Other than Azzinaro, the four other Oregon coaches are all assistants under a veteran position coach -- Chinander under Azzinaro, Harper under special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, Austin under offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and Lyght under secondary coach John Lovett.

So they get the opportunity to continue to learn their craft, while at the same time helping Kelly transition from college to the pros.

“Chip is a smart guy, a mentor to me and all the guys he brought with him and all the guys he didn’t,” Austin said. “We all understand the things that made us successful at Oregon, and we’re all here to help him replicate that success here.”

Very few people have won a Super Bowl as a head coach without ever having played or coached in the NFL. Jimmie Johnson did it in Dallas, and then Barry Switzer did it with Johnson’s guys, but that’s it.

It’s a short list.

Whether Kelly’s system will translate to the NFL remains to be seen, but guys like Azzinaro, Lyght, Harper, Chinander and Austin have been part of one of the most successful college programs in recent years, and Kelly believes they can duplicate that success 2,900 miles to the east.

“Those guys are outstanding coaches and they're going to be rising stars in this profession,” Kelly said. “They're smart, they're intelligent. I don't have to worry about what time you're supposed to be in the office, because we all challenge each other and compete with each other to who can get in first in the morning and who can leave last.

“When you have to worry about guys doing clock watching, you hired the wrong guys, and I didn't with those guys.”

Kelly went 46-7 in four years at Oregon, including 36-4 the last three years with Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl wins. All seven of those losses came to nationally-ranked teams.

These guys are used to winning and understand exactly what’s made Kelly’s program work. They’re here to help him do it again.

“Those guys have coached in a lot of big football games,” said Azzinaro, who also carries the assistant head coach title. “It’s nice to have some guarantees in life, and those guys are guarantees.”

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-ah, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT – The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.