Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles


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.”

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Maple Leafs RW P.A. Parenteau?

2016 Flyers free-agent fit: Maple Leafs RW P.A. Parenteau?

Each day from now until July 1, the day NHL free agency begins, producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the league’s top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.

P.A. Parenteau, right wing

Age: 33
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
Last team: Toronto Maple Leafs
2015-16 cap hit: $1.5 million

Scouting report
Parenteau was drafted with the 264th overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks back when the draft went nine rounds and he's enjoyed a relatively productive career.

The 6-foot right winger has played eight seasons with five different teams, with Toronto being his last club. His most successful seasons came in 2010-11 and 2011-12 with the Islanders.

During the '11-12 campaign, Parenteau set career highs in assists (49) and points (67). He used that season to cash in during free agency, signing a four-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche, but he never found much success out in Colorado.

Parenteau spent two seasons with the Avalanche, playing in all 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and 55 games in 2013-14. He registered 76 points in two seasons with Colorado before being traded to the Montreal Canadiens in June 2014.

In Montreal, he was hindered by injuries and found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion. In 56 games with the Habs, Parenteau had eight goals and 22 points.

Last summer, he inked a one-year deal with the rebuilding Maple Leafs and enjoyed his best season since 2012-13, his first in Colorado. Parenteau netted 20 markers, tying a career high, and 41 points in 77 games with Toronto last season.

I wouldn't be opposed to bringing in Parenteau at the right price, but he's not a great fit.

He made an affordable $1.5 million last season and scored 20 goals again. If the Flyers are looking for a scoring winger on the cheap, he could be an option.

The problem with Parenteau is, he's easy to knock off the puck and is a one-dimensional player. That doesn't sound like he would get along with head coach Dave Hakstol.

Parenteau is a proven playmaker who's produced points at this level. He could help on the power play and when he has the puck, he controls it well.

It depends on how much general manager Ron Hextall is willing to pay for scoring. If he wants a more complete player, Parenteau is not the answer.

But if he wants to bring in a veteran on a one- or two-year contract with a cap hit under $2 million, then Parenteau could be attractive.

Ultimately, I don't see Parenteau signing with the orange and black.

Today's Lineup: Odubel Herrera back in center, leading off against Giants

Today's Lineup: Odubel Herrera back in center, leading off against Giants

With the Phillies looking for their first series win since May 16-18, Pete Mackanin has Odubel Herrera back in the leadoff spot after giving the centerfielder the night off Saturday.

While Herrera continues to be the Phillies' best hitter, the second-year outfielder has been sloppy in the field. Through 73 games this season, Herrera has committed seven errors.

Before Saturday's 3-2 win over the Giants, Herrera was seen taking fly balls in right field off the bat of outfield instructor Juan Samuel (see story). For now, he's staying in center.

Herrera leads the Phillies with a .296 average with seven home runs and 26 RBIs this season, but he's hitting just .245 in June.

On Sunday, he'll face Johnny Cueto (11-1, 2.06) and the Giants.

Here's the full Phillies lineup:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Peter Bourjos, RF
3. Tommy Joseph, 1B
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Cody Asche, LF
6. Carlos Ruiz, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
9. Aaron Nola, P

For more on today's game, check out Steven Tydings' game notes

Ron Hextall 'shocked' Flyers' 1st 4 draft picks were available

Ron Hextall 'shocked' Flyers' 1st 4 draft picks were available

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Most times, it takes several years to properly gauge whether an NHL club had a good, bad or even great draft.
Yet even Ron Hextall admitted after this year’s draft ended Saturday that it would difficult to think the Flyers' top two picks this weekend — forwards German Rubtsov and Pascal Laberge — measure up equally to last year’s top two, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny.
“We were [No.] 7 last year and now 18 to 22,” the Flyers' general manager said. “Given where we were at, we did really well. The first four guys — shocked they were there that deep. We thought maybe two of three we get or one for sure.
“So we were happy with our whole draft. I am not focusing on our top four guys … you are kind of holding your breath and those two guys were there. We felt we did pretty well.”
Hextall’s goal was to stock up on bigger, more skilled forwards, which the organization is sorely lacking.
The Flyers went in with 11 picks, flipped one for a pick next year and came away with seven forwards, two defensemen and a goalie. They added size and skill, but they didn’t pluck a pure goal scorer.
Rubstov is an all-around center. He’s not Kieffer Bellows, a 50-goal left winger the Flyers should have taken. Both Hextall and Chris Pryor, the club’s director of scouting, said going into the draft that “all Bellows does is score goals.”
Exactly. He’s one-dimensional.
And goal scoring is the one dimension the Flyers desperately needed. All Danny Briere did was score goals, as well. Where does it say every forward on your team has to be a complete, two-way player?
That’s why Hextall stunned people by trading down from No. 18 to 22, thereby leaving Bellows for the Islanders to select at No. 19.
Time will tell whether the Flyers drop-down trade with Winnipeg was the right move.
Hextall believes the team got everything it wanted in this draft, regardless of how people feel about bypassing Bellows. Rubtsov was ranked the fifth best international skater by NHL Central Registry.
“We wanted speed, we wanted size,” Hextall said. “We wanted skill. Obviously, it’s not in every player. But we feel like we got all three elements. We had enough picks.
“It was a lot easier to zero in on. Some of it is combinations like Laberge and Rubtsov and [Wade] Allison. Big guys. Good skaters with speed and skill. We’re excited. Excited about the draft. I say it every year.”
The top four Hextall referenced were Rubtsov, plus his three picks in the second round. Laberge, taken at No. 36, is a 6-foot-1 center/winger who overcame personal tragedy to become a mentally-tough, top U-18 prospect at the world juniors.
Allison, taken at No. 52, is a 6-2 right wing, who had 25 goals in 56 games for Tri-City in the USHL. He’s enrolled at Western Michigan University for the fall.
Carter Hart, taken before him at No. 48, was the Flyers' lone goalie selection. He’s 6-1. Central Registry had him ranked second among North American goalies and he ended up being the first goalie taken in the draft.
Hart played in 63 of his club’s 72 games — the Everett Silvertips of the WHL — with a 2.14 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Hextall said he envisions him as a No. 1 goaltender in the near future. 
Every club tries to locate a sleeper and the Flyers think they might have found one with their last pick. Defenseman David Bernhardt, taken in the seventh round at 199, played for Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League.
European scout Joakim Grundberg spotted him.
“Those kids in the back part of your draft, there are certain elements to their game you grab onto and certain things they need to get better at,” Pryor said.
“Whether it be getting stronger or a little more consistent. Some of those kids at the back part of our draft, our guys have seen a lot of those guys and usually have a real, good feel for them.
“Sometimes those kids slide back a bit and you grab onto them. Like the Bernhardt kid. Joakim saw a lot of him. You know there are some inconsistencies there, but a lot there to like. The Swedes invited him to their Under 20 camp this summer. They think there is something there.”
In a few years, the Flyers should find out if their hunch paid off.
Free agency
It opens on Friday — July 1. The interview period has begun and Hextall said he might sit down with a few people.
Hextall again emphasized that given he still has not re-signed some of his own key players, such as Brayden Schenn and Ryan White, he has salary cap restraints. He was unable to move any veteran players at this draft to create cap space.
Schenn, who had a breakout season (26 goals, 59 points) should get close to $5 million even though he is restricted. The Flyers have less than $12 million cap space. When it’s all said and done, they might have just $6 million left and Hextall wants at least $2 million reserve on his cap.
Barring moving salary via a trade that implies the most the Flyers can spend in free agency is $4 million on a top nine forward.
“If we can add someone for the right term and right price, we’ll do it,” Hextall said.