Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

Kelly's Oregon group brings familiarity to Eagles

February 15, 2013, 7:00 am
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Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro is one of five coaches that Chip Kelly brought to the Eagles with him from Oregon. (USA Today Images)

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.”

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