Forget the future, Chip Kelly is ready to win now

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Forget the future, Chip Kelly is ready to win now

July 20, 2013, 9:00 am
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Eagles first-year head coach Chip Kelly says his "job is to win right now." (AP)

Why won’t Chip Kelly be strong-armed into making an early quarterback decision? For the same reason he won’t lower standards for his first year as head coach. For the same reason he’s conducting competitions at every position instead of gunning for the highest draft pick.

The reason is you. The Eagles fan. The paying customer. The diehard who has waited decade upon decade to see the franchise deliver its first Lombardi Trophy.

“My job is to win right now,” Kelly said. “How do you think I’d be received in Philly if I told them we were going to write this year off? Those people that are waving to me on the streets right now? That ain’t going to happen.

“But that’s never been my mentality, either. We’re not writing anything off. We’re going out there to compete and see how it falls, but that’s never been our mentality. I don’t think anyone on our staff, anyone in our locker room ... you want to talk about our players buying in? If I went in the locker room and said, ‘This is going to be a really good year for us to get ready for the following year,’ that’s not going to work.

“No one has a mindset like that. So our decision isn’t based upon what is the future two years down the road, three years down the road. I don’t think that far.”

When he met with the media for the first time after hiring Kelly to replace Andy Reid after 14 years, team chairman Jeffrey Lurie touted his new coach’s reputation as a program builder, someone whom -- like Reid did, ironically -- would seize the franchise and assert total control from top to bottom.

To build from the ground up, Kelly and the front office immediately set out to reshape much of the roster that had produced back-to-back seasons outside the playoffs and last year’s 4-12 record, the team’s worst mark since 1998.

High-priced, underperforming veterans were slashed from the payroll. New faces were brought in to challenge incumbents. The first draft of the Kelly Era bore the head coach’s fingerprints.

Lurie and Roseman have each admitted that Kelly would need time to instill his program and get the franchise steered back on course, but Kelly, who assembled an astonishing 46-7 ledger at Oregon, doesn’t harbor the belief that he should attack his inaugural season with more patience and lenience than his typical seasons at Oregon.

At the same time, Kelly understands that legendary NFL coaches have lost more games in one season than he did in four as Oregon’s head coach.

“Every day you go out there you don’t think, ‘Hey, we’re going to win 46 out of 53,’” he said. “It’s a competition every single day, so I don’t think that way, that, hey, I’m not used to losing. We’ve got the utmost respect for whoever we’re going to compete against.

“I know it’s extremely difficult to win in this league. You just look at everybody’s record over the history of the game. It is a different game from that standpoint. But that’s just part of it. That’s the challenge. You look at it and kind of embrace it. You’re excited about it.”

Kelly has already implemented practice habits and playbook wrinkles that are considered unconventional by league standards,  causing skeptics to question whether a career college coach can successfully transition his program into the professional ranks.

Reid and his staff members were infamous for burning the midnight oil at the NovaCare Complex, sleeping in offices after spending countless hours poring through game tape and scouting reports.

Kelly, who asks his players to get between eight and 10 hours of sleep per night to reach peak athletic performance, laughed at the idea of breaking for shut-eye on the second floor at NovaCare.

“That’s silly,” he said. “I don’t know anybody that watches film ’till 3 in the morning.”

One of the benefits of his new job is the time saved without the responsibility of recruiting, time Kelly said is spent on “all football.” He has more minutes devoted to game planning, scouting and season preparation instead of traveling the countryside to sell his program on high school standouts.

Just to do an hour-long interview with reporters in June, Kelly said he broke from studying the Redskins’ third-down tendencies.

“It’s a lot more preparation from a football standpoint,” he added.

Although Kelly’s supporters often cite the coach’s track record of winning without blue-chip recruits, Kelly brushed off the suggestion that he won without upper-echelon athletes in college and could capitalize on lesser-caliber talent in the pros.

But he inherits a franchise trending downward after 12 seasons of mostly playoff-level football, a team that hasn’t made the postseason in two years after going to the conference championship or Super Bowl five times in an eight-year span.

He has no clear No. 1 quarterback and an overhauled defense making an uneasy scheme adjustment and with several question marks in the secondary, on top of an itchy and skeptical fan base awaiting his first impression.

“The fans in Philly tell you a lot of things,” said Kelly, who grew up outside Boston, a city with a similarly passionate sports climate. “It’s a very interesting town. They’ve been great. It’s obvious they’re extremely passionate about the Eagles. That’s evident no matter where you go. It’s been awesome. But we haven’t played a game yet either, so that could change.”

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