Eagle Eye: Needs on offense
Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles' six-win improvement from last season ties the largest in franchise history. (USA Today Images)
A year ago today, Chip Kelly had never met LeSean McCoy or Michael Vick, he had never set foot in the NovaCare Complex, he hadn’t even decided whether to leave the University of Oregon.
A year ago today, Kelly had his first interview with the Eagles for their head coaching vacancy, but it wasn’t for another 10 days that Kelly decided to accept their offer, it wasn’t for another month that he finalized his coaching staff and it wasn’t for another three months that he actually met his team.
So when Chip Kelly looks at the upcoming offseason, he feels like he’s got a huge head start on last year.
“We're at a different level now,” Kelly said Monday, two days after his first season as an NFL coach ended with a playoff loss to the Saints. “Literally, last year at this time I wasn't here. I wasn't an employee of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“When I did get the job on Jan. 16, got to put a staff together, and we spent a lot of time, and that was extremely important to me, finding the right fit and putting all those guys in place, and then … at the same time we're looking at free agency, put in offensive and defensive and special teams systems once we got our staff completed, and then preparing for our first offseason with our players, and what are we going to teach them on Day 1 when we get here on April 1.
“Everything was a first-time thing for us. It was our first minicamp, our first OTA, our first phase 1 [of offseason workouts], our first free agency, our first draft. All those things are different. Now that we've got at least a year of experience it'll be a little bit different here in the offseason. We're all not living in a hotel and spending basically 20 hours a day here because we've got nowhere else to go. There's a lot of differences to it.
“I think for a first-year standpoint, I think we have laid a foundation, but we've got a whole lot of work to do.”
The Eagles went 10-6 under Kelly and won the NFC East before the team’s fifth consecutive season without a postseason win ended.
Kelly is in a very strong position because the Eagles have 10 offensive starters and 10 defensive starters under contract. So if he and general manager Howie Roseman want to keep this nucleus together -- and they will -- it will be possible.
Asked what he was most impressed with from the 2013 Eagles, Kelly said, “I think the chemistry of this team. I think how our staff and our players interact and how receptive these guys are.
“That was a big unknown for me, not knowing what it was going to be like in the National Football League. … The only thing that's disappointing is we're still not playing right now because it's an exciting group to be around.
“There's an energy around this group of guys, and that's hopefully in Year 1 if this is what we can do, we can learn to build upon this.”
Another big advantage for Kelly is that unlike last year, when he had no film of his players running his offense or Bill Davis' defense, this year he has 17 games worth of tape to study.
So the process to determine next year’s roster can be more thorough and more extensive than a year ago.
“I think you have to be thorough in your evaluations, and it's not just height, weight, speed, this guy can do this from a physical standpoint,” he said. “There's so many different factors that ultimately impact why a person is successful and not successful.
“There's a lot of really good athletes out there that don't maximize their abilities because of maybe an intangible quality. What's their passion for the game? How much are they willing to learn? How much are they willing to sacrifice? Not what are they willing to give, sometimes what are they willing to give up.
“So there's a lot involved in that process, and I just feel because we're not putting together a staff, we're not putting in new systems, we can spend a little bit more time on the personnel aspect of things, and our personnel department has done a great job of us articulating what we're really, truly looking for and then those guys [can go] out and find it.”