Chip Kelly‘s not a racist, he’s a Reidist.
I wish I could take credit for that perfectly stated little gem, but alas those words do not belong to me. I’m not quite sure who first said them, but I first read them in an article on NJ.com, which was in fact titled, “Chip Kelly is not a racist; he’s a Reidist.” The author, Mark Eckel, went on to mention in his piece, how Kelly’s choice of players has nothing to do with the color of their skin or the level of their talent, but that it is solely based on players he think can help this team win in this system. As it turns out, many Andy Reid holdovers according to the article, just didn’t fit that bill.
In fact as the roster stands today, only 13 players for the Philadelphia Eagles played more than one season under Reid. Of these who were handpicked by Kelly to stay, only two are skill players in WR Riley Cooper and TE Brent Celek, three are on the offensive line, seven, all of whom are black, remain on defense and one is long snapper Jon Dorenbos, who I shall now take this moment to give a shout out to for being the longest tenured Eagle as he will be entering his 10th year with the team in the 2015-16 season.
There are no Reid quarterbacks, no Reid running backs and only the two Reid weapons. And even then, Cooper is not a high volume pass catcher and under Kelly, the nine-year veteran Celek hasn’t been either. In fact, with Zach Ertz emerging as the top tight end on the roster, one has to wonder if Celek, who last year had his lowest receiving totals since 2008, is still around solely because he is a great run-blocker. As for the defensive holdouts, they were kept because they fit the mold of what Kelly was looking for in his defense.
To steal a line from WWE’s Paul Heyman who designated certain wrestlers as ‘Paul Heyman guys,’ because they exuded qualities he looked for in his clients, the players Kelly kept are quite simply, ‘Chip Kelly guys.’ They fit his scheme, they fit his playbook, they fit his locker room but most importantly, they fit his culture, which to Kelly is paramount.
Recognized as one of the best minds in the game, when Kelly left college to come to the NFL, culture was one of the things he brought with him. Just as important as drafting the right players and making the right trades was establishing the right culture that the players, coaches, fans and the city itself could aspire to. Kelly’s vigor and his reluctance to accept ‘just because’ as an answer or excuse, led to him being able to build one of the most successful programs in college over the past five years. He brought that same intensity, focus and ‘Win the Day’ mentality to the Eagles where he has truly changed the way an NFL team has been known to operate.
A lot of this has to do with the culture he has fostered and the players who have helped him do so. Kelly is very much the coach who wants players who want to play for him. Those who don’t, well, it’s a good bet they didn’t make the cut. Kelly has developed nutritional programs with his players, more effective practice schedules, a commitment to personal ownership and much more. And you can tell when you listen to Kelly or any of his players speak. The ones that are still here are here for a reason. They are here because they get that culture, they want to be a part of it. They understand and appreciate it for the impact Kelly hopes it will have. The players that are still here respect their coach. They trust that he knows what he is doing and that he is what is best for the team.
And culture aside, the players who are still here, fit his prototype.
Ultimately, that all makes sense. Kelly is the head coach. He makes the personnel decisions. Why wouldn’t he want to bring in players who he knows he can mold, players who fit his idea of what a Philadelphia Eagle ought to be? That’s why he reached down the board to grab Nelson Agholor. That’s why he traded with the Detroit Lions when Eric Rowe was still available. That’s why Sam Bradford is here and Nick Foles isn’t. It’s why DeMarco Murray is replacing LeSean McCoy and why Jordan Matthews was drafted in 2014 to replace DeSean Jackson.
Every player on this team is a ‘Chip Kelly guy’ and that’s more than most coaches can probably say. He has molded the roster to what he wants and whether in the end that is to his downfall or his success will be on him. But that’s just how he likes it and just what he wants from himself, his staff and his team – personal accountability.
There is a reason to worry however because as much as Kelly’s culture led to a fine run at Oregon, his team never did win the big one. That’s got to be in the back of Eagles’ fans minds when they question if culture and talent can co-exist or if Kelly is sacrificing one for the other.
Whether those two are mutually exclusive remains to be seen but I still contend that what the coach is building is something that is on the right track. He’s brought in great players, clearly has a plan in mind and knows just how to maximize the effort he gets out of his team. He has established something that has the potential to be great. Now we just have to wait and hope that Kelly is right, and that culture does in fact, “win football.”