The Eagles went through a very exhaustive coaching search this offseason as they looked for someone to fill Andy Reid’s shoes. Their initial target was Chip Kelly, the No. 1 coach available this offseason. After it looked as if Kelly made the decision to return to Oregon, the Eagles expanded their search. But after meeting with a handful of candidates, they came to the conclusion that no one was as good as their initial target and they weren’t going to take no for an answer.
The Eagles went back to Kelly one last time and found a way to bring him to Philadelphia as their new head coach. Mike Bellotti knew the brilliance of Kelly all along. Bellotti, the former Oregon head coach and athletic director, was the one that brought Chip Kelly from New Hampshire to Oregon because he believed in the offensive mastermind. It’s a big leap going from college to the pros without any NFL experience, but Kelly has every quality that teams look for in a head coach and it would be a huge surprise if Kelly wasn’t an enormous success in Philly. Mike Bellotti joined 97.5 the Fanatic in Philadelphia with Bruno and Marks to talk about whether he advised Chip Kelly at all through the process of becoming the Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach, how the news about Kelly being hired by Philly is playing in Oregon, what he saw in Kelly to bring him to Oregon in the first place, the jump Kelly made from New Hampshire to Oregon and how much his lack of NFL experience will hurt him.
If he advised Chip Kelly at all through this process:
“No. We talked after the Fiesta Bowl and he said he pretty much made up his mind and he was pretty stubborn once he made up his mind. I said, ‘You have to watch out though, because they will keep coming after you and those things have a life of their own.’ I think he looked back at it in sort of a buyer’s remorse and the more he got a chance to think about it, you go back to your old job, and the reason he got involved in that to start with is because I think he wanted to be an NFL coach. I think he almost did it a year ago and it was more of a challenge, it was the challenge he really wanted. When he looked like he was going to interview, his body language told me, ‘I’m gone, I’m moving on to the next level.’ I was probably more surprised that he came back. This didn’t surprise me and wasn’t any kind of a shock. In this day and age of college football and NFL football, the portability going either way is really pretty easy.”
How the news is being received in Oregon:
“It’s with quite a bit of shock and dismay because he had made the comment that he was staying, but the reality is I think people, the average fans, just appreciate the fact that Chip was here and did such a great job and he’s getting his dream, which I think is to move on and coach at the NFL level. Everybody is going to be sad for a moment, but I think the reality is that the administration at Oregon has done a great job of reloading that program, not rebuilding it, and having somebody step up — whether it’s a coach from the staff right now, and I think from what I hear Mark Helfrich, if they go internally, would be a candidate and otherwise I think it is a great job. I think a lot of people across the nation, great coaches, will want that job. It will be interesting how they handle the search and that whole process.”
What he saw in Chip Kelly:
“I brought him in as an offensive coordinator. You don’t really look at a person and say, ‘This guy will be a great head coach,’ but as I worked with him for a couple of years, what you see is the detail orientation, the ability to communicate with players and coaches, the ability to recruit, the ability to motivate, the creativity involved with the offense and the understanding of both offense and defense. Chip is a great football coach and he will be successful at any level because football is football. It doesn’t matter if you coach the high school level, the college level or the NFL level. I know people are going to laugh when I say that, but the reality is it’s just coaching ball and it’s really about the Xs and Os and then it is about the people you get. The number of people in the stands don’t affect the game itself, so Chip’s schemes and thought processes on how he is going to attack a defense, who he is going to put on the field and how he is going to make sure they’re successful is what separates him from the average coach.”
On the jump from New Hampshire to Oregon:
“He wasn’t always as involved with that as the other part, the hoopla and all that. He was more about what was happening on the field. He’s a football junkie. He lives, eats, sleeps, drinks football. It’s what he does and what he understands and what motivates him, and I think that’s what I knew would make him a great football coach and a great head coach was because he knows football. He really involves himself and immerses himself in that whole deal and I always say, too, that people should look more to, you look at high school coaches and junior college coaches, you look at Division III and Division II coaches, they do more with less and there are more coaches there that are probably as good as anyone in the nation, but they don’t have the drive or the opportunity to move up. I think you look at Gus Malzahn, I mean there are some high school coaches now that have come to the college level and done a great job and are remaking the game, and it’s nothing extraordinary; it’s the same things that they did at their high-school level. Well, Chip took what he did at the I-AA level to the Division I level and I think he was pretty well known there, but it was just in a small corner of the country — in the northeast there — and then when he got to Oregon obviously his offense sort of exploded on the scene.”
Whether he will be able to have the respect of the players given he is coming from the college level and has no NFL experience:
“That will be the whole deal, but Chip is a guy that has a great relationship with his players and his coaches. He is a no-nonsense guy, he’s got a way to sell his belief to his players and it will be a little more difficult at that level, but I think overall, once they see the wisdom of his ways and you will hear, ‘Keep water in the bamboo,’ it’s going to keep working. It may not show initially that first year, but the reality is you keep water in and it’s going to grow really strong and it’s just going to surprise you. Just beware and be ready for that. I think he will win his players over and ultimately they will win.”