PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly’s first season in the NFL lasted longer than most people expected and ended sooner than Kelly and his Philadelphia Eagles hoped.
Two days after a 26-24 playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, Kelly said he understood why many people wondered if the approach that worked at Oregon would work in the NFL. He wondered himself.
"I wasn't confident," Kelly said Monday. "I had a system and a plan that we were going to go in, but I didn't know what the outcome was going to be until it was all finished. But I think we played sound fundamental football, and I think that's what we preach on a daily basis to our players. I think it's still a game of 11-on-11, and I think a lot of things we do schematically match up 11-on-11 and it's a fundamental game and I think that's what our coaches teach."
When asked about his offense in particular, Kelly took exception to the term.
"It's not my offense," Kelly said. "It's the Philadelphia Eagles' offense, and it was put together by a bunch of guys on our staff that are really smart that played to our players' strengths, and that's what it's all about. If we have a different set of players, then the offense would look different. This offense didn't look like it looked when it was at Oregon, but I'm not at Oregon. Our offense at Oregon looked different every year depending on the personnel we had."
Rookie quarterback Matt Barkley watched that Oregon offense from the sideline during his four seasons at Southern Cal.
"It’s different than it was at Oregon," Barkley said. "We have a lot more of a West Coast influence from [offensive coordinator] Pat Shurmur and our quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, who have influenced the passing game. The running game remains, for the most part, the same, but it’s still explosive."
The next phase of Kelly’s tenure will be fascinating. He inherited most of his offensive players from Andy Reid’s tenure and adapted his offense around them.
"It's a personnel driven sport," Kelly said. That’s what football is all about, is finding out what your players are and then maximizing their abilities."
But this offseason provides Kelly another opportunity to add players whose skills and physical attributes are more in line with what he wants to do offensively. After tailoring the system to the roster, he will gradually tailor the roster to the system.
"We're at a different level now," Kelly said. "Literally, last year at this time I wasn't here. I wasn't an employee of the Philadelphia Eagles. Everything was a first time thing for us. It was our first minicamp, our first OTA, our first phase 1, our first free agency, our first draft. Now that we've got at least a year of experience, it'll be a little bit different here in the offseason. I think we have laid a foundation, but we've got a whole lot of work to do to build on it."