“It’s funny, I’ve been around Coach Kelly for five years and I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and just talked with him,” said wide receiver Will Murphy, who played for Kelly at the University of Oregon.
No time to talk. There’s always another drill. Always more film. Always something new to install. There’s a pedal-to-the-metal rhythm that dominates everything around the Eagles’ complex, where Kelly is trying to turn around a 4-12 football team and do it quickly. Even at practice, it’s barely football they’re playing; there’s no huddling, no tackling, no breaks.
“Fastball,” said tackle Jason Peters, a 10-year veteran. “That’s all I can say, fastball. Come watch us on Sundays, and it’s going to be definitely different.”
But what exactly it will look like — even Kelly isn’t certain. The offense will depend largely on the quarterback, one who Kelly isn’t ready to anoint. The defense will depend largely on how quickly players adapt. And the roster will depend on who can forget everything they’ve ever known and fully digest Kelly’s vision.
“Like everything we’re doing, it’s got to be a personnel-driven deal,” Kelly said. “Let’s play to their strengths. We keep finding out every day when we get on the field what they do really well.”
Newly retired quarterback Donovan McNabb stopped by the team’s first full practice of training camp over the weekend. Along with about 30,000 fans at Lincoln Financial Field, he watched the pieces whirl in front of him and tried to decipher Kelly’s exact plan. His verdict?
“I don’t know what they’re doing. I couldn’t tell you,” McNabb said. “I’m sure Chip has a better understanding.”
‘A hard transition’
“He does not care about what the outside world thinks,” said a veteran lineman. “He’s going to run his ship the way he sees fit to run it.”
“With all due respect to what we had last year, it’s just a different approach from the head guy all the way down to the coordinators,” said a veteran safety.
“He’s all business,” said a rookie defensive end. “You could tell he’s got a job and he’s getting after it.”
That’s what players said at the time about Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and Nick Saban — a small part of a long list of college coaches who tried to force their unique systems on the NFL and found that square pegs don’t always fit into round holes.
Time will tell whether Kelly’s methods, which were good enough for a 46-7 record in four seasons at Oregon and have buoyed hopes around Philadelphia, will work at the professional level. The early reviews in training camp have been positive even if it requires a painfully long learning curve for nearly everyone in green.