PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chip Kelly’s unique way of doing things has been the right formula for the Philadelphia Eagles.
When Kelly arrived in Philadelphia from Oregon, he didn’t have to sell the team on his system. Players quickly bought into Kelly’s unconventional approach, embracing his sports science ideas, up-tempo offense and Tuesday practices.
The Eagles (6-5) are leading the NFC East going into a bye and have positioned themselves for a worst-to-first one-year turnaround in a mediocre division.
“When he first walked through the door, just off of what he established at Oregon, a lot of guys respected him and were very excited,” star wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. “It was interesting. For a group of men who had gone through a tough year last year, we were able to come in and almost erase everything.
“We had a new coach and a new guy calling shots. We had to kind of start from scratch. We had to learn a new system and new rules, and everything that he wanted to do. So far, everybody has accepted their role. We’ve done what we need to do as professionals — to handle our jobs and do what he’s asking us to do. Right now, you’re seeing guys that will go out there and play for a guy who is asking us to do what he wants to do.”
Kelly couldn’t be more different than former coach Andy Reid, who did everything except win a Super Bowl in 14 seasons in Philadelphia. They have opposite personalities and contrasting styles.
Reid believed in tough, grueling training camps in which players tackled to the ground for several days. Kelly ran fast-paced practices that built cardiovascular conditioning, but didn’t have live tackling sessions.
Reid regularly gave the team off Mondays and Tuesdays during the season, held light Friday sessions and walkthroughs on Saturday. Kelly runs a regular practice on Tuesdays, slows things down with a walkthrough Fridays and has a full special teams practice on Saturdays.
Reid didn’t emphasize nutrition. The team had “Taco Tuesdays” and “Fast-food Fridays” when he was here. Kelly had signs listing the four major food groups posted in the team cafeteria and stresses the value of a proper diet. He even has staff make personalized protein shakes and place them on tables for players after practice.
Kelly also wants his players to get eight to 10 hours of sleep every night and stretch before going to bed. For many players, it’s been a total lifestyle change. It’s helped them stay healthy and feel fresh 11 weeks into the season.
Of course, whatever Reid is doing in Kansas City is also working. The Chiefs are 9-1 after going 2-14 last year.
“It’s a well-thought-out research plan,” Kelly said. “It’s not just: ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ So it’s a two-way street in terms of they have to buy into it and they have done an unbelievable job buying into it because we’re not with them 24/7, nor should we be with them 24/7. We’ve got a bunch of guys that want to be great at what they do. They understand not only what they do here during the day, but what they’re not doing here during the day has a great effect on you being able to respond on Sundays. And they’ve bought into that, and I think that’s a credit to those guys.”
Then there’s Kelly’s offensive philosophy. The hurry-up, don’t-stop-for-a-breather approach was the talk of the NFL after an impressive debut at Washington in Week 1. The Eagles were on a record-setting pace through six weeks before injuries to quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles slowed them down. But Foles has been outstanding since returning from a concussion and the offense is back on track.
LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, already has surpassed 1,000 yards. Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, is having a career year with 58 catches for 985 yards and seven TDs. Even Riley Cooper has developed into a threat with 592 yards receiving and seven TDs. Foles has 16 touchdown passes, zero interceptions and an NFL-best 128.0 passer rating.
“I just really credit the offensive scheme,” Jackson said. “Chip is doing a great job with not only myself, but with a lot of guys on the team. He’s putting us in positions to go out there and be successful. The biggest thing is that he’s creative in the play calling. He knows how to get mismatches and how to move guys around.”
Foles is quite fond of his coach, even though Kelly still won’t make him the No. 1 quarterback despite his NFL record-tying seven TDs in Week 9 and 4-1 record as the starter.
“I like Chip a lot,” Foles said. “He’s a great head coach and he’s a great person. That’s what I really respect about Chip, not only is he a great coach, but he brings a lot to the table in life when he talks to us. Every time that he speaks to us, there’s something great or a great message. You leave his meetings when he talks to you thinking about what he just said, and when you have a head coach that does that, it’s pretty special and you go out there and play for him.”
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