And so, with the Eagles facing a matchup against the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks in four days, with the University of Florida in need of a head football coach and his name already linked to the vacancy, Chip Kelly walked behind a podium Wednesday for a news conference. It began like this:
Q: Chip, have you or your agent been contacted by Florida?
A: Nope. No.
Q: Would you talk to them if they called?
Q: When that stuff comes up, Chip, how do you take that?
A: I laugh. I laugh.
Q: Is it flattering?
A: No, I think it's silly. It's a rumor. It's not the truth. I think things like that are false are silly.
No matter how ridiculous their premise, these questions had to be asked, and Kelly had to answer them. This story is all part of the give-and-take between sports institutions - be they NFL franchises or NCAA athletic departments - and the media. Over the last four years, Florida has gone 28-21 and became an also-ran in the Southeastern Conference before firing Will Muschamp, and it's easy enough for someone affiliated with the program to leak Kelly's name. The Gators gain the good press that accompanies the apparent pursuit of the biggest, boldest name on the market. Someone gets a scoop. It's a routine game, and everyone plays it.
"It was almost predicted that there were rumors they were going to get Chip, especially with the fact they were looking for a high-powered offense," said Eagles rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins, a Florida alumnus. "I never thought anything of it."
He shouldn't have. Kelly's leaving the Eagles makes no sense in any regard - not right now, anyway. Just consider the sequence of events that led him here and that have transpired since.
He led Oregon to a 46-7 record and an appearance in the national championship game. He entertained offers from NFL teams, including the Eagles, then decided to return to Oregon, only to reconsider and take the Eagles job. Since his hiring, the team has won 19 of its 28 regular-season games and a division title and is in first place again this season - all this, and Kelly's influence on the roster has been relatively spare, given the number of key players, particularly on offense, who were already here when he arrived.
And he's going to say goodbye now? After two seasons? With a team that's 9-3 and capable of competing for a championship? Before he's had time either to make more meaningful personnel decisions (e.g. at quarterback) or to allow the players and organization to marinate in his philosophies for a few more years? Come on.
"Our whole mantra around here is, 'Be where your feet are,' and my feet are right here, and that's all we ever talk about," Kelly said. "I can't control what other people think or other people write. I've never been concerned with it, never will be concerned with it.
"I've been very, very fortunate in my career. Everywhere I've been has been a great situation. I had an unbelievable opportunity when I was at New Hampshire, and I loved it there and could have stayed there for the rest of my life, and then the same thing at Oregon. I loved Oregon. I loved those players. . . . I loved everything about it. But I had an opportunity to come here. I've been very happy everywhere I've been, and I'm happy being here now."
As happy as Kelly may be with the Eagles, though, understand something: It hardly hurts him to have such talk floating in the ether. At the moment, Kelly is as powerful as any coach in the NFL. He gets what he wants when he wants it with little pushback from anyone in the organization. But no relationship lasts forever, and as long as at least one team, pro or college, is advertising its desire to court Kelly, he retains plenty of leverage over Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman, and anyone else who was around before Kelly began cleaning up the messy end of the Andy Reid era.
That leverage is important, because it can allow Kelly to exercise similar control over the Eagles as he would over a college program - with fewer non-football-related responsibilities. Kelly's entire foundation as a coach, his entire brand, is built on his innovative approaches to training, play-calling, practicing, and interacting with players.
For all the years he spent climbing the coaching ladder throughout New England and at Oregon, he has to be relieved that he no longer has to board a plane midseason to woo some prodigy, to press flesh with millionaires for the sake of filling the athletic department's coffers, to engage in the salesmanship that's intrinsic to and essential at the college level.
"He eats, breathes, sleeps football," Watkins said. "It can be a little difficult in college - booster, recruiting, all that. Here, you've got your guys, and you're ready to go play. I'm just talking hypothetically, but I'm pretty sure that would be easier in the NFL."
Of course it is. It would be silly for anyone to think otherwise, Chip Kelly most of all.