WHEN PUSH came to shove, Jeff Lurie did the smart thing, he handed the personnel reins to Chip Kelly, saying something like, "If I want to drink the champagne, I've got to let you pick the grapes."
And then he did a dumb thing. When he snatched those personnel reins out of Howie Roseman's hands, he offered a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Which is straight out of Mary Poppins, and why do I think Jeff Lurie is a big fan of Mary Poppins?
Spoonful? Lurie gave the guy a bowlful of sugar, raised his salary to $1.7 million, on the theory that if you throw enough money at a problem it will disappear. Million-seven, that ought to help Howie learn to play nicely with others and stay out of Chip's way, especially on draft day. Trouble is, a million-seven puts hunting for a new job on the back burner, turns the guy into some mournful ghost haunting the corridors at the NovaCare Complex.
Money is not the issue here, but Lurie could have saved himself a shipload of cash by spending $25.95 and buying Bill Polian's book, "The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team."
Polian was in the game for 40 years, 24 as an executive with the Bills, Panthers and Colts. Was voted NFL Executive of the Year six times. Was just elected to pro football's Hall of Fame. In show biz now, the dour no-nonsense guy on ESPN, gets his kicks calling a stiff a stiff.
He's written a terrific book and Lurie could have bought two or three copies and made it required reading for his general manager, his coach, his scouts. Kept one for himself for the next time push comes to shove. Save him some money and keep the atmosphere at NovaCare from reeking of envy and disrespect, with a strong whiff of disunity.
Polian borrows a phrase from his favorite coach, Marv Levy. Says, "What it takes to win is simple, but it isn't easy." Words he lived by. Words the Eagles might consider living by.
"We had a universal philosophy of how we would do things," Polian writes of his days in Buffalo. "And it sort of bled down from Marv to the coaching staff, into the training room, into the equipment room, so the organization really was, in one fell swoop, together almost from Day One."
Harmony, that's important. More important for barbershop quartets than pro football teams? Nah, you need players. What kind of players?
"It starts," Polian says, "with the core belief that you win with people that have great football temperament. Football temperament tells us that a guy has, number one, a real love for the game and all that goes with it, that football's important to him; number two, that he has a really good work ethic, is willing to do whatever it takes to win; and number three, that he's a good citizen, both on and off the field."
He's got a chapter in there about how careful the general manager must be when he picks a new coach. That doesn't apply here, where the coach gets to pick the general manager.
"You need players who are dynamic difference-makers, as many as you can get," Polian writes. Not that easy if you're picking 20th in the first round. Polian did some research and Buffalo became one of the first teams in the NFL to institute a psychological test. Chose the 16PF (personality factors). The test evaluates warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity.
Holy DeSean Jackson, this is getting a little deep. "Big people beat up little people," Chip Kelly says, giving us a sliver of a peek into his basic philosophy. We're guessing at the rest, because Chip does not do in-depth interviews. Never has, never will.
What he gives us in the required sessions with the media is equal parts substance and sarcasm. My guess is that he thinks anything more gives opposing coaches too much insight into what he will do on third-and-1 and he wants to keep that secret.
Chip called a lot of names, but chose no one during his intensive search for a player personnel guy, so he promoted from within, a young guy who was a vital figure in Alabama's success. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but draft day looms as a crossroads for this franchise.
Chip has a Game Plan. He must have a Game Plan. Maybe he can borrow $25.95 from petty cash and buy Polian's book. Maybe he doesn't have time to read books, thinking football 24/7/365? Who knows? Chip ain't telling us anytime soon.