Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Good or bad, it's Chip Kelly at the Eagles' controls

AFTER MALCOLM JENKINS complained about not getting enough of an overview of how mistakes are addressed to be an effective leader outside of his position grouping, the veteran safety basically was told, "Yeah, and that's how we like it."

AFTER MALCOLM JENKINS complained about not getting enough of an overview of how mistakes are addressed to be an effective leader outside of his position grouping, the veteran safety basically was told, "Yeah, and that's how we like it."

You can draw a direct line from Jenkins not feeling comfortable telling, say, a linebacker he needs to find his way into the correct gap just a tad more often, to quarterback Sam Bradford not really running a huddle, or controlling the offense in any tangible sense.

Control rests on the sideline, with the guy who decides which placards are thrust into the air for each offensive position group to read. Bradford can adjust plays postsnap, but he has neither authority nor capability to audible into a different play before he gets the ball.

Asked Wednesday why mistakes aren't addressed with the full team (or even with the full offense or full defense), Eagles coach Chip Kelly said: "Because my right guard doesn't really care what our free safety does. So it's not really efficient for Matt Tobin to listen to what the instruction is to the free safety. When you want to get detailed in terms of making corrections, it needs to be done in the position group, because those guys are paying attention to what's going on in their position."

Later, Kelly said players worrying about the performance of players at other positions is "how you get into finger-pointing, and that's not conducive to being successful."

On Tuesday, Jenkins called himself "a bit of a control freak" for wanting to know "what the mistakes are and what we're trying to get better at."

"Obviously, Billy (Davis, the defensive coordinator) and the coaching staff feel that's not necessarily my place, and that's their right, and they handle it a lot different than what I've been used to," Jenkins said, as he tried to walk back his Monday night comments on 94WIP, without disowning them.

"I don't buy that," Kelly said, when asked whether the possibility of being called out in front of the entire team might make players more accountable. "I think (defensive backs coach Cory Undlin) does a great job in calling out our guys in the DB room, and it's not calling out - it's instructing them on what they did right and what they did wrong. If you need to get called out in front of a group, then you're not getting things accomplished in your individual position meeting. And that's not the case."

Kelly dismissed Jenkins' other criticism, that in the wake of back-to-back blowout losses, maybe the Eagles needed to slow down their frantic tempo this week in practice and in meetings, "identify some things, reset, and then move forward."

"Well, that's what we do every day," Kelly said. "I think when we meet individually in position meetings, our coaches will go over every single play that was run against us in the past game . . . Tuesday when they get back here, the first thing we do (with the whole team) is address the game that we just played. Then we go over that in detail in each position group."

"I know our room, we had a rough meeting (Tuesday)," inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said Wednesday. "Everybody was held accountable in our room, and I know that goes for each room - the outside 'backers, the d-line and also the defensive back room. Everybody is getting told what they need to be told, it's just a matter of us players going out and correcting our mistakes . . . playing the way we're capable of playing.

"It doesn't matter to me who that message comes from, whether it's Billy or the position coach, as long as it gets across to all the guys."

A few weeks ago, another player wondered aloud whether hurrying through practice, never breaking "tempo," while deferring corrections until later, encouraged attention to detail. The next day, Kelly was asked about this. He replied that he does think it reinforces attention to detail. He did not elaborate.

Center Jason Kelce, who played two seasons under the Andy Reid regime, defended Kelly's approach to correcting errors.

"I think people are held accountable in the position rooms, and held accountable through tape," Kelce said Wednesday. "I think we've done a fine job of making it known where mistakes were made and trying to push forward."

Kelly's answer to every question about his methods is pretty similar - he has good reason for doing whatever it is, and whatever the critics think perhaps isn't getting done actually is getting done. This goes back to last offseason, and the criticisms of Kelly's manner and methods from then-Eagles such as LeSean McCoy, Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin.

Some aspects of those critiques were unfair - there isn't any basis for concluding that Kelly is a racist - but one persistent theme was control.

Boykin told Comcast SportsNet that Kelly "likes total control of everything, and he don't like to be uncomfortable. Players excel when you let them naturally be who they are, and, in my experience, that hasn't been important to him."

This is a coach whose ideal is to have multiple players with the same physical traits at each position, so he can survive injuries with continuity. In theory, this makes sense. In practice, it amounts to more de-emphasizing of the individual player; the control-power pendulum swings harder toward the coach. (And then there's the whole thing about the NFL not really working that way - two mediocre guys with the same attributes don't equal one true playmaker, as anyone who watches the Eagles' wide receivers might tell you.)

It still seems likely right now that Kelly will return in 2016. If so, one of the questions of the offseason will be how he handles what has happened to the team this season. Maybe he knows he needs to adjust some things about the way work is structured, and authority ceded, but doesn't think he can do that in midstream. Maybe next season, he'll set things up differently. Or not.

Back when Joe Banner handled Eagles contracts, he hated the widespread notion that the team was "cheap." Banner could recite reams of statistics he felt proved otherwise. In the end, how the team ranked vs. the rest of the league in signing its draftees to second contracts wasn't what mattered. What mattered was that much of the locker room thought the team was cheap.

On Twitter: @LesBowen