When scouting, Kelly quietly goes the extra mile
Eagles coach Chip Kelly enjoys visiting Pro Days around the country to assess potential draft picks.
CHIP KELLY hasn't spoken much to the media since the Eagles' season ended nearly 4 months ago. But for the better part of March and early April, he seemed to be on TV nearly as much as Flo, the Progressive Insurance lady.
Every time ESPN or NFL Network showed a clip from a Pro Day workout in Tuscaloosa or College Station or Blacksburg or State College or Baton Rouge or some other backwater college outpost, Kelly usually could be spotted somewhere in the background. Just call him Chip Sandiego.
"It was awesome to be able to have him go to all of those Pro Days and then come back and compare those guys," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. "For him to want to do that, to take the time to travel to all these places and do the research on those guys, for him to do that just adds another wrinkle to the draft process."
Kelly is a little sensitive about the attention his presence on the Pro Day circuit earned him. Called it "overblown" and pointed out that many other head coaches also were Pro Day regulars.
"That stuff about me setting the world's record for Pro Day attendance . . . I saw [the Vikings'] Mike Zimmer at a bunch of them, I saw [the Steelers'] Mike Tomlin at a ton of them. I saw [the Jaguars'] Gus Bradley and [the Bengals'] Marvin Lewis a lot," Kelly said. "Certain guys you'd see every week at them."
There's a pretty good chance that if Kelly were married and had five kids, you wouldn't have spotted him at nearly as many Pro Days. But it wasn't as if he was blowing off his kid's piano recital to go watch Johnny Football make those 50 scripted throws.
While many of the league's coaches and GMs find the Pro Day workouts mostly a waste of time, Kelly said they were much more valuable to him than the scouting combine.
"When you really analyze what goes on at the combine," he said, "that's difficult for those guys. They're thrown in there for 3 straight days. They're marching around in their underwear. People are staring at them, poking and prodding them, asking them a million questions.
"When you get them back on their campus and get a chance to see them in their environment, you have a better understanding of what they're like as a player, and a better feel for who they are. So when you're making educated decisions, you're making educated decisions. Not just going, 'What about this guy? I don't know. I never met him.' "
Kelly said the Pro Days also gave him an opportunity to pick the brains of the people who know the players the best.
"You can find out what the people who coached him think," he said. "Find out what the people in the complex say about him. The people in the cafeteria. Find out what he's like from a learning standpoint. Find out as much as you can. If you don't, shame on you.
"It's like I tell our guys, I don't care who we don't get. But I care very, very much about who we do get. And we have to have all of the information about the people we do get so that we feel comfortable that he'll be a great Philadelphia Eagle."
The truth is, many other NFL teams don't find the Pro Day workouts nearly as valuable as Kelly seemed to.
"To be honest with you," one longtime NFC personnel executive said, "I don't get a thing out of them. They're a waste of time. They're all scripted workouts, especially with the quarterbacks.
"Why does our coach need to go talk to the [college] coach when a scout's already been on campus twice, the personnel director's been on campus and the GM's been on campus? That's three people who've already asked him the same questions. What is our coach going to get out of him that he didn't already tell the rest of us?
"It's redundant. It's overkill."
This will be Kelly and Roseman's second draft together. By just about any standard you want to use, their first was very successful.
Four of their top five picks last year played at least 450 snaps and started a combined 33 games. Their top three selections - right tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Zach Ertz and defensive lineman Bennie Logan, were key contributors for an Eagles team that won 10 games and made the playoffs.
While Kelly has final say over the 53-man roster, the draft, as is the case with many teams, is a joint venture between GM and coach.
"We make decisions as an organization, as one," Roseman said. "We move forward as one. That's what we've done in every decision since coach has been here. That's the way we'll make our decisions when we're on the clock on draft day. It will be an organization pick."
After Kelly was hired 15 1/2 months ago, one of the first things Roseman did was sit down with his new coach and have him give him a detailed description of the kind of players he wanted at every position.
"His ideas were different [than Andy Reid's] as far as what he was looking for playerwise," said Tom Donahoe, a senior adviser to Roseman. "It's important that the scouts know that, because not every player fits what the coach wants to do. You have to have a good feel for the head coach and the position coaches and what they're looking for.
"As we went through the draft process last year, we learned the kind of guys Chip liked and the kind of guys he wasn't crazy about. The process will only get better as the scouts get more experience with the coaches."
So far, Roseman and Kelly are getting along swimmingly. Two peas in a pod. They seem to respect each other's opinion and are on the same page philosophically.
Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells used to say that since he made the meal, he also should be in charge of buying the groceries, which was his not-so-subtle way of saying he should be the guy making all of the personnel decisions.
Kelly doesn't share that sentiment, at least not yet. While he clearly wants to be a part of the evaluation process, he's content writing the grocery list and letting Roseman and his scouts do the shopping.
"[Roseman] has a good understanding of what we're looking for in players, and his staff does a good job of identifying them," Kelly said.
"We talk every day. His office is two doors down from me. We're always constantly conversing. There's interaction between the personnel department and the coaches all the time. We're all on the same page."
Believe it or not, that's not necessarily the case with all NFL teams. Egos being what they are, there frequently is a lot of pushing and pulling that goes on between coach and GM. The two don't have to like each other, but they have to at least share the same philosophy on players.
"You don't have a chance in the NFL unless your head coach and GM are tied at the hip philosophically," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "It sounds simple to say, but you'd be amazed at how often that doesn't happen.
"As long as the GM values and embraces the coach's opinion and doesn't just give him lip service, you have a fighting chance.
"That's the different between a functional NFL building and a dysfunctional one. And there's a bunch of dysfunctional buildings in this league. The better job a coaching staff can do to translate what they're looking for position-by-position, height, weight, arm length . . . some teams prioritize one thing, some teams another.
"The better job they do of translating that to their scouting department, then Aug. 1 through January, when your coaching staff is coaching NFL players, your scouting staff is out looking for those types of players."
So far, so good with the Eagles.