Can Chip Kelly Stay Objective When Assessing Former Ducks for the Eagles Roster?
In both the real world and the football world, every Duck certainly would love to become an Eagle. Eagles are bigger and stronger and faster and more famous in both the avian community and the football community.
But while real Ducks can't become real Eagles, football Ducks are making the transition at a swift rate (OK, I promise I'm done with the silly bird comparison now). Ever since Chip Kelly left the Oregon Ducks to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he's been making an effort to surround himself with fellow Oregon contributors.
Five members of Kelly's new coaching staff were actually also members of his old staff in Eugene. New Philly quarterback addition Dennis Dixon was Kelly's first signal-caller at Oregon. And at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, Kelly gushed about linebacker Dion Jordan, who is the highest-rated former Duck in this rookie class and is a prime candidate to join the Eagles four picks into this year's draft.
Now that Jairus Byrd has been hit with the franchise tag in Buffalo, no notable former Ducks will be hitting the free-agent market this month, which means the extent to which Eagles fans have to be concerned about Kelly's pro-Duck bias will be limited to April's draft.
When that takes place, we'll have to hope that Kelly doesn't have blinders on when assessing guys like Jordan and offensive lineman Kyle Long, both of whom he coached in 2012 at Oregon. Later in and/or after the draft, Kelly will also have chances to grab linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety John Boyett. Will he overreach for the former Ducks, failing to properly recognize talent that he didn't help hone?
Jordan might be better than, say, LSU's Barkevious Mingo, but there's a natural suspicion that the tiebreaker could be familiarity. And that is dangerous.
He called Jordan "a special guy in my heart" and would only say last week that his connection to the handful of potential draftees from Oregon is advantageous.
Per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I would think it would be an advantage, because we know them," Kelly said. "I can tell you what they're like on the field, I can tell you what they're like off the field, I can tell you what they're like in the meeting room."
Berman notes that four Trojans from Bill Carroll's USC days are now on his roster in Seattle, but that Carroll also passed on former Trojan Taylor Mays in his very first draft. Jim Harbaugh has avoided Stanford alum, but Greg Schiano has brought in quite a few former Rutgers players.
It's OK if Kelly uses his familiarity with those players to enhance the evaluation process, and if that leads to him bringing in more Oregon players, it might not be a bad thing. But a fine line exists. Kelly has already said he won't be fickle regarding his schemes, so now you'll have to hope he also avoids stifling potential progress by becoming too stubborn regarding the players who will be executing those schemes.
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