Dear Oregon football fans: Are you just now beginning to realize that Chip Kelly is really gone and likely never coming back? Are you now a fan of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles?
Most of you probably never gave one minute's thought to the Eagles prior to their January snatching of your coach—Philly is so far away, after all. But now perhaps you are intrigued about the Eagles' offseason moves, free-agency signings and preparation for the April 25-27 draft.
How is the Chipster being received in Philadelphia? Has he gained weight eating those Philly cheesesteaks? Here's what we know so far about Kelly's welcome in the birthplace of our nation.
Practically everyone in Philadelphia agreed it was time for 14-year head coach Andy Reid to go and for the Eagles to get a fresh start. Chip Kelly is nothing if not fresh. Although you could read smatterings of Eagles fans reacting to Kelly's lack of NFL experience, for the most part, he has been welcomed as a breath of fresh air to the city (east coast guy returning to the promised land, etc. etc.).
The Eagles have been woeful on the defensive side of the ball lately, and Kelly set out immediately upon his arrival to address the weaknesses. According to Phil Sheridan on PhillyNews.com, Kelly has made all the right moves so far.
During the first week of free agency, Kelly cleared out cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. Then, the Eagles signed eight free agents in 48 hours—seven defensive players and one offensive player.
According to Sheridan, the moves weren't designed to put the Eagles over the top but to make the Philadelphia defense competent, and Sheridan gives Kelly high marks for making that start.
After cleaning house on defense, Kelly signed, in quick order, four experienced players who will improve the Eagles secondary: hard-hitting cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safeties Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung (who you know well, dear Duck fans.)
In addition to the four DBs, Kelly also added linebacker Jason Phillips, defensive end Connor Barwin and defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga.
It remains to be seen how Kelly will use the Eagles' No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Speculation has centered on a strong-side linebacker/DE like Oregon's Dion Jordan or BYU's Ezekiel Ansah, or a top cornerback like Alabama's Dee Milliner. But last week, Kelly, along with Eagles GM Howie Roseman and owner Jeffrey Lurie, reportedly jetted to attend a private workout with West Virginia's quarterback Geno Smith, expected to be the first QB taken in the draft.
Of course, knowing how tricky Kelly can be, the Geno Smith visit might just be a trick to make other teams think the Eagles are interested in Smith so they can work in trade for their top-five pick.
When not holed up in his office, Kelly has been seen around town, most notably at a Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets basketball game earlier this month. Said Sixers head coach Doug Collins in an article by Wes Szafran of the South Jersey Times:
Coach (Chip) Kelly stopped in and it was nice to meet him. It’ll be exciting to see the team he puts on the field, I know he’s very excited. It was good to say hello and hopefully we’ll be able to get together after the season is over.
With time remaining for free-agency signings and trades, and more than one month prior to the NFL draft, Kelly's Eagles are a work in progress; the team was 4-12 last season for a reason. But the consensus in Philadelphia is that he's definitely on the right track.
Kelly is the toast of the town and feeling the love now, but of course, all that will change when his team loses its first game in 2013.
It is, after all, Philly.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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