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Kelly hiring won't matter without good assistants

ray didinger csnphilly

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#1 herbicide

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 09:38 AM

Didinger

Kelly hiring won't matter without good assistants

January 17, 2013, 6:00 am

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If Jeff Lurie wanted to make a splash, he succeeded. The Eagles’ hiring of Chip Kelly has taken the NFL spotlight away from the two conference championship games, Ray Lewis’ victory lap and Tom Brady’s quest for a fourth Super Bowl ring.

Kelly brings sizzle to the Eagles. He also brings a resume of winning at the college level (46-7 at Oregon) and an offense that moves up and down the field at warp speed. It was successful but it was the Pac-12. It wasn’t the NFL.

That’s what makes this such a hot-button hire. There is a huge risk factor. It could put the Eagles on the cutting edge of NFL offenses or it could crash and burn in spectacular fashion. One thing is certain: when the Eagles reconvene this spring, everyone will be watching.

After last season’s downward spiral to irrelevance, Lurie wanted to put his team back on the national marquee. By hiring Chip Kelly, Lurie accomplished that in a way that hiring a Mike McCoy or Gus Bradley would not. But now that the hire is made, it is up to Kelly to make it work. That is the trickier part.

Pay close attention to the next round of hires. I’m referring to the assistant coaches. They won’t get the same headlines as the hiring of Kelly. They won’t have TV crews lined up at the airport. But these are critical hires for a new head coach, especially one with zero NFL experience.

Kelly will probably bring some college coaches with him, guys he worked with either at Oregon or other stops along the way. But he should also bring in some coaches who have an NFL pedigree. Indeed, it is essential.

Kelly didn’t play in the NFL. He has never coached in the NFL. He worked his way up the coaching ladder from Columbia to New Hampshire to Johns Hopkins to Oregon and won at every stop, but the NFL is a different game. The players are different, the business side is different. Free agency, the draft, the players’ union, salary cap. It is all different.

For someone new to it, like Kelly, it is important he have people around him who have been there and done that, guys who have been through the NFL wars and can steer him in the right direction. He may be a very smart fellow, but he is walking into a new room and he doesn’t have all the answers. He will need to have some experienced lieutenants to fill in the blanks.

The last time the Eagles hired a coach right out of college it was D Vermeil in 1976. Vermeil was head coach at UCLA when owner Leonard Tose hired him but he had NFL experience: he was the league’s first special teams coach working for George Allen with the Los Angeles Rams. But even with that background, Vermeil made sure his first Eagles coaching staff had a mix of college guys and savvy NFL veterans.

Vermeil brought with him trusted UCLA assistants like Lynn Stiles and Carl Peterson, but he also hired Marion Campbell, a former NFL head coach, as his defensive coordinator. He hired Johnny Roland and Ken Iman, two former NFL players, to coach the backfield and the line. Later Vermeil brought in Sid Gillman, one of the NFL’s great offensive minds, to fine tune the passing game.

It was a great staff, a blend of young guys with boundless energy and old heads who understood the rhythms of an NFL season. Those coaches knew that pro players are wired differently and need to be handled differently than college kids. It all meshed beautifully and the Eagles rose from rock bottom to Super Bowl XV.

Chip Kelly would be wise to build his staff along similar lines. It helps the Eagles that they got the deal done now because it gives them a chance to start hiring coaches. If the process dragged on for another week or two weeks, a lot of good candidates would have been snapped up.

There still are some good coaches available and if Kelly is smart, once he finishes his press conference on Wednesday he should start working the phones. He should start lining things up so he can begin filling out his staff next week while he is at the Senior Bowl.

The average fan doesn’t realize how important the assistant coaches are on a football team. One of the reasons Andy Reid was so successful early in his time with the Eagles was the quality of his coaching staff. It was an accomplished group from Jim Johnson to John Harbaugh right down the line, and it helped the Eagles and Reid win a lot of games.

When that staff broke up and many of those coaches left to take bigger jobs elsewhere, Reid replaced them with guys who weren’t as good and the team went into decline. It is not a coincidence. There is a lesson there.

Hopefully, Chip Kelly gets the message.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net.



#2 pdmkob

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 10:04 AM

He needs a Wade Phillips/Jim Haslett type as DC - a great NFL defensive coach with bad head coaching experience - but no threat to take over the locker room or keep him looking over his shoulder

maybe Gregg Williams ????http://espn.go.com/n...cording-sources