Zach Berman, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2013, 8:30 PM
The introduction that could have occurred 10 days ago finally happened on Thursday. Wearing a black Eagles polo, Chip Kelly walked into the auditorium at the Eagles training facility to be welcomed as the next Eagles coach.
In Kelly's formal introduction to Philadelphia, he dimmed any shadow that could potentially loom from Andy Reid. Kelly appeared authoritative, witty, and confident in the spotlight while explaining a brand of football and the innovative thinking that made the Eagles swoon over the prospect of landing the former Oregon head coach during the past two weeks.
Despite a 10-day delay, the feeling was mutual. Twelve days after first meeting with Eagles brass, Kelly signed a five-year contract at 1:15 p.m. on Thursday.
"I knew what this place was all about," Kelly said, "and it's where I wanted to be."
It's a long way from the offensive coordinator of New Hampshire, a job Kelly held six years ago. He once had a head coach who told him, "The big time is where you're at," and that's how he's approached every job since.
"The big time" for Kelly is now the Philadelphia Eagles, trying to secure a Super Bowl for a franchise with an empty mantle. He hasn't lost a game yet, so he represents hope.
One fan's sign hanging outside the NovaCare Complex read, "OUR CHIP COMES IN." Another fan waited by the exit for hours in search of an autograph. Kelly offered endearing references unique to Philadelphia, noting that the second most important bowl to the Super Bowl is the Wing Bowl and later cited Vince Papale.
But Philadelphia fans are demanding, and Kelly will need to prove that he can succeed in the NFL despite no experience in the league.
"Are there a lot more cameras around? Yes, but that's what the deal is all about," Kelly said. "It's still the game of football. It's X's and O's, and I understand that aspect of it."
When vacillating about the job, Kelly spoke to Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, D Vermeil, and Tony Dungy. Kelly specifically praised Reid's help in the process. Owner Jeffrey Lurie said Reid reached out to the Eagles' top candidates to discuss the openings.
The Eagles similarly researched Kelly - they had been "targeting him for a long, long time," Lurie said - and there was one overwhelming response.
"The one thing that everyone kept saying to me was that this guy is a program builder, a leader, one who always wants to be innovative and asks why," Lurie said. "Everything is 'why.' He thinks it through. That's very appealing."
The most glaring question about Kelly is whether his offense can adapt from college to the NFL. Kelly was adamant that he adapts to personnel. He called himself an "equal-opportunity scorer." He ruled nothing out - not emphasizing a requirement for either a mobile quarterback or drop-back passer - and needs to evaluate his roster before determining the direction.
"A lot of coaches have great ideas, but we're not playing the game," Kelly said. "Our offense is always going to be tailored to who's playing."
The same logic applies to determining whether to run a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 defense. All he would offer is that the Eagles will attack and play "fast," a consistent theme with Kelly.
Kelly's first priority is assembling a coaching staff. He started making calls Wednesday night. Some Eagles assistants might stay, and some Oregon assistants might come.
The Eagles' research of Kelly was confirmed during a nine-hour interview in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Jan. 5. The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills also pursued Kelly, but the Eagles sounded confident the decision came down to the Eagles and Oregon. Lurie made repeated references to the Eagles being the only team Kelly considered - despite a report that he was close to a deal with the Cleveland Browns.
"There was no competition for Chip," Lurie said. "It was just did he want to stay, or did he want to come to us."
In the meeting with the Eagles, Kelly emphasized that reports that he sought personnel control were untrue. He emphasized that he wants to be the head coach, not the general manager. Reid possessed final say on all football matters; Kelly will work in conjunction with general manager Howie Roseman.
The implication from Kelly was that the only reason he wavered in his decision to leave was loyalty to his players at Oregon. He similarly flirted with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season before returning to the Ducks. The perception of indecision did not worry Lurie, who said every test along the way from how the contract was negotiated to the plans for the organization were based on long-term logic.
"I'm all in," Kelly said. "I think it was Cortez who burned the boats. I've burned the boats so I'm not going back. I'm in. I'm an NFL coach and this is where I want to be."
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.
Zach Berman INQUIRER STAFF WRITER