Funny but fruitful, Chip’s signs working in Philly

Anyone unfamiliar with Chip Kelly’s unique way of disguising

play calls might confuse the Philadelphia Eagles’ sideline for a

commercial promoting the City of Brotherly Love.

There’s the Liberty Bell, Rocky Balboa, the Phillie Phanatic,

Benjamin Franklin, Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air …

and even a cheesesteak.

Kelly has chosen some iconic Philadelphia figures – and foods –

for those placards his staff hoists on the sideline to convey plays

to those on the field. It’s a system Kelly began using three years

ago at Oregon. He borrowed the idea from Oklahoma State, which used

the posters against Oregon in the 2008 Holiday Bowl.

Don’t try to figure it out, though. The specifics are a mystery,

and Kelly won’t allow players or coaches to discuss it.

”They represent a lot of things,” Kelly said when first asked

about it by the inquisitive Philadelphia media, refusing to

elaborate. ”We could tell you what all our signals are, but that’s

not going to help us. I’m not going to explain why we go through

that whole thing.”

Well, it has a lot to do with the speed of the game. The Eagles

don’t huddle much, they run plays quicker than most others in the

NFL – a strategy that Kelly has dubbed the ”See Coast Offense” –

and symbols from the sidelines are quick to pick up.

You see, communication is key with Kelly’s offense, so any edge

will be exploited. And even though he can communicate with his

quarterback through headset technology – something he couldn’t do

in the NCAA – the signs are staying.

And why not? After all, Philadelphia has shed a slow start and

is now 7-5. With four games left, the Eagles are tied for first

place in the NFC East with Dallas, and eyeing the postseason.

When Kelly first started using the amusing placards at Oregon,

it was no secret he did it to communicate plays faster and speed up

the Ducks’ lightning-fast offense. Now, that’s been translated from

Saturdays in the Pac-12, to Sundays in the NFL.

Mark Helfrich, who replaced Kelly as Oregon’s coach, explained

the meaning behind the cryptic signs in 2010 when he was Kelly’s

offensive coordinator.

”We tried to have one word to communicate 10 words,” Helfrich

said at the time, ”or one picture to communicate 10 words,

something that would give our guys an immediate association so they

could get out there and play fast.”

The Ducks used a variety of seemingly nonsensical photos,

including the bearded Burger King, a map of New Hampshire, a

battleship and ESPN sportscasters Rece Davis and Lee Corso. The

signs were split into quadrants of pictures. Kelly has changed it

up in the NFL. The Eagles use single photos on each poster instead

of four pictures.

Players are so afraid to reveal anything that both sides –

offense and defense – insist the posters are not for them.

”I saw that stuff at Oregon, so I knew it was coming but I

didn’t know which pictures they would choose,” Eagles linebacker

Mychal Kendricks said. ”When I saw the Fresh Prince, I started

laughing. Everything has to do with Philly. I don’t even know what

they mean. It’s for the offense.”

Rookie left tackle Lane Johnson says otherwise.

”I’m telling you, man, they’re all for the defense,” Johnson

said with a straight face.

Even newcomer Brad Smith wouldn’t slip up. The versatile Smith

signed with the Eagles last month to return kicks, play special

teams and perhaps even take a few snaps at quarterback in certain

situations. He’s also a wide receiver, so he has to know the

offense. Apparently, he received the memo about secrecy.

”I’m just trying to find my own way,” Smith said. ”I don’t

know what they are, but I know it means something to the


One assistant – sports science coordinator Shaun Huls – will

hold up to two placards at a time, holding one up high and another

low. They’re used alongside traditional hand motions and other odd

signals such as assistants karate-kicking or arm flapping to speed

up the no-huddle offense.

But the signs don’t necessarily identify plays. They could

represent snap counts, formations, motions, routes or even nothing.

That makes it nearly impossible for opponents to decipher. It’s

sort of Spygate-proof. Even the New England Patriots, who were

caught illegally filming signals of opposing coaches several years

ago, couldn’t crack this code.

Besides some of the Philly-themed images, the Eagles also have

used placards of Elvis Presley, Bart Simpson and the Oregon Duck,

of course. Players can’t say much, but they will reveal their

favorites if pressed on the subject.

Kendricks breaks into the theme song from The Fresh Prince of

Bel-Air when asked to pick his favorite.

”West Philadelphia born and raised,” Kendricks sings. ”The

Fresh Prince is the funniest one.”

Johnson and Smith like the Phillie Phanatic.

”It’s big, bright, green,” Smith said.

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