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
”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.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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