Kelly becomes big hit in Phoenix

March 20, 2013

If the NFL Draft Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is the league’s annual convention, the League Meetings are its Spring Break. Here in Phoenix, owners lounge by the pool with their grandkids, coaches eat nachos with their assistants, agents puff their chests and writers mill around the lobby in polo shirts and khaki shorts, looking for the next big scoop. Wednesday morning was the NFC Coaches breakfast.

Here are my Day 3 Takeaways:

1. Chip Kelly is unlike any other coach in the NFL.

He never played college or pro football, he left the Buccaneers at the altar a year ago and he rocks and rolls to the beat of his own drum. He preaches sports science (while drinking a giant bottle of Diet Coke at 7 a.m.) and he references lines from “Wedding Crashers” in the middle of press conferences.

Chip Kelly’s unique personality was on full display on Wednesday. Sitting in a conference room loaded with personalities, Kelly drew the biggest crowd and kept it entertained for an hour.

Some highlights of my “Breakfast with Chip”:

• On the body type he looks for in a player: "We want taller, longer people, because big people beat up little people.''

• On slumber patterns: "An elite athlete needs between 10-12 hours of sleep a night."

• On the theory that he’s an “outside the box” thinker or some kind of mad scientist: “Hey, we don't run some magical offense and defense.''

Kelly’s not an NFL lifer like the rest of these guys, making moves from Columbia to New Hampshire to Johns Hopkins, back to New Hampshire, then to Oregon and finally to the pros. However, he was almost in the NFC East back in 2006. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he offered Kelly the Giants’ quality control coach job with the Giants in 2006.

"He should have been coaching for me!" Coughlin said on Wednesday with a laugh. "I offered him a job one time. We interviewed Chip for a quality control position a long time ago."

“Chip Kelly was a very good, young football coach who was very good friends with [Giants assistant] Dave DeGuglielmo, so when the quality control position became open, it was, ‘talk to me about who these young guys are out there,’ and Chip was recommended.”

Kelly ultimately turned down the job and accepted the Oregon offensive coordinator gig. The Giants won Super Bowl XLVII the next season.

“I was very tempted to go because I have the utmost respect for coach, philosophically we were very similar in terms of being disciplined, not making mistakes, taking advantage of what defenses give you,” Kelly said of the job offer. “The only reason I didn’t go was I wasn’t going to be position coach. At that stage and point in my career, basically going back to being a GA again, the fact we weren’t going to be able to coach in practice, I felt at that time I wanted to stay and grow as a coach and coach my own guys.”

As for some actual football news out of Philadelphia:

• Kelly confirmed that the Eagles will have a private workout with Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel within the next two weeks. Kelly recruited Manuel when the quarterback was a high school star in Virginia. At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Manuel said he strongly considered attending Oregon, but he went to FSU, staying closer to home. Philadelphia has the fourth overall pick in April’s Draft.

• Starting offensive tackle Jason Peters should be back on April 1, the first day the Eagles head coach can meet with his new team. Peters, of course, ruptured his Achilles twice last year and missed the entire 2012 season.

After 59 minutes of talking about his philosophy and providing updates on his roster, Kelly took a swig of his Diet Coke, thanked everyone for his time and left the room.

Everyone’s interested in what we’ll see from the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles. Chip Kelly could end up being the main attraction.

2. Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler could be a beautiful marriage in Chicago.

I know, we’ve been down this road with Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinators and head coaches before. Whether it’s been Mike Shanahan, Mike Martz, or Mike Tice, the “New Coach and Jay Cutler could really work” song has been playing on loop throughout Cutler’s career.

But Trestman-Cutler could be the real deal. Cutler’s new coach, thoughtful and measured, explained, “Every quarterback is tough in this league. Jay is exceptionally tough.”

“I’ve seen him have the capability to play at a very high level,” Trestman said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s got all the skill set. He can make all the throws. He can stick the ball in there, he can drive it in there, he can lay it over the top. He can do it a lot of different ways. He has tremendous agility and mobility. He can move around in the pocket and find a quiet area. He can run movement passes to the left and to the right and throw the ball accurately.”

The coach, then, took a moment.

“And man, is he tough?”

“Whether the quarterback is 8, 18, 28, or 38 — you still start over every year. And that’s what we’ll do.”

And then there was a new wrinkle to consider. Trestman indicated that the read-option — an offense Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called “the flavor of the month” a day ago — would be a part of the Bears playbook.

Trestman coached with Mike Shanahan in San Francisco and the two have a long history.

"I've known Marc for a long time, and he knows I spent some time with Jay, and he asked me a couple of things that I shared with him," Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday. "I know that Marc feels very good about Jay, and I think the world of Jay. He's a very talented guy. I just think he'll get better and better."

Shanahan said, "I think it'll work well."

Bears fans sure hope so.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano and New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis go back a bit.

Greg Schiano’s had Darrelle Revis’ name on his mind long before the cornerback was linked to the Buccaneers as a potential landing spot earlier this month. Their history goes back to a Rutgers-Pittsburgh game in 2006.

Rutgers, 6-0 at the time, was clinging to a 13-10 lead with 13 minutes to play in the fourth quarter when the Scarlet Knights took the field at their 10-yard line. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel tossed the ball to running back Ray Rice and he was a flash down the sideline, headed for the end zone. Sixty-three yards in, someone tackled him.

It was Revis.

With a smile, Schiano reminisced, “We were backed up and Ray Rice popped a 60-something yard run. And the guy who tracked himself down was … was... I’m not even allowed to say his name.”

Rutgers won the game 20-10, but Schiano never forgot the cornerback who chased his star tailback down. He just can’t say his name aloud.

The “R” word has been on everyone’s mind in Phoenix. But another week’s come and another week’s passed and Revis — the cornerback who once chased Ray Rice down in 2006 — is still a New York Jet.

4. There’s still no word on who’ll be calling plays in Dallas this season. Well, not publicly, at least.

Asked whether he or offensive line/offensive coach Bill Callahan would be taking over play-calling duties this season, Jason Garrett said, "Nothing really new on that from where we talked last time. We are still going through the process of what we did last year. That is an ongoing process for us. It's always been a collective process of how we call plays in terms of our staff being together — our game planning, our communication during the game — so that won’t change. Some of the mechanics we still have to work out as we go forward. But nothing has changed from the last time we talked."

The addition of Callahan to the Cowboys coaching staff has been welcomed by Garrett. Just who will be calling the plays, though, still hasn’t been decided (or announced).

"The job of a head coach is a significant one with a lot of responsibilities," Garrett said. "The job of an offensive coordinator/play-caller is a significant one with a lot of responsibilities. And I understand it because I have been doing it for the last two-and-a-half years. There is a reason that 28 of the 32 head coaches don’t do it. But there are some compelling examples as to why you do it. It's been something that has been relatively successful for us."

Expect to follow this storyline more in the coming weeks.

5. Rams coach Jeff Fisher isn’t scared of the big, bad 49ers and Seahawks.

It’s been a popular topic in Phoenix all week — the 49ers and Seahawks have both spent the offseason loading up and are even better than they were a season ago.

Guess what? So have the St. Louis Rams. The team that led the NFL in sacks and went 1-0-1 against the defending NFC West and NFC champion 49ers a season ago made multiple big free agent signings the past two weeks. Jared Cook and Jake Long are instant starters and could easily be Sam Bradford’s two most relied upon offensive teammates come opening day.

Jeff Fisher was confident in his young squad on Wednesday.

"They've gotta play us, too," Fisher said over breakfast.

On the Cook signing, a deal that raised some eyebrows around the league, Fisher explained, “I’m not one to compare one player to the next, but Jared Cook is a Ram because we think he can help us make plays and score touchdowns. He’s a talented, talented player with long arms. He’s smart, he can get outside and he can run.”

Fisher finished, “And I know Sam’s very happy to have him. Very happy.”

There’s a sleeper team every offseason. Hearing Fisher talk and looking at the tapes of the second half of last season, St. Louis might be mine. If Long is healthy and Cook does what I think he can in the right system — he was under-utilized in Tennessee — the offense could be dangerous, too.

Everyone’s talking about Seattle and San Francisco. I really like St. Louis.