PHILADELPHIA – It’s not quite an Iron Curtain in South Philadelphia these days but we did finally get a peek at Chip Kelly’s secretive operation on Thursday as the Eagles were forced to open up their OTAs to the media.
And the result was a horde of reporters and photographers totaling more than 100, according to the Birds’ media relations department, more than the number of players on the team’s bloated offseason roster.
Like most dictators Kelly doesn’t want outsiders watching his regime and if the NFL didn’t mandate a certain level of access, you can bet things would been buttoned up completely.
Recently Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bedard took a shot at profiling the reticent head coach in a feature titled, ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ something Bedard spoke about on a Philadelphia-area radio station earlier this week.
“I’ve covered both (Bill) Belichick and Nick Saban and I’ve had much easier times doing stories like this on them than Chip Kelly,” Bedard told the 94WIP Morning Show. “You can do stuff on Belichick and Saban and you know, they’re not the most forthcoming person when talking about themselves or when you interview them one on one, but they don’t really put restrictions — they don’t put restrictions at all on other people.”
“Chip Kelly is entirely different,” Bedard continued. “I don’t know if he orders them not to talk or what, but nobody is talking.”
And why is that?
“It’s everybody that’s close to him,” Bedard said. “Like, I probably reached out to a half of dozen or so people that he’s been close with for years –either he grew up with them in New Hampshire or maybe people from Oregon. And everybody’s like — they didn’t answer or were like, ‘I can’t talk.'”
Part of Kelly’s success is based in mystery so his self-imposed isolation and solitude is part of a gimmick that has bred achievement with few speed bumps along the way.
Less than a decade ago Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire and now he’s the head coach of one of the NFL’s marquee teams and has been described by some as the most intriguing man in all of professional sports.
He’s been dubbed as an innovative genius by many as evidenced by Bedard’s choice of a title for his piece, which compares Kelly to famed mathematician John Nash, the Nobel Laureate in Economics who passed away in a tragic car accident last weekend.
Few could live up to that hype, however, and perhaps that’s what drives Kelly’s reticence to open up. At the end of the day, though, Kelly isn’t a dictator and there are folks on Park Avenue who have cobbled together rules that he must adhere to.
And when Chip does give the media access, it’s a feeding frenzy. The Eagles coach was forced to answer big-picture questions on Thursday about things like his perceived racism as well as his often bizarre quarterback machinations, along with every minute football detail the team’s beat reporters must concern themselves with.
A talented scandal-management professional might tell a media-adverse personality like Kelly to trickle out the information little by little or flood the environment, hoping something juicy gets missed in the process.
Kelly obviously prefers the latter and took his one big gulp of offseason medicine Thursday. His tact is a little surprising because when he does talk, the coach generally wows his audience with witticisms that generally confound the most dogged of reporters.
Take LeSean McCoy’s veiled accusation of racism toward Kelly, a ludicrous charge and one easily dismissed by pointing toward the best players on his team like Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox and DeMarco Murray. But, it’s also one that has legs in a politically-correct world in which journalism is often replaced by click-bait.
“I have great respect for LeSean; however, in that situation, I think he’s wrong,” Kelly began when queried about the topic. “We put a lot of time in looking at the characters and factors that go into selection and retention of players and color has never been one of them.”
When pressed and asked if Riley Cooper’s prior actions hurt his reputation with African-American players as McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Stephen A. Smith have claimed, Kelly turned in his coaching hat for a philosopher cap.
“That doesn’t hurt me,” the coach claimed. “I’m not governed by the fear of what other people say. Events don’t elicit feelings. I think beliefs elicit feelings. I understand what my beliefs are and I know how I am.”
And then Kelly turned into a Roddy Piper clone — just when you knew what the answer was going to be, the coach was changing the question. In fact, the next query was never finished.
“Sometimes the perception…,” a columnist began before Kelly interrupted: “You start chasing perception and you got a long life ahead of you, son. That’s what it’s all about. If you’re worried about someone else’s perception of what is going on with you, then — You can control one thing. You can control yourself. I know how we run this organization, and it’s not run that way.”
That quote, perhaps more than anything, explains Kelly’s philosophy perfectly.
Players like McCoy and Jackson, as well as Carey Williams are no longer with the Eagles because of there objections over how Kelly runs things not because of their skin color.
Remember you can control one thing in Kelly’s world and Philadelphia is his territory, like it or not.