Torn between loyalty to his players and accepting a new challenge, Chip Kelly ultimately chose the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles.
He just needed more time to make the decision.
"The hardest thing for me to do was to leave Oregon," Kelly said Thursday at a news conference introducing him as the 21st coach in team history. "I knew it was a great fit, but it was whether I could leave what I have. I love those guys and it had to be a special place for me to leave."
The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, giving him a five-year contract and ending an exhaustive search to replace Andy Reid. The offensive innovator was lured away from Oregon, where he went 46-7 in four seasons and turned the program into a national powerhouse.
From the start, Kelly appeared to be Philadelphia's top choice. But two days after a nine-hour meeting in Arizona with owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski, Kelly chose to stay at Oregon.
The Eagles continued interviewing other candidates, and were close to offering the job to Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Tuesday night. But Kelly changed his mind after thinking harder about making the move and talking to several people, including Reid who quickly moved on to become Kansas City's coach.
"I knew this was the best spot, but there's so much more to it," Kelly said. "What happens when I leave? Who becomes the next head coach? What happens to those players? You're not making reservations for dinner. You are changing not only your life, but a lot of other people's lives."
Kelly said he became emotional when he told players in a meeting that he was leaving, and added that he cried more than they did.
He went from a warm and fuzzy environment in Eugene, Ore. to a hero's welcome in the city of Brotherly Love.
Fans greeted him at the airport when his plane arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday night and a sign reading "Our Chip's Come In" was hung on two trees outside the team's practice facility on Thursday morning. A few fans drove down Pattison Avenue honking their horns to salute the hiring.
"It's a really exciting time for me. It was a difficult decision. There's not many opportunities to coach in the National Football League, and every one of them is special," Kelly said. "But this is an iconic franchise with an outstanding owner. I knew what this place was all about, and this is where I wanted to be. It was just a matter of figuring out how to do it the right way."
The Eagles interviewed 11 candidates in slightly more than two weeks. While fans became anxious waiting for a new coach, the team emphasized a patient approach.
Perhaps they were waiting for Kelly to reconsider.
"The key was to find the right leader, not make the fastest decision," Lurie said. "We never took 'No' as a full 'No.' We knew he was torn. And we knew there was no competition for Chip. It was just, did he want to stay or did he want to come to us?"
Though Kelly has no previous NFL experience, the Eagles are banking on him to turn around a franchise that has just 12 wins in the last two years and zero playoff victories since 2008.
"Chip is a trendsetter," Roseman said. "People are following him. He's not a disciple of anyone. When you are trying to find greatness, you have to find the people on top."
Kelly built quite a reputation for being one of the sharpest football minds in college while leading Oregon to four straight BCS bowl games — including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago — and three conference championships.
Some aspects of his hurry-up, spread offense are used by New England and Washington. Patriots coach Bill Belichick even brought Kelly in to get advice on his offensive philosophy.
But Kelly has a challenge in Philadelphia. His flash-and-dash offense needs a leader under center. Nick Foles, a third-round pick last year who replaced Michael Vick, is a dropback quarterback who said himself that he doesn't fit Kelly's zone-read style
Vick, who will be 33 when the season starts, isn't coming back for the $16 million he's scheduled to make next year. The Eagles have to make a decision on giving him a roster bonus of $3 million within three days after the Super Bowl.
"I haven't watched even film to make any decision on anybody," Kelly said, adding that he's a "huge fan" of Foles.
Kelly also talked about adapting his system to fit the players on the team, a quality that impressed Roseman in their first interview.
"When you meet with Chip, you realize very quickly that Chip is not about whether his offense is going to translate to the NFL," Roseman said. "It's about his vision for a program, it's about how he sees the entire aspect of a football organization and Jeffrey outlined in that first press conference: I want a leader, I want a presence, and so if you had any doubt about Chip Kelly's offense, you left and said this isn't about Chip Kelly and the spread, this is about how Chip Kelly approaches football, and that was incredibly, incredibly impressive."
The Eagles were 3-1 this season after a 19-17 win over the New York Giants on Sept. 30. They then lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish in last place in the NFC East. Reid was fired the day after the season ended, ending a 14-year tenure in which he won more games than any coach in franchise history and went to the playoffs nine times, including five conference championship games.
But the Eagles are still seeking their first Vince Lombardi Trophy and first NFL title since 1960.
"We have one goal, and that's to get to the Super Bowl," Kelly said. "It's not an 'I' deal, it's a 'we' deal. Our players will understand that." -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles team president Joe Banner is stepping aside from the team's day-to-day operations and taking on an advisory role.
Banner will be succeeded as president by chief operating officer Don Smolenski. Both Banner and owner Jeffery Lurie said it was a mutual decision, disputing any suggestion that Banner was pushed out in a power struggle with general manager Howie Roseman and coach Andy Reid.
"It has been my privilege to work with Jeffrey Lurie over all these years," Banner said in a statement released Thursday. "Together we have built a talented front office team that is now ready to assume leadership of this extraordinary franchise. I plan to pursue a major new opportunity within the sports field — one that will enable me to apply all that I have learned as the Eagles president. I could never thank Jeff enough for the opportunity and support he has afforded me."
Banner has occupied a leadership role with the team since it was purchased in 1994 by Lurie, his longtime friend. He'll stay on as an adviser to Lurie.
"There is no better executive in sports than Joe Banner," Lurie said. "We are making this announcement today because he is looking for a greater challenge, and in Don Smolenski I have a highly regarded, very worthy successor as president of this team. Joe and I have achieved a great deal since I acquired the team. From building Lincoln Financial Field and the NovaCare Complex, to driving the work of the Eagles Youth Partnership and, of course, our successes on the field, Joe has been an integral part of everything we have done."
Smolenski joined the Eagles in 1998 as vice president and chief financial officer before being chosen chief operating officer in 2010. He was previously the CFO of the International Hockey League.
"Joe has been a great friend, teacher and mentor," Smolenski said. "His support and confidence have been instrumental to my growth and development in the organization. As the Eagles new president, I'm excited to build on the work we've done together over the years."
Banner was considered an expert in mastering the salary cap. But he often was the target of strong criticism by fans for some of his public comments. The Eagles reached the NFC championship game five times and the Super Bowl once during Banner's tenure, but the franchise hasn't won a title since 1960. -- (AP)
Dennis Dixon has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles on a two-year contract. Dixon, a 6-foot-3, 209-pound quarterback, spent the 2012 season with the Baltimore Ravens practice squad.
He was originally a fifth-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008. Dixon has played in four career games (three starts), throwing for 402 yards and one touchdown on 35-45 passing, while rushing 10 times for 56 yards and a score. He has been a part of two Super Bowl winning teams (Ravens in 2012, Steelers in 2008).
“We are excited to bring in Dennis Dixon to compete at the quarterback position,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles general manager. “Dennis is a veteran in this league that has been a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in his career. He’s also very familiar with Chip Kelly and how he operates.”
Dixon, a standout at Oregon, accumulated 6,337 total yards and 38 passing touchdowns in his college career. During his senior season in 2007, with Chip Kelly as his offensive coordinator, Dixon threw for 2,136 yards and set a school record for a quarterback with 1,208 rushing yards. He led his team to an 8-1 record as a starter that season and earned honorable mention All-America honors.
Dixon, 28, is a native of San Leandro, Ca. He was an accomplished baseball player growing up and appeared in 28 games in the Braves’ minor league system as an outfielder in 2007.
The Philadelphia Eagles have released veteran defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson.
Jenkins signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Eagles in 2011 and started every game the last two seasons. He was due to make $5.5 million this season, but rebuilding Philadelphia cut the 32-year-old Jenkins on Monday.
After spending the first seven seasons of his NFL career with Green Bay, Jenkins left for Philadelphia. He had 5 1-2 sacks in 2011 and four in 2012.
"It's one of the most difficult parts of the job. He has been a very productive player in this league for a long time," Roseman said of Jenkins. "By releasing him at this point, it gives he and his agent more time to sign on with another team."
Patterson, the team's longest-tenured player, spent eight seasons with the Eagles. A first-round draft pick in 2005 out of Southern California, the 29-year-old Patterson played in 115 games with 99 starts. He made 551 tackles, 16 1-2 sacks, had four forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.
Most memorable was the Eagles' longest fumble return for a touchdown, a 98-yarder at San Francisco in 2006.
Patterson underwent brain surgery in January 2012, but returned to the Eagles for five games last season. He was diagnosed with a brain malformation in August 2012 after suffering a seizure during a training camp practice.
"Mike Patterson is one of the toughest players I have ever been around in the National Football League," said Roseman. "He has overcome many obstacles throughout his career and I have the upmost respect for him because of it." -- (AP)
The Philadelphia Eagles have released cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, just two years after he was the NFL's most sought-after free agent.
The Eagles announced the move in a statement Tuesday. General manager Howie Roseman says he and new coach Chip Kelly spoke to Asomugha and "he took the news with a lot of class." Roseman says the Eagles talked to Asomugha's agents at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month about the cornerback's future with the team. "In the end," Roseman says, "Coach and I both felt we needed to move in a different direction at the cornerback position for 2013 and beyond."
Asomugha was due to make $15 million this season, including $4 million guaranteed, after signing a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles in 2011.
Asomugha signed with the Eagles a year after they won the NFC East in a big summer splash of transactions that appeared to give Philadelphia the inside track to at least a conference title. Asomugha joined defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin as part of the new-look Eagles defense, and quarterback Vince Young was brought in to back up Michael Vick. There were stars aplenty, on both sides of the field, and it seemed like the sky was the limit for coach Andy Reid's crew.
The Eagles, though, never came close to reaching their potential. They missed the playoffs in both seasons — including a 4-12 mark last year — and Reid was fired in January. Philadelphia allowed 444 points last season. Only New Orleans (454) was worse in the NFC.
Asomugha had just four interceptions as an Eagle. -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles on Thursday placed the franchise tag on wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Jackson, a 2008 second-round pick out of Cal, who led Philadelphia with 961 yards receiving last season, was scheduled to become a free agent on March 13.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," general manager Howie Roseman said. "DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia.
"It's our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him."
Jackson made the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2010, posting totals of 229 catches, 4,085 yards and 21 touchdowns along the way. Last year, like a lot of Eagles, was a disappointment for Jackson, who caught just four touchdowns as Philadelphia finished 8-8 and out of the NFC playoffs. -- (AP)
It’s always nice to recognize high school athletes for what they have accomplished on and off the field. The Eagles Youth Partnership and Philadelphia Futures recognized academic excellence among the Philadelphia and surrounding area high school football players at the 17th annual Eagles Top Achiever Awards on May 7 in the NovaCare Complex Auditorium.
Bill Davis, Eagles defensive coordinator, Howie Roseman, general manager, and linebacker DeMeco Ryans had a chance to speak to the honorees at the ceremony who have maintained a 3.0 GPA or higher throughout the football season. Ryans was very impressed with a number of the players.
“This is a great program,” Ryans said. “It’s good to see kids getting it done not only on the field, but in the classroom. That’s the most important thing.”
Walter Pegues, a standout from Central High School, was one of the scholastic football players honored at the event. Pegues, a 5-9, 150-pound junior running back, had good year for the Lancers. He had 25 carries for 154 yards. He led the team with 16 receptions for 288 yards while scoring 10 touchdowns.
“It’s great to be honored for academics and playing football is a good experience,” Pegues said. “It’s important to work hard, be a good student, and take it as far as you can.”
Pegues will have a chance to visit the Eagles training camp this summer at the NovaCare Complex.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Pegues, who was honored along with Devin Cruz, Hakeem Ellis, Jesse Gillis and Samuel Reid. “I’m looking forward to it. I play running back and wide receiver. It’s going to be a lot of fun seeing Shady [LeSean McCoy, running back] and DeSean [Jackson, wide receiver]. They’re my favorite players.”
Each student-athlete received an Eagles Top Achiever certificate and t-shirt, an autographed football, a group photo and a tour of the Eagles’ locker room. The high school football player with the highest GPA from each school will also be invited to spend a day at Eagles training camp as a VIP.