Chip Kelly Update: Radio Silence

With all the controversy over his team releasing DeSean Jackson, a friend asked me a very good question.  What has Chip said about all this?

The answer: next to nothing.  Kelly has almost completely avoided talking to the press since the season ended in January.  He has spoken publicly only three times during a period of constant media scrutiny, free agent acquisitions and draft planning.  And even then, it was because he was required to.

Kelly has never been very forthcoming with the press; he avoids reporting injuries or details of them, and basically never gives print interviews unless he is required to do so by his contract or by league rules.  Reporters rarely get anything more than press conferences after games, though he’ll do some (easily controlled) TV and radio appearances.

Last year he made a quick media tour when he was hired, then gave a single roundtable interview with a handful of the biggest newspaper reporters in April, and even then he embargoed it until July.

But even by his standards, Coach Kelly’s silence during this off-season has been remarkable.  Those three on-camera cameos mentioned included a) when he was given the Maxwell Club Award as best NFL coach, b) when he made a Navy player who died during a workout, an honorary Eagle and c) his required one-hour interview at the NFL Owner’s Meeting.

Not surprisingly, this reticence has made fans and reporters all the more eager to hear what he thinks.  Why did the team release DeSean?  Who do they want to draft?  How will the team change?  Is he obsessed with getting big players, because — as he famously said last year — “Big players beat up little players”?

Try to slip one by this guy.  Just try.

from video

Try to slip one by this guy. Just try.

Chip’s not talking.  And even though I would love to hear his thoughts, just like every other writer, I kind of sympathize with him.  Beyond the trick of making people more curious to hear what he has to say, I look at it this way: would talking with the press help the Eagles win, or not?

The answer, I think clearly, is no.  Fans are eager, yet bored during the long off-season – made even longer by delaying the draft all the way into May.  But fan anxiousness — and the difficulty of writers in finding topics to explore — do not hurt Philadelphia’s competitiveness in any way.

But revealing the thought processes behind team decisions might hurt that competitiveness a lot.  In the last two drafts, the Eagles have done a great job of identifying unheralded talent, such as Nose Tackle Bennie Logan (a third-round pick last year) and Safety Earl Wolff (a fifth-round pick).  Logan started by mid-season, and Wolff did as well until an injury knocked him out.

Other teams noticed, and might poach the little-known gems that the Eagles have identified.  That’s why every team tries to obscure the players they want, or send smokescreens about different players at the same position they might prefer.  Some even fly in players they’re not interested in for official visits, to distract opposing teams.

DeSean makes his case on ESPN

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DeSean makes his case on ESPN.

With DeSean, the Eagles were desperately trying to trade him, both last year and this year, before they finally gave up hope and released him.  The article on alleging gang ties was almost certainly not the reason the team ditched the star WR, but it may have convinced them that they were wasting time trying to peddle him.  If more than a year of efforts failed before the allegations were made public, they may have (and should have) concluded that a trade was doomed after that article appeared.

Two days before the team released DeSean, Chip had a mandatory hour long interview at the NFL’s annual meeting with any credentialed press who showed up.  His table was packed, more so than any other coach’s (including Pete Carroll, who had just won a Super Bowl in dominant fashion).

He was asked repeatedly about DJax and fended off the questions with non-committal answers.  He confirmed reports that he had spoken to DeSean personally, by phone.  What did they say?

“We’ve had a good conversation, and we’re always going to do what’s best for the football team.  But I think he knows where we are, and I know where he is.  I feel very comfortable about it.  My conversations with him aren’t things I think I need to have a conversation with anyone else about.”  Asked again, he was more blunt: “My conversations with DeSean are between me and DeSean.”

That clears it up, right?  A reporter persisted: Did he want DeSean on the team? “I like DeSean.  DeSean did a really nice job for us [last season].  But we’re always going to do what’s best for the organization.”

Reporters kept pressing him, as reporters do.  Kelly’s veneer of positivity started to wear a little thin.  This bit of faint praise struck me, even at the time; a reporter asked how DeSean fit into the culture, and if he bought in.  “DeSean did a good job.  I mean, he played 16 games for us, he practiced every day.  I had no issues with him.”

Wow, he showed up every day he was supposed to!  That’s the way to win a coaches heart, I’ll tell you what.  You don’t want those guys who skip class and go play video games and smoke cigarettes.

My point is, it didn’t help Chip or the team – or DeSean — to hash their problems out in public.  And even if you force Kelly to spar with reporters for a full hour of fast-talking banter, it’s not difficult for him to reveal just as little while talking as he does not giving interviews at all.

My book, “The Tao of Chip Kelly,” has an entire chapter full of Chip tweaking reporters, mocking their stupid questions, and saying as much or as little as he wants.

Sparring with the press is fun!

from video

Sparring with the press is fun!

Now, as a writer, I love it when Chip gives long interviews.  He has a quick mind and usually says something worth discussing on a different subject than he is asked about.  For example, at those NFL Annual Meetings, he gave an interesting explanation of how he tries to set a framework in which team leaders organically emerge among the players.  It’s a lot harder to write about a guy who maintains radio silence; all we can do is speculate.

But in the end, it’s more useful to watch people’s actions, not hear their words.  The Eagles spoke clearly two days later, by releasing Jackson.  DeSean signed quickly with Washington for a 25% pay cut, which confirmed speculation that no one wanted to trade (because they would have been stuck with his full $10-million-a-year original contract).

Chip hasn’t been talking, but he has set a record for college Pro Days attended by an NFL head coach — at least 12 by last count, travelling by commercial airliner around the country to see the new talent up close.

And Jackson’s actions are also speaking louder than his politically correct interview comments about maturing, learning and wanting to be a good team player in Washington.  Djax has had plenty of media appearances in celebrity gossip rags, photos included. reported on DeSean’s “crazy Miami rager,” where he dropped $7,000 on expensive “bottles and models,” and MSTARS NEWS had him hitting on movie star/singer Rihanna at the LA nightclub where he was partying with rapper The Game.

Meanwhile, Jackson skipped the first week of Redskins’ workouts, rather than reschedule his previously booked vacation, and while his teammates sweated he was posting photos on Instagram of his tropical #privateisland paradise.

Given that contrast, do we really need Chip to tell us in words what the problem was?

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Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit

Mark Saltveit's newest book is "Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly's Football Revolution" (Diversion Books, NY) has been recently released. He is the author of "The Tao of Chip Kelly" (2013) and writes on science, religion, wordplay and political scandals. He is also a standup comedian and the world palindrome champion.

  • Jamie

    I love your stuff Mark. Thanks for the insightful commentary.

  • josh

    Biased…. i love how this doesnt even mention the fact that the workouts he “skipped” were not mandatory… and if youre going to get mad at desean for going to clubs and buying things you must hate lesean

    • Fredeh

      …or, it shows that “lesean” does not put team first…kind of the point…see the last sentence of the article, “Given that contrast, do we really need Chip to tell us in words what the problem was?”

      • Mark Saltveit

        Thanks. In fairness though, I think josh is contrasting LeSean McCoy — the real star of the team IMHO, but also another young player who also likes to party — with DeSean Jackson.

        The difference is, LeSean didn’t hold out despite a signed contract or dog it for a year until he got more money. He gives it all every game.

        LeSean doesn’t skip voluntary practices, doesn’t distract himself trying to make the celebrity pages or be a music star. Look — TMZ didn’t just stumble on DeSean in that nightclub with a photogapher handy. Someone, probably from DeSean’s team, fed that story to them to build his image.

        It’s a question of focus, and of bonding with his teammates. They’re busting their ass and reading about him partying. That’s why DeSean did not have close friends on the Eagles, and that affects how a team plays.

    • Jake and Elmo

      True, they weren’t mandatory. But when someone just signs a contract for $16 million guaranteed, you would think that maybe they would make the extra effort when his teammates are doing so.

    • Mark Saltveit

      What Jake and Elmo said. It’s not mandatory, or he would have been suspended. But keeping him on the Eagles wasn’t mandatory either. And Chip prefers players who put the team first.

      All I’m saying, these are literally his first acts as a Redskin. It’s not a good sign for him being a successful player. Or do you think this kind of swag helps him as a player? I guess you could argue that cockiness is essential but I don’t see it.

  • Ian

    Chip Kelly and the Eagles are flat out wrong for releasing DeSean Jackson. This is one of the worst moves in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles. In no way does it improve the team, in fact it sets the team back big time.

    You do not release a 27 year old star WR coming off a career year. This is Chip Kelly and the Eagles being arrogant, thinking that they are smarter than everyone else. Meanwhile the entire NFL is laughing at the Eagles. Chip Kelly just made a major blunder. The fact that he refuses to address what happened just adds to the aggravation.

    • Mark Saltveit

      Darrelle Revis and Steve Smith were released this year and they’re pretty darned good too. But not worth their money either. It’s a business.

      Oakland let Nnamdi Asomugha go at the peak of his career. People were laughing at them at the time, but two years later they were laughing at the Eagles for signing him.

      I predict a similar result for DeSean — in 2 years everyone will agree it was a mistake for Washington to sign him, and in 3 years he’ll be out of the league.

      • Ian

        Steve Smith is turning 35 next month. He is not in the prime of his career like DeSean Jackson is. Bringing him up is laughable.

        The Bucs are switching back to the Tampa 2, so it makes no sense to have a premier NFL CB play zone most of the game. Made sense for them to move him.

        Nnamdi was at the peak of his career? More like the downside. The Eagles signed Nnamdi at age 30. MAJOR difference between 30 and 27.

        By the way, the Eagles ensured that Nnamdi would fail, by hiring the offensive line coach to be a first time defensive coordinator. Juan Castillo had one of the best man-to-man press corners in the NFL, dropping back in zone all the time.

        I see no correlation at all between Nnamdi and DeSean, and I will bet you a trillion dollars that DeSean Jackson is still in the NFL in 3 years (barring any extreme injury like a ruptured achilles). You are really reaching with that comparison.

        • Mark Saltveit

          Any serious injury could knock him out, given that speed and good hands is all he has. Short, thin, slow receivers don’t do anything in the NFL.

          I suspect that the reason he fades at the end of most years is because his slight frame gets beat up over 16 games, much less 17+.

    • Mark Saltveit

      “coming off a career year” — exactly. Do you think that was DeSean doing something special for a coach he didn’t like, after getting 300 yards a year less under his favorite coach Andy Reid?

      Or was that Chip being a great coach who can get the most out of even difficult players? I think it was the latter. But Chip may not want to devote all of his time to motivated a talented screw-off player when he could be making all 46 players better instead. With their cooperation and full effort.

      • Ian

        Okay so if it just the system, then we should expect that Riley Cooper and/or Jeremy Maclin to equal or surpass the production of DeSean Jackson this past year (1300 yards and 9 touchdowns). Right?

        By the way DeSean Jackson has made a pro bowl before Chip Kelly was around. The system helped DeSean, but clearly he has always been super talented. I think the bigger help to Jackson last year was having a competent QB in place instead of that bum Michael Vick. That was tremendous for everyone.

        • Mark Saltveit

          Jackson did much better when Vick was still QB, racking up 3 of his 5 100+ yard games. He faded under Foles, esp. the last 3 must-win games.

          Chip doesn’t like individual heroes, because one injury means your team is screwed. I would expect the receiver corps as a whole (incl. tight ends) to get more production than they did last year (as a whole) with DeSean. Not one receiver though.

        • hokieduck

          Seems to me that Riley Cooper had a career year and was very productive for the Birds last season. Maclin was hurt but is a terrific receiver and, if he can make it back, will also be incredibly productive.

          Foles is a smart kid who throws to the open spot in the defense. A prima donna like DJax can’t stand that. He wants all the touches and all the glory and is going to disrupt if he isn’t getting them.

          Glad Chip kicked him. Everyone is going to be waiting to jump on him for this decision. They think hope he will fail, just like they thought (think?) and hoped he would operate “just a college system”. Regardless of how DeSean performs this year, the Eagles will be stronger without DeSean. IMO.

    • Mancave001

      You’re wrong, Ian. DeSean is a great player with an inconsistent work ethic and attitude. He’s a diva, and even people who think about him like you do know it. I have a shrine in my Man Cave built around the 2010 comeback vs p the Giants and his walk-off PR…but I just think he’s not worth it at $10M. He’s not a red zone threat and doesn’t like playing the slot. He’s got two things…speed and good hands. When the first one diminishes (and it will) he’s not going to be the same. And he’s so small that I sorry about him getting injured. It might be a little early to drop him, I grant you. But I trust Kelly’s judgement here. That money can be spent improving the defense and on at least two young, big receivers.

      • Ian

        But they didn’t spend the money of defense. TJ Ward, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Jairus Byrd, and Mike Mitchell were all available and all they did was bring in a mediocre Malcolm Jenkins.

        DeSean Jackson may become worthless when he loses his speed, but that clearly won’t be for a few years. He is only 27 and was under contract until age 30. 30 was the right time to let DeSean walk, not 27. 1300 yards and 9 touchdowns is definitely worth 10 million. Lets not forget all of the space Jackson creates for others and the impact he can have as a returner. This hurts everyone to some degree. This move is pure subtraction.

        • Mark Saltveit

          As the Seahawks have shown, you don’t build a Super Bowl champion by signing a bunch of expensive free agents. The Eagles tried that in 2011 and it was a disaster.

          If you’re say where the 49ers are, or have a 37 year old star QB like Denver, free agent spending makes sense. For everyone else, you build through the draft and UDFAs. The players you named are all very expensive and older. Not worth it, just like DeSean wasn’t. (Notice his price went down in a free market.)

          • ian

            The Seahawks spent a ton of money and resources to get Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch.

            DeSean hit free agency and got 16 million guaranteed. In a league where it is all about the guaranteed money, DeSean got paid more money. Huge win for him personally.

            By the way, Aqib Talib is 28, Darrelle Revis is 28, TJ Ward is 27, Jairus Byrd is 27, and Mike Mitchell is 26. The only old guy I mentioned was DeMarcus Ware, who is 31. It’s funny that you consider these guys to be too old, because the Eagles traded for Darren Sproles and he turns 31 in less than a month.

          • Mark Saltveit

            The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch after the worst year of his career; he wasn’t a free agent at all. Harvin was the last piece for a team knocking at the door, after 3 years of building through the draft.

            But the team is built on Pro Bowlers picked up through the draft, mostly low picks, like Max Unger, Russel Wilson, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. They are all a lot more important to the team than Harvin.

            With the salary cap, that’s the only way to build a complete team these days.

          • Ian

            When you draft so poorly, like the Eagles have lately (especially bad on defense) you need to add some key free agents to make the team good enough to win. The Eagles defense was awful last year, and Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t enough of an upgrade to make a difference. The Eagles needed to add at least two quality starters in free agency, or even two top notch free agents from the list of players I mentioned.

    • hokieduck

      Time will tell, Ian. I agree with you that DeSean is at the peak of his physical talents. Unfortunately, that does not include being at the peak of honing them or using them in a way that ultimately benefits the team.

      Chip is, in all things, a team guy. Call it arrogant. Call it whatever you want. But since the day he stepped foot in that town, he set about to change the culture of the team and, since the day Chip stepped foot into that town, DeSean Jackson has been the one who was arrogant and all about himself. That arrogance bought him being treated as third string early on. He didn’t like that and went to the media with his discontent; later when the system Chip put in place got him in space and let his natural athletic gifts get free rein, he reined in his complaints and enjoyed his touches and numbers.

      But he still was a cancer in the organization and this particular cancer spreads to others, especially young others. From everything I have read, DeSean Jackson burned his bridges with the Eagles organization before Chip even arrived. Chip just has the balls to cut him.

      I for one am glad that he is gone. He will try and burn the Eagles when they play next season. He may even do it. But, for my money, I will always back an organization that refuses to eat some prima donna’s crap in order to cash in on his occasional greatness.

  • Kevin

    Love your articles and insight Mark. I have a question for you since you have a good understanding of Chip. Does Chip hate talking to the media or does he just hate having “stupid” conversations? By stupid, I get the impression the if the conversation is speculation and doesn’t add value, then it just wastes time, which seems to rank in the top five offenses to Chip. I get the impression if you ran into Chip at a juice bar and we’re able to pull up a stool next to him, you could have a great conversation about X’s and O’s and concepts and ideas over a peanut butter banana smoothie, but leave hypotheticals and conjecture out of it. I know it can frustrate fans and media, but I think his approach is a sound organizational model to follow.

    • Mark Saltveit

      Chip is very generous with his ideas and insights at coaching clinics, where he respects his audience. My sense is that he enjoys sparring with reporters but doesn’t generally respect either their (our) knowledge or trust what they’ll do with his answers. And rightfully so.

      Here’s a simple thing: players and coaches tend to address coaches, even assistants, as “Coach XXXX.” The press tends to call him Chip during press conferences, a familiarity that few of us have really earned.

      He is generally very open inside the organization, with players, and closed with the outside. I just don’t see any advantage to him in changing that, and there’s a lot of risk. It’s like poker players not showing you their hand after you fold.

  • Mancave001

    I love that he says nothing and mocks the press in a humorous way (even they laugh). So much better than “uh, um..time’s yours” Big Red, who was just annoying.

  • 76mustang

    Football is the ultimate team game. The goal of every NFL team is to be Super Bowl champion(s). DeSean chose to skip his year end interview with the coaching staff. When asked by a reporter about his contract situation says he’d like a raise, or at least some guaranteed money, and then says that he and his new agent have a good plan going into the off-season. Does that sound like a player committed to winning a Super Bowl?

    Besides struggling to produce in the red zone, here’s DeSean’s playoff production:

    2008 3 games 11 receptions 207 yds. 1 TD
    2009 1 game 3 receptions 14 yds. 1 TD
    2010 1 game 2 receptions 47 yds. 0 TD
    2013 1 game 3 receptions 53 yds. 0 TD

    Not one team in the league felt he was worth $10M a season for what he brings to the table. Eagles offense will be better served with a team player that buys in to Chip’s system and is willing to put in the extra work needed to contend for a championship.

    • Ian

      Now post LeSean McCoy’s playoff stats. Should we release him too based on that flawed logic?

      • 76mustang

        Show me where I said DeSean should have been release solely for his lack of playoff production – the playoff stats merely support the team’s decision to move on from DeSean based on his cost and the rest of his shortcomings.

        Put LeSean on the market and there would be teams interested…