Chip Kelly Update: An Offensive Lineman’s Mentality

Ross tucker TV

Those of us who write about football are rarely ex-players or ex-coaches, and frankly that hurts our credibility with the people about whom we write. Chip Kelly didn’t even like having a non-“football guy” as his General Manager. And GM Howie Roseman — a legendary bureaucratic infighter — got kicked upstairs as a result of their death match.

Reporters complain a lot about Chip’s chilly attitude toward the media, but I suspect he’s just more honest about his feelings than other coaches. The guy obviously loves talking football with players and other coaches, from Bill Belichick to Urban Meyer and Kliff Kingsbury. His lectures to other coaches — some of whom you can find here on FishDuck — are blunt, direct and highly-detailed about exactly what he was trying to do with the Ducks. (They stopped around 2011.)

There are a couple of football writers with serious football experience, such as Matt Bowen, though the good ones tend to jump straight into broadcast journalism jobs, which we lowly scribes look to as the pot at the end of a 20-year-long-career rainbow.

Ross Tucker has the perfect Chip Kelly resume — a seven-year NFL player, smart guy (went to Princeton, two-time Academic all-American), and now a motivational speaker as well as analyst. Most importantly, he has that offensive lineman mentality, which makes sense because he was a journeyman tackle named to the USA Today “All-Joe” team in 2003.

Tucker speaking motivationally

from video, RossTucker.com

Ross Tucker making a motivational speech.

In a recent article about “The Chip Kelly Football Experiment,” Tucker discussed Chip’s willingness to discard players who don’t buy into his program.

That’s fascinating for a guy like me, who always bought into what the coach was selling because, frankly, I didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t talented enough to go about it any other way and think I’d have a job. As such, I didn’t have a great deal of respect or sympathy for the guys who would speak out or fail to get in line and stay there. I was probably envious at times that they had the clout to be able to do what they wanted and not have to worry about their roster spot, but in the end I still couldn’t picture myself ever acting that way. It’s just not in my DNA.

Chip simply doesn’t give one-on-one interviews to reporters, aside from a couple of quick broadcast TV bits and a weekly five-minute phone call during the season with Angelo Cataldi, a big sports talk radio host in Philadelphia. The last time he gave a reporter enough time and access to profile him was in 2010, with George Schroeder of The Register Guard, not long after the Ducks hired Chip. (Schroeder now writes for USA Today.)

And yet, with hardly anyone noticing, Chip sat down a year ago with Tucker and Bill Polian, a legendary NFL executive, for an epic 17-minute chat. It’s on episode 70 of Tucker’s podcast. They went over a lot of interesting details about the Eagles’ unique training camp methods and Chip’s philosophy.

Probably because he was talking with two football guys, coach Kelly was clearly more relaxed than in any other interview I’ve ever heard. It’s definitely worth a listen.

ross tucker podcast page

I bring this up because I was honored to have Tucker invite me onto his podcast this past Monday to discuss Controlled Chaos, my new book about Chip Kelly and the Eagles’ 2014 season. (It’s coming out on July 28th; you can pre-order now.) Here’s an excerpt from the interview that you might find interesting:

RT: The other thing [Chip Kelly’s] betting on, clearly, is his system, and I think you touched upon it at the very start, which is just the importance of buy-in, when you move on from DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Evan Mathis. You know a lot of times in the NFL, I’ve always heard people say, you have to replace talent with talent, and certainly in the case of Evan Mathis, I don’t think that he’s done that. And to release Mathis and not get anything in return, it’s surprising to say the least.

Is that the philosophy, is it that simple that “Hey, if you’re not totally bought in with what we’re doing, then get him out of there.” Because I guess my concern is, a lot of times there are going to be players unhappy with their contract, and if it’s that easy to get released, then there’s a lot of guys who are gonna wear the wrong socks, and not go with the program, so that they get released and become a free agent.

MS: I think he really does believe in the radical idea that he doesn’t want people on the team unless they want to be there. And that he can find enough people to fit in.

It’s a particular worry, and you mentioned this in an article the other day, you’ve got Sam Bradford with a shaky knee, and then who’s your guard? What’s going to happen if people do a double A-gap blitz, and you’ve got second-, third-level people because they’re enthusiastic but your Pro-Bowl guy is gone, it’s a concern.

The thing with Evan Mathis, his agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who comes up a lot in this book, was also DeSean Jackson’s agent before he fired him. He has a particular history with the Eagles. He was also Terrell Owens‘ agent back in the day.

But earlier in the spring, and Evan Mathis has acknowledged this, he asked the Eagles to release him. Because he wants a better contract, he’s on his last contract, he’s what 33, 34? And … the Eagles weren’t going to do it.

I think he might have out-smarted himself a little, … and now he’s going “and then I stopped asking to be released,” but I think with Chip once you say you want off the team, it’s over. There’s no undoing that.

RT: Right, once you say it once, you’ve … It’s like when [Bill] Parcells would say, once a guy talks about retiring, he’s already retired.

MS: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

RT: Once a guy mentions retiring, he’s already retired.

There’s a lot more interesting discussion there. Check it out.

Feature photo of Ross Tucker from video, courtesy RossTucker.com

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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.

  • joshzzz

    Mark, you brought up some great points.

    One of the biggest problems with sports writers and sports radio talk hosts is that most have never coached in their lives and have no clue what it’s like to have to deal with players. They look at statistics on paper and think they know something. It isn’t as simple as just inserting a piece in a puzzle and everything is fine.

    Though I love sports, I hate sports talk radio because all too often the guys behind the mics have no clue what they’re talking about but they spew out their foolishness with pride. It’s hard to listen to.

    As a for instance, everyone was down on Chip Kelly when he released Desean Jackson. Not one of these talking heads really knows what it’s like to be in a locker room with Jackson or what Jackson says to other players or the coaches.

    Instead of trying to sound like an expert every radio host should have been saying, “I respect that move because Kelly is the coach.”

    Instead they act like endless complaining, crying babies because we took their toy away from them.

    If you want to know what it’s like to coach then coach, but don’t complain about someone when you haven’t been there.

    • Mark Saltveit

      Thank you very much. Have you seen DeSean’s new reality TV show on BET, “Home Team”? It sheds a lot of like on Kelly’s decision to release DeSean, in a way that makes Chip’s decision more understandable. Not to mention the fact that Jeremy Maclin, who had never done as well as DeSean playing on the same team for several years, piled up nearly identical numbers to DeSean last year despite the Eagles QBs being worse and the OL injured.

      It sort of looks like DeSean needed Chip more than Chip needed DeSean.

      As for knowledge, I know even less about football than most reporters, but I like to think that I have an backhand advantage in that I know there’s a ton I don’t know, and try to approach this task with some humility.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Chip Kelly came into Philly and took them to the playoffs his 1st couple of seasons. Chip knows what he’s doing and as far as I’m concerned a better Coach than College Coach Saban as Kelly did more with less and has basically succeeded with his offense at the top level. I like what Chip brings to the table but was a little upset when he ditched the Ducks the way he did. I totally understand it though because if you want to be a great Coach you must take that next step and that’s the NFL. As far as him letting his starting guard go he was 34 years of age and you don’t give a guy regardless if an ALL PRO if he turns 34. Also I’ve heard a lot of crap about Agent Drew Rosenhaus and Coach’s and GM’s don’t like him even though he’s good at what he does. I won’t be surprised at all if Chip gets Philly back to the dance or wins the NFC East this year. I might even consider Chip starting in the category of Genious like Bill Walsh changed Football with the West Coast offense and back then everyone said it was a gimmick and wouldn’t last long, well we all know how that turned out. As far as Football people knowing what there doing isn’t always the case especially the so called EXPERT’S like on ESPON who are pretty much always wrong about the Ducks.

  • Ben

    Everything I have read from Mark and the several times that I have listened to Ross, I always come away feeling as if I learned something new.
    These guys get it.
    Writing or even talking about Chip Kelly has to be one of the more difficult pieces that they have attempted.
    Chip is not the kind of coach who gives lots of interviews and if you ever researched him, you only get to hear about what he has accomplished, and rarely can you get a definitive picture as to what kind of man he is.
    Ross seems more knowledgeable of Chip Kelly the man, and as a life long Eagles fan I have to agree with everything he talks about in this interview and previous things he has said about the Eagles.
    He isn’t lying when he says he is a fan. He is probably as fanatical as the next guy about his team.
    Saltviet is a different kind of beast where he writes about many things, but his articles about Chip have been spot on.
    We love Chip in Philly and we feel bad for Oregon as they lost a truly special coach and also a great man as well.
    Real Eagle fans see what this coach has done in a very short time and we all believe he is going to get Philly a SB in the very near future.
    Every move Chip has made since becoming the Head Coach was not only great, but made the team better for the long haul and not many coaches have that kind of forward vision IMO.
    Being an Eagles fan can sometimes be very heart wrenching, but ever since Chip arrived in Philly, we have all been more inspired by what he is doing and he blows our minds on a regular basis and I feel that is exactly what this team and city has needed.