Chip Kelly Update: Controlled Chaos

Mark Saltveit FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

My new book is out. Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly‘s Football Revolution tells the story of the Eagles’ crazy 2014 season, including the off-seasons before and after. There was a lot of turmoil, from the sudden release of DeSean Jackson and Chip’s bureaucratic death match with Howie Roseman to the explosion of wheeling and dealing this past spring, when Chip took full control of the team and got rid of his starting quarterback, running back and No. 1 wide receiver.

Sports science, reconditioning, tempo, crazy practice gadgets, team secrecy, media battles, and actual football games — it’s all in there, told in a quick-reading, sassy style.

Hijinks at Helium Phillyh

Hijinks at Helium Philly

I’m promoting the book in Philadelphia this week, with appearances on Angelo Cataldi’s top-rated radio show and TV shows such as “Philly Sports Talk” and “Breakfast on Broad” and a special comedy show at Helium Philly, a great club.

Interviews are weird. They go by in a flash and then you realize you’ve said something like, “Chip Kelly is the anti-Kardashian, and the world needs an anti-Kardashian.”

Here’s an excerpt from the book, exclusively at


Kelly has formed a complete vision of his ideal football program, which he has built from the ground up. A set of rock-solid principles he has honed while playing and coaching football nonstop since he was a boy. Evidence based. Experienced based. But never based on conventional wisdom.

As he told a round table of Philly reporters in 2014:

“I was probably a pain in the ass as a little kid, I would imagine. I questioned everything. I’ve always been a why guy, trying to figure out why things happen and what they are and just curious about it from that standpoint.

“When I became a head coach, I had never been a head coach before and I had no experience being it, so I’m going to ask a million questions about how do you do this, and how does the training room, and how do you operate, because that wasn’t really under my domain when I was an offensive coordinator. In most situations, it’s, ‘OK, that makes sense.’ But I just wanted it to be explained why, like what’s your protocol and how do you do it? Anything that’s going to touch the football team, from there, I think you develop what you want, and your philosophies and how you want things to work.”

In other words, he is reinventing football, building it up from first principles and practical experience with a samurai-like dedication to his craft. He trusts only what he sees and experiences in games. A few fundamentals stay the same, and the rest is open to change — players, formations, weather, even the rules of the game.”

“Just tell me the rules and I’ll play by them,” Kelly is fond of saying.

The author on "Breakfast on Broad," a CSNPhilly morning show

The author on “Breakfast on Broad,” a CSN-Philly morning show

What stays the same, then? Football is a series of several dozen 4- to 6-second bursts of intense activity by a team of young men working together. There’s no place for ego, selfishness, or focus on personal statistics. Faster and smarter are always better.

“Bigger people beat up little people,” as Chip famously observed, but matchups are more important. If you plan yours well, a quick, little guy (such as 5’6″ Darren Sproles) can run past or even out-muscle a big lumbering player. Everything else is negotiable.

The result is a football program in which innovations are immediately apparent from the moment you walk through the doors of the NovaCare Center. The fast food that previous coach Andy Reid had served in the team’s cafeteria has been replaced by healthy meals and charts about nutritious food groups. (Reporters love to mock the customized protein shakes as “special smoothies.”) The Eagles break with NFL tradition by having vigorous workouts the day before a game, and taking off the day after (Monday, instead of the usual Tuesday).

Practices are extremely fast, filled with blaring music and separated into 26 short periods announced by a robotic voice. Each is dedicated to specific tasks: stretching, special teams seven-on-seven scrimmages, passing drills or (very rarely) instruction. The team uses a variety of gadgets to teach key skills, from remote-controlled cars to three garbage cans stacked on top of each other at an angle to the bizarre-looking “bug men.”

Linebacker Emmanuel Acho told Phil Sheridan of ESPN that

It’s controlled chaos. We have the music blaring. Sometimes, you can hardly hear your teammates. But that means everything on Sunday is a lot slower. When you come out here and you can hardly hear the call, then on Sunday, when you’re playing at home and it’s quiet when you’re out there, then it’s very simple. I think we do a good job of stressing ourselves in practice so the game is easier.”


Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly’s Football Revolution is available from the Oregon Ducks Store, Powell’s, Coast Books in Seaside and better bookstores across the nation. But especially around Philadelphia.

Featured photo from video, “Philly Sports Talk” on CSN-Philly

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