PHILADELPHIA – In the end, Chip Kelly chose the NFL, giving the Eagles their guy.
Philadelphia hired Kelly on Wednesday, just 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon. Kelly, 49, known as an offensive innovator, becomes the 21st coach in team history and replaces Andy Reid, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 4-12 season.
He’ll be introduced at a news conference today at the Eagles’ practice facility.
Kelly, who was 46-7 in four years at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in a two-day span after leading the fast-flying Ducks to a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3.
Kelly ended a whirlwind day by boarding a plane in Eugene, Ore., headed for Philadelphia. When he arrived at Philadelphia International Airport, he quickly saw a glimpse of what this team means to this city. Not only were general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski waiting for him on the runway – they arrived with a police escort – there were fans, decked out in green, on hand, as well.
The Eagles are known to have interviewed 11 candidates, including two meetings with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All along, Kelly was thought to be Philadelphia’s first choice in a long, exhaustive process that took many twists.
Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles, owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.
The Eagles interviewed two other high-profile college coaches – Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly. Both elected to stay with their schools.
Kelly built Oregon into a national powerhouse. The Ducks went to four straight BCS bowl games – including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago – and have won three conference championships.
Kelly originally went to Oregon in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for now.
It’s unknown whether the possibility of NCAA sanctions based on Oregon’s use of recruiting services factored into Kelly’s reversal. He indicated in Arizona that he isn’t running from anything.
Kelly and the Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft as well as some talented players on offense who could fit his scheme. Running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin seem like ideal matches. Quarterback Nick Foles, however, isn’t.
On the other hand, Michael Vick could be perfect. But it’s unlikely the Eagles would want to pay the $16 million they’d have to shell out for an injury-prone quarterback, who will be 33 next season.