PHOENIX -- Everybody wants to know what Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles offense and defense is going to look like. So does he. As Kelly pointed out Wednesday in answer to questions about the schemes he intends to run in his first year as an NFL head coach, he hasn't had a chance to get his players on the field yet. And he doesn't think it's right to impose a "system" on a group of players without first getting a handle on what they do well.
"Our defensive staff understands, just like our offensive staff understands, that everything you do has to be personnel-driven," Kelly said. "So we can say we want to run this defense, but if we don't have the personnel to do it, we still have to play games. So how do we adapt? How do we adjust? The process is about evaluating what you have and then finding out what their strengths are and how to play to their strengths and also how to hide their weaknesses."
Many have assumed the Eagles will run the kind of fast-paced offense Kelly's teams ran at the University of Oregon. And the hiring of Billy Davis as defensive coordinator led many to believe the Eagles would run the "4-3 under" type of defense Davis ran when he was defensive coordinator in Arizona. But Kelly has repeatedly resisted labels or descriptions for his planned schemes and alignments because he (wisely) wants to get a handle on what kind of roster he has before imposing structure on it.
So while I know everybody wants to know what roles Trent Cole and Brandon Graham will have if the Eagles line up in a 3-4 alignment instead of a 4-3, and how DeSean Jackson will be used on offense. But as we have discussed many times here, you don't hire a star college coach like Kelly to coach your NFL team because you liked the system he ran at Oregon. You hire him because you think he's smart and open-minded and has the ability to lead men. And the best way to lead men as an NFL head coach is to first find out what kind of men you have then figure out the best way to succeed with them.
Coaches who come in determined to do things their way, and add personnel that fit their idea of the proper scheme, aren't the ones that last. If Kelly is smart, as he appears to be, he'll find ways to use talented guys like Cole and Graham even if they don't fit defined roles and terminology Davis used in Arizona. He's operating as though he's still at the start of a long-term process. He gets one extra minicamp since he's a new head coach, and he said he's going to have it the week before the draft. That's when he'll start figuring out who goes where, and I think if you're an Eagles fan you can be intrigued and excited to follow along as he pieces it all together between then and the start of the season.