By accepting the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Chip Kelly also welcomed the rigors of running the preeminent team in one of the country's toughest sports cities -- the same place that infamously booed and threw snow at Santa.
All the talk about Kelly is whether he'll keep Michael Vick, and perhaps more importantly if he can apply the spread offense he so successfully ran at Oregon in the NFL. But one of the previous generation's best football minds doesn't seem too worried.
Dick Vermeil, who made the same jump from the Pac-10/12 to the NFL when he left UCLA for Philadelphia in 1976, says he is confident that Kelly will be just fine. They spoke on the phone last week, and Vermeil, who took the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his fifth season, gave Kelly some advice.
"To me, coaching is coaching, leading is leading, and from what I have been told, he's a great leader, he's a great communicator, he's a great teacher," Vermeil says. "All those concepts are completely important in the National Football League, if not more. Yes, he'll have to make some adjustments. The big thing is surrounding yourself with people who can help you be as good as you can be as a coach, and surround yourself with knowledgeable people, experienced people, and then go with it."
Still, others worry about the challenge that the unique and difficult culture of Philadelphia may have for the new coach. After all, this isn't the Universities of New Hampshire or Oregon -- Kelly's previous two coaching stops. This is Philadelphia.
If Kelly's introductory press conference last Thursday is any indication, he does have an appreciation for the "City of Brotherly Love," its passion for sports and the fact that the Eagles haven't brought home a title since 1960, six seasons before the start of the Super Bowl era.
"I know that the second most important bowl, besides the Super Bowl, which is my goal, is the Wing Bowl," Kelly quipped about the famous chicken wing-eating contest, which is one of Philly's other institutions. "I am not going to participate, but I understand what this city is all about and I'm just glad that I got an opportunity to be here.
"My decision was based on nothing to do with any trepidation about this organization," he said between a mention of Vince Papale, a player for Vermeil and the inspiration for the 2006 film Invincible. "I wanted to be here. If you pay attention to outside expectations, it means that you value their opinion more than you value your own. No one has higher expectations for me than me."
Vermeil, who was NFL coach of the year with the Eagles and the Rams, acknowledged that there is heightened scrutiny with this distinct NFL position.
"Philadelphia is tough, because of their passion for the team," he says. "The level of intensity and the overreaction to the positive and the overreaction to the negative is great there. It really is. But I think he is a great communicator. I think he connects with people, I think he will connect with the community. That will help him in Philadelphia. It will buy you time."
Then he adds with a chuckle: "Still gotta win."
Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards, who also played cornerback for the Eagles for nine seasons, most of them under Vermeil, sees the increased pressure as only a positive.
"It's unique in that it's a passionate town," Edwards says, "and they're hooraying now. And [Kelly] said at his press conference, 'Hey, after the first time you don't make the first down, they're going to boo you,' but that's part of it. That's Philly. And he'll be [fine]. It's a badge of courage. It means they care."
But as Kelly said while making his first official statements as the Philadelphia franchise's 21st coach as it embarks on its 81st season, he's happy, he knew what he was getting into, and he's prepared for the task.
"I'm excited to be an Eagle, and excited to get started, and we're ready to go. I'm all in."
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