Fast track coaches do things differently. They take risks.
Chip Kelly is one of those coaches.
The former Oregon Duck head coach and current top man with the Philadelphia Eagle was trending recently for cutting DeSean Jackson, Eagle wide receiver.
That's either a fast track coaching move, or career killer. Who does that?
This is the same Kelly who moved out of the football backwaters of New Hampshire for the launch pad of the Oregon Ducks. No one could have predicted what happened next.
After bringing Kelly in as offensive coordinator, the university noticed something special and moved quickly. They made Coach Mike Bellotti the new athletic director and Kelly the new head football coach.
The new guy apparently understood how to manage a football program better than expected.
The normal track for an offensive coordinator requires moving from one end of the country to the other, and back, working for the big chance. Or they specialize and become a position coach in the NFL. Kelly made the coordinator's move, then took the express train to head college coach.
He jumped in the middle of a football team running full speed and made them go faster.
This is where the pressure and lights of center stage can be a problem, just ask former Boise State and University of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. If Kelly failed, he wouldn't be the first.
By the end of his flight with the Ducks, the record speaks volumes. You might expect that from the man who yelled at a drunk fan, "Why don't you just shut up," during an interview with Erin Andrews.
No one calls Kelly a savior in Eugene, but he did take the program to the promise land. Sure he had problems along the way, like all top college teams do.
We got to see Chip's work when his star running back punched an opponent in the head after a nationally televised game. LeGarrette Blount got suspended, not released. Kelly gave him conditions he needed to fulfill to stay on the team, and Blount did it.
We got to see Chip work another way when De'Anthony Thomas came to town. Since Oregon doesn't usually get the big names, how would they respond when they came to town carrying extra baggage.
Kelly balanced the attitudes and egos. Blount had to share the ball. Thomas had to run up the middle. In each era, Kelly made it all fit together.
Where does a coach with such good personnel skills go? They either settle in for a career stretch knowing their program will be good enough to keep them interested, or jump into the deep end of the pool.
In football terms, the deepest part of the deep end is the NFL.
Hello Philadelphia. It doesn't get much deeper than the pool on South Broad Street. This is where manly men meet, where men learn where they stand in the pecking order of 'Who's The Man."
With the news of DeSean Jackson leaving town, we know who is who.
The Eagles didn't trade Jackson, they released him. Call it released, cut, dumped, or pack your bags and get out, Kelly did the unthinkable. He rejected a player who still had a full tank of gas, a player in the prime of their career following their best year.
The early news said Jackson may have gang affiliations, the he knew people who knew people who did bad things.
That Jackson story didn't grow legs and run like the investigation of the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis when someone turned up dead near him. It didn't spark dialogue about violence on and off the field the way Rae Carruth did when he had his pregnant girlfriend shot. Jackson's story is tame compared to Aaron Hernandez on angel dust.
The current story on Jackson is he's got a bad attitude and it got him canned.
Kelly expects his veterans to set an example for new guys. Show that Eagle pride. He wants a consistent message in his lockeroom that starts with his best players. He did the same thing with his college players in Oregon.
Think of Michael Jordan's Bulls. There's a way to play, to practice, and if you didn't do it right you'd get a face full of MJ's devil eyes and maybe a few punches.
In Philly, Kelly wants his best players to police up problems before they get too big. Practice right, play right, eat the diet program, sleep the rest program. Most of all, encourage new guys. Sell the Eagle Way like it's the most important thing in your life.
Letting Jackson go tells the rest of the league how Philadelphia plans to practice and play, just in case another player with too much attitude comes to town. If a superstar has the numbers, the stats, the old wisdom says who cares about the rest of their act.
New wisdom says if you have the stats, but show up chronically late for meetings, get in your coaches' face, and don't follow team protocol, you'll have a problem. You've seen great players who seem above their team? Coaches have two sets of rules, one for the special guy, one for the rest of the team.
Not Kelly. After recruiting for Oregon and meeting a few too many 'street agents', he had to enjoy the moment in Philadelphia.
"DeSean, we need you to do things to help the team."
"Sure, Coach. I'll start right after you check my yards and touchdowns. I'm doing enough."
"DeSean, you need to mentor the young guys, set an example for the older guys. Do this and we'll have the best chance of running the table all the way to the Super Bowl."
"Save the rah-rah for the college guys, Coach. I play, you pay. Let's call it good."
"Is that your final answer?"
"Same answer I've had since high school. I'm good enough as is."
"I thought that might be your answer. See that bag outside the door?"
"What is it, your laundry?"
"Yeah, it's sort of like dirty laundry. That's everything from your locker. We're done, you're done. The Eagles will have to play without you."
"We'll see. Coaches come and go. I'll still be here after you're long gone back to college ball, Coach. One call to the general manager and the owner and you'll be history."
"You're probably right. That's why they asked me to give you this paper."
"Paper? What paper?"
"Your release papers. You can tell your friends you used to be a Philadelphia Eagle."
"My release papers, huh?"
"That's right. Here you go. Watch the door on the way out."
"This is going to be an expensive hit on the salary cap. Hope you know what you're doing."
"We'll pay it. I'd pay it myself."
"I've got my best years ahead of me."
"We wish you good luck."
"This never happens in business."
"It does now."
Kelly’s football ideas changed college football. Now his ideas about being professional will change the NFL.
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David Gillaspie is an active researcher, skills he honed during twenty years with the Oregon Historical Society. His education wavered between English major/Fiction writer at the University of Oregon where he met Ken Kesey, to a BS in History from Portland State with news writing. Married, with two millennial sons, he connects sports and fitness to the realities of baby boomer life, with no mention ever of skydiving or base-jumping. David covers a wide variety of fascinating topics on his boomer-centric blog, Boomer PDX. Check it out -- you'll be glad you did.