Tim O’Sullivan: Belichick a fan of UNH product Kelly
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly walks the field during a joint NFl football workout with the New England Patriots , Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) passes to wide receiver Quentin Sims (84) as Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) defends during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
When Chip Kelly addressed the media yesterday in Philadelphia, most of the questions he fielded concerned disgraced Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper. When Bill Belichick addressed the media in Philadelphia, the person he talked about the most was … Kelly.
The Patriots were on the road for the first of three practices with the Eagles as the two teams prepare to open the preseason against each other on Friday night. And Belichick wasted no time getting to Kelly, the Manchester native and former University of New Hampshire player and coach the who is in his first year in the NFL.
“It’s nice to be here in Philadelphia, it’s really a great opportunity for us to come down here and work with the Eagles. I have so much respect for Chip and what he’s done,” Belichick said to open his press conference. “We’ve been friends for a while and I know he does a great job with this football team.”
Most of the football world first heard of Kelly when he took over as the University of Oregon head coach in 2009 and became the first Pac-10 coach to win an outright conference championship in his first year. But many in New England knew about Kelly when he was the UNH offensive coordinator from 1999-2006, helping the Wildcats become one of the top programs in what is now called the Football Championship Subdivision. And you can count Belichick among that number.
“Chip’s a New England guy, so we crossed paths from time to time in New England. We kept in touch over the past few years, and of course I have a lot of respect for what he’s done with the program out in Oregon,” Belichick said. “I’ve had several conversations with him since he’s taken over here in Philadelphia – owners meetings, Combine, phone conversations, things like that. I just think he’s a really solid coach and a solid guy. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him.”
One of the reasons Belichick kept in touch with Kelly was, reportedly, to pick his mind about the up-tempo offense that Kelly helped develop at UNH and then fine-tuned at Oregon in front of a national audience. The Patriots used a no-huddle, fast-paced offense with great success last year, but Belichick wouldn’t talk about Kelly’s influence on his team’s scheme.
“I think our coaches, Coach (Josh) McDaniels, Coach (Bill) O’Brien, Coach McDaniels again. We spent a lot of time coaching our players,” Belichick said in one of his typical non-answers, although he had just praised Kelly’s ingenuity by saying, “he’s a very innovative, creative guy. He’s got a great mind, he’s smart and I think he’ll take advantage of whatever resources he can. We’ll see what that is. I’m sure he’ll give us plenty of trouble.”
Looking for trouble from a team wearing different uniforms is exactly what the coaches want during these combined practices.
“I think it’s probably at the right time. We’ve been going against each other for a while here, so I think it’s good to see some different looks,” Kelly said. “It gives you an opportunity to maybe gauge yourself – because obviously you know the talent level on their team – and to see where we are at this point in time. But I think it was a real good thing. We would like to continue it.”
While Kelly is known as an offensive mind, and the New England offense is in a state of transition with its receiving corps, Kelly was especially interested in seeing his defense match up against Tom Brady and that Patriot passing attack.
“I don’t know how much we’re going to see Tom Brady on Friday night, so a chance to practice against someone like that in some real good competitive situations was a good test for us,” Kelly said.
According to most reports, Brady had one of his better days of preseason practice. He was able to find a rhythm with his developing group of pass catchers, and Kelly noticed.
“I saw us make some plays, we had some decent pass rushes at times, but a couple times he picked us clean pretty good, so there was some give and take out there,” Kelly said. “But obviously one of the challenges playing against this team is not only are you playing against one of the top quarterbacks in this league, but one of the top quarterbacks of all time.”
Brady was asked if he was curious how Kelly would fare in the NFL, and the New England quarterback was quick with the compliments.
“I’ve seen his teams play for a long time at Oregon and they’ve been exceptional, so I’m sure it will be no different,” Brady said. “It’s good for us to come down and get to work. They have some very talented players, especially on defense. It’s going to be fun playing against them on Friday, but I really enjoyed today’s day of work.”
(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)