The game of the weekend, on the football weekend of the season, didn’t change Chip Kelly’s mind about the pro game, or his place in it. If you can believe what this son of New England told me on Sunday night from Foxboro, after a ridiculously unlikely and raise-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck win—Philadelphia 35, New England 28—over the team he respects more than any other in America, he’s entrenched.
“I made a commitment to this organization when they hired me,” Kelly told me, “and I will see it through.”
Kelly, a pragmatist, knows he’s not convincing anybody who’s convinced he’d leave for the next perfect college job, where there will be four or five JV games on the schedule and he can go recruit the next Mariota. Or three of them. “I don’t have to convince people I’m staying,” he said. “I can’t. Everyone says, ‘He’s a college guy.’ It’s going to take a while for people to look at the ticker across the bottom of the screen without my name on it for people to understand.”
To understand he’s staying, he meant. In fairness to Kelly, I’m the one who brought these things up to him. He came to the phone to talk about this game, one of the strangest of this or any season. Kelly knows that no matter how long he coaches, and wherever the coaching road takes him, this breezy 52-degree Sunday will be an indelible memory. How often do you visit the toughest venue in the league, with your own squad severely wounded, and pull the upset of the year? Together, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have lost 15 regular-season games in Foxboro over 15 seasons. Together, Chip Kelly and the Eagles had embarrassed the franchise in the previous two games, giving up 45 points apiece to Tampa Bay and Detroit, the two worst losses of Kelly’s three seasons in Philly.