By ROB MAADDI
PHILADELPHIA — A sign reading “Our Chip’s Come In” greeted Chip Kelly outside the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice facility on his first day as head coach, and a few fans drove down Pattison Avenue honking their horns to salute the hiring.
A new era for the Eagles has begun.
Kelly was hired Wednesday to be the 21st coach in team history, ending an exhaustive search to replace Andy Reid.
The offensive innovator was lured away from Oregon, where he went 46-7 in four seasons and turned the program into a national powerhouse.
Kelly, who arrived to a hero’s welcome at a Philadelphia airport on Wednesday night, was introduced at a news conference Thursday at the team’s training complex.
“The key was to find the right leader, not make the fastest decision. We really were able to circle back with Coach Chip Kelly. We had an outstanding interview with him on Jan. 5. It was an outstanding nine hours, we learned a lot,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “We were told, the same day, that it was really a question of going to the Eagles or going back to Oregon. At that point, we learned he might go back to the University of Oregon, but we kept in touch.”
Though Kelly has no previous NFL experience, the Eagles are banking on him to turn around a franchise that has just 12 wins in the last two years and zero playoff victories since 2008.
“It’s a really exciting time for me. It was a difficult decision. There’s not many opportunities to coach in the National Football League, and every one of them is special,” Kelly said. “But this is an iconic franchise with an outstanding owner. I knew what this place was all about, and this is where I wanted to be.
“It was just a matter of figuring out how to do it the right way.”
Kelly has work ahead of him. His up-tempo, flash-and-dash offense needs a leader under center. It could be Nick Foles, a rookie last year who replaced Michael Vick at quarterback, and had an up-and-down debut season. It could be Vick again, though he’ll be 33 when the season starts.
“I’m going to look at everyone, and look at everything we can do to put the best product on the field,” Kelly said. “There’s nobody ruled in and there’s nobody ruled out at this point in time.”
The Eagles were 3-1 this season after a 19-17 win over the New York Giants on Sept. 30. They then lost 11 of their last 12 games to finish in last place in the NFC East. Reid was fired the day after the season ended.
“We have one goal, and that’s to get to the Super Bowl,” Kelly said. “It’s not an ‘I’ deal, it’s a ‘we’ deal. Our players will understand that.”