Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Chip Kelly and Nick Foles story

Chip smiling on the sideline.  Glad it was documented.
I now have to tell a story that I think of every time Chip Kelly and Nick Foles are mentioned. Which, after Foles' all-time record-tying 7-TD performance on Sunday, is more often than it was before. Many NFL people didn't believe that Foles could do what Chip Kelly wants a QB to do in his offense. Until Sunday, at least. Every time Michael Vick got hurt, or got up slowly after a hit, or looked like he might have a cold, it seems like every NFL talking head questioned whether Nick Foles could run the Philadelphia offense.

If only they'd been in the same press conference I was, in the fall of 2011.

The parts you need to know: I was still a sports reporter covering Oregon football, Chip was still head coach of the Oregon Ducks, and Nick Foles was still the starting QB at Arizona. Even with one loss, the Ducks had a chance to play for the BCS title if they won out- but they lost at home in mid-November, 38-35 to USC and junior Matt Barkley, who was widely presumed to be the top pick in the draft when he left school after that season. (Of course, Barkley stayed for his senior season, and that was such a disaster he didn't get drafted until the 4th round... by Chip. But that's another column or seven.)

After the USC loss, Chip said in his press conference that “Matt Barkley is the best QB we've seen all year.” Those of us who heard that line knew what Chip meant: because Barkley had beaten him, Barkley was better than all the other quarterbacks that hadn't. The Ducks beat Andrew Luck at Stanford, (handily) they beat Keith Price at Washington (more handily) and they beat everyone else... except Barkley. So Matty B was the best QB Chip and the boys had seen. Pretty simple stuff to those regular followers of the team.

Except talking heads need something to talk about. So they jumped on that statement. I remember reading on ESPN headlines like “Chip says Barkley better than Luck,” etc and so on. When he had really said nothing of the kind. (It is worth noting that stupid reporters are still saying this is true.) 

So Tuesday comes around and it's time for Chip's main press opportunity of the week, the conference call. There's a phone setup so Chip can take calls from any reporter who wants to dial the super-secret hush-hush conference call number. We local reporters, who are in the room, expect a little follow-up to the Barkley statement from Saturday night.

What we don't expect is what we get.

Chip is bombarded from every corner of the Pac-12 and the country, it seems, about Saturday night. Not one, not two, but at least three reporters from the San Francisco area come on the line and ask the exact same question- did Chip's “Barkley is the best” statement mean that he was saying that Barkley was better than Andrew Luck (who did become the number one pick in the draft when Barkley didn't declare). At least two reporters from Seattle ask the Barkley-Keith Price question.

It is getting super tedious. The Ducks still have one regular season game to go, the Civil War against Oregon State where, despite OSU's horrible record, it's a game where the “cliches get thrown out the clich√© window.” Oregon must now win this game to clinch the Pac-12 North and host the first-ever conference title game with the Rose Bowl at stake. There are a lot more relevant questions to ask about than Matt flippin' Barkley.

But that's what we get, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. It gets to the point that whenever the conference call administrator announces the location of the caller, we know what the question is. San Fran, Andrew Luck. Seattle, Keith Price. LA, confirming that he loves Matt Barkley. ESPN, is he better than whatever hotshot quarterback wherever. On and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.


We reporters are rolling our eyes. We reporters are wishing that somebody would actually listen to Chip's answer.

Apparently, so did Chip.

Conference call administrator: “Our next call comes from the Arizona Daily Star.”

Reporter:  "Yeah, Chip, do you..."

Chip : “I LOVE NICK FOLES!!!!”

We reporters are supposed to stay quiet during conference calls. We are supposed to be professional.

At this, we were not.

The entire room broke up.

(After plenty of searching, I found a clip.)

It was the perfect ending to this silly, ridiculous line of questioning that should have been put to rest within two minutes of the beginning of the conference call.

As I recall, the reporter was not asking if Chip thought Matt Barkley was better than Nick Foles. What he was asking about, I have no idea.

But as you can tell, the Chip Kelly-Nick Foles connection was firmly planted in my mind that day.

What continues to make this funny is that Foles and Barkley are both on Chip's Philadelphia team.

Now, what's the super-secret hush-hush number for the Eagles weekly conference call? I have a question for Chip...

But what do you think about....
photo courtesy: philly.com and philly.com