Chip Kelly didn’t have to say it, but the Eagles coach did anyway on the very first day of training camp Saturday. His exact words were: “If you can’t follow the rules, you’re not going to be here.”
He was talking about Lane Johnson, the second-year right tackle who was suspended four games for using a banned substance, but it could have been anybody on the roster. The message has never been clearer than it is right now, before this season of great expectations. Kelly will suffer no fools.
The biggest clown in Kelly’s rookie season here was DeSean Jackson, a gifted-but-delusional wide receiver who thought he didn’t have to show up on time, play hard every snap or listen to the coaches. Jackson is in Washington now, probably already causing problems for his new coach there, Jay Gruden.
Meanwhile, Kelly is still exuding a confidence that is contagious. Jason Kelce, a regular guest on my WIP radio show, said last week the second-year coach’s ability to get players to embrace the need for following rules is his secret to success. Kelly is not a dictator; he is a communicator. The players believe in him — or else.
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Jackson is gone because he never absorbed that basic tenet of Kelly’s coaching. Johnson is the next to go if he hurts his team again by not following the simple rule of checking with the training staff before taking medication. Kelly will allow one dumb mistake — especially if you’re a first-round pick like Johnson — but not two.
The Eagles are embarking right now on a magical season. You read it here first, with no disclaimers. They are going to be terrific, and the biggest reason is because Kelly has already cleared the biggest hurdle for an NFL coach. He has a team that believes what he says, and follows what he demands. And if a player strays, it is very obvious what will happen. Just ask DeSean Jackson.