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Kelly lands in Eagles' nest
Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly reacts after the 2013 Fiesta Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)
In a stunning reversal, the Philadelphia Eagles have hired the New Hampshire native to be their new head coach, replacing Andy Reid, the team announced Wednesday.
Kelly, a former Manchester Central High School and University of New Hampshire player and assistant coach who spent the past four seasons as head coach at the University of Oregon, on Jan. 6 had issued a statement taking himself out of the running to become an NFL head coach after meeting with the Eagles and Cleveland Browns.
The Eagles, in a press release announcing his hiring, simply said, "Kelly continued to evaluate the opportunity to work for the Eagles in the NFL" after initially backing away.
Kelly, who backed out of an agreement to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the last minute a year ago, will become the first New Hampshire native to become an NFL head coach.
The Eagles will officially introduce Kelly, 49, during a news conference today at 1 p.m. at the NovaCare Complex.
Kelly was expected to arrive from Oregon around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, where he was to be met by Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and team president Don Smolenski and driven to owner Jeffrey Lurie's Wynnewood, Pa., mansion for dinner.
"Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," Lurie said. "He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team."
This will be Kelly's first job in the NFL of any kind.
Kelly joined the Oregon staff in 2007, became head coach in 2009 and compiled a 46-7 record in his four seasons leading the Ducks. His fast-paced offense averaged 49.6 points per game in 2012.
Kelly also has a defensive background. A defensive back during his playing days at UNH, he coached linebackers and safeties at Columbia in 1991 and served as defensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins in 1993.
At Oregon, Kelly has almost exclusively run a no-huddle offense that often makes use of the read-option that is beginning to take hold in the NFL. In fact, many NFL coaches, including New England's Bill Belichick, have consulted with him and subsequently installed many of his designs into their offensive systems.
Born in Dover and raised in Manchester, Kelly graduated from Central High in 1981 following a stellar athletic career with the Little Green. He served as captain of the football, hockey, and track and field teams, earning all-state honors in football and track.
He played football at the University of New Hampshire under head coach Bill Bowes from 1981-84 and began his coaching career at Manchester Central as an assistant to Bob Leonard in 1985.
After starting his collegiate coaching career by joining fellow former UNH player and Manchester high school assistant coach Sean McDonnell at Columbia, Kelly followed McDonnell back to their alma mater in 1992, becoming UNH's running backs coach. He returned to UNH after his lone year at Johns Hopkins.
In 1999, when McDonnell succeed Bowes as UNH's head coach, Kelly took over the offense as coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and steadily built an unstoppable scoring machine.
In 2006, the Wildcats ranked second nationally in scoring offense, their 35.3 points per game topping the Atlantic 10. Junior quarterback Ricky Santos won the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding player in FCS football, and senior wide receiver David Ball became FCS football's all-time leader in touchdown receptions, surpassing Jerry Rice's mark of 50 touchdown catches.
In 2007, Kelly became offensive coordinator at the University of Oregon. He succeeded Mike Bellotti as the Ducks' head coach two seasons later.
Nick Fierro of the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and Kevin Gray of the New Hampshire Union Leader contributed.