The Philadelphia Eagles are happy to tell you that Chip Kelly uses lots of Sports Science; they just don't like to share the details. (At Oregon, with the full weight of Nike's advanced research at their disposal, the program downplayed the whole business, spinning the innovations as superior conditioning, just working hard and being in better shape than competitors.)
In fact, Chip and other team figures have been pretty much unavailable for comment on any subject for months now, since the 2013 season ended. So the burst of media availabilities around the draft, with press conferences for each new player and a half dozen by Chip alone in 3 days, was like monsoon rains after a long drought, sending a flash flood of new information that overwhelmed the media.
Two of the newly drafted players gave us peeks into the Eagles' use of innovative technology. Undoubtedly they will be severely punished and taught the first rule of Chip Club: you don't talk about Chip Club.
The first technology won't seem surprising if you're under 25, but may astonish older readers. 6th round safety Ed Reynolds doesn't finish up his Stanford degree until June, and isn't allowed to attend any more OTAs or practices until he does. (Zach Ertz' development was set back by this same problem last year.)
Reynolds told reporters that, as a result, the Eagles are podcasting all of his team meetings as a result and uploading them to his iPod, so he can study them all night after tackling his Stanford homework. (Your school days might have been slightly more fun and carefree.)
I'm guessing these are video podcasts -- I refuse to say vodcast -- with detailed Kellystrator clips, but who knows? It could be full Google Glass or virtual reality helmets with micro-IMAX 4D projection and THX-Dolby-quadrophonic sound. We'll never know, because men in black suits dragged Reynolds away screaming before he could elaborate further.
The other technology is a mystery that Eagles beat reporters have been scrambling to unravel. This time it was Beau Allen, the huge 7th round pick at nose tackle -- don't call him a nose pick -- whose loose lips sank ships.
Beau -- already one of my favorite Eagles, with his candor, college pranks, and American flag shirt -- told Tim McManus that he first met Coach Kelly when Chip crashed a remote control car into his leg. Huh?
"I was sitting and waiting to go in and meet with [Howie Roseman] and all the front office guys, and Coach Kelly was driving around a little remote control car –they use it out on the field because they can’t do motions — and he drove it right into me and was like, ‘Oh, hey Beau, how are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘Hey, Coach.’ "
That's the mystery: why can't the Eagles "do motions," and why is the coach driving an RC car instead? What's next? Using drones to simulate long passes? One Twitter wag imagined the little car with a
@BrandonGowton @taoish @LesBowen sticky note attached "Do you like blitzing check yes or no"— Turnt On Howie (@KeeepSwinging) May 17, 2014
I asked a source with the team what the remote control car was about, and he couldn't explain it either. Sheil Kapadia,Tim McManus' partner at Birds 24/7, told me via Twitter that it was
"I think to simulate motion on offense so defense can shift. Not sure why it's [a] better [alternative to] players/coaches."
BGN's own Brandon Lee Gowton has the best theory.
@LesBowen @taoish @Tim_McManus It's because coaches aren't allowed on the field during "Phase One" of offseason workouts, right?— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) May 17, 2014
BLG helpfully directed me to this section of the rules, which states:
ARTICLE 21 Section 2
(i) Phase One. Phase One shall consist of the first two weeks of the Club's offseason workout program. Subject to the additional rules set forth in Section 5 of this Article, Phase One activities shall be limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation only. During Phase One, only full time or part-time strength and conditioning coaches, who have no other coaching responsibilities with the Club, shall be allowed on the field; no other coaches shall be allowed on the field or to otherwise participate in or observe activities. ...
So apparently, Coach Kelly is using SCIENCE! to get around these limits. Coaches aren't allowed on the field, so to simulate an offensive back in motion -- and give the defense practice in resetting -- he sends his drone car in its place.
This leaves several important questions unanswered. Is it a typical RC car that's smaller than a football, or a giant dune buggy the size of Beau Allen? Why not get a humanoid C3PO-type robot to lurch along? And how do players not crack up when they're covering a Traxxas Stampede Monster Truck?
Update: I reached Tim McManus, who wrote the article on Beau Allen. He says that the vehicle is best described as an "RC car used to simulate [a] receiver in motion." Great scoop by Tim.
Update 2: Welcome /r/NFL/ redditors (and our old friends at /r/Eagles). Connor Barwin AMA at 2pm EST today 5/19/2014.