PHILADELPHIA — Dennis Dixon is already on the Eagles roster. Five members of Chip Kelly's coaching staff followed him from Oregon. The draft is saturated with NFL-worthy Oregon prospects, and former Ducks will hit the free-agent market.
If Kelly wants to continue bringing his former players to Philadelphia, it's understandable. But one of the challenges for any new coach — especially one coming from college to the NFL — is being objective about players he recruited and developed from teenagers to professionals.
"I would think it would be an advantage, because we know them," Kelly said last week. "I can tell you what they're like on the field, I can tell you what they're like off the field, I can tell you what they're like in the meeting room."
If anyone knows whether Oregon's Dion Jordan can be an elite player worthy of the No. 4 pick, it's Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. However, they need to objectively compare Jordan against other standout pass rushers — LSU's Barkevious Mingo, Brigham Young's Ziggy Ansah or Florida State's Bjoern Werner.
The same goes for measuring Kyle Long against other offensive linemen, or Kenjon Barner against other running backs, or Kiko Alonso against other linebackers. The Eagles have four to five years of information on the Oregon players, which is considerably more thorough and closer an evaluation than normal.
It's important to note that anyone who has spent even a minute with Kelly understands that Kelly's motivation is winning, not accommodating his former players. But the affection he holds for them is clear.
His loyalty to the program he built in Oregon was a reason for the drawn-out hiring process with the Eagles. When Kelly was asked about Jordan last week, he said Jordan is a "special guy in my heart."
Keeping personal feelings out of business has not been an issue with college coaches who made the jump to the NFL in the last few years. Take the first round of the 2010 draft, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll selected Texas safety Earl Thomas in the first round and passed on Taylor Mays, who played for him in college. Carroll admitted before that draft the emotional toll of passing on Southern Cal players, and Mays voiced displeasure in Carroll after the draft, according to published reports.
Carroll's initial draft class with the Seahawks included one pick from USC, and also a pick traded for a player from USC. Four Trojans who played for Carroll in college are on Seattle's roster.
Jim Harbaugh has not drafted a Stanford player in his two seasons since coming to the 49ers. Greg Schiano did not draft a Rutgers player last season when he went to the Buccaneers, although five Scarlet Knights are on Tampa Bay's roster; four of them were added after Schiano arrived.
Schiano said every decision is made with the goal to win the Super Bowl.
"I think the further I get away from being the head coach there and the more I'm in the position I'm in, I think that's where it becomes a lot more easy not to be emotionally tied in any way," Schiano said.
Barner said he just laughed with the Eagles coaches at the combine because they already knew enough about him. He would like a reunion with Kelly, but he does not think Kelly will have any issue objectively evaluating him.
"I think his view might be slightly different (from other coaches'), but at the end of the day it's a business," Barner said. "You no longer look at us as your players. You look at us like a commodity now."
It might not be a problem if Kelly brings the players he wants to Philadelphia. Jimmy Johnson was not shy about adding top Miami players when he went to the Dallas Cowboys, and that helped him win two Super Bowls. The key will be making objective evaluations, which Kelly said won't be a challenge.