Kelly's created a positive working environment with Eagles

MARCUS HAYES,
PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS
POSTED: Wednesday, December 31, 2014, 3:01 AM

THE FINAL GUN had hardly sounded before the tweets began.

Jeremy Maclin was campaigning to come back.

Trent Cole was begging to stay.

Maclin, the Eagles' best receiver since they took him in the first round in 2009, can hit the open market and cash in on a career season.

Cole, ranked second on the team's all-time sack list, is due more than $35 million over the next three seasons.

Maclin sounds willing to forgo free agency and, possibly, take a little less Treasury green to stay in Eagles green.

Cole's current salary is untenable, but he is eager to renegotiate his deal.

Why?

Because, by many players, Philadelphia is seen as a destination franchise, now more than ever.

For years, the family atmosphere and the top-flight facilities supplied by owner Jeffrey Lurie, as well as the city's location and panache, attracted players. That meant nothing without some winning, and Andy Reid provided that.

Now, factor in Chip Kelly's innovative style of coaching and management, along with 20 wins in his first two NFL seasons, and you have an NFL anomaly.

"What Chip is doing, as far as the longevity of guys' careers and all the things you do to take care of your body around here - that's a huge bonus," said sixth-year safety Malcolm Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl during his five seasons in New Orleans before he signed with the Eagles. "Especially if you're a guy in your second or third contract, in the latter years of your career. It adds longevity to your career."

It helps, too, that Kelly did not arrive in the NFL last season with - ahem - a chip on his shoulder.

"Chip Kelly is somebody people want to play for, because he's a coach who gets it," Jenkins said. "He's not a dictator. He has a good culture. You hear about some coaches who come from college; they either work guys too hard, or they're stubborn and don't want to listen. He just wants guys who want to be great."

He gets guys who arrive on the same page.

Much was made of the excommunication of receiver DeSean Jackson, who toed Kelly's line, but did so with an air of disdain. Jackson did not fit the culture, so, to the detriment of the club's on-field arsenal, he was released. He was replaced by more committed sorts: Jenkins, hybrid back Darren Sproles and special-teams hellions Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman.

"Sometimes you get a bunch of guys in a room, it's hard to have everybody get along. Sometimes, one or two guys butt heads," said Braman, who spent his first three seasons in Houston before signing as a free agent with the Birds. "It doesn't seem like that here. It's definitely a family, a real close-knit group of guys. We enjoy playing with each other, as well as the company off the field."

As with any workplace, in the NFL, familiarity can breed contempt. Not at the NovaCare Complex.

"The willingness of everybody wanting to kick it outside of the complex," Braman said. "Some places, their guys are so worn out from seeing each other so much, once they're done with the day, they don't want to see them anymore. The number of guys willing to do things around the city, it was kind of surprising. And here, everybody hangs with everybody."

This lack of cliquishness is by design.

Kelly configured the locker room so that players who play the same position are separated. Most locker rooms keep linebackers with linebackers, quarterbacks with quarterbacks, etc. The first locker on the right side of the Eagles' room belongs to offensive lineman Jason Kelce; the last, more than 100 feet away, to offensive lineman Todd Herremans. On the left, linebacker Connor Barwin comes first; linebacker Casey Matthews, last.

"I have a running back to my left, another linebacker on my right and an offensive lineman next to him," Braman said. "That definitely keeps the integration intact."

Integration doesn't win football games; talent does. Maragos knows that better than anyone else, perhaps. He played for the 49ers and won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks before landing with the Birds for his fifth season, and he couldn't be more pleased.

"It's a big-market team. Look at the talent around here. The coaching staff - what Chip does and the type of person he is. It's attractive," Maragos said. "You see guys like Malcolm Jenkins - guys who want to come over here because it is such a great place, and it's heading in the right direction. I know I turned down a little more to come here. This is definitely a place where people want to be. It's very attractive."

It's the only place Maclin and Cole have ever known. Whether they stay or go, they have made their marks in the record books and in the locker room.

Cole is a success story; a fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati who lasted 10 years and whose 85 1/2 sacks wedge him between Reggie White and Clyde Simmons. He converted from defensive end to outside linebacker when Kelly arrived last season and installed a 3-4 defense, but Cole retained his starting job and, at 32, remains productive, with 14 1/2 sacks under Kelly.

"I just like it here," Cole said. "You've got everything here. Great atmosphere. Great facilities. Great fans. It's easy to get everywhere . . . in the world, really. You have everything accessible."

That said, Cole would prefer to have his old job back.

"I like to rush the passer," he said. But he is resigned to the reality that those days are over if he remains in Philadelphia.

Maclin, by contrast, is a case of promise fulfilled: After only five healthy seasons, he ranks among the Eagles' top nine receivers in catches, yards and touchdown receptions. The most important season might be the one he didn't play. He missed 2013 with an injury to the same knee he hurt in college. Often that sort of injury requires a 2-year period to allow full recovery both physically and mentally.

Kelly's strength and conditioning program might be one of the reasons why Maclin, playing in an offense that saw mediocre quarterback play and had no complementary threat at receiver, enjoyed the best year of his career while logging more playing time than any offensive player except tackle Jason Peters.

The program certainly has Jenkins convinced.

"It's something I was pleasantly surprised about, and very excited about," said Jenkins, who played every defensive snap this season. "Longevity is the name of the game in this league. Especially the violent type of games we play. That's another reason why guys like to come here."

Jenkins said he has heard from players on other teams that other coaches are trying to copy Kelly's techniques - the sleep monitoring, the constant body-composition testing, the dietary plans, the interactive iPad coaching, the massage therapies, etc.

"They don't really know what we're doing, so I just laugh," Jenkins said. "To be honest, this is probably the best I've ever felt, especially keeping in mind how many snaps I've played. I'm well over 1,300 snaps, which, essentially is like playing 2 1/2 more games than a normal 16-game schedule."

Longevity means less if you're miserable.

Both Maclin and Cole indicated they want to retire as Eagles. It is a good place to be.

"There are never many issues coming out of the Eagles' locker room. It's a great fan base. It's a huge market, so you get the exposure," Jenkins said. "What we're doing here works."

Maclin and Cole are convinced, too.