The Eagles have found Reid's replacement

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The Eagles have found Reid's replacement

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Moments after Chip Kelly's plane landed, he was handed a new Eagles visor and received a warm greeting from fans gathered at the airport.Welcome to Philadelphia, Coach.The Eagles hired Kelly on Wednesday, just 10 days after he decided to stay at Oregon. The 49-year-old Kelly, known as an offensive innovator, becomes the 21st coach in team history and replaces Andy Reid, who was fired on Dec. 31 after a 4-12 season.He'll be introduced at a news conference Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Eagles' practice facility."The challenge is what I was excited about and that's why I came," Kelly told a group of reporters upon landing in Philly. "I was sold on the Eagles the first time I met them, it was my ties to Oregon that made it hard. But the Eagles are the Eagles. This is the NFL."My dream is to just win, and with the Eagles, this was the best opportunity for me to win. I never thought a long time ago that I was going to be able to coach in the NFL but I'm excited about the opportunity."General manager Howie Roseman gave Kelly the white Eagles visor, the trademark hat he wore at Oregon. Kelly then got a glimpse of what this team means to this city.Not only were Roseman and president Don Smolenski waiting for him on the runway -- they arrived with a police escort -- there were fans, decked out in green, waiting outside on a cold, dreary night."I know it's a rabid fan base," Kelly said. "I hope they don't boo me. It's an exciting time and I'm ready to get to work."Kelly, who was 46-7 in four years at Oregon, interviewed with the Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills in a two-day span after leading the fast-flying Ducks to a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 3.The Eagles are known to have interviewed 11 candidates, including two meetings with Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All along, Kelly was thought to be Philadelphia's first choice in a long, exhaustive process that took many twists."Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. "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."On the day he fired Reid, Lurie appeared to be describing Kelly when he said he wanted to find a "real smart, forward-thinking coach" who is "strategic, a strong leader, very comfortable in his own skin."The enigmatic Kelly reportedly was close to signing with the Browns after a long interview Jan. 4. He met with the Eagles for nine hours the next day, setting up a soap-opera scenario in which the Eagles were competing with Browns CEO Joe Banner, their former president and longtime friend of Lurie who left the organization after a falling out. But that roller coaster ended when Kelly opted to remain -- temporarily -- in Eugene, Ore.The Eagles interviewed two other high-profile college coaches -- Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly. Both elected to stay with their schools.Bradley was considered by many to be the leading contender, though former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and former Ravens coach Brian Billick were in the mix.That all changed when Kelly had a change of heart.Kelly built Oregon into a national powerhouse in a short time. The Ducks went to four straight BCS bowl games -- including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago -- and have won three conference championships.Kelly originally went to Oregon in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for now.Oregon finished last season 12-1. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 loss to Stanford Nov. 17.Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens said Wednesday that Kelly called him at 7:15 a.m. PST to tell him he had changed his mind: "He wasn't sure if that opportunity would present itself again, so he felt this was the right one at the right time."Mullens now faces a coaching search amid recruiting season."I've turned the page," Mullens said. "I was surprised when I got the call this morning, but as the leader of this organization, my focus is on moving forward and that's what we're doing. I'm laser focused on what's next, and that's finding the right fit to lead Oregon football."It's unknown whether the possibility of NCAA sanctions based on Oregon's use of recruiting services factored into Kelly's reversal. He indicated in Arizona that he isn't running from anything."We've cooperated fully with them," he said. "If they want to talk to us again, we'll continue to cooperate fully. I feel confident in the situation."Kelly doesn't have any pro coaching experience, but aspects of his up-tempo offense are already being used by New England and Washington.The Eagles fired Reid after two forgettable years. A late flurry brought the team to an 8-8 finish last season, but this season, Philadelphia endured an eight-game losing streak, and dropped 11 of its final 12. A 3-1 start soon washed away, and Reid's 14-year tenure ended not long after. Within a week, Reid was Kansas City's new coach.Still, Kelly has tough shoes to fill. Reid won more games than any coach in franchise history and led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles, five conference championship games and one Super Bowl berth.Kelly and the Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick in the draft as well as some talented players on offense who could fit his scheme. Running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin seem like ideal matches. Quarterback Nick Foles, however, isn't."I've never run the zone read," Foles said after the season. "I'm more of a dropback guy. I've been under center. I've been in the gun. If I can adapt, I want to. But I'm not a zone-read quarterback. Some people are gifted with different things. That's just not one of my skill sets. I can work on the speed in the offseason and get better with that. But I've always been a dropback guy in the pocket. I've been able to make plays on my feet throwing the ball or running for a first down."On the other hand, Michael Vick could be perfect. But it's unlikely the Eagles would want to pay the 16 million they'd have to shell out for an injury-prone quarterback, who will be 33 next season.Kelly had high praise for Foles after Oregon beat Arizona 56-31 in September 2011."I'll tell you what; I'm glad Nick Foles is graduating," Kelly said at that time. "I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid's a warrior. He's as good as anyone in the country."Others interviewed by Philadelphia were former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Atlanta assistants Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.The first Eagles to react to Kelly's hiring on Twitter were defensive players.Defensive end Brandon Graham wrote: "Happy to have Chip Kelly!! Now it's time to get to work!"Safety Kurt Coleman wrote: "Welcome Chip Kelly to the Eagles family. Can't wait to see what he brings to the team in 2013!"As he walked by the fans at the airport, Kelly, dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt, stopped to sign some autographs and share some laughs with the faithful.It indeed was a long journey. But if Wednesday is any indication, Kelly appears to fit right in with Philadelphia.

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

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USA TODAY

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

The White Sox quickly ended their 23-inning streak of offensive futility and didn't look back. 

A three-run first inning propelled the White Sox to avoid getting swept with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in front of 24,444 at Guaranteed Rate Field Sunday afternoon. 

Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the first with a double, and after Tyler Saladino dribbled a ground ball through the left side, he came around to score on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice fly. The White Sox last run before that came in the fourth inning of their 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. 

After Cabrera's flyout, Indians right fielder Abraham Almonte made a mess of Jose Abreu's line drive single, allowing it to skip past him to the wall. That error brought Saladino home and allowed Abreu to reach third, and Abreu later scored on Leury Garcia's two-out single to tag a third run on Cleveland starter Danny Salazar. 

Salazar was shaky over his five innings, striking out nine but allowing seven hits and issuing three walks. The White Sox struck again in the fifth inning when Avisail Garcia launched an RBI double off the top of the center field wall. 

Cleveland's inability to catch the ball helped the White Sox push across another run in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a sacrifice bunt and hustled to first, where second baseman Michael Martinez — covering for charging first baseman Carlos Santana — had to awkwardly stretch for Santana's underhand toss. Martinez dropped the ball, allowing May to reach.

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Following strikeouts by Anderson and Saladino, Cabrera lined a single to left, and Narvaez was aggressively waved home (a common practice with two outs in an inning). Brandon Guyer's throw easily beat Narvaez to the plate, but Indians catcher Roberto Perez dropped it, allowing Narvaez to score the fifth run of the game.

Another Indians defensive miscue led to the White Sox sixth run in the eighth, when an Abreu ground ball kicked off Santana's spikes and into center field, allowing May to score.  

White Sox starter Derek Holland was solid in his six innings, allowing only a solo home run to Francisco Lindor with three walks and six strikeouts. His toughest test came in the top of the fifth, when he issues a two-out walk to Santana to load the bases but struck out Lindor to end the frame. Holland lowered his ERA to 1.99 with his six innings of one-run ball Sunday. 

The Indians tacked on a late run when David Robertson threw a wild pitch that allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to score with two out in the ninth.

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

NFL teams typically wants as many draft picks as possible. The theory: The needier the team, the more picks required for those needs.

Not sure that this is the true situation confronting the Bears in 2017, however. In fact, something nearly the opposite, a variation on a less-is-more theme, is truer.

For the Bears approaching the 2017 NFL Draft, quality is more important than quantity. “Best available” player is fine, but for a team in major need of true impact difference-makers, a “best-possible” player is paramount. How GM Ryan Pace and his personnel posse accomplish that will be one of the most closely watched and far-reaching dramas of this draft. Because it may require some creativity on the clock, with a dizzying array of scenarios popping up in front of them by virtue of possible picks by the Cleveland Browns at 1 and San Francisco 49ers at 2.

Pace already has been about the business of giving himself the option of going after best-possible rather than simply waiting, staying with the draft board and selecting best-available.

The Bears were among the NFL’s most active teams in free agency. That has taken care of some “quantity” issues (cornerback, wide receiver, tight end), with an eye toward freeing the draft for the pursuit of true excellence, something too few Bears drafts have managed to secure (which is how teams miss playoffs nine times in 10 years and find themselves on third different GMs and coaches in the span of six years).

As he has always had within the context of the overall direction of the football franchise, Pace has a draft plan. More specifically, he also has a structure within which to execute that plan.

Draft “bands”

Besides an overall top-to-bottom ranking of players, the Bears establish various “bands” of players they identify as being worth a pick at a certain spot. Not all players in the band are graded equally, and the Bears may move to trade up if a significantly higher-graded players in the band is within reach, or if they fear other teams leap-frogging them to grab a targeted player.

But the bands allow the Bears to weigh trading back and still being able to select one of the talents in that band. With the Bears sitting at No. 3 this year, the first band in this draft will be a small one.

“We’ll have an elite group of names that we’re confident will be there [at No. 3],” Pace said at the recent owners meetings. “Three names, yeah. But beyond that, [we say,] ‘OK, there’s some pretty good depth in this draft, too, so are there scenarios’ — and it’s easier said than done — ‘where we can trade back.’ Those things’ll be discussed.”

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They’re being discussed right now. The phone in Pace’s Halas Hall office has been increasingly active the past couple weeks — calls ingoing and outgoing — and will become more so this week as the Bears and most of the NFL take the temperatures of trade ideas going into the start of the draft Thursday night. It happens every year about this time: general managers looking to satisfy sometimes-conflicting objectives, one of adding draft picks via trades down where possible, and the other of adding best-possible players, sometimes necessitating trades of picks or players to move up.

For the Bears, this year is a bit out of the ordinary, if only because they hold the No. 3-overall pick in a draft considered extremely talent-rich at certain positions and extremely less so at others. Loosely put, a position such as cornerback is rated deep enough that quality starters can be had even down into the fourth round, so teams likely need not trade up to land a blue-chipper. Conversely, the quarterback position, the one most often targeted for round-one trades up, is short of consensus elites, so again, teams are less likely to trade up to secure one.

The Bears are in position to select a franchise quarterback but opinions vary widely on whether there are clear ones to be had as high as where the Bears draft, as the order now stands. Pace, who established last year his willingness to trade up for what he considers “elite,” is like any other personnel executive in wanting more selections.

The Bears do not want to slip out of a band entirely. When they sat with No. 7 in the 2015 draft, the Bears identified a quiver of eight players deemed worth the seventh-overall pick. Those ranged from quarterback Marcus Mariota to wide receiver Amari Cooper to defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and included Kevin White, one of two from the eight not already selected by that point.

Because the goal was a player judged to be elite, trading down was not a realistic option because of the risk of getting none of their targets and instead settling for the next, lower tier of prospects.

Dealing with market forces

But what will the market allow this time? 

“Yeah, and based on the talent of the guys in those bands, what it would require for us to go back?” Pace said. “Those things are all being talked about and studied now, and we’ll keep on fine-tuning it.

“But you’ve got to have a partner willing to do that, too.”

Pace has been a willing partner for trades either up or down, sometimes in the same draft.

Last year, holding the 11th pick, the decision was made to trade up to No. 9 because of their grade on Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd, and the concern that either the New York Giants would take Floyd at No. 10 or another team would leap-frog the Bears and grab him. The Bears wanted a pass rusher and the falloff from Floyd was viewed as significant. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson was the next edge rusher taken (No. 19), he was less the speed player that Floyd was, and concerns about Lawson’s shoulder issues proved valid, requiring offseason surgery that cost him most of his rookie season.
 
On day two, Pace traded down twice with an eye toward landing one of his top second-round-band talents: Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.