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Column: Hiring Kelly risky move for Eagles

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Column: Hiring Kelly risky move for Eagles

Chip Kelly made his bones as a football coach by doing things fast.

By most standards, though, his leap into the NFL was agonizingly slow.

The Philadelphia Eagles finally got their man Wednesday when Kelly reversed course and agreed to replace the fired Andy Reid. The news came as a shock to most in Oregon, where Kelly was last reported to be busy recruiting and getting the new uniforms ready for next season.

It took a while, but in the end the lure of the NFL won out over job security and fame in the Pacific Northwest. It almost always does with coaches who learn early in their careers that the best way to the top is to keep climbing the ladder.

But there's a reason Kelly couldn't bring himself to say yes to the Cleveland Browns, rebuffed the Buffalo Bills and initially turned the Eagles down when they first came begging for him to sign. There's a reason he went back to Oregon, seemingly ending his flirtation with the NFL for the year.

Because no matter how good college coaches are - and Kelly was superb in four seasons at Oregon - winning games on Saturdays is not a guarantee for success in the NFL.

Nick Saban found that out when he left LSU for the Miami Dolphins in 2005. After two mediocre seasons in Miami, he couldn't leave town fast enough when Alabama came courting with an offer to return to the college ranks.

Now he's got three BCS championships at Alabama, a statue of himself outside the stadium and a reputation as a genius in the college ranks. All that while still making NFL-type money coaching the Crimson Tide.

``I kind of learned from that experience that maybe (college) is where I belonged,'' Saban said earlier this month when he returned to Miami to win the BCS title in the same stadium where he coached the Dolphins. ``And I'm really happy and at peace with all of that.''

Steve Spurrier seems plenty happy at South Carolina, too, just like he once was in Florida. He won a national championship with the Gators and might have stayed there for life had the Washington Redskins not come calling with what was then the richest coaching contract in NFL history.

The head ball coach went 12-20 in two seasons, losing 10 of his last 12, including a home shutout against Dallas that had fans pelting the sidelines with snowballs in disgust. Spurrier was so eager to get out of Washington that he quit before he could be fired, giving up the remaining $15 million left on his contract.

``Maybe someone else can do better,'' Spurrier said then. ``It's a long, tough grind, coaching in the NFL.''

It is, and there's only so much a college coach can do to prepare for the job. The Xs and Os are all mostly the same, but the parity in the NFL is why coaches spend 16 hours a day almost every day trying to find some way to get an edge on the opposition.

Like those before him, Kelly will go from worrying about recruiting to worrying about a salary cap. He'll go from dealing with college kids who don't have two quarters in their pocket to dealing with millionaires with entourages. He'll go from being able to fool other teams with his offense to being able to fool no one.

And he'll have to do it with no NFL experience at all. Before moving to Oregon six years ago, Kelly's biggest job was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire. And while his record at Oregon is a gaudy one - 46-7 - the reality is he's only been a head coach for four years.

Unlike Kelly, Saban had some experience in the NFL before going to Miami, serving as a defensive backs coach in Houston for one year. Still, he struggled with the reality that the NFL is a very different beast.

``I had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or in the way that I am able to in college,'' Saban said. ``And it was very difficult for me. Because there is a lot of parity in the NFL. There's a lot of rules in the NFL.''

That doesn't mean a college coach can't succeed in the NFL. Jimmy Johnson was new to the league when he took over in Dallas and went on to win back-to-back Super Bowls, while Barry Switzer followed him there to win a ring of his own. Jim Harbaugh didn't miss a beat in moving from Stanford to the 49ers and Pete Carroll has found success in Seattle after a remarkable run at Southern California.

Carroll, however, is in his third stint in the league after failing miserably with the Patriots and the Jets. And Harbaugh both played in the league and had a year as quarterbacks coach in Oakland, so the learning curve was not so steep.

Kelly inherits a team that has plenty of talent, along with a reputation for underachieving. He will undoubtedly install a version of the speedy Oregon offense in Philadelphia, and Michael Vick seems to be the perfect fit to run it.

The Eagles should be better next season, if only because it's hard to get worse than the team that sleepwalked its way to a 4-12 record this year.

But Kelly is taking a chance and it's a career chance. He goes from a school that is a perennial contender for the national title to a league where only the New England Patriots are perennial contenders for the Super Bowl.

There are no cupcakes on the schedule, no guarantees that the team he fields will be any better than the one he takes over.

And the trail is littered with coaches with big reputations who have gone before him and failed.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade

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@WashWizards

Sam Dekker happy to be with Wizards, back on court again following trade

Injuries had limited Sam Dekker to only nine games this season with the Cavaliers, who he joined just this past summer in a trade. He hadn't played in a month. Yet, with only nine players available after Otto Porter Jr.'s injury on Monday against the Pacers, head coach Scott Brooks was left without much of a choice.

So, Dekker was summoned off the bench to make his debut with Washington, the third team he has called home all within this calendar year. Though the game amounted in a loss, Dekker's start with the Wizards could not have gone much better.

They instantly went on a 19-0 run to climb back into the game and Dekker played his part in it. He scored on a dunk, had two steals, a rebound and an assist. 

For Dekker, after missing weeks due to a left ankle injury, it was just good to get back out there.

"There was definitely some rust to knock off," Dekker said. "Our trainer was laughing at me. He said 'I've never seen someone drink their water so fast in a timeout.' My bottle was gone."

The dust will ultimately settle, but it has been a tumultuous few days for Dekker. He was still getting adjusted to the Cavs organization when on Friday night his name popped up in trade rumors. His phone started buzzing with "hundreds" of messages from friends and family.

At first, it looked like Dekker was going to Milwaukee, back to his home state and not far from where he starred at the University of Wisconsin.

"I didn't answer to any of them because I did not feel like I was going to Milwaukee," Dekker said. "Something was telling me that was not the case. It just didn't make sense in my head. So, I was like 'no way.' "

Sure enough, Dekker's gut feeling was proven correct. Soon after he was tied to Milwaukee, full details of the trade were released. It was a three-team deal and he was off to Washington, the fourth team in his young career.

The 24-year-old has been traded three times now. That's a lot of moving for he and his wife, Olivia.

"This is the third time I've made her move, so that's no fun. I feel terrible about that," he said. "But she's been awesome. She's been keeping me grounded through all of this."

Dekker said the first order of business after he was dealt to Washington was finding a sitter for his dog, Riggins. He had a 6 a.m. flight the next morning. 

Now, he is in the process of breaking a lease in Cleveland and looking for a new place in the Washington area.

"There's a lot more to it than people understand. They think we just put a new jersey on," Dekker said of getting traded.

Dekker's time with the Wizards has been a whirlwind so far. Things will calm down and, as he says, it all comes back to basketball.

"The one constant is playing hoops. Last night, to get on the court finally, that is one thing that feels like home," he said.

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John Wall making progress but his status, along with Otto Porter's, in doubt vs. Celtics

John Wall making progress but his status, along with Otto Porter's, in doubt vs. Celtics

The Wizards look ahead to their first meeting of the season with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday with two starters considered day-to-day with injuries.

John Wall missed their last game, against the Pacers on Monday, with bone spurs in his left heel. Otto Porter Jr. left the game with a right knee contusion.

The Wizards held a light practice on Tuesday that featured a film session and a walkthrough. Porter only participated in the film session. Wall watched film and then went through a workout guided by assistant coaches afterwards.

"We will find out tomorrow," head coach Scott Brooks said about their status.

The answer will likely come shortly before the game starts. The Wizards do not have a scheduled shootaround.

Wall's absence on Monday marked the first game he's missed this season due to injury. He did not play last week against the Hawks because of personal reasons.

The heel injury is something Wall has been dealing with on-and-off for a long time.

"He fights through a lot of things. He's done this with his heel for four, five, or six years - I don't even know, long before I was here," Brooks said. 

"He just fights through it. He's done, along with our staff, has done a good job of monitoring it. It flared up, but it's calmed down. We just have to always be on the lookout."

Wall was also sick in addition to working through some off-court matters. But the fact he went through an individual workout would appear to be a good sign he can return on Wednesday against the Celtics.

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