- Chip Kelly takes over as San Francisco 49ers coach
- Jarryd Hayne excelled in a 'dysfunctional environment'
When former Parramatta Eels superstar Jarryd Hayne returns to the San Francisco 49ers for preseason training, he will be faced with the prospect of getting the attention of a new coach, former Philadelphia Eagles head honcho Chip Kelly.
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Arriving back in Sydney, Jarryd Hayne speaks about playing in San Francisco's last few games of the season and says he's looking forward to watching the playoffs.
From all accounts, Hayne will be required to have an open mind - and some serious lung capacity.
The 49ers' new coach gleans football insight from books on business management, once hired a special warfare expert as his team's sports science coordinator and sought coaching advice from a cognitive psychologist.
He requires players to submit a urine sample every morning and has a heavy focus on training and fitness.
There are almost as many questions about Chip Kelly, recently fired by the Philadelphia Eagles after three seasons, as there were empty seats at Levi's Stadium this season. But in one regard, Kelly, the 20th head coach in 49ers history, seems an ideal match for his new employer: One of the great innovators in football has come to the land of innovation.
Silicon Chip is a headset-wearing mad scientist with a New England accent, iconoclastic bent and raging curiosity. He doesn't think outside the box. He lives there.
"He has always asked about the why, always asked about the how," said University of New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, who has known Kelly for decades. "He's always searching to make something better."
Kelly, 52, talks fast, thinks fast and plays even faster. His warp-speed offense, created at New Hampshire and made famous at Oregon, revolutionised college football and has influenced the NFL.
But Kelly's unique approach extends beyond mere X's and O's, all the way to Zzzzzs. Convinced of the benefits of sports science, Kelly hired a former Navy SEAL conditioning coach to oversee the Eagles' training. Players wore GPS devices during practice. Their heart rates and nutrition were monitored. Sleep patterns were examined. Urine samples were reportedly taken daily.
"Football gives him the avenue to converge information, technology and research on a physical field of play," said former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, whose decision to hire Kelly away from New Hampshire in 2007 changed the sport forever.
Kelly will explore any angle that might provide an advantage and has a team of academics on his speed dial. He consulted with Harry Edwards, the Cal sociologist, when Eagles receiver Riley Cooper used a racial slur. He once brought in K. Anders Ericsson, a specialist in cognitive psychology, to discuss expert performance, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
"The only thing I've never accepted is, 'That's the way it's always been done,' " Kelly said before a 2014 tangle with the 49ers. "Give me a better reason than that."
Bellotti compared Kelly to former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Born one month apart late in 1963, both can be blunt and dismissive. Both are relentless in their pursuit of success and have little patience for anyone who cannot help them succeed.
Kelly is loath to discuss his methods, whether it's his approach to play-calling or the details of his sports science program. His personal life is off limits, as well. Close friends and family members don't talk to the media - they have been "sworn to silence," longtime coaching pal Mike Zamarchi told the Washington Post.
That same Post article, which focused on Kelly's shrouded side, revealed that he was married for seven years; dislikes green vegetables but loves beer; once ran with the bulls at Pamplona during an offseason; has been compared to Elon Musk, the inventor and Tesla CEO, by one NFL player; and is a fan of music from "The Lion King."
"There's plenty of weirdos in the NFL," one of Kelly's former players told the Post. "He's just a different kind of weirdo."
San Jose Mercury News