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Mark Saltveit Best Selling Author “The Tao of Chip Kelly” discusses his book, Chip Kelly, and the Patriots


Mark Saltveit the author of the best selling football / management book, “The Tao of Chip Kelly:  Lessons from America’s Most Successful Coach” took time to do an interview with Patriots Gab about his book, Chip Kelly, and the Patriots.

Patriots Gab: Can you tell us a little something about yourself we should know?

Mark Saltveit: I write about football (, palindromes (, political scandals (, and the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism as a practical, secular approach to the modern world:  (  I’ve been a standup comedian for 14 years.  I’m the World Palindrome Champion, according to Will Shortz, based on a competition last March in Brooklyn.

Patriots Gab:  How and Why did you become a big Chip Kelly fan?

Mark Saltveit Author of The Tao of Chip Kelly

Mark Saltveit
Author of The Tao of Chip Kelly

Mark Saltveit: When he came to Oregon — even before he was head coach — the team was instantly transformed and commanded my attention.  As I learned more about it, he also seemed like a fascinating character and a great guy.  When you write a book, you are metaphorically spending a lot of time with the subject, so it’s good when it’s someone whose company you enjoy. 

Patriots Gab: What prompted you to write the book “The Tao of Chip Kelly.”

Mark Saltveit: There’s a saying, “write the book you want to read, that doesn’t exist.”  That’s what I did.  The more I learned about him, the more I saw an underlying philosophical approach that was unusually deep and innovative, which dovetailed both with my experience running an innovative computer training company in the 1990s, and with my unusual take on Taoism. 

Patriots Gab: While Chip Kelly was at Oregon his teams never seem to miss a beat even when starting over with a new cast on offense or defense. Why do you think that was?

Mark Saltveit: Chip Kelly doesn’t have a collection of plays, like some coaches; he has a complete program, where each part reinforces the others.  A big part of that is maxmimizing repetitions and playing down the depth chart, to retain the advantage over wearier opponents and simultaneously to give yourself insurance against injuries, graduation, etc.  Similarly, he seeks out versatile players and blurs position distinctions; this also gives him a lot of ability to adapt to his players.  And that’s the main thing, for all his innovations, he always starts with his personnel and adapts to them, instead of vice versa. 

Patriots Gab: New England ran Kelly’s fast pace, no huddle offense great last season. Do you think they can have the same success with it this year with a whole new cast of wide outs that includes mostly rookies?

Mark Saltveit: With Tom Brady at QB, I could probably succeed in the NFL (at least until someone tackled me hard).  I don’t know about the same success, but Belichick — who Kelly has learned a lot from — is a master of adapting to his situation.  For no huddle specifically, it wouldn’t hurt to develop your run game a little, and now seems like a pretty good time. 

Patriots Gab: Do you think the newly signed QB for the Patriots, Tim Tebow is well suited to run Chip Kelly’s offense?

Mark Saltveit: Nope.  I saw him at practice and am very unimpressed by his arm.  However, if you want to do a run dominated offense with a kamikaze QB who runs until he’s injured, Tebow might be your guy. 

Patriots Gab: Which QB on the current Eagles roster do you think is the best option to run Kelly’s offense?

Mark Saltveit: I agree with Chip — we won’t know until they play (preseason) games.  Let’s give Vick and Foles lots of reps in practice and games, it should be clear who’s better.  I’d give the tie to Vick.  Let’s face it, injuries are not unlikely the way he runs, then the problem solves itself.  I don’t see Barkley as a starter this year. 

Patriots Gab: Do you think the Eagles defense will be better under Chip Kelly?

Mark Saltveit: It would be humiliating if it isn’t.  At Oregon, Chip’s defense was bend but don’t break.  They gave up a lot of yards but led college football in turnover margin.  That’s the goal.  Unfortunately this year it might be more of the former than the latter. 

Patriots Gab:  Which player do you think will benefit most from Kelly’s offense this season? LeSean McCoy, Desean Jackson?

Mark Saltveit: I think both will blossom, and of course they set each other up beautifully.  The Eagles’ hopes lie in outscoring opponents this year, they’ll need both. 

Patriots Gab: How well do you think Chip Kelly’s first season will go for the Eagles?

Mark Saltveit: I’m predicting 8-8, give or take 2 games.   And exciting no matter what

Patriots Gab: What do you expect to see at the Eagles and Patriots pre-season game

Mark Saltveit: It’s the first sketch of Chip’s offense, which will be fascinating.  I won’t predict  what he will show but I don’t think it will be radically different from the regular season. I definitely expect some zone read because I saw it in practice, even with Nick Foles. I expect to see both teams play with tempo, both fast no huddle and slower speeds.  Chip will eagerly test players at different positions e.g. Damaris Johnson on sweep runs and screens, as well as regular WR. Zach Ertz at WR, James Casey all over the place. I also expect Chip to try some trick plays, like a fake FG, primarily to make teams think it might be coming in regular season.  Make them doubt, and lose a second in committing to coverage.

Patriots Gab: In your book you talked about how you thought Darren Thomas went into the draft because he knew he would have to compete for his job against a very talented Marcus Mariota.. Do you think any of the Quarterbacks on the current roster would have that same attitude as Thomas about competing for their job?

Mark Saltveit: Naw, Vick would have left if he felt that way, but he’s got serious skills over Foles.  He just needs to reshape his approach, which at 32 might be tough, but I think everyone will be happiest if Vick can learn to get the ball out more quickly, read defenses the way Chip would like and  slide a little quicker before he gets hit.  He will be amazing if he can do that.  Foles is young, Vick is 32.  Nick will get his chances soon enough.

Patriots Gab: In your book you talked about how Saban and the SEC had recruiting advantages over Kelly and the Ducks. Could you explain what kind of advantages they had? And If Kelly was a coach in the SEC or had the same advantages at Oregon how much better would his team have been?

Mark Saltveit: I’ve said before, if Chip had Alabama’s players, he would have won four national championships in his time.  A recent study (by football outsiders? I forget) actually ran statistics and came to the same conclusion, that adjusting for talent Chip is the best college coach of the last decade. SEC advantages?  Just look at how many pro players they graduate, the size and quickness of their lines, the talent up and down.  It’s no surprise the SEC wins the NCG every year. The Eagles got a real score in picking up OL coach Jeff Stoutland from Alabama.  He’s a real character and a great coach, and inherits what is — on paper, if healthy — the NFL’s best offensive line.

Patriots Gab: In your book, every chapter is titled a Chip Kelly Motto.. Which Kelly Motto is your personal favorite?

Mark Saltveit: Big People Beat Up Little People.
First, because it was a funny answer to a stupid question (“Why are you trying to draft long and big players?”)
Secondly, because it highlights Kelly’s surprising humility.  He has the courage to not be clever, when the smart move is to keep it simple.  Football coaches are all pretty smart, but they tend to outsmart themselves if they have egos.  Chip doesn’t make it all about him playing chess against the other coach with the players as pawns.  He knows that the players play the game, not him.  A lot of people think that one of Andy Reid’s big flaws was being clever like that, including drafting undersized high-motor overachievers.

Mark’s best selling football / management book, “The Tao of Chip Kelly:  Lessons from America’s Most Successful Coach” (Palindromist Press: 2013) is available at finer book stores and at




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