Chip Kelly has gone to great lengths to keep his private life, well, private.
He doesn’t open up about the personal to co-workers, so the fact he’s made his family and friends off limits is no surprise. But the veil of secrecy was pulled back a bit in a profile by Kent Babb of the Washington Post, who found among other things that the Eagles coach had an ex-wife that no one knew about.
For all the ink that’s been spilled about Kelly, no one has previously reported the existence of a secret wife, with many of the stories about him referring to him as a lifelong bachelor.
But Jennifer Jenkins talked to Babb about Kelly, without revealing too much about their seven-year marriage. They met in 1989 when she was a senior at New Hampshire. They married in 1992, and divorced in 1999.
“Why does everything say that you weren’t married?” Jenkins recalled a friend asking her. “I just roll my eyes.”
She joked about showing wedding pictures on her iPhone since no one knew or believes it actually happened, but she didn’t divulge much about their past.
“It wasn’t his fault because he was focused on football,” she said. “That’s just not the way we’ve ever — that’s not it. That’s not what happened. . . .“We were just young.”
Kelly’s marital status isn’t really relevant, or even that interesting. But the way he’s gone about his business is fascinating for someone in such a public business.
Babb’s not the first reporter to try to peel back the layers of that onion, and won’t be the last. Robert Huber of Philadelphia Magazine tried back in the summer, and even showed up unannounced at Kelly’s parent’s house.
“We don’t talk about Chip outside the family,” his father Paul Kelly said. It wasn’t long before Huber got a call from Eagles PR, and at the behest of their coach, expressed their displeasure with the visit.
And longtime Eagles beat writer Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Inquirer just noted that Jenkins probably won’t be doing any more interviews in the near future, pointing out “Chip’s friends, when they talk about Chip, are asked not to do so again.”
At a certain level, it seems at least silly and possibly Nixonian.
Football, specifically at the NFL level, is so thoroughly covered that it feels like we know everything about everyone involved in the process. But we don’t, as reporters who cover teams every day and notice every muscle twinge can go years without truly knowing the players involved. And when the people we cover work as hard as Kelly apparently does to keep a secret, a hard job can be made nearly impossible.
All of which is, of course, Kelly’s right.
But his middle name is Edward. There, the secret’s out now.