Originally written on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 6/7/13
The Philadelphia Eagles gambled their short-term future when they hired Chip Kelly as their head coach. Kelly brings with him an offense that is unlike anything present in the NFL before him, and if it fails, it'll likely be unlike anything that follows. The high-octane scheme has been described as being innovation as well as gimmicky. The truth will likely be known at the end of this season, or perhaps, sometime in the future. Still, speculation will run wild, but that's not what my aim is today. Instead, I hope to contribute some sort of intellectual consideration on the topic. Like the 3-4 defense, I contend that Chip Kelly's offense will be most successful so long as other teams around the league refuse to adopt it. In the 90s and early 2000s, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the few teams to actually incorporate the 3-4 defense. This was a profitable endeavor for them for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason being that the Steelers' draft board, specifically in relation to defensive players, was vastly different than most of the other teams' boards. The Steelers were searching for great 3-4 players, which weren't necessarily great 4-3 players. Because few teams ran a 3-4 defense, the Steelers were picking players to fit their scheme at grossly depreciated values. For instance, a large defensive end that would be taken in the early rounds in 2013 may have been taken in later rounds by the Steelers a decade ago simply because they were the only team that needed such a player. In the same way, Chip Kelly's wide open offense may capitalize in seasons to come by drafting players that fit their scheme better than other, more conventional offenses. This would allow the Eagles to draft offensive players that will contribute far more to their productivity in later rounds than other teams, giving them an edge in April, or May as the case may be by then. The other benefit the Eagles have is the simple element of surprise. Teams will face the Eagles no more than twice per year unless a divisional foe plays them in the playoffs as well. This means that teams will only actually prepare for the Eagles for a week or two per season. In contrast, teams play against similar offenses nearly every week in the NFL. Chip Kelly's offense may prove to be a great flop in the NFL, but it may also be a great innovation. The verdict is still out on such judgments, but there's a deeper layer to consider here. The Eagles have an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of a new wave in the league. The question is, can they pull it off?
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