Chip Kelly isn’t your safe coaching hire. He is a swing for the fences type of hire. He could be the next great NFL coach or he could be out of the NFL for good within two years. Hiring Chip Kelly is like an at bat in baseball where their are two outs, a 3-2 count and your team is down 3 runs with the bases loaded. The pitch is high but hitable. You could let it go for a walk, score one run and hope the next guy comes through or you can go for it all, knowing at the same time there is a safer option.
Kelly has no NFL experience. There is a risk there. That doesn’t mean the NFL will overwhelm him, it just means the speed of the game could be too much or an adjustment and the players could turn on him because of the little experience in the big leagues.
Kelly has been a football coach at the college leve since 1990 and has coached on both sides of the football and has been both a defensive and offensive coordinator. He broke out as the offensive coordinator for New Hampshire from 1999-2006 until he was scooped up by Oregon for the same job. He was promoted to the Ducks head coach in 2009. In his four seasons as the head coach in Eugene, Kelly has compiled a 45-7 record with four trips to a BCS bowl.
Kelly isn’t an attractive hire because of his spread offense, it’s that incredibly innovative mind of his. He runs a fast offense that is balanced and believes in running as many plays on offense as possible, rather than eating up the clock. It’s that style of play that really wears down a defense. The defense doesn’t get a chance to substitute players out, let alone rest.
He is also a very aggressive coach. He will keep his offense on the field for more fourth down plays than any other coach. It works well for Kelly at Oregon because his players are fundamentally sound. Everybody in that offense blocks well.
In his spread offense, the quarterback reacts to what the safeties do. Because their is usually three or four wide receivers lined up wide, the quarterback can tell if the defense is playing zone or man based on how the corners line up. After that, it is a matter of which safeties, if any are in the box. If one or both is playing close to the line, the quarterback will look to pass the football, if they are both back, then the running game is the best option. With the safeties back, the rest of the defenders can be blocked by one player.
Kelly is going to be labeled as a “Gimmick” football coach, but that is simply not the case. He is a smart football mind who preaches the fundamentals like tackling, blocking and protecting the football. He is also one of the best college coaches at utilizing practice time. He spends most of practice running plays rather than taking extra time to correct everyone’s mistakes. That can be done during film study. This is why you don’t see very many, if any blown assignments on either side of the ball from a Chip Kelly coached team.
Some experts will say that the Eagles would be a bad choice for Kelly because Nick Foles isn’t a running quarterback. The last time I checked the NFL was a passing league. Robert Griffin III is a great athlete, but he really makes his money with his arm. It’s nice to have a quarterback with good wheels, but who wants to run the football 15-20 times with your quarterback? No coach is going to take that risk on a weekly basis.
When you look at the stats, Oregon has never been an offense that relies on the rushing ability of their quarterback. Sure, the spread offense works better with an athlete at quarterback, but the bulk of the ground game comes from the running backs. This season Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have combined to run for over 2,300 yards and 32 touchdowns. In 2011, quarterback Darron Thomas ranked 5th on the offense with 206 rushing yards.
The running backs and the blockers make this rushing offense go. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown to hand the ball off to, plus DeSean Jackson has enough speed to get a few touches as well. The Eagles have enough weapons on offense for Chip Kelly to have immediate success. Don’t forget that the Eagles have terrific athletes on the offensive line as well with Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans. They also have the 4th overall pick in the draft and will have the 3rd pick if the Raiders win one more game and the Eagles lose out. The Eagles might be the most attractive team for any coach out there based on the talent here, the fan support, and the early draft picks.
Chip Kelly isn’t my favorite candidate out there, but he is certainly one I could get excited about. He has the potential to be a great coach in the NFL for a long time.