Essential Reading: Getting To Know Chip Kelly
The Eagles announced Wednesday afternoon that Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be their next head coach.
We’ll obviously have much more on this development, but here is some background and essential reading to get you started. I’ll update this post with more links soon.
* It’s true that Kelly has zero experience as an NFL coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s been disconnected from the pro game. Kelly has met with Bill Belichick multiple times over the years and helped shape aspects of the Patriots’ offense. From Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe:
If you want to see what’s next on the pro level, look to the colleges. That’s what Belichick does, with his alliances with coaches such as Nick Saban (LSU and Alabama), Urban Meyer (Florida and Ohio State) and, now, Kelly.
That’s why when Kelly walked into Gillette Stadium two years ago — and he’s been there three times total — ears perked up among the Patriots’ coaches, including Belichick.
Kelly had become friendly with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien while both were rising in the college ranks. The UNH coaching staff would visit Brown, where O’Brien was coaching, for pickup basketball games and to talk X’s and O’s.
Kelly told the Patriots he was moving to a no-huddle that only used one word to signify everything involved in a play. Sideline calls take too long. Wristbands too. One word is all that is needed.
* Tim Livingston of ThePostGame.com wrote that Kelly could bring an aspect of Moneyball to the NFL:
Those fourth down calls epitomize Kelly’s aggressiveness but what the average football fan doesn’t realize is that Chip’s play-calls (the fourth down tries, fake punts, two-point conversions, etc.) are almost always the correct mathematical decision. Like Paul DePodesta and Billy Beane did in baseball, Kelly’s genius comes from exploiting arithmetic that other coaches are too naïve to acknowledge.
* Kelly believes in focusing on number of plays, not time of possession. In fact, he really doesn’t like time of possession, as you’ll see in this video clip.
* Chris Brown of Grantland has written about Kelly extensively over the years. One major question with Kelly is how he’ll adjust to the NFL game. Here’s a look at his offensive philosophy:
Every coach has to ask himself the same question: ‘What do you want to be?'” Kelly said at a recent clinic. “That is the great thing about football. You can be anything you want. You can be a spread team, I-formation team, power team, wing-T team, option team, or wishbone team. You can be anything you want, but you have to define it.” That definition is evident in Oregon. Kelly’s choice of a no-huddle spread offense drips from every corner of the impressive practice facilities in Eugene. Oregon does not run a no-huddle offense so much as they are a no-huddle program.
* You’ll hear a lot about pace with Kelly’s offenses, but as Brown explains, Oregon didn’t just move at one speed:
When the games do begin, there’s no question that the no-huddle makes Oregon’s attack more dangerous, but it’s a common misconception that they have only one supersonic speed. The Ducks use plenty of their superfast tempo, but they actually have three settings: red light (slow, quarterback looks to sideline for guidance while the coach can signal in a new play), yellow light (medium speed, quarterback calls the play and can make his own audibles at the line, including various check-with-me plays), and green light (superfast).
This change of pace is actually how Oregon constantly keeps defenses off balance. If they only went one pace the entire game the offense would actually be easier to defend. When the defense lines up quickly and is set, Kelly takes his time and picks the perfect play. When the defense is desperate to substitute or identify Oregon’s formation, the Ducks sprint to the line and rip off two, three, or four plays in a row — and it rarely takes more than that for them to score.
* One common misconception with Kelly is that he’s always had the best players in the country at Oregon, but that’s simply not true, as Chase Stuart of FootballPerspective.com points out:
Can Kelly simply pack his playbook, spend a training camp with an NFL team, and turn them into the pro version of the Ducks? Of course not; even if his running game works perfectly, his runs will mostly go for 8-yard gains, not 40-yard sprints (unless he’s playing the Raiders). But reducing Kelly to an X’s and O’s guru incapable of adaption is unfairly harsh. Tanier credits the great Nike machine with providing Oregon with superior talent, but that’s not a fair criticism. Oregon has never had a top-ten recruiting class under Kelly, and Rivals generally ranks Oregon’s classes in the teens or early twenties. Spurrier, coaching in talent-rich Florida, not remote Oregon, was playing with a decked more favorably stacked than Kelly ever has. But more importantly, Kelly’s offenses were unstoppable when he coached at New Hampshire without any recruiting edge, and his success at Oregon happened immediately, even before Oregon truly became the nouveau riche of college football.
* This is as close to a profile as you’ll find on Kelly, courtesy of John Locanthi of Willamette Week:
As distant as he is to boosters and as brusque as he is with the media, Kelly is a different person to his players, who laud his ability to communicate complex concepts and schemes. And his relationships with the players goes beyond Xs and Os.
Dennis Dixon was an underachieving quarterback when Kelly was hired as Oregon’s offensive coordinator in 2007. He spent that summer before his senior season playing baseball in the Atlanta Braves’ farm system, trying to get his mind off football. The decision to play baseball was criticized by the press, fans and even his own coach—Bellotti. But not by his new quarterbacks coach.
Kelly showed up unannounced to one of Dixon’s games in Orlando, Fla., just to cheer him on.
“It was a big moment for me,” recalls Dixon, now a practice-squad quarterback with the NFL Baltimore Ravens. “I’d never had anyone show that kind of support for me up to that point.”
* If you’re looking for details and explanations about Kelly’s offense, check out FishDuck.com’s post titled What Every NFL Fan Should Know About Chip Kelly.
* Pete Thamel of the New York Times took readers inside an Oregon practice:
Why do Kelly’s schemes allow just about any quarterback to lead the Ducks to the top of college football’s statistical categories? The answer comes from the blur that is an Oregon practice, a kaleidoscope of colors, whistles and music. The practices are so intense that even team managers have to tape their ankles, and they illustrate the white-knuckle philosophy of a program designed to leave opponents in its wake.
“The tempo is unique,” said the former N.F.L. coach Jon Gruden, who nearly took a job at Oregon to learn Kelly’s offense. “They’re not the only no-huddle, but they’re as fast as any team that plays football.”
Other programs pride themselves on tempo, but Gruden said he had never seen an operation that was both this fast and this refined. Oregon’s practices last two hours, an hour less than a typical college practice, and there is so little time between plays that coaches must do their teaching with only a few words or wait until the film room.
Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times has also written about Oregon’s practices.
Again, much more to come, and if you have worthy Kelly reading to share, feel free to e-mail me.