“First name, last name or flip a coin,” Kelly said, jokingly. “We did enough reps in practice where no one’s ever going to say we didn’t get enough reps. That’s another thing that we do from a practice standpoint is we’ll be able to share that load.”
The response was telling. Not because Kelly revealed anything significant about the quarterback situation, but because he shed some light on how he plans to run practices in the NFL.
When we last asked Kelly about this topic at the Senior Bowl, he was still in the process of formulating a plan. He mentioned roster limitations, injuries and the need to tweak what he did at Oregon. But after talking to the other coaches on Kelly’s staff, it’s clear that some version of those up-tempo practices are coming to the Novacare Complex.
“Chip’s about playing fast, it’s about practicing fast, training fast,” said defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, the one full-time staffer Kelly brought with him from Oregon. “That’s just in our DNA. That’s what we do. I don’t even think about it. I don’t think the guys here will even think about it. It’s just what we do.”
Back in November, Chris Brown of Grantland explained that Oregon didn’t just run a no-huddle offense, but a no-huddle program. Everything Kelly did focused on speed and efficiency. Practices were fast-paced because games would be fast-paced. Plus, they had a limited amount of time to work with because of NCAA rules.
The purpose was to maximize reps. If a player needed one-on-one instruction, he would get that in the film room. Kelly didn’t see the point of making everyone else stand around and watch while a coach addressed a single player.
“I can’t wait to experience it and see where it’s at,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “It’s going to take me out of my 20-year box that I’ve been in and see what the advantages and disadvantages are. I know one thing. He’s had a lot of success with the things he’s done and the ideas he has. He’s always evolving.”
Roster limits will be a factor during the season, but remember, from April until late August (the third week of preseason games), NFL teams are allowed 90 spots. That should give Kelly plenty of time (OTAs, mini-camps and most of training camp) to incorporate his tempo before potentially making tweaks prior to the regular season.
In all, Kelly’s staff includes 21 assistants. Inside linebackers coach Rick Minter said one of the reasons for the large group is so they can maximize efficiency during practices.
“Everything around here is going to be fast,” Minter said. “Everything’s done around here with a purpose. So we’ve got a larger staff to be more efficient teachers and get messages done perhaps in a shorter period of time.”
Minter, who has coached at 12 different college programs, but never in the NFL, sees a real advantage to running practices the way Kelly has in the past.”
“We’ll get more reps than the average team gets if we’re out there an equal amount of time,” he said. “So if we get more reps, then our ones and twos get good reps. We’re building depth, developing players, not just working your ones to death, letting your twos watch, learn by listening, throw them in for a couple crumbs and hope nobody gets hurt. We can play our depth. We can develop our depth.
“If we happen to lose players for whatever reason down the road – injuries, negotiations, whatever – it’ll be the next man in. We think over the long haul, the more practice time we can get working within Coach Kelly’s system, the more players we can develop into playing in the real game. We’d like to play as many players as we can to stay fresh, to stay sustainable for the long haul. How we use our time will be what separates us from our opponents.”