Gruden jumped on a conference call with reporters Thursday to talk about the upcoming season, and ESPN was kind enough to pass along the transcript. So here’s a Q&A on Eagles-related topics.
Note: Minor edits made for clarity.
Q: The opener, Redskins‑Eagles, figures to feature two of the more intriguing offenses this year, and offenses that are probably pretty reflective of what’s going on in college football. I wonder if the trickle‑off that we’re seeing where college football is influencing the NFL is something you think is here to stay, or is it a faddish thing, because it seems like the river is flowing the other way now and college football is influencing the pros?
Gruden: “That’s the million‑dollar question. I don’t think college football is penetrating the NFL, I think college football is in the NFL, and I think it’s here to stay. I see a lot of high school football. The game of high school football is different. Players are playing it differently, wide-open, no-huddle, spread systems, and that’s what’s in college football. That’s how we’re training coaches and players. It’s a big part of the National Football League.
“When you watch RG3 and the Washington Redskins, you’re going to see some similarities to what RG3 did at Baylor, and when you watch Michael Vick play with Chip Kelly, you’re going to see a lot of things we saw at Oregon in the last four or five years. But I think it’s here to stay. I’m not saying it really excites me as maybe it does some other people because I like the conventional way of moving the football, throwing it in a traditional style of offense, but some of these quarterbacks can really make it happen, and it’ll be fun to watch.”
Q: Jon, as you look at what Chip was able to do at Oregon, how much do you think he’s going to be able to translate and adapt that to the NFL game, and more specifically what about the pace of the game and how far do you think the officials are going to let them push that without giving the defense an honest chance to rearrange themselves?
Gruden: “Well, you know, let’s just start with this isn’t going to be the first no‑huddle offense the NFL has ever seen. Chip Kelly is a great coach, and he’s a no‑huddle guru, spread system master. But this isn’t the first time that an offense has gone with a no‑huddle offense. He’s going to mix his tempos and certainly put his spin on things for the entire length of football games.
“I don’t know how the officials are going to do it any differently than they’ve done it for the New England Patriots or any other teams that feature the no‑huddle offense. I think what’s going to be interesting is if you go no‑huddle and play up-tempo the whole game, what’s the conditioning level of your players? You’re only allowed to have 47 men play on Sunday, and some of these are kickers and punters, and some of these guys play defense. So I’d like to see how it works with just 23 or 24 offensive players for potentially 85 and 90 snaps a game. I think conditioning and what it’s going to look like in week 9 or 10 or 13 when players can’t practice because they’re injured, I’m just anxious to see how the preparation works with the length of an NFL season with all these plays and tempo.”
Q: Jon, Chip Kelly’s offense is going to be very tight end centric. He could end up keeping as many as four tight ends on his roster, and he’s regularly played two and even three tight end sets most of the preseason. What kind of match‑up problems is that going to present for a defense?
Gruden: “Well, it depends on if the tight ends are any good.”
Q: Well, just assume they are.
Gruden: “Well, you can use them as a jokers, really. They’re good in any type of formation because you can create ‑‑ you can use a tight end as a classic, on the line of scrimmage tight end; you can put a tight end in the backfield and create a two‑back set; you can line up in a no‑back set, use them as wide receivers. You get tremendous pre‑snap looks when you put a tight end outside of wide receiver in terms of is it man or is it zone. You get bigger blockers on the perimeter when you throw these bubble screens and quick screens. You probably want to throw the quick screen to DeSean Jackson and have a tight end block.
“So you get size on the edge where Chip Kelly likes to get the ball, and you just have men that can do a lot of different things. We know (Zach) Ertz can catch. We know (Brent) Celek can catch. Clay Harbor has done some excellent things, and the guy that they signed from the Houston Texans is a jack‑of‑all‑trades. I’ve seen (James) Casey play fullback, I’ve seen him do it all. I’m with you; I’m excited to see how he pulls it off and utilizes these tight ends. With the absence of (Jeremy) Maclin, I know they’ll have to lean on them.”