Chip Kelly And the Speed Philosophy

Chip Kelly called himself an “equal opportunity scorer”  Thursday, explaining that he is not married to a specific scheme but is more interested in tailoring his attack to fit his personnel. The more you accentuate your players’ strengths, the thinking goes, the better chance you have of putting points on the board. There is more flexibility in his design than many would have you believe.

But surely there are some philosophies that are non-negotiable — like Kelly’s desire to operate at break-neck speed.

“In this game everybody is trying to gain an advantage  and it’s the next great thing, so to speak — and I’m not saying it’s great — if you can force the pace of the game,” said the newly-minted Eagles coach, “but there are so many things that get involved in that. It’s not like buying something off the shelf and we’re going to use it this week. It has to be total implementation from what you do in the offseason to how you practice during the week to what you do on gameday.”

As you may have guessed by now, Kelly is not likely going to be some quick fix. There will be significant changes in personnel and practice structure and overall team approach. It borders on overhaul.

Kelly likes the players and the pace to be fast.Where many coaches will slow drills down in practice to give individual instruction, Kelly believes in doing all the teaching in the classroom; the practice field is for reps. From Kelly’s coaching manual:

When practice starts until practice ends, we practice as hard as we can. Whenever we practice, we practice fast, and we finish everything.

Only one player on the current Eagles’ roster, Casey Mathews, knows what the rest of the Eagles’ players are in for.

“It was tough,” said Matthews of practices at Oregon. “He’s going full speed, no-huddle. You never have to condition because practices are conditioning. I think it could work. Obviously it would be a change — we would be going fast-tempo, and a lot of these guys aren’t used to that.”

That leads us to an important question: Can you get professional players (especially this group, which has proven stubborn) to alter their behavior and go along with this unorthodox approach?

“If you have a bunch of guys who want to win,” Kelly responded. “I don’t know if guys say, ‘Coach, we don’t want to score points.’ I haven’t encountered people like that and I don’t think there are people like that. I’ve gotten a chance to meet a couple of the guys. There are a lot of generalizations that go on all the time but I know that the teams that are successful want to win, and if you can give them an advantage in how to win I think they would be nuts if they didn’t buy into it.”

Fast in practice, fast on the field. Kelly believes in getting in as many offensive plays as possible — a theory Bill Belichick has adopted in New England. It has been called “fast-break offense,” and some believe it is the new wave.

Kelly values speed in his players as well, and sees plenty of it on the roster.

“The one thing that attracts me about the roster is the youth. It’s one of the youngest teams in the league. You have to watch about three plays to understand the speed,” he said. “Youth and speed are two things you can’t coach. I’m excited about that.”

It is going to take some time to have the personnel and the mindset match the new coach’s vision. Howie Roseman‘s mission is to find the type of players that will both have the physical capabilities and willingness to go along with the new program. As Kelly suggested, you don’t just wake up and become the type of team that he wants to be. It is going to take some shaping.

“We’re going to find a bunch of guys who are like-minded individuals that understand that the game of football is played by everybody. It’s not an ‘I’ deal, it’s a team deal,” he said. “And that’s the thing that wins. Whether it’s at the high school level, the collegiate level, or in the National Football League, the best team wins. Not the team with the most talented players. We’re going to surround ourselves with the best team. That’s our charge as a coaching staff and we understand that and our players will certainly understand that when I get an opportunity to meet those guys.”

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