10 Thoughts on Chip Kelly...

This started as an e-mail to a co-worker, but got a little lengthy. Since it's already written, have some thoughts.

(1) It makes me nervous that this guy has been so waffle-y about coaching in the NFL. He accepted a job with Tampa Bay last year, and then pulled out. This year, he pulled his name out of the running for the Eagles job and said he was going back to Oregon. If his heart isn’t in it, he won’t be successful.

(2) The Eagles don’t have the personnel (well, specifically, the quarterback) to run the offense he ran at Oregon. It’s entirely possible that he plans on tweaking that system to best fit the talents of the roster, and he’s mentioned - many times - that a coach has to be flexible and adapt to his personnel. The Oregon system was initially created as a matter of need: When he was at University of New Hampshire, he had two good running backs and a terrible quarterback. Kelly designed the system to keep the ball in their hands and minimize the damage that the quarterback could wreak. Now, he may need to innovate again. (Even if the Birds did have the ideal Chip Kelly quarterback, I worry about the number of hits a QB takes in a zone-read offense. See, e.g. Bob III).

(3) The thing Chip almost definitely will incorporate immediately is the break-neck pace of his offense, which was already creeping into the NFL before his arrival. Oregon averaged one play every 20 seconds this past season. (The fastest team in the NFL, The Patriots – who brought in Kelly to teach his system to their offensive staff – ran one play every 24 seconds). He mixes up that pace depending on situation (basically between fast, very fast, and warp speed), and seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when to floor it and when to pump the breaks (e.g. keeping tired defenders on the field, forcing D-linemen to rush to the line and set up in their three-point stances only to slow things down). At the college level (and the NFL level, with Tom Brady running the show) it’s been very successful, and very exciting. I worry, though, about moving too fast. If the offense sputters for a few drives, the defense won’t have a chance to catch its breath or make in-game changes.

(4) It’s disconcerting how hands off Kelly is on defense. Oregon DC Nick Aliotti said that Chip never went to a single defensive meeting or changed a single defensive call in four years. He mentioned these things as a positive and of course it’s good to trust the people around you. But an NFL coach has to coach the whole team, and not just the offense. Chip Kelly can’t be another Mike Martz.

(5) Apparently he isn’t completely hands off though. Jeff McLane reported that it’s likely the team will switch to a 3-4 under Kelly, which is probably going to require a major overhaul of the Eagles front seven. (So much for adapting to the personnel). That’s a little troublesome, especially since our defensive backfield is a gaping black hole and the unit that demands immediate attention.

(6) College coaches in general come with pit falls. By most accounts, college coaching doesn’t demand the type of hours that the NFL does. This team needs a guy who’s going to sleep in his office. Chip’s lack of NFL experience also concerns me because he doesn’t have the type of connections a coach needs to put together a top of the line coaching staff. He doesn’t personally know who the rising assistants are in the league. He might know some by reputation, but that’s probably not enough to make educated decisions (or to convince them to leave their current job to work for him). I also think a lot of the reason he was so successful at Oregon was that the player speed he had way outpaced the competition. Defenses are faster in the NFL, and he’s going to have to make some adjustments.

(7) I love that he’s a calculated gambler. Some people liken his approach to Money Ball for football, but that’s a lazy comparison. He doesn’t use statistics to identify market inefficiencies, but he does use them to identify when it’s worth going for it on fourth down. And, according to a couple smart statistics blogs I’ve read, he’s almost always exactly correct, mathematically, about when to gamble.

(8) I hopped aboard the Gus Bus the last few days. By all accounts, if it wasn’t Chip, it was going to be Gus Bradley. I read a lot about him over the past week and not a single person has said anything negative. Players love him. Coaches love him. Nothing but absolutely glowing reviews. And he’s successful. In four years, he turned Seattle’s defense from #27 in the league to #4. And he felt like a Philly guy. No nonsense. Fiery. Intense. A YouTube video of him yelling “Do your job!” to every defender during a mid-game speech fired up the entire city of Philadelphia the last few days. Doug Baldwin, a Seahawks receiver who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, Tweeted this week that the speech Gus gave to his defense at half time on Sunday inspired the whole team.

(9) Maybe Howie Roseman isn't toxic. The Eagles braintrust identified Kelly as their top target early in their search, and he was the one who kept in touch with Kelly and brought him back into the fold. After La Canfora spent the week sullying Roseman's name, Howie's gotta be feeling pretty good right now. If Kelly washes out though, Howie's career might be over.

(10) Bottom line, it’ll be interesting. Chip probably wasn’t my top choice (Gus) or my second choice (Greg Roman, the 49ers OC, who grew up in South Jersey), but I’m way more excited about him than most of the other names mentioned. I especially hated the idea of hiring a retread (Billick, Gruden, Whisenhunt, etc.). Off the Gus Bus and onto the Chip Ship.

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