Does Chip Kelly Win After Bye Weeks?

Expectant Chip - Rich Schultz

This is Coach Kelly's first NFL bye week, but he had a few in college. How did he do after them?

Andy Reid was great coming out of byes -- in Philadelphia, he won 13 out of 14 games played the following week.  Rookie NFL coach Chip Kelly has a very tough act to follow.  So what's his record after byes?

He was only a head coach for four years in college, so we can look at every game up close. The Pac 12 had post-bye week games on Thursday nights, so these games were 12 days after the previous game, not 14.  Overall Chip Kelly was 4-0 after bye weeks, but that doesn't really tell you anything, because he was 47-6 in all games.  (The Ducks also won both post-bye week games when Chip was Offensive Coordinator, in 2007 and 2008.)

Two of Kelly's six overall losses were in BCS bowl games, and two were the first game of the season against very strong teams.  So unless you consider the month off before a bowl or the six month offseason as extended byes, won/loss doesn't tell you anything.  We have to look at how Oregon won those games to evaluate Chip's bye week performance.

In 2009, Oregon actually had two bye-ish games.  On October 24th, the #12 Ducks beat hated (but unranked) rival Washington on the road, 43-19.  That sounds like an impressive score, especially in Kelly's first year, but it was just average for Chip's Ducks.  (The following week, Oregon knocked off long dominant USC, then ranked #4, by a score of 47-20 in Autzen Stadium.) The 2009 Huskies were led by Jake Locker -- intercepted four times by Oregon -- and running back Chris Polk, who got 104 yards. (By the way, the Eagles should run Polk more, since Bryce Brown is adding so little.) The Ducks blocked a punt after overloading the right side of the line, ran an early 2 point conversion after touchdown, and got a first down on a fake field goal -- all plays that might well have been drawn up during the bye.

The Ducks' final game that year was on a Thursday after skipping Thanksgiving week for a 12-day break. The #7 Ducks knocked off #13 Oregon State in a thriller, 37-33.  Jeff Maehl caught a 73-yard touchdown, LeGarrette Blount returned from a long suspension to score a 12-yard touchdown, and Oregon held Jaquizz Rodgers to 64 yards, half his average.  There were no unusual plays or signs of bye effects.

The 2010 Ducks, ranked #1 for the first time in history, crushed UCLA 60-13; this is the game Chip likes to quote on time of possession, where Oregon had half of the Bruins TOP and 580 yards of offense.  Maehl caught 8 passes for 107 yards and a TD, and the team generally played at top speed.  If a bye week upsets the rhythm of Chip Kelly teams, you wouldn't know it from this game. But the 2011 post-bye game was a different story.

That year, #9 Oregon hosted the unranked Cal Bears with both teams were coming off of byes.  Oregon trailed at halftime, 15-14, and looked very rusty  with three punts, a missed FG, a fourth down failure and an interception. After halftime, though, they scored TDs on their next four drives. LaMichael James ran for 239 yards and a touchdown before dislocating his elbow (and popping it back in, on the field.) Again, there were no specially drawn up plays.

Finally, in 2012, #2 Oregon traveled to Tempe, AZ and destroyed Arizona State. The final score was 43-21, but it was 43-7 at halftime (with ASU's only score on a one-play, 28-yard drive after a fumble recovery) and the Sun Devils tried every trick to cut the deficit late against Oregon's subs. Coach Todd Graham actually called a time out with 3 seconds left in the game, down 22 points, to draw up one last attempt at a TD.

This game featured one of my favorite unusual Chip Kelly plays. Oregon had the ball, third and goal at ASU's two yard line. Chip wanted a QB run but saw no reason to set Marcus Mariota up for a big hit.  So he called a play where backup quarterback Brian Bennett (an excellent runner) took a triple option to his left.  He was grabbed in the backfield, but managed a little hook shot pass to the sideline -- where starting QB Marcus Mariota was waiting, and ran it in.  I don't think the play was designed for Mariota, but at 6.4 and extremely fast, he is a perfect sized wide receiver and an excellent third option who was suddenly available.

Overall, Chip Kelly's teams were about the same in games following bye weeks - dominant.  There was the one game where they were rusty in the first half, and a few dramatic play calls, but neither of these was unusual in regular week games either.  I predict that the biggest effect of the Eagles' bye will be the chance to heal up injuries, and an opportunity for the position coaches to observe and correct some of their players' small errors in fundamental technique with the extra time.

Then again, you should take all of this speculation with a healthy dose of skepticism.  11 of Andy Reid's 14 post-bye games in Philadelphia were at home.  And past performance doesn't predict future performance, as you might have heard.  After his experience this year with the Chiefs, Andy Reid is 13-2 in games coming out of the bye week.  But the two losses were last year and this year.

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