Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jan 2013

Chip Kelly Hired By Eagles, Unless He Is Not

Per Chris Mortensen, Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jay Glazer and Ian Rapoport are both reporting the same thing, so it might actually be true. Until, you know, he backs out of the job in two days after Phil Knight unloads his dump truck in front of Kelly's house again or something.

Posted by: Tom Gower on 16 Jan 2013

39 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2013, 9:20am by Jerry


by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:41pm

I get why Kelly would want to test himself in the NFL. (Particularly if NCAA sanctions are forthcoming, like many believe.) But I've never understood why he's been such a hot ticket with multiple NFL teams. If you wanted the offense, then hire him to consult like the Pats did. He might turn out to be a great NFL coach, but his lack of experience is troubling. Not just the total lack of NFL experience but the fact he coached a single major college program and didn't even build it up from the ground but just maintained it at essentially the same level it was when he took over.

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:30pm

What I've read from reporters quoting "NFL Sources" and such is that it isn't the results on the field that made Kelly so hot as much as it is what they see from him during practice. There are tons of articles about how Oregon practices so I won't bother doing a bad job of repeating it here, but he's on top of all the other obvious qualities he's seen as a guy who can get the absolute most out of the current CBA's practice rules and that goes a long, long way.

by Tino (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:50pm

just maintained it at essentially the same level it was when he took over.

That's not quite true. His 4 consecutive Pac-10/12 titles, 3 consecutive top 4 AP finishes, and consistent blowout wins is far beyond anything Mike Belotti accomplished. He (and Phil Knight) definitely elevated Oregon from essentially a Top 20 program to a Top 5 program.

That said, as you mentioned, his greatest innovation has been the hurry up spread offense, and I think it's very questionable what kind of success this will have in the NFL when a) his offense won't have a consistent (and often sizable) talent advantage, b) NFL defenses have much more seasoned and practiced players than colleges.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 2:48pm

Yet we're mere days removed from seeing a top-5ish defense have absolutely no clue how to line up, when the Patriots (admittedly a great team) went hurry-up.

If you design the hurry-up offense around versatile and fast players - why wouldn't it work? You'd need a good QB, but that's true of most offensive schemes.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:29pm

The question is not whether the hurry-up offense can succeed in the NFL; it obviously can. The question is whether Chip Kelly is a good coach because of some great system he employs, or because his teams have a large talent gap over most of their competition. The former translates to the NFL, the latter does not.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:42pm

Right. But that isn't Chip Kelly specific - most coaches who goes from NCAA to NFL come from big programs with recruiting edge. That debate has nothing to do with his scheme.

by rj1a (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:13pm

It has nothing to deal with his scheme but it's a valid criticism of coaches coming from NCAA. There's a different between being a good coach and being a good recruiter. If you're just a good recruiter (like to borrow from basketball, John Calipari), chances are you're not going to be a good NFL coach when talent is far more equalized. Look at Sabin's tenure at Miami.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:27pm

Totally agree.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 7:55pm

I think Saban's a lot more than just a great recruiter. I think the problem at Miami (where his tenure wasn't exactly a disaster anyway) was more that he's not very good at man-managing adult professionals, whereas he's excellent at man-managing students. Which of course is another factor to be concerned about in college coaches as a group.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:27pm

Sure it does. It means that the success of his scheme in college may not predict its success in the NFL. It's absolutely true that this is not unique to Kelly, which is what makes it an issue. History says there's a very good chance that the hot college coach du jour flops at the NFL level, because what works in college frequently doesn't work in the NFL. (This works in reverse too, for whatever that's worth.)

by DavidL :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:34pm

The question "can the hurry-up spread succeed in the NFL?" has already been definitively answered, though. It does. "What works in college frequently doesn't work in the NFL" is absolutely true in general, but not particularly relevant to this specific case.

More important is the fact that an individual coach, regardless of the offensive or defensive scheme he runs, can succeed in college without developing skills necessary for success in the NFL, and indeed may have focused on areas that are counterproductive to success in the NFL.

by Kal :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:15pm

The talent gap is not really there. Oregon did well recruiting but was never the best recruting or even the second best while he was there (it was either USC or Stanford or Cal). Point of fact, Oregon did well with Masoli - who was a 5th string QB and a JC transfer.

This wasn't about having the best recruits.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:14pm

The Patriots, Colts, and Packers have been running various levels of the hurry-up offense in the NFL for the past 2-3 years. Of course it works. It's not clear that Kelly is actually bringing anything new. The real question is whether you can take his extreme version to the NFL without turning it into some upscale version of arena football.

by Tino (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:36pm

There's a difference between using it on occasion to catch your opponent off guard, to making it the entire foundation of your offense. New England uses the hurry up maybe half its snaps at most. Oregon used it 100% of the time unless it was the 4th quarter and they were sitting on a lead.

My opinion is that most of Oregon's offensive success was a combination of:
a) Good talent (not great talent, but good talent that was well suited for their scheme...e.g. LaMichael James was great in their system, even though it's kind of pathetic watching him try to run between the tackles in the NFL). In the NFL, you can't guarantee even average talent on your team year-to-year.
b) Read-option based scheme: defenses, especially at the college level where practice is limited, have a hard time coping with something they don't see often...now we are seeing a rash of copycat offenses, the same way the wishbone became a popular offense in the 70s and 80s until defenses figured it out.
c) Hurry up/no huddle offense -- by my estimate, Oregon would try to snap the ball within 20 seconds of the last play ending. This is great if you catch the defense off-guard and create explosive plays with it, but if you don't and the defense forces a 3 and out, your offense has turned the ball over in less than 90 seconds. In the college game it's not so much an issue as you get more possessions and more snaps to keep trying. There are fewer possessions and snaps in the NFL.

by Kal :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:21pm

Oregon hasn't used the hurry up 100% of the time as you said since 2010. Oregon does a significant amount of substitution now that they know they can't get the advantage of tiring out opponents when there are significant TV timeouts (like there were in the NCG, frex).

What Oregon can do is go to that uptempo rate quickly and at a moment's notice. And when they do it, it's very, very fast.

As to possessions - that doesn't really matter, as possessions are largely symmetrical. Fewer possessions just means you'll need to be right more often, but it's not so critical - and it really doesn't matter that you give the other team the ball more. Time of Possession is one of the most overrated stats in sports.

by diggler (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 10:53pm

"even though it's kind of pathetic watching him try to run between the tackles in the NFL"

You seem to be putting a lot of stock on whatever fraction of his 27 career carries came between the tackles.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:56pm

"That said, as you mentioned, his greatest innovation has been the hurry up spread offense, and I think it's very questionable what kind of success this will have in the NFL when a) his offense won't have a consistent (and often sizable) talent advantage, b) NFL defenses have much more seasoned and practiced players than colleges."

Because NFL defenses have been great at stopping high-speed spread offenses, as evidenced by the complete futility of RGIII, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick.

by rj1a (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:15pm

those are quarterbacks, not coaches

right now Kelly has Foles and an old Vick

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:39pm

I feel like ABG was addressing point B while you're addressing point A.

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:40pm

I feel like "I feel like" has become new my written tic and must be demolished and banished from my lexicon. Ugh.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:19am

Do those guys run a high tempo offense? I know the niners in particular take forever to call their plays, delay-of-games a plenty.

Isn't the question about Kelly whether or not the plays he calls are too dependent on the wide field and hash marks used in the college game? Those are the bits he'll need to adapt, I'm pretty sure the rather meretricious hurry up will be effective.

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:37pm

I feel like I'm having a bit of deja-vu on that misinformed article Tanier wrote about Kelly a while back. (And isn't this an interesting turn of events on that note?) The quality of Oregon's recruiting, imo, is overstated. I'd say best they're 3rd in the PAC-12 behind USC and Stanford, though I'm not really up on UCLA under Mora. That's nothing to sneeze at but we're not talking about Alabama or the back-in-the-day version of the U or something like that.

by Go pats (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:53pm

Great and here I was ready to make fun of Brian Billick

by osoviejo :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 2:20pm

It's never too late to make fun of Brian Billick.

by RickD :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:27pm

Yeah, don't feel obliged to hold back.

by wr (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 1:58pm

While Knight has a big enough dump truck, one wonders if
he'll tire of (in essence) getting blackmailed.

by bubqr :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:04pm

High risk, high reward, the guy I wanted. At least it's exciting. The Philly fans that were all abord the Gus Bradley train since they saw a video of him screaming and swearing at his defense, saying that's what the "soft" Eagles needed won't be happy.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 3:57pm

Kelly seems like the angry sort that Eagles fans gravitate towards. He only needs to punch out one DC to gain their love forever.

by Anonymoises Alou (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 8:48pm

It'll be fun watching the Philly media react to Kelly's Belichickian press conferences:



I don't know.

By scoring more points.

We'll run our game. See you guys next week.

by bubqr :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:53am

Well, Reid's press conference were pretty awful too, so no change there

by Kal :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:16pm

I've also heard a rumor that the Eagles are hiring Lovie Smith to be the DC.

by DavidL :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 4:31pm

That would be (a) a pretty awesome hire; and
(b) a stunning testament to how far Smith's stock has fallen with the NFL at large. If the guy who orchestrated umpteen top-10 defenses and reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman can't get a head coaching job in a year with seven vacancies, there must be zero confidence in his ability to manage an offense or even take a hands-off approach with an OC.

by jackiel :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 6:02pm

We don't know what Lovie's role was in offensive player evaluation. Under his watch, the Bears always had difficulty finding offensive talent and reliable depth. That could be another reason for his stock falling.

To be fair, first time NFL head coaches are en vogue right now. And the jobs in AZ and JAX don't look very attractive for someone who's had his level of success. If I'm Lovie, I wouldn't touch AZ (a lack of talent at every offensive position but WR...extremely tough division...high expectations) or JAX (a bad roster from top to bottom that will take years to fix...top players like MJD are old). Given that NFL HC positions will continue to have high turnover in the coming years, there'll be time for Lovie to get back in the game. He can afford to wait for something better.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:07pm

So Kelly was dicking everyone around after all?

by Kal :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:16pm

Apparently not; he was just dicking the Ducks around.

by Guido Merkens :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 5:36pm

So does this mean Vick has a future in Philly? Or is he still too expensive?

by diggler (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 10:57pm

There's a lot of "Kelly's gimmick offense won't translate to the NFL" type of sentiment on here. Maybe I'm off base but I feel like some of the posters could benefit from a look over @smartfootball's article on Kelly's system. Sure there's some gimmickry but there are also sound fundamentals underlying the thing.

by David :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 7:35am

With all due respect to Chris Brown, who is clearly a lot smarter than I am about football, he is not a good person to listen to about Chip Kelly's offense translating, as he is emotionally invested in the notion that the NFL can learn from college offenses.

I'm not saying that he's wrong, as I have no idea, but that his emotional response is outweighing his rational response.

On the other hand, I do agree with one of his underlying points, that NFL coaches (in common with most sports enterprises) are primarily in the role because of their background, and who they are, rather than what they know, which leads to overly risk-averse behaviours (because there is less than no chance of an outsider disrupting the industry), and that there is probably a lot to be gained by anyone willing to challenge those accepted behaviours

by Jerry :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 9:20am

Accepted behaviors usually become accepted because they work. Challenging those behaviors with something that works better will lead to other teams adopting that behavior ("it's a copycat league"), but it has to work better even after opponents have a chance to react to it. For instance, the Wildcat came and went. There are lots of different ideas out there; some will succeed, but many will fail.