When it was announced that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly was leaving the Ducks program to take over the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, you can bet your bottom dollar that every front office in the NFC East was a little taken back.
That’s right. No more Multiple/West Coast offense in Philly anymore. No sir.
Now when a team plays the Kelly-coached Eagles, it will have to embrace for a no-huddle, spread look that relies on speed, tempo and precision. It will also have to deal with two of the league’s most explosive players (LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson) in an offense that caters to fast and athletic skill players.
“Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in a statement released by the team. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh energetic approach to our team.”
As history has proven, being successful as a collegiate coach doesn’t always translate to being successful in the pros.
South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Alabama’s Nick Saban (still think he could be a great pro coach if he wanted to be) are two recent coaches that come to mind when you look at the college landscape today. Spurrier and Saban are easily two of the greatest college coaches ever, and Saban is on track to become the best of all time if he continues winning at the rate he is going. But neither found a niche at the NFL level and returned to the college game.
So what does this mean for Kelly? Ah, not much.
For as many recent failures as there have been with college coaches moving on to the pro level, there have been success stories as well.
Former Stanford head man Jim Harbaugh took the 49ers to the NFC title game in his first year as a pro coach last year, and has his team right smack dab in the same place again this year. Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano just went 7-9 in his first season with Tampa Bay after the Bucs ended the year 4-12 in 2011.
Before the ’12 football season began, Kelly met with New England head coach Bill Belichick to talk coaching philosophies, in-particular the no-huddle offense, which the Patriots (New England is more pass-oriented of course) employ under the guidance of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Kelly passed on a tip to Belichick about using one-word play calls to speed up the offense, which the Patriots now use.
“I was interested to hear how (Kelly) did it,” Belichick told the Boston Globe. “I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”
In addition to meeting with Belichick, Kelly has also met with current Seattle coach Pete Carroll — and others — to talk a little football shop. This exemplifies his passion for the game and his drive to always be on the cutting edge. And being on the cutting edge equals wins in today’s game.
So after four magnificent years with Ducks, Kelly takes his coaching talents to the NFL. And while there will be many naysayers contending that his offense won’t succeed in the big-time, highly successful head men like Belichick and Carroll will likely be intrigued to see how Kelly’s unique brand of football will translate in a known copy-cat league.
If it’s a smashing success, look for more and more teams to continue the transition to more zone-read, up-tempo offense that’s already taken the league by storm with guys like RG III, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson on point. If it fails, well, like Spurrier and Saban, Kelly can always return to college. My gut feeling tells me that Kelly and his offense is about to take the league by storm. I guess we will see.