Jared Newman, CineSport—After the Oregon Ducks' 35-17 victory in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Chip Kelly talked to reporters about his future with the program. Kelly has interviews scheduled with the Browns and Bills.
Chip Kelly’s spread offense has dominated college football since Kelly became the offensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks in 2007. That season Oregon amassed the most yards in school history and led the Pac-10 in scoring.
When Kelly became head coach in 2009, however, the Ducks went from being just a fun team to watch to a legitimate national championship contender. Oregon lost to Auburn in the 2011 title game, but has played in four consecutive BCS Bowl games and won three conference championships since Kelly’s promotion.
When asked on Wednesday if he thought his offense could work in the NFL, he responded, “I don't think anybody knows any answers until somebody does it.”
Fair point. Hopefully, we’ll find out as soon as next season.
As mentioned before, Kelly will be meeting with the Browns and Bills, but he is also scheduled to interview with the Eagles. The Chargers, Cardinals and Bears have coaching vacancies to fill as well, so there are a number of possibilities for where Kelly could end up.
Of course, it is not certain that Kelly will leave the Ducks. He turned down an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year to stay with Oregon, and it’s more than possible that he’ll choose to stay at the college level again.
If he does decide to go to the NFL, he’ll likely be guaranteed plenty of time to fine-tune his system and find the right players for his offense. That would have to be the case especially if he were to head to Buffalo, Cleveland or Philadelphia, because none of those teams offer an immediately favorable situation.
During his tenure at Oregon, Kelly has relied on a quarterback who can make plays with his legs and run the hurry-up offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Weeden and Nick Foles all lack mobility and would need to drastically improve their accuracy to lead an up-tempo system.
But perhaps the ability to run won’t be as important in Kelly’s offense at the professional level.
The majority of successful quarterbacks in today’s NFL are not capable of routinely gaining chunks of yards on the ground.
In fact, other than Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, the rest of the quarterbacks who have been able to lead their teams to the playoffs this season rarely make big plays that don’t involve a pass.
That isn’t to say Kelly can’t find a running quarterback, but he may opt to adapt his system to a pocket passer at the professional level.
Tom Brady rarely leaves the pocket, but this past summer Bill Belichick met with Chip Kelly to incorporate part of Oregon’s up-tempo system into New England’s offense.
Of course the fact that the Patriots had another stellar regular season doesn’t guarantee anything and shouldn’t be a surprise, but it says a great deal about the chances of Kelly’s offense working in the NFL since Belichick, one of the best coaches in the history of any sport, decided to consult him.
Still, the problem for Kelly, if he were to move to the NFL, is that none of the teams that have shown interest in him have a star player at quarterback.
Ultimately Fitzpatrick is probably going to lose the starting job in Buffalo in the near future whether Kelly ends up there or not, and the Browns and Eagles would have to be willing to look for another quarterback if neither of their rookies seems capable of grasping Kelly’s system.
But even if a front office decides to hire Kelly and doesn’t mind parting ways with its starting quarterback, there isn’t much talent out there for teams to bring in at the signal-caller position.
The quality of quarterbacks in the upcoming draft class is mediocre and Michael Vick and Alex Smith are the only veteran quarterbacks with legitimate starting experience who will be available for acquisition (Vick through free agency and Smith through trade).
Vick would be an intriguing experiment since he is one of the few running quarterbacks in the league, but his issues with turning the ball over and subpar accuracy would probably leave Kelly disinterested in his services.
On the other hand there is Smith, who led the NFL in completion percentage, but is known more as a game manager who plays best at a slower pace. He has also benefitted from having the tough-running Frank Gore wear the opposing defense down as the game progresses. His style wouldn’t mesh with Kelly’s system, and it’s unlikely the Ducks coach would want to work with him.
Since the quarterback situation is unstable on the majority of the teams that have been mentioned, if Chip Kelly does become the head coach of an NFL team, that team’s front office and fan base would likely have to be more patient than usual.
It would be a shock if that team didn’t increase its scoring output by a considerable margin, but it would probably be a while before we could know whether or not his system adapts well enough to the NFL for a team to become a championship contender with it in place. As with any game plan, the right players need to be there to execute it for it to have a chance of being effective.
Thus, it would probably take a while for Kelly to make a playoff run in the NFL, since he would probably coach a team that is in the process of rebuilding or is ready to start that process.
Soon enough, we’ll find out where he’ll be next season, and hopefully that place is somewhere in the NFL. Before we know it, the majority of the teams in the league could be gambling on the majority of their fourth-down situations and running hurry-up offenses that are fun to watch like Kelly’s, and an NFL game could become even more entertaining than it already is.
As for who could become the quarterback that Chip Kelly ends up working with in the NFL,I’ll leave you with this: Marcus Mariota is a redshirt freshman this season, so in 2014 he would be eligible for the NFL Draft. That has to be in the back of Kelly’s mind somewhere.