Sign up FAST! Login

Chip Kelly and his influence on the NFL

Stashed in: Football, Strategery, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Football, football, Grantland!, Chip Kelly

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Chip Kelly was one of the most exciting and innovative coaches in the NFL last year, but his new ideas are largely not at the X-and-O level. He's a true strategist, not a clipboard jockey.

No more Fast Food Fridays! No more Doritos and late night junk food!

Chip Kelly wants his athletes sleek and built for speed:

What they probably didn’t realize, and what the rest of the league surely didn’t know, was that they were also getting a coach who intended to rethink much about how NFL teams operate, from huddling (why bother?), to traditional practices (too much wasted time), to player nutrition habits (bye-bye, Andy Reid’s Fast Food Fridays).

If they didn’t realize this, they should have, because Kelly has always challenged the status quo. “I was probably a pain in the ass as a little kid,” Kelly said recently. “I questioned everything. I’ve always been a why guy, trying to figure out why things happen and what they are and just curious about it from that standpoint.”

So far, most of the attention surrounding Kelly has centered on his spread offense, particularly the way in which he gives his quarterbacks multiple run, keep, or pass options on the same play, all from a no-huddle, up-tempo pace. And those ideas are certainly having an impact. The Dolphins hired Kelly’s quarterbacks coach, Billy Lazor, to implement a version of Kelly’s scheme in Miami; the league in general is trending toward more no-huddle; and several NFL coaches have told me their teams will be using “Chip Kelly plays” this season.

Chip Kelly is a football hacker!

Over the last 25 years, however, there have been increasingly diminishing returns on spending 35 hours a week engineering a situation in which there’s a 41 percent chance that a receiver who runs a 4.43 40 will match up against a cornerback who runs a 4.47 on a seven-yard route. NFL offenses have begun changing drastically in the last few years to find a better way, and Kelly’s teams have been at the forefront of that evolution, first at Oregon and now in the NFL.

Now that Kelly’s Eagles have found success — they led the NFL in rushing and yards per carry and finished second in total offense in 2013 — the conversation has shifted away from whether his offense would work in the NFL to whether that success is sustainable, and particularly whether defenses will have figured out the attack over the offseason. This line of questioning misses the mark, however: Kelly’s offense isn’t unique because of specific schemes; it’s unique because of how he organizes and implements them.

“I’ve said it since day one: We don’t do anything revolutionary offensively,”Kelly said recently. “We run inside zone, we run outside zone, we run a sweep play, we run a power play. We’ve got a five-step [passing] game, we’ve got athree-step game, we run some screens. We’re not doing anything that’s never been done before in football.”

Instead of drawing up a new play to get that one-on-one matchup for that seven-yard pass, Kelly, like some football hacker, is attacking the very logic of defenses by deploying two-on-one, three-on-two, and four-on-three advantages, whether in run-blocking schemes or pass patterns. This is why the Eagles led the NFL in plays of more than 20 yards last season. Kelly is actually trying to break defenses.

Take, for example, Philadelphia’s 2013 season opener. Before the game, Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he’d watched not only the Eagles’ preseason games, but also “23, 24 Oregon films.” He thought he’d seen it all. He hadn’t.

Early in the game, Kelly identified a particular weakness for Washington: an inability to properly defend Philly’s “unbalanced” offensive line sets. Throughout last season, Kelly frequently put offensive tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson to the same side while keeping only the offensive guard and a tight end on the other. And in that Week 1 contest, which the Eagles won 33-27, the Redskins repeatedly failed to account for interior gaps when the Eagles went unbalanced.

LeSean McCoy gif Imgur tumblr Philadelphia Eagles Washington Redskins opener 2013 Chip Kelly football genius

You May Also Like: