Chip Kelly is coming to the NFL ... maybe. No, the Oregon head coach is probably, likely, most definitely leaving college for the NFL. The Bills, Browns and Eagles are all interested, some more so than others if you followed the breathless tweeting on Thursday.
This isn't the first time the NFL has come calling for Kelly. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tried to the lure him away last year. He had an offer, but turned it down, citing "unfinished business" with the Ducks. I harbor a suspicion that Raheem Morris let his cats pee on the furniture and the Glazers were too cheap to replace it. Whatever happened, he didn't take it, and now gets his pick of choice destinations.
So why are NFL owners so adamantly chasing Chip Kelly?
Most of the commentariate can't seem to get past his new-fangled offense, the one that made Oregon so prolific during Kelly's last three years as a head coach and two more prior to that as the offensive coordinator. There's good reason for that. At Oregon, Kelly implemented one of the most prolific offenses in college football.
Kelly's teams have averaged more than 48 points per game during his three years as head coach. Those points have translated into wins, too. Oregon, fresh off a Thursday-night Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State, is now 46-7 under Kelly.
If you're wanting a more in-depth explanation of Kelly's offensive system and how it might translate to the NFL, I'll gladly, honestly point you to others much smarter than I am when it comes to explaining it. The Oregon fan blog FishDuck has a post ready-made for NFL fans seeking translation. Chris Brown went into depth about Kelly's spread offense at Grantland in the fall. SB Nation's Addicted to Quack has even more.
It's easy when thinking about Kelly's likely jump to the NFL to fixate on his offense. The success of RGIII, Russell Wilson, etc. and the game's evolution to a pass-first world finally has the pro football world more open to the possibility of change. Sort of.
But the particulars of inside zone reads, outside zone reads, triple options and double bacon cheeseburgers matter far less than what Kelly's accomplished at Oregon with his offense.
The record and the numbers speak for themselves. Lost in the dumbed-down talking points of 24-hour, 140-character cable pundits is the fact that it takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment to make Kelly's system work for an average or nearly 50 points per game and 12 wins a season.
One of the things that stood out to me in Brown's assessment of the Ducks' offense was the part about the incredible practice regime Kelly runs. It's disciplined, focused and routine. It might be the most important part of his offensive system.
From Brown's article:
The up-tempo, no-huddle offense ends up benefiting in practice as much as it does in games. Without time wasted huddling, players get many more practice repetitions, leading to increased efficiency on Saturdays. As Sam Snead once said, "practice is putting brains in your muscles," and Oregon's up-tempo practices are all about making Kelly's system second nature.
Yes, Kelly's Ducks have been successful because they score an other-worldly amount of points. That happens only because Kelly has built such an effective program at Oregon, from recruiting to practicing. Players and coaches believe in what they're doing and know how to do it.
Think for a second about the three teams that we know are interested in Kelly -- Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia. The first two in particular are teams in desperate need of shaking off the past. Offensive scheme or not, someone like Kelly offers the potential to build something new. The Eagles are intriguing because they have players like DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy who seemingly thrive in Kelly's system. Fixing a locker room plagued with infighting -- you did see Michael Vick and others excoriating teammates in front of television cameras this week? -- makes an even better case for bringing Kelly to Philly.
Whichever team does finally land Chip Kelly is getting someone who can build a new future for that franchise. The advanced offensive system is just a bonus.