I really am excited by the hiring of Chip Kelly. I fully acknowledge that this could go wrong…very wrong. But the potential for greatness is there. This is the kind of coach you roll the dice on.
We’re going to hear 2 main kinds of criticism. First people are going to talk about Steve Spurrier over and over. I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth re-visiting. Kelly is nothing like Spurrier. Nothing.
Chip lives, eats, and breathes football. Spurrier loves football from July to January. Then he wants to re-charge his batteries. Spurrier isn’t lazy, but he believes that NFL coaches work too much and don’t accomplish as much as they should. He sees that as a waste of time (Juan Castillo shrieks in horror). Spurrier wanted to come to the NFL and show the league that he could be successful doing things his way.
He came to the league highly unprepared. He didn’t understand the practice format. He didn’t know how things were done. Steve played in the NFL in the 1970s and then was away for about 25 years. He made a lot of assumptions that proved to be wrong.
The Skins were also a highly disorganized franchise. My favorite story is that Spurrier watched some STs film with the players one day and then called out a guy’s name. Spurrier wanted to correct the guy about something he did. No one in the room answered to Spurrier. Finally another player responded that he had seen the guy clearing out his locker that morning and thought he had been cut. That’s exactly what did happen. So the team cut a player without the head coach knowing about it.
That will never happen with Chip Kelly. He is a hands-on guy that will know what’s going on with every part of his team. He’s not a control freak or micro-manager, but he believes in knowing everything. He’ll let his coaches coach and his players play. He just wants to be in control of the overall situation.
Chip is very systematic with how he looks at leadership. He believes in vertical leadership and horizontal leadership (his specific phrases). Vertical is from him to his coordinators to the positional coaches to the support staff to the players. Horizontal is within the players themselves. The veterans and/or team leaders take what is coming from the top and spread it among their teammates.
While Chip is new to the NFL, he’s not flying blindly. He has met with NFL staffs over the years to teach them his ideas and pick their brains. He consulted with Tony Dungy, whose son plays at Oregon. They didn’t discuss Peyton Manning’s Buick commercials. Chip asked in-depth question about roster building and roster management. Chip takes in ideas from all over the place. He wanted to make Oregon as good a football organization as possible, while also preparing for the day when he did go to the NFL.
Spurrier was an offensive guru, but not really a complete football coach. He’s had 4 football jobs. He played QB in college/NFL. He coached QBs in college. He became an offensive coordinator. He’s also been a HC. Compare that to Chip. He played QB in high school. He was a DB in college. He coached on defense at Columbia. He then coached RBs for a year at New Hampshire. He was the DC for Johns Hopkins for a year. He then went back to UNH to coach RBs before shifting to the OL. From there he went to OC and eventually became a HC.
Which guy do you think is better prepared to deal with every part of a football team?
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The other criticism we’re going to hear about Chip is that the Eagles just replaced one pass-happy coach for a college guy who wants to do the same thing. Sometimes you’ll even hear that this is like the Run ‘n Shoot. Ugh.
In 4 seasons as HC at Oregon, Chip’s teams finished 3rd, 5th, 4th, and 6th nationally in rushing. While the OC at New Hampshire, Chip had a RB set the I-AA career record for rushing yards. Does that sound like a passing coach? Does that sound like the Run ‘n Shoot?
Chip wants to move the ball. He wants to score points. He feeds the ball to his best players. At Oregon, that meant giving the ball to Jonathan Stewart, LeGarrett Blount, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and De’Anthony Thomas. With the Eagles, that will mean feeding the ball to LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. If injuries leave the Eagles with Dion Lewis and Chris Polk as the RBs, we’re going to throw the ball a lot. Chip is more greedy than stubborn. He’ll do whatever is working.
While Chip is a running coach, he needs a QB who can throw the ball. Chip’s offense is built on some simple principles. Load the box and he’ll throw. Keep both Safeties deep and he’ll run. Think about all those times we saw teams putting Safeties 20 yards deep to prevent DeSean Jackson from burning them. We still threw the ball over and over. Chip will run. Again, greedy over stubborn. Andy wanted his pass plays. Chip wants yards and points. He doesn’t care how they come.
There is this perception that Chip is a crazy coach who does crazy things. His ideas are all built on logic. If he has a game where the team throws a lot, there is a reason behind it. In watching his Oregon teams, it was encouraging to see that when the original plan wasn’t working as expected, he went away from it. He figures out what is working and focuses on that.
Chip isn’t coming to the NFL to prove that he’s smarter than the coaches already here. He’s not coming to show that his system is pure genius. I think he wants to be tested at the highest level. He’ll mix his ideas with some conventional NFL thinking.
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Word is that Chip wants to hire Todd Grantham as his DC. Grantham currently works as the DC at Georgia. Grantham runs the 3-4 down there. That’s also what he ran as the DC for the Browns from 2005-2007.
Grantham would be a solid hire. He’s got an excellent background, having worked under such defensive coaches as Nick Saban, Vic Fangio, Dom Capers, Romeo Crennel, and Wade Phillips. Those guys won’t win any beauty contests, but they can coach. Those are some of the best 3-4 minds in the game.
The knock on Grantham is that he didn’t produce top defenses at Cleveland. His units at Georgia have been good, not great.
I would be okay with the hire because I’ve said all along that I want a veteran coordinator with an established system. I want someone who can teach his ideas to the other coaches, as well as the players.
Based on current personnel, the 3-4 would look like this:
OLB Trent Cole
DE Fletcher Cox
DE Cullen Jenkins or Cedric Thornton
OLB Brandon Graham
ILB Mychal Kendricks
ILB DeMeco Ryans
There is no natural NT in place right now. We can sign or draft one. Antonio Dixon has the built to play the spot. Does he have the toughness? Getting battered by 2 guys, play after play, isn’t easy.
As for Ryans…the Texans didn’t trade him because he couldn’t play in the 3-4. They just didn’t want to pay him a ton of money while having a star ILB in Brian Cushing. Ryans was coming off injury and getting older so keeping him around didn’t make good business sense.
I’ll write a lot more about Grantham if he is our guy.