Let me describe a team and see if you can guess who I’m talking about.
The team was led by an unusual head coach. He had a gifted offensive mind, but his unconventional ideas were met with skepticism.
Defense ran the 3-4. Solid, but not spectacular.
Offense was built on the run game, but featured some no-huddle attack. There were a pair of talented RBs. There were a pair of talented WRs that could stretch the field. The OL was good and led by a freak at LT.
The QB was athletic. And left-handed. And wore #7.
Did you get it?
That is the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals. Kinda sounds like another team we know, huh?
Sam Wyche put the offense in over the course of several years, but 1988 is the first time that all the pieces were there. The Bengals OL used zone blocking. There were a pair of terrific RBs, Ickey Woods and James Brooks. QB Boomer Esiason was finally an experienced player and knew the system inside-out. The results were great.
Cincy went 12-4 and made it to the Super Bowl. Were it not for a late TD pass by Joe Montana, the Bengals would have been champs. The offense led the NFL in points and yards. Amazingly, they were just 27th in passing attempts. They were 2nd in rushing attempts, but 1st in yards and TDs. The Bengals were no-huddle, but like Chip Kelly…this wasn’t an excuse to throw the ball. They pounded the rock and wanted to wear down the defense. That year they threw 392 passes and ran the ball 563 times. Sounds like Kelly at Oregon.
And Chip is familiar with the Bengals and what they did. Here is a quote of his from back in January:
“I’ve said this before: If you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne, you stole it from somebody,” Kelly said Monday, after watching the North squad Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “We didn’t invent this. They were running the no-huddle a long time ago. The Buffalo Bills ran this offense a long time ago. Sam Wyche did it with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I didn’t invent it. We were just smart enough to use it.”
There will be differences in the offenses. Wyche didn’t use the spread concepts that Kelly does. Wyche also seemed to believe in more of a vertical passing game. WR Eddie Brown averaged 24 yards per reception. Tim McGee was all the way down at 19 yards per catch. Cris Collinsworth was a backup by then and must have been embarrassed to average just 17.5 yards per catch.
Wyche wasn’t as TE-oriented as Kelly. Rodney Holman was a key player for the Bengals, but they didn’t use TEs nearly as much or as creatively as Kelly does.
Dana Bible, a long time college coach and one-year NFL disaster (for the 1998 Eagles), spent time around both Wyche and Kelly. He thinks they are similar coaches.
“When you see Chip at work, you saw a constant. His approach to football is that he is a guy that sees possibilities. He approaches a game with a can-do attitude. He sees the game as one about possibilities. That’s the way he is wired.”
“Sam was always reaching out, asking what we can do, what we might do,’’ said Bible. “When you meet Sam and when you meet Chip, you know you are dealing with a football coach. There are no hidden agendas.
“What didn’t take long to see with Chip was he’s a talented individual. He has a fearless approach that just jumps out at you. It’s an attacking style. He has one of those minds that doesn’t stay quiet, it’s always looking.’’
Things went downhill for Sam in Cincy after 1988. His time in Tampa was a disaster, although he did lay the foundation for Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden’s success.
Chip Kelly took an idea from Sam Wyche and has tweaked it in ways that he think will improve the idea and its results. Sam used that idea to get to the Super Bowl. If Chip has genuinely improved it, maybe he’ll win the Super Bowl.
(As for calling Vick the QB…just done for fun since the lefty/athlete/#7 angle was kinda cool)
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It is funny for me to read about previous coaches and compare them to Chip. The attitude can be similar. The scheme can be similar. The huge difference is that Kelly’s plan addresses everything. He practices different. The smoothies. Sports science stuff. Different ways of coaching (emphasis on being able to explain “why”).
Sam took the idea of the no-huddle and made it from a situational offense to a regular offense.
Now Chip is taking the no-huddle and making that…almost a lifestyle.