All football coaches love practice. There are no distractions, such as fans or TV. It is just players and coaches. There is time to teach and time to learn. That is football at its purest.
Chip Kelly takes his love of practice to a whole new level. Even going back to his days as an assistant, Kelly became famous for his unique practices. The music. The speed. The style of practice. Players get a ton of reps, but overall practices are shorter. There is literally no wasted time or motion. Everything is thought out and done for a specific reason.
Think about this quote from Aristotle and you’ll get an idea of what Kelly is shooting for.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
I don’t know if there is a better way to sum up Kelly’s football philosophy.
Think about the draft. Kelly went for smart, driven, coachable players. Theses are guys you can teach. They will learn the scheme and the plays. They will execute the techniques that the assistant coaches teach them.
Kelly doesn’t want random. He wants repeatable, sustainable success. This comes through practice and execution. You do something over and over until it becomes second nature…muscle memory. The key here is that the coaches must be good teachers and the players must be good learners. Take away either element and the results will suffer.
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I listened to Urban Meyer on the radio back during the season. He was asked about whether running his fast, no-huddle offense hurt his defense. Meyer had an interesting response.
Meyer explained that after leaving Florida he visited some programs to get coaching ideas. One of the first places he went was Oregon. He wanted to learn from Chip Kelly. One of the biggest takeaways that Meyer had is how Kelly prepared his overall team. There wasn’t the offense and the defense. There was the whole team.
Kelly built everything around speed. If the offense was going to play fast, they were going to need to practice fast. If the offense was going to practice fast, the defense was going to need to practice fast as well. Kelly took this a step further and had the players training and working out at a faster pace than normal.
Meyer took this idea to Ohio State. You can’t run an elite program based on just a no-huddle offense. You must have the whole team ready to play at that pace. This carried over to the Eagles as well. Think about the comments we’ve heard from Bill Davis. He’s talked about the defense needing to be ready to go back on the field quickly. The offense might go “3 & out” or they might go “3 & in”. Whether they score quickly or punt, the defense must be ready.
You don’t get a team ready for that just in games. You don’t get a team ready for that just in practice. You teach them that style of football in everything you do. It worked brilliantly for Kelly at Oregon. It worked brilliantly for Meyer last year at Ohio State. It worked brilliantly for Kelly with the Eagles last year.
Remember the Buddy Ryan days? He loved his defense and basically tolerated the offense. That kind of thinking is simply absurd. Kelly is a big picture guy. He mostly has an offensive background and mostly focuses on that side of the ball, but he’s not playing favorites. Everything the Eagles do is designed for an overall effect.
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Why write about Kelly and practice? The team hits the practice field today. We’ll have some actual football type activities to see and discuss. Hooray.
Mark Saltveit wrote a terrific piece on Chip Kelly and practice last summer. He also wrote about Kelly and practice methods extensively in his book. If you haven’t read The Tao of Chip Kelly, it would make ideal reading for this summer.
I’m personally waiting for Mark’s book called The Tao of Jimmy Bama. That would sell dozens, if not ones of copies. I’ve already written my review.
“A crackling good yarn. I even put down my Funyuns so I could concentrate on the book.”