At a recent owners meeting, Chip Kelly offered his thoughts on the premium position in football: quarterback. Specifically, Kelly said that the quarterback position is like any other – he’d love to have an elite player, but teams that don’t have a superstar under center must still find a way to put points on the board and win games.
In the NFL, new regimes usually mean new quarterbacks, but Kelly doesn’t seem anxious to find “his guy,” whoever that may be. Nobody really knows how Kelly feels about Michael Vick or Nick Foles, but I don’t expect him to target somebody like Geno Smith in the top five picks of the upcoming draft.
Kelly lit the college football world on fire as the offensive coordinator and head coach at Oregon, where he never had a premier prospect at the helm. Dennis Dixon was a fifth round pick. Jeremiah Masoli went undrafted, and is currently bouncing around different CFL teams as a quarterback/running back hybrid. Darron Thomas also went undrafted, and is garnering looks as a wide receiver in the CFL.
The big question is whether or not Chip Kelly can help mediocre talents put up big time numbers in the NFL. While skeptics point to a long line of college coaches who have failed to adapt to the NFL, Chip Kelly has been very firm in his belief that 11-on-11 football is the same everywhere. His system has been very successful in college, and if NFL teams fare better against in, they will have to prove it first.
One reason why Oregon quarterbacks have enjoyed so much success if because the explosive running game opens up passing lanes down the field. Opposing teams must honor play action fakes and are so intent on stopping the zone read that they often concede screens and hitches in the passing game. These defensive tendencies stay the same at the NFL level. On typical running downs, defenses slow down their pass rush, call more basic coverages, and defensive backs are susceptible to falling for play action fakes. If Chip Kelly can get LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown going, the quarterback will throw against much more favorable defensive looks.
However, there’s a reason why a lot of college football’s most prolific offenses haven’t carried over to the NFL: they don’t work. In a league where every team uses the previous year’s champion as the blueprint for a franchise, Chip Kelly is setting out to win in his very own way. Will he succeed? I haven’t the faintest clue, but Kelly’s approach to the game is truly unique among NFL coaches, and that will either set him up for unprecedented success or monumental failure.