With the hiring of collegiate offensive no-huddle genius Chip Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles are taking a gamble many teams have taken before in hedging their bets that college success translates to NFL success.
And in keeping with the theme, his first question at his opening press conference with the Eagles was why he would succeed as the first NFL hire in 12 years without any NFL experience, according to a report on the NFL’s website.
“Football is Football,” said Kelly.
He’s right on that account, but NFL football is not college football.
Football is Football,—Chip Kelly
Football is Football,—Chip Kelly
Ask Nick Saban, who just won his third title in four seasons at Alabama but is just six years removed from a two-year, 15–17 stint with the Miami Dolphins.
Ask Steve Spurrier, who has now guided the once-lowly South Carolina Gamecocks to back-to-back 11-win seasons (first time in school history) but is nine years removed from a two-year, 12–20 stint with the Redskins.
Both are great football coaches but both probably quickly realized how difficult it is to win in the NFL without a lot of talent on the roster.
Saban had Gus Frerotte as his starting quarterback in 2005 and then had Joey Harrington take most of the snaps the following season. Neither posted a quarterback rating higher than 72.0 and both were out of football within three years.
Spurrier had similar problems in D.C. The offensive genius used a quarterback combination of Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, and Danny Wuerffel in 2002. None of the three had a quarterback rating higher than 73.0. The next season he relied on Ramsey and Tim Hasselbeck, in Hasselbeck’s only season in the NFL where he saw any action. The results were not much better.
Even Seattle coach and former USC mastermind Pete Carroll has had mixed success in the highest league. Carroll went 6–10 in his lone season with the Jets and then lasted three seasons in New England before becoming the head coach of the Trojans. Now with the Seahawks, Carroll has young star Russell Wilson at quarterback and a tenacious defense at his disposal.
Even three-time Super Bowl winner Bill Belichick had a forgettable five-year run as Cleveland’s head coach in the mid-90s. Though Belichick used Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde, among others, at quarterback neither was Tom Brady and the overall roster wasn’t strong enough to establish continued success.
With four BCS bowl appearances in four seasons at Oregon, Kelly is right up there with Saban, Spurrier, and Carroll as far as successful college coaches. And while his no-huddle schemes have been used by the likes of Belichick’s already-successful Patriots, Belichick has the added benefit of having two-time MVP Tom Brady implement it on the field.
Kelly right now walks into a quarterback situation with the talented but injury-prone (and turnover-prone) Michael Vick along with the somewhat unknown Nick Foles who lost five of his six starts but had a respectable 79.1 quarterback rating as a rookie this past season. The team overall is 12–20 the past two seasons without a playoff appearance.
Simply put, if Kelly is going to look like the same genius that went 46–7 in the college ranks, he’s going to first need some talent.
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