By Dave Trausneck @trausneck
A few days after Christmas, my father and I were riding around in his car straddling the state line between North and South Carolina when he asked me if Chip Kelly was leaving Oregon.
About three heartbeats later I said, “no.”
When asked why, I told my father that I had a pretty good hunch that Kelly would stay in Eugene, because we went down a similar road last year, and I don’t think his offense would parlay into success in the National Football League.
Much has been said over the past few days about Kelly’s “blur” offense at Oregon, and how versions of it is currently being used by the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins… and Kelly “wins” no matter where he goes. Could Chip Kelly win in the NFL? Yes. Enough to mirror his success at Oregon? No.Here’s a list of reasons why Kelly can’t win at Cleveland, Buffalo or Philadelphia like he can in Eugene. I’ll go into more details below.
- Recruiting vs. the Draft
- Speed in college vs. speed in the NFL
- Coaching teenagers vs. coaching 5-8 year NFL veterans
- He can’t be his obscure, quirky self with members of the media in the NFL or with any of those fan bases.
The University of Oregon football program has several exclusive perks. Most notable, it’s the school Phil Knight launched into the stratosphere. When 16 and 17-year-old boys watch the Ducks on television, they see hundreds of jersey combinations and Nike EVERYWHERE. It’s flash, it’s 80’s-era Showtime at the Forum, and Chip is like Magic running the break dishing to Worthy or Kareem.
Like Tampa Bay last year, I believe Kelly realized the infrastructure in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia could not sustain his type of offense… and he would be out in three years at either location. Brandon Weeden, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles cannot run Kelly’s offense as well as Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas or Marcus Mariota. The three former quarterbacks are better for the NFL than for college… the three latter quarterbacks are better for Chip than the NFL.
Kelly’s offense relies on speed more than anything else. In his UPS commercials, he notes the offense includes many simple patterns, but he emphasizes speed. The “blur” offense can work in college where talent is somewhat diluted, but not in the NFL. Right now, the spread offense is a gimmick that keeps defenses on their toes between multiple spread formations and 50-pass attempt per game quarterbacks.
Oregon’s Win The Day motto resonates in young men better than 28-year-olds who have three homes and three cars. His message serves as a viable life lesson for an 18-year-old who just became eligible to vote, and who will soon play on national television for the first time. The message gets drowned out in a room of men who have had 3 coaches in their career. Motivating young men is much simpler than changing a grown man.
If you’ve ever listened to Coach Kelly talk to a reporter, you know he’s an odd fella. He speaks differently, acts differently… and can be best described as “obscure.” It fits perfect in Eugene. It’s an obscure part of America… and he gets to fly under the radar of bigger national media on the East Coast. It’s tougher to stay up and watch the end of an Oregon game at 2am than it is to finish watching the SEC game of the week that ends at 7pm.
Each city that showed interest in Kelly has a rabid fan base that does not tolerate failure. While success in Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia has been tough to find the past few years, you need a coach who understands that and can speak to the blue-collar nature of their core fan base. Kelly has a frosty relationship at best with boosters in Eugene. It’s a relationship that could also put a strain on the fan base.
Chip Kelly will probably make the jump from Oregon to the NFL one day. But the time isn’t right, and it may never be right.
As one woman in Portland put it, “If he (Kelly) wants to do the game a service, keep teaching.”