In the beginning of the Chip Kelly NFL experiment there were doubters galore. In fact, everyone involved in the food chain that is the NFL was doubtful that Kelly would succeed. They felt it was simply not going to work in the NFL.
To some extent, the doubters were spot on. What Chip Kelly ran at Oregon and New Hampshire before that would not work in the NFL. What they failed to see was that Chip Kelly did not run the spread option at Oretgon because he was trying to force square pegs into round holes. He ran it because it would work. He understood what it meant to be successful.
He studied football almost exclusively. There were no wives; no girlfriends and no children. In short, there were no encumbrances which would conflate him to one genre or another. He was a football junkie and he would use his mad scientist skills to change what he did and adapt to the NFL.
The naysayers simply forgot to look toward New England and even Buffalo and the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The hurry up offense as an entire game plan is not new. The Patriots, under Belichik and Brady had perfected it in a different way-but it was possible.
Kelly took the NFL by storm destroying the old adage that ball control equals winning. Time of possession was not relevant to Kelly or the Eagles as it had not been to Kelly while at Oregon.
But there is another truth about the NFL; what the acronym stands for. First, it officially stands for “National Football League.” But there are a couple of other ironically accurate meanings. The “No Fun league” for their propensity to take the joy away from the athletes and turn them into corporate robots going through the motions. The other acronym “not for long” typically refers to the life span of a playing career in the league. It also, though, refers to coaching life span. Not for long.
If you win, you stay. If you cannot win, someone else will be the next ‘big thing’ and take your place.
That’s what concerns me about Kelly’s decision to bring in Kenjon Barner recently. Kelly has been nothing if not loyal to his former players. Many times he brings in players he knows are destined for the practice squad or cut line to help practices be as efficient as possible. And that is fine. It is a necessary evil and players like Will Murphy probably know what is going to happen.
But there is a difference between that player and the borderline NFL player who may or may not make their prior team. It was a stretch to take Huff in the draft and many of his moves have been a stretch. As long as he wins, no one will blink twice. But if he starts losing, his affinity for stockpiling former Ducks could come back to haunt both he and the Oregon program.
The adage pertaining to Oregon by opposing coaches in recruiting is that the Ducks players could not get to the next level and succeed. If Kelly cannot help them succeed in Philadelphia, you can be sure that it will once again be used against Oregon in recruiting. And if Kelly starts losing more than he wins; does not progress past that barely above .500 record of a season ago, the NFL will mean not for long.
Kelly is taking a big gamble by hitching his NFL wagon to so many former Ducks, and if the wheel falls off too soon, it could also derail the future hopes of the program he took to another level. And that would not be a good thing.