Chip Kelly has had four sensational seasons with the University of Oregon. He's positioned (by the media at least) as one of the hottest and most coveted NFL head coaching prospects for 2013. Kelly's migration to the NFL is potentially incentivized by innuendos of looming NCAA suspensions and sanctions connected to an ongoing NCAA investigation into Oregon's recruiting practices.
If there is substance to the allegations, Kelly's transition to the professional ranks may be preemptively self-expedited this year.
As enticing as Kelly's success appears, his spread-option offense is strikingly reminiscent of yet another Andy Reid-style offense. In a way, in many regards, it's the same West Coast spread offense. And whereas we might be grateful to have another strong run in Philadelphia reminiscent of Reid's takeoff in 1999—it's still a bit more of the same game plan with a twist—the read-option.
The read-option portion of Kelly's offense has been largely considered impractical for the NFL. However, current quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow, among others, have made the read-option potentially viable in the NFL.
It's worth noting that the Miami Dolphins' success with Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat package likely sparked some resurgent recognition of the potential for an athletic quarterback to truly revolutionize the modern game of football.
But back to the point, Chip Kelly's offenses have been—similarly to Reid's—centered on a mobile quarterback, speedy skill players and linemen in a spread or bunch wide-out formation with 11 personnel (one running back, one tight/split end, three receivers). Of course, Kelly has his own wrinkles and tendencies, and the hope would be that he's simply a better talent evaluator and game-day coordinator. Or that his wrinkles will be a little bit fresher.
But still, the general scope of Kelly's offense seems very familiar—particularly in regard to personnel.
We might think that Chip Kelly would want a quarterback like Michael Vick or maybe a Geno Smith. None of which sounds terrible to your everyday football fan, but this is Philadelphia—we've been there and done that so to speak.
Geno Smith doesn't look like Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick or even Tim Tebow. And selling Eagles fans and media on another year of Michael Vick could cause a spontaneous castle siege.
Might Chip Kelly abandon the read-option for the NFL?
Will Eagles fans tolerate more out-of-the-box-type innovations and another unconventional system that challenges the odds on a regular basis?
My impression is that Eagles fans do not want this. Philadelphia is craving a fundamental football program. A game plan that will feature more of LeSean McCoy, with bigger wide receivers that attack the ball in the air and a powerful offensive line.
Eagles fans want good, physical defense.
These things are not the hallmark of Chip Kelly. He's an offensive innovator with a creative mind. He could be the next great coach, but he's not right for Philadelphia's fans. Eagles fans have had enough with innovation and experimentation. Now they want McCoy to get 20 to 25 touches per game consistently (and for good reason).
I have to think a guy like Greg Roman, offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, would be a more exciting option for your average Philadelphian. An offense based on power running, misdirection, creative run blocking and play-action passing with a conventional dropback quarterback is every Eagles fan's dream and the staple of a Greg Roman offense as we've seen it in San Francisco.
At this point, many green-blooded enthusiasts will be inadvisably satisfied with "anyone but Andy," but that short-sighted "grass is greener on the other side" approach will not impermeably hold water. Kelly may very well use a high draft pick on another unconventional quarterback. He's prone to unconventional play-calling on fourth down, even from the defensive half of the field.
These are things that will drive Eagles fans mad if they backfire.
Hiring the right head coach for a professional football team may be the most difficult aspect of professional football in general, but Jeffrey Lurie has proven to be a risk-taker, and he's had a measure of success with his brand of risk-taking and loyalty.
Chip Kelly is a talented football coach. He is not a bad gamble. He's just sporting a "buyer beware" sign that leads me to believe he's not what the Philadelphia masses are really looking for. Can he adapt his scheme for the NFL? Does he need to? Does it matter? Because none of that analysis will hold weight if he wins and brings Philadelphia a championship by any means or schemes.
Time will tell how this story begins and ends. For now, we wait and speculate.