What Makes Chip Kelly So Attractive to NFL Teams?

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2013

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Head Coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Duck looks on during pre-game warm ups before their NCAA College football game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

What makes Chip Kelly so special?

Kelly's being courted by at least three NFL teams—the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns (h/t USA Today's Mike Garafalo and Erick Smith). 

Personally, I'm not sure the Cleveland Browns have the right personnel to entice Kelly, but therein lies the rub: What, exactly, does Kelly bring to the table, and how will his coaching philosophy translate to the NFL?

Most fans had no idea who Kelly was before he became the offensive coordinator of the Oregon Ducks in 2007. He had come from I-AA New Hampshire, and though his work was respected by his peers, Kelly had yet to make a national splash. 

That didn't last long, though, as the Ducks became one of the most explosive teams in the nation in no time flat, utilizing Kelly's spread offense. 

Here's how he did it.

Most people automatically think "pass" when they hear "spead offense."

That's not how Kelly operates, though, and he has implemented an offense that is very much a run-first attack, though he's quick to give his quarterback the green light for downfield strikes when the opportunity presents itself.

Since he's been in charge of the Oregon offense, the Ducks have been one of the nation's top-ranked offenses almost every year—both in scoring and in total yardage—and his rushing attack has been ranked no lower than No. 6.

Pass (Rank) Run (Rank) Total (Rank) Pts (Rank)
2012 226.8 (67) 323.3 (2) 550.1 (4) 50.8 (2)
2011 230.9 (69) 299.2 (5) 522.8 (4) 46.1 (3)
2010 248.8 (48) 286.2 (4) 530.7 (1) 46.8 (1)
2009 190.0 (101) 231.7 (6) 412.0 (33) 36.1 (8)
2008 214.1 (75) 280.1 (2) 484.8 (7) 41.9 (7)
2007 230.0 (68) 251.7 (6) 481.7 (9) 38.2 (13)

Even more impressive than the overall impression of dominance is that Kelly's been doing this without top-flight quarterbacks:

  • He made Dennis Dixon into a Heisman favorite in 2007, and Dixon has since thrown one touchdown and two interceptions in limited action for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
  • Jeremiah Masoli won Kelly 19 games between 2008-2009, scoring 51 touchdowns—28 passing and 23 rushing. Masoli then went on to play for Mississippi in 2010, throwing 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and rushing for six touchdowns. Masoli went undrafted and has yet to play in an NFL game.
  • Kelly turned Darron Thomas into a legitimate Heisman contender who threw 63 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior years. Thomas then decided to go pro, but he couldn't cut it in the NFL and took a job on the practice squad for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
  • Marcus Mariota has been phenomenal as a redshirt freshman in 2012, throwing 30 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Perhaps it is Kelly's ability to craft an offense that thrives without a quarterback like Andrew Luck that makes him such a valuable commodity in the NFL. 

After all, the Lucks of the world are few and far between. 

Kelly's record at Oregon since becoming the head coach is 45-7. He took his team to the BCS National Championship Game in 2010, where the Ducks lost to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers, and his teams are among the best in the nation—year in and year out. 

His offense is predicated upon a relentless rushing attack that looks to wear defenses down. Kelly looks to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally, and his ferocious pace is the stuff of legend.

We've seen what kind of havoc the New England Patriots have been wreaking this season with their one-word, no-huddle offense, but did you know that Bill Belichick gleaned from Kelly (h/t Boston Globe's Greg Bedard)?

Kelly's fast-paced offense, with a run-first mentality, will work wonders in the NFL. We've already seen the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers have success with "college" offenses, and Kelly's spread will take things a step further. 

All he needs is the backing of ownership to run his program, and the results will come. 

Offensive genius, mastermind—these are the words associated with Kelly, and it's no wonder NFL teams are targeting him as the future savior of their franchises. 


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