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Dallas Cowboys: Why Chip Kelly Is Nothing to Fear in NFC East

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Dallas Cowboys: Why Chip Kelly Is Nothing to Fear in NFC East
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Phildelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie (left) and Chip Kelly (right)

The Dallas Cowboys are in the midst of owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ uncomfortable offseason, which, thankfully, should be making head coach Jason Garrett pretty uneasy.

Look, Garrett has had time and he’s also had a pretty cushy ride under Jones, despite highly questionable qualifications for any coaching position in the NFL upon his arrival in early 2007.

But NFC East division rival Philadelphia has gone farther than Jones in literally wiping the slate clean with its entire coaching staff. This includes 14-year former head coach Andy Reid, now the head dude in Kansas City.

The Eagles seem to have ended up reaching for a head coach at a time when the franchise needs a serious overhaul. Sure, Philadelphia was the “Dream Team” coming out of the NFL player’s lockout just a little over a year ago.

But the Eagles won just nine games after all of that hoopla.

Wow.

So in comes Chip Kelly, former head coach at the University of Oregon.

Kelly gained recognition as one of the few offensive masterminds coming up in the college ranks while with the Ducks. After just two seasons as offensive coordinator, Kelly was promoted as head coach following the departure of Mike Bellotti, who resigned for the athletic director position at the same university following the 2008 season.

Now, there’s no doubt that Kelly knows offense.

His achievements over only four seasons as head coach read like he was there for a decade or so.

What about offense in the NFL?

Well, not so fast.

To start with, Kelly tore apart defenses from one of the worst defensive conferences in the country.

As things sit right now in the college ranks, and they have for many years, the further west you go from the east coast the less talent you see, collectively, on defense. The top defensive talent in the country is generally headed for the SEC, Big 12 or ACC. The Big 10 offers a good amount of blue-chip prospects as well.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.

But even the Trojans of USC, during the Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush days, were more about offense than defense. Same was true of the Ducks under Kelly just a few seasons following the run at Southern Cal.

Point is this: Every division in the NFL has way better defenses than what you’ll see lining up in the Pac-12 on Saturday afternoons in the fall.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports offered this week that Kelly might actually follow the blueprint of former Dallas head coach Jimmy Johnson.

Yeah?

Well, hop on board for that train if you can find a seat.

Obviously Cole isn’t comparing Kelly to Johnson, except for the fact that both coaches are coming from college programs and with no NFL experience prior. Cole also refers to Johnson having to gut a bad franchise in order to get new guys for his system, top to bottom.

But Johnson’ formula has been so copied by everybody in the NFL that it’s just not a big deal anymore. Youth, attitude and fear were hallmarks of Johnson’s teams—and so was talent beyond his second year coaching.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker

Dallas also had the landmark Herschel Walker trade that made everybody’s life much easier than anybody could have realized.

No, Kelly isn’t likely to take the NFL by storm in the same capacity as Johnson did.

And remember that Kelly comes to the NFL with no previous experience to speak of. In fact, his experience previous to Oregon looks rather smallish, although not limited. Previous assistant coaching stints at Columbia and New Hampshire might not cause a whole lot of excitement, but then again when I was starting off in the radio business, I wasn’t exactly working in New York City, the number one market in the United States.

Since 2000, history suggests that big-name college coaches who leave highly successful programs bounce hard off the NFL floor not long after arriving.

Nick Saban might be a college football lord at Alabama right now, but mention his name down in Miami and see what kind of glare you get.

Or what about Steve Spurrier, lured to the Redskins by owner Daniel Snyder under similar circumstances as Kelly to Philadelphia?

That was not a successful sprint at all.

Saban and Spurrier both lasted just two seasons in the pros and both would leave the NFL with losing records.

This is why Saban and Spurrier now reside in the college ranks with the former having already won three BCS National Championship Games since leaving the Dolphins in 2006. The latter won a national title in 1996—and won the Heisman Trophy in 1966!

Some guys just belong in college, that’s all.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Nick Saban following 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

Can Kelly cut it in the NFL?

Time will tell, but I get the feeling that this will either go very well or very poorly.

As the Cowboys continue rebuilding the defense under new coordinator Monte Kiffin, the object needs to be pressuring the opposing quarterback, regardless of what offense their opponent is running.

Kelly doesn’t even know who his quarterback will be in Philly—and it doesn’t sound like it will be Michael Vick, as it shouldn’t.

But the New York Giants have won multiple Super Bowls in the past six seasons and they do have a quarterback.

The Redskins just won the NFC East—somebody had to, right? But Washington at least seems to have a plan, if not hope, with new quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The Cowboys are also well stocked with talent but must also fill numerous holes left by Jones and some of his poor decisions in recent years, especially where drafting and trades are concerned. Aside from that and easily the worst head coach in the division in Garrett, Dallas will hold off Kelly and the Eagles for at least 2013.       

But, if Kelly is successful against the Cowboys next season, look for Bob Stoops of the University of Oklahoma to land in Dallas as head coach by 2014.

Whatever you can do, Jones can do better!     

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