If you watched the first half of Chip Kelly’s first game as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles — a 33-27 win on the road against the Washington Redskins — you got a glimpse of what football will look like in the future.
The Eagles ran as many plays as possible, refusing to huddle-up and snapping the ball as fast as they could. They also used some zone read — which, for the uninitiated, is a type of play where the quarterback decides to either hand the ball off or run it himself based on what the defence is doing.
We’ve seen NFL teams (with Kelly’s help) experiment with the no-huddle and zone read in recent years, largely as a “change of pace” supplement to their big, slow, normal offensive systems.
But Kelly’s Eagles are the first pro team to use an entire offence that’s built on those two experimental elements.
system is all “change of pace,” and the NFL might never be the same if he continues to be as successful as he was last night.
We already saw him do it in college.
Kelly gained the reputation as one of the sport’s foremost innovators when he was a coordinator at New Hampshire and then Oregon in the 2000s.
Oregon finished top 10 in the country in points scored in each of Kelly’s four years as head coach, and transformed into one of college football’s biggest powerhouse programs in the process. Oregon opened a preposterous $US68-million football facility this year, and the unprecedented success that Kelly brought the school is a huge reason why.
With goofy formations, relentless fourth-down conversions, and (most importantly) a frantic hurry-up, fast-tempo offence that no one could stop, Kelly created the buzziest team in college sports. The rest of the country took notice, and now you see threads of Oregon’s philosophy woven into the fabric of big-time college football.
In short, he helped turn college football into the points-fest you see today, and introduced a degree of creativity and innovation you rarely see in sports:
Now, he’s going to try and do the same thing in the NFL.
In just the first half against the Redskins, the Eagles ran 53 offensive plays. That’s as many as five other NFL teams ran in all four quarters of their Week One games.
Philly gained 322 yards in the first half, more than 11 NFL teams gained in all four quarters of their Week One games.
The days of the typical NFL sequence — run a play, mosey back to the huddle, gather around the QB, walk back to the line of scrimmage — are numbered.
If Kelly succeeds, pro football will become a much more free-flowing game. Like basketball.
Some old-school football people see this as a bad thing. Alabama coach Nick Saban even said the up-tempo style that Kelly spread throughout college football is dangerous.
But that Eagles-Redskins game was thrilling. Kelly’s addition to the NFL is a great thing for anyone who likes innovation in sports.
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