The Philadelphia Eagles hired Oregon coach Chip Kelly in a shock move today.Kelly flirted with the NFL constantly in the last two years, turning down teams at the 11th hour twice.
So everyone will assume that Kelly decided he was finally ready for the NFL.
But it isn’t just that Kelly is ready for the NFL, the NFL is ready for him.
The football world is notoriously stubborn and slow to evolve, but that’s changing rapidly.
The “college-style” stigma in the NFL disappeared this year. Teams showed that you can succeed through experimentation. You can create an offence tailored to what your players do best, regardless of whether that’s “college-style” or not.
Three NFC playoff teams — the 49ers, Redskins, and Seahawks — ran offenses in 2012 that borrowed heavily from college playbooks in ways that were previously frowned-upon in the NFL. Washington essentially used Baylor’s offence to help RGIII transition, the 49ers crushed the Packers by using a college-derived formation called the “pistol,” and the Seahawks became the NFL’s hottest team by running a college play called the read-option (something pro teams never did before) more than anyone in the league.
The tyranny of the pro-style offence is over.
And it wasn’t just these college-style plays that found widespread acceptance in 2012. The New England Patriots experimented with a fast-paced tempo this year to an unprecedented level. They even consulted Kelly when devising a plan to run as many plays per game as possible.
So when you look at the NFL right now, the two core elements of Kelly’s philosophy, 1) fast tempo, and 2) having a running quarterback, are thriving in the pros for the first time ever.
Years from now, we may look at the 2012 season as a tipping point — the moment NFL minds decided en masse that there is no shame in adapting your team to the unique skillsets of your players.
If Kelly came into the NFL five years ago, he would have had to water down his offence with familiar pro-style elements. But that conservatism is fading away, and the NFL is finally ready for him.
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