Jaworski: Kelly will have to retool his offense for Eagles

CHRISTIAN PETERSEN / GETTY IMAGES Chip Kelly should incorporate some, but not all, elements of his Oregon offense into the pro game.
CHRISTIAN PETERSEN / GETTY IMAGES Chip Kelly should incorporate some, but not all, elements of his Oregon offense into the pro game.
Posted: January 18, 2013

TWO MONTHS ago, when I asked Ron Jaworski about the wisdom of the Eagles hiring a college coach with no NFL experience and an offense that had his quarterback running the ball eight to 12 times a game like Chip Kelly's, he was a bit skeptical.

"As much as I love Chip and some of these other great college coaches," the ESPN analyst and former Eagles quarterback said, "you do not revolutionize the NFL. There is a certain style that you have to play in the NFL to be successful.

"The Robert Griffins, the Cam Newtons, they're nice little novelties. But they eventually have to learn how to play from the pocket and run a pro-style offense."

Well, ready or not, here comes Chip, eager to prove that he can be every bit as successful with his up-tempo approach to the game in the pros as he was at the college level.

Kelly's Oregon Ducks were a scoring machine, spreading teams out, hurrying to the line and regularly running an unheard-of 80 plays a game.

And winning. A lot. The Ducks were 46-7 the last 4 years under Kelly.

He used many of the same read-option concepts that teams such as the Redskins with RGIII, the Panthers with Newton, the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick and the Seahawks with Russell Wilson occasionally employed this season.

Can Chipball work in the NFL? We're about to find out.

"There are elements of it that will work," Jaworski said after the Eagles confirmed Kelly's hiring Wednesday. "It can't be the staple of your offense. But it can be a concept that can be effective.

"Watching Wilson and Kapernick and RGIII and those guys, they all have made plays running this style of offense. But you can't overdo it. Look at [what happened to] Griffin. A quarterback can't take those kinds of hits that many times. But as a changeup, absolutely it can work.

"Chip's a smart guy. He'll adapt. He's a lifer in football. He's a visionary. He'll adapt to what it takes to be successful in the NFL."

Kelly's hiring wouldn't seem to bode well for either of the Eagles' quarterbacks, Nick Foles or Michael Vick.

You don't need to be a 4.5 jackrabbit to play quarterback in Kelly's offense, but at Oregon, at least, you needed to have enough speed to give some teeth to the read option.

The 6-6, 245-pound Foles is strictly a pocket passer.

At 32 going on 33, Vick isn't the blur he used to be, but still has enough mobility to run Kelly's offense. His problem is he's not particularly adept at running a no-huddle offense. The Eagles tinkered with it early last season, but Vick just wasn't very good at it. Vick thinks on his feet slower than Andy Reid.

"If I'm Michael Vick, I'm probably pretty happy right now," Jaworski said. "Obviously, Mike's skill-set fits better to what Chip Kelly has been known to do than Nick's. Nick's your prototypical NFL quarterback. A pocket passer.

"But Mike's been hurt a lot. So you don't want to expose him too much [to hits]. They used the no-huddle a few times this year. But it really wasn't where [Vick] was at the line calling plays. They were predetermined plays they were going to run in a hurry-up. To say he could do it [in Kelly's offense] would be a longshot."

This season, Oregon's quarterback, Marcus Mariota, averaged slightly more than eight carries a game, and 7.1 yards per carry.

Mariota also was one of the nation's most efficient passers. He had a .685 completion percentage, averaged 8.0 yards per attempt and had 32 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

Jaworski thinks the Eagles likely will have to look for a quarterback more suited to Kelly's system in the draft or free agency, or possibly trade for someone.

"I would certainly think that'll be the way they'll go," he said. "You're going to have to start looking at quarterbacks a little bit differently now.

"Do you look for the Russell Wilson type guy you get in the third round? It kind of changes the dynamic of how you're going to build your football team.

"You've got a [new] coach and this is how he wants to run his offense. So the Joe Flacco types, the Tom Brady types, the Matt Ryan types, they're not going to be the guys you look for. It's the Kaepernicks, the Wilsons, those kind of guys."

Jaworski hasn't really started studying the quarterbacks in the '13 draft. But the one guy he thinks might be a good fit for Kelly's offense is Geno Smith, of West Virginia.

Smith isn't a speedster, but has enough mobility to extend plays, throws with accuracy and played in an up-tempo offense at WVU for Dana Holgorsen.

"They run that same [no-huddle] stuff at West Virginia," Jaworski said. "I don't think they ever huddle. They just go to the line and snap it. That's how they run their offense. That's what Dana's all about. Volume. And that's what Chip Kelly is all about."

The Ducks averaged an astounding 81.4 offensive plays per game this season. The only team in the NFL that averaged more than 70 plays a game this season was the Patriots (74.4). And that was after Bill Belichick brought Kelly to Foxborough and spent several days picking his brain on his up-tempo approach.

"Every team has a certain element of the hurry-up in their offense now," Jaworski said. "But [the Eagles] don't have Tom Brady. They don't have Peyton Manning. Matt Ryan's become very efficient at it. Even Joe Flacco to a certain degree.

"To run that style of offense, you have to have a very stout quarterback physically as well as mentally. So the question is, who is that going to be?

"I love the hurry-up. The Patriots ran 1,191 plays this season. Seventy-four plays a game. They put a lot of stress on a defense. That's what Chip Kelly's going to want to do."

Using Kelly's up-tempo approach, the Patriots averaged an NFL-record 27.8 first downs per game. They scored 557 points, the fourth most in league history.

At Oregon, Kelly used the same up-tempo approach in practices as he did in games. Jaworski said he may have to rethink that approach a little bit with the Eagles.

"He's not going to have 120 guys to run out there every 10 seconds to run that style of offense," he said. "You've only got 53 players and you just can't run your practice tempo that way. If he tries it, half his team will be dead by November."

Jaworski will be very interested to see the coaching staff that Kelly puts together. Will he bring in all college guys? Will he ask Belichick for some recommendations?

"You've got to have outstanding assistant coaches to be successful in this league," Jaworski said. "Obviously, Chip is not attuned to the pro game. I think he'll adapt really quick.

"But where are his assistants coming from? Where is his defensive coordinator coming from? That part will be intriguing to me. Following the guys he brings in. What's their history?''


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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