Editor’s note: The Oregonian mentioned that Chip Kelly may be holding out to move on to the NFL until he can have his dream job — that of head coach of the New England Patriots. NFL writer Luke Hughes and assistant editor Doug Kyed debate whether Kelly would make a good successor for Bill Belichick.
If Chip Kelly is holding out to make the jump to the NFL until after Bill Belichick retires, he may be waiting awhile — possibly forever.
Kelly isn’t a great fit for the Patriots, despite his New England roots and Belichick connection. It’s possible he’s not a great fit for the NFL in general. He’s a 49-year-old college coach, whose first experience as a head coach came just four years ago in Oregon. He’s never coached in the NFL at any level and while a similar spread option offense has been working with the Redskins and Seahawks this season, that has just as much to do with the personnel on the field as the scheme dictating it.
If Kelly wanted to bring his spread option to New England, he would have to look for a different quarterback as well. Granted, Tom Brady could be long gone by the time Kelly comes around, but Brady’s eventual successor, Ryan Mallett, isn’t any better of a fit in Kelly’s offense. If Brady is serious about playing into his 40s, a turn to Kelly could mean booting the best player the Patriots have ever seen from the team. And if the switch from Belichick to Kelly waits until Brady retires, Kelly would be well into his 50s as a first-time NFL head coach.
Can you imagine the mobile-diverse Brady or Mallett taking an option around the edge? You certainly don’t want to, though opposing defenses would love it.
Players like Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson don’t exactly grow on trees either, and you need that type of player to run the Oregon offense. Cam Newton can do it, Colin Kaepernick can do it and Michael Vick can do it while healthy, but that’s about it. Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker and Andy Dalton could run elements of the offense, but as we saw this weekend with Griffin, you don’t always want to put your quarterback in harm’s way. Tannehill and Dalton aren’t the runners that Griffin and Wilson are, and Locker isn’t the passer.
You need a very distinct player to run the read option with any efficiency in the NFL. Griffin and Wilson are nearly as big of threats with their legs as they are with their arms and you need elite production from both. The NFL has been waiting years for players who can provide 4.5 40-yard dash speed with 64 percent passing efficiency. The league got lucky with two this year, but there’s a reason we’ve rarely seen it before.
If a running quarterback is going to be a major facet in an offense, you’ll need at least two players that can run it with the same efficiency. In Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, Mike Shanahan, Darrell Bevell and Jim Harbaugh can turn to a different offense if their main signal callers get hurt. Kelly couldn’t provide that option since his offensive style is built around a mobile quarterback threat.
There’s a reason why the NFL has been so hesitant to turn to option-heavy offenses. The spread offense — which has become popular in the last 1o years — can still work because of the balance it can provide. A read option can only work if you can still provide a threat over the top — and few dual threat quarterbacks can provide that.
Players like Tim Tebow, Vince Young and even Joe Webb on Saturday have proven that without an efficient arm, a quarterback with legs simply isn’t enough.
So unless that perfect player like Wilson or Griffin comes to New England just as Belichick and Brady are retiring and Kelly is ready to move over, it might be wise to stay away from Kelly. It’s smart for NFL teams to let the option offense come to them, not actively pursue it.