Eagles coach a Chip off the old inventions
THOMAS EDISON invented the light bulb. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
Chip Kelly? Despite all of the attention his offense has been getting since he joined the NFL head-coaching fraternity 8 1/2 months ago, still not a damn thing.
The whole up-tempo thing? Nah. Teams have been running no-huddle offenses for more than two decades.
Spread formations? Old news. The read option? Been there done that. Inside and outside zone runs? Same thing. Bubble screens? Teams were running them when dinosaurs walked the earth.
"I don't think anybody's inventing anything new," Kelly acknowledged in the spring when asked by a reporter if he should be regarded as the father of something or other.
"It's a very cyclical game," he said. "The Wildcat formation was the single-wing formation that was run way back when. Dick Kazmaier won the Heisman Trophy at Princeton running the single-wing offense. He would have been a good zone-read quarterback.
"I think it's the 100th anniversary of the forward pass this year. Once that got instituted, once the rules were established and it was 11-on-11 and 10 yards to get a first down, usually somebody did something at some point that people are now seeing in 2013."
Last year, the Bills ran a spread offense that featured many of the same concepts as Kelly's offense, minus the up-tempo. If they hadn't finished 21st in scoring and 19th in total offense and lost 10 games and fired their coach (Chan Gailey), maybe more people outside the Buffalo city limits would have noticed.
"Chip isn't sneaking up on anybody," Eagles right guard Todd Herremans said. "He was at Oregon for what, 5-6 years? People have watched film on him for seasons upon seasons and it still was successful. It's not something nobody''s ever seen on tape before. It's not like he's reinvented football."
Bobby Chez didn't reinvent the crabcake, but there isn't anybody this side of Baltimore who makes a better one. Sometimes the secret is not in the ingredients, but how you mix them.
Oregon's offense was the scourge of college football during Kelly's four seasons as the head coach. The Ducks averaged 37.2 points, 501.1 yards and 24.6 first downs per game from 2009 to '12.
While he almost certainly won't match those numbers in Philadelphia, everyone is intrigued to see just how fast this car can go.
"I'm anxious to see how he does offensively and how it functions in the NFL,"' ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian said. "It'll be fun to see how he operates that.
"For people that really like X's and O's, for football junkies like myself and Jaws and others, this season is going to be one of the most interesting in a long time, because the idea of how people are going to defend the option is interesting. And how the new parts of the spread offense and the up-tempo offense and how they're going to function and how people are going to defend against it.
"Marv Levy taught me a long time ago, there's nothing new under the sun. When Marv and I were in Buffalo, we ran a three-wide receiver, up-tempo, no-huddle offense starting in 1990. So it's not like it's never been done before. It has been done and quite successfully. It just hasn't been done in a while, and there's going to be an adjustment period for defenses. And it's going to be fun to see how those matchups proceed over the course of the season."
Kelly's up-tempo offense averaged a league-high 74.2 plays per game during the preseason. Expect more of the same starting Monday night when the regular season gets under way.
"People have seen the read option before," Herremans said. "They've seen the bubble screen and the inside and outside zones. There's nothing new that people haven't seen before. We're just trying to do it at a fast pace."
The up-tempo offense accomplishes two things. It wears down a defense, which might not be used to the pace. And it prevents them from changing personnel, which allows the Eagles to move their personnel around and attack mismatches.
"This league is all about matchups," cornerback Cary Williams said. "Chip and Shurmur are constantly trying to create those mismatches, those headaches, for a defense. The more headaches you can create, the more success you're going to have on offense."
That's why Kelly likes versatile players. Tight ends who can line up inside or outside, block or run down the seam. Running backs who can make linebackers and safeties eat their dust. Wide receivers who can block.
"You're going to have linebackers trying to cover running backs and wide receivers," Williams said. "That's an issue. What're you going to do? Are you going to go dime the whole game? Then you're going to give up the run.
"It's going to be difficult. It's going to be something that's going to be hard for defenses to adjust to. It's not a basic offense. We spread people out. We have guys who can hurt you outside. We have guys who can hurt you in the slot. And we have great running backs as well."
The Eagles' offense is going to be very tight end-centric. Kelly kept four tight ends on the roster and is expected to use a lot of two- and even three-tight end sets. Sometimes he'll run out of those sets, sometimes he'll throw. He will put a tight end in the backfield, in the slot, out wide.
"You can use them as 'jokers', really," ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst and former Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "They're good in any type of formation because you can create - you can use a tight end as a classic, on-the-line-of-scrimmage tight end. You can put one in the backfield and create a two-back set. You can line up in a no-back set. You can use them as wide receivers.
"You get tremendous pre-snap looks when you put a tight end outside of a wide receiver in terms of is it man or is it zone. You get bigger blockers on the perimeter when you throw those bubble screens and quick screens. So you get size on the edge where Chip likes to get the ball, and you just have men that can do a lot of different things.
"I'm excited to see how he pulls it off and utilizes those tight ends. With the absence of Maclin, I know they'll have to lean on them."
Safety Kurt Coleman thinks fatigue will become a critical factor in the fourth quarter of games against the Eagles' up-tempo offense.
"It's going to wear teams down," he said. "The good thing for us is we've been going up against it and training hard for it. So we're in condition. But for other teams, it's going to pose a lot of problems.
"You've seen glimpses of the potential of this offense in the preseason. When we don't turn the ball over, we can put up a lot of points. So if we can limit the turnovers, this offense is going to be very explosive."
On Twitter: @Pdomo