SCOTTSDALE, Az. -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly, widely acclaimed as the Eagles' top candidate for their head coaching job, met with reporters for the last time Wednesday morning before Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl matchup with Kansas State.
"Anything you do has to be personnel-driven," Kelly said, when asked a question about offensive adaptations flowing out of the college game into the NFL. "You've gotta be able to adapt to the personnel that you have. There's a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have? I think the key is being sure what you're doing is giving your players the chance to be successful."
Kelly's innovative, run-based spread offense is a huge unknown, when it comes to the pass-driven NFL. Some of Kelly's ideas have filtered into the league, but recent NFL rules changes have heavily tipped the pro game toward passing. It has been suggested that Kelly's offensive acumen could lead him to design something substantially different, if he were faced with NFL challenges.
"I don't think anybody knows any answers, until someone does it," Kelly said when your Eagletarian asked him how he thought his offense might work in the NFL. "I think the Washington Redskins (with Robert Griffin III) are doing a pretty good job -- I forgot the name of their quarterback -- but he's done a decent job, and the kid at Carolina (Cam Newton) has done a pretty good job. It depends. I don't know. I've never coached in that league. I've visited practices and talked to people about it, but the one thing about that, the one thing about everything is, you've got to have good players. I think sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated. We don't play the game. College football is a personnel-driven game, the National Football League is a personnel-driven game. Your job as a coach, very simply, is to put your players in position where they can make plays, then get out of the way so they can go make 'em."
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The "personnel-driven" part might be especially pertinent to Eagles fans; slow-footed Nick Foles would seem to be the polar opposite of a prototypical Kelly quarterback.
Kelly talked about how he developed his spread attack.
"It really started for us, to be honest with you, when we were at New Hampshire and we were running out of fullbacks," he said. "We still wanted to be able to run the ball, but we wanted to be able to get our best 11 guys on the field. It really just started to develop more out of necessaity than that we wanted to change. It was just, 'how can we still be an effective team?' We were in the Northeast. You've got to be able to run the ball when you're in areas like that, because of the weather ... 'What's the best way to try to expand our running game, but still get our best personnel on the field?' "
Kelly showed a flash of wit when asked about recruiting fullbacks.
"That's a tough sell. 'Come to our program. You're 6-foot-2. We want you to be a glorified guard in the backfield. You'll graduate at 5-foot-10. You're just going to run full speed and slam full speed into people. No one's going to know who you are. We'll put a 30 number on you, but you really should have a 60 number.' There's not a lot of kids out there that want to play that position ... most of those guys want to be linebackers. I don't fault them, either."
Kelly has not addressed whether he will be willing to move to the NFL after wrapping up his season Thursday, but people around the Oregon program seem to assume he will. Kelly came close to taking the Tampa Bay Bucs coaching job last year.
It's interesting that Kelly is in the Phoenix area right now, because a source close to former Eagles coach Andy Reid confirmed Wednesday that Reid was heading to the Valley of the Sun to interview with the Cardinals for their vacant head coaching job. Reid met with Kansas City Chiefs officials in Philadelpbhia before beginning his journey, the source confirmed.
--- Les Bowen