Up to speed
Chip Kelly has the University of Oregon ranked No. 2 in the country. His spread offense is dazzling and seemingly unstoppable. This season, his Ducks have averaged 52.3 points per game (fourth in Division 1) and 541.6 total yards (seventh).
The Ducks have surpassed 40 points in 34 of 46 games with Kelly as head coach, including all five this season and eight straight games dating to last season.
“Chip Kelly is a mastermind,” said Ravens tight end Ed Dickson, who played at Oregon for Kelly.
Not bad for a guy from Manchester, N.H., who split his four-year career at UNH between quarterback and defensive back.
Kelly’s offenses, while coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Wildcats from 1999-2006, were just as prolific as when he became Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinator with the Ducks in 2007 before ascending to head coach in ’09.
That’s because Kelly is obsessed with speed.
Forget time of possession. It’s all about total numbers of plays to Kelly. What he’s really looking for is yards and points per minute.
Fast might be an understatement when describing Oregon’s offense. When they’re really going, they get plays off in five seconds. Oregon fans will boo the chain gang moving the sticks on the sideline because they are holding up the offense. Oregon players tell tales of defenders saying that if the Ducks go any faster they’re going to vomit or pass out.
Kelly’s practices are the stuff of legend. There is no need for wind sprints because no one stands around. At all. Not the players, not the coaches. Music is blaring. The defense sometimes plays with 25 players so the offense can get more precise.
It’s dizzying by design. The games are actually tranquil.
“I remember the first day he came as offensive coordinator, we started one of his drills,” Dickson said. “And he said, ‘I’m going to show you how fast I want to go. Your two-minute that you’re running here is going to be nothing compared to what I teach you.’ It was insane. I thought he was insane. I was like, ‘Nobody moves that fast.’ The only way you’re going to simulate that speed, you have to practice that way.”
If you want to see what’s next on the pro level, look to the colleges. That’s what Belichick does, with his alliances with coaches such as Nick Saban (LSU and Alabama), Urban Meyer (Florida and Ohio State) and, now, Kelly.
That’s why when Kelly walked into Gillette Stadium two years ago — and he’s been there three times total — ears perked up among the Patriots’ coaches, including Belichick.
Kelly had become friendly with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien while both were rising in the college ranks. The UNH coaching staff would visit Brown, where O’Brien was coaching, for pickup basketball games and to talk X’s and O’s.
Kelly told the Patriots he was moving to a no-huddle that only used one word to signify everything involved in a play.
Sideline calls take too long. Wristbands too.
One word is all that is needed.
“The things they’re doing now, they’re even faster,” Dickson said. “They have things where they can call one thing and it’s going to tell them formation, plays, everything, and all you have to see is coverage.”
The collective Patriots’ response to Kelly’s assertion was, basically, “You run an entire offense like that? How do you get the players to comprehend that?”
Kelly declined to be interviewed, but those with knowledge of the discussion said Kelly laid out his rationale.
Players memorize thousands of words in songs, hundreds of movie lines, and many other things involving pop culture.
Why can’t players have instant recall of a handful of concepts? Heck, everybody knows No. 2 on a McDonald’s menu gets you a Quarter Pounder, medium fries, and a drink.
“It’s kind of easy,” Dickson said. “It comes with repetition. A lot of guys learn different. Myself, I just needed to be out there repping those plays. The more comfortable you get, the faster you’ll go. He wants to make it easier to where you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just going fast. Make it as simple as guys can learn it so you can go really fast. That’s the key, making it simple for your players so they can play at top speed.”
Kelly’s overall message to the Patriots: Don’t put a limit on your players’ minds; they will learn whatever you teach them.
“I was interested to hear how he did it,” Belichick said. “I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”
Welcome to Gillette Stadium, can I take your play call?