Duck Hunt: The NFL and Chip Kelly

Over the weekend, there was a big story that took the Oregon sports world by storm. There were rumors that turned into facts about Chip Kelly leaving the Ducks football program to bolt to the NFL and take the head coaching position of the Tampa Bay Bucs. For those of you living under a rock (or, really anywhere but the Pacific Northwest) I’ll give you a summary of what happened.

It Rains Here

Panic Ensues!

Twitter exploded as fans went through an extremely quick 5 stages of grief. At first there was extreme skepticism about one report making headlines (albeit it from a solid news source in KGW News Channel 8 out here in Portland). “I’ll believe it when I see it” was a quote thrown around quite a bit. I’ll call that the denial phase.

Washington Huskies fans came out in full force to pile on to the Ducks fans at the source of this news (for those who don’t know, Huskies/Ducks is the big rivalry out here in the upper reaches of our country). Ducks fans responded, in what I’ll call the anger phase.

The hate starts young

Then came the bargaining phase, as each fan was going around looking for a respectable replacement for Chip. Boise State coach Chris Petersen and TCU coach Gary Patterson were being bandied about as top options, but in all honesty I saw about 45 names posted as an option. (Yes, I know this doesn’t follow the exact definition of that phase, thanks for pointing that out all you psychology majors out there).

Then the depression and acceptance phases came together, as Ducks fans realized that their run atop the Pac-12 might be over, and that they’d have to install a new system and that the team might lose some of their great recruiting class (which includes six 4 star and 7 three star recruits).

When the media jumped in, many criticized Kelly’s move, saying that a) he was only leaving because he didn’t want to be caught when the NCAA investigation into the program turned up badly, and b) that Chip Kelly’s offense wouldn’t actually work in the NFL. I’ll get back to this point specifically in a second.

He kind of screams "I did something wrong"

The next morning, news came out that Kelly had officially accepted the deal, but then called Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer to say that “his heart was still in college and at Oregon” and that he had “unfinished business to attend to”. There was a huge collective sigh of relief out here, but one thing in this whole 24 hour ordeal really stuck with me and bothered me.

Chip’s offense not right for the NFL?

Many people came out and said that there was no way that Kelly’s offense could work in the NFL. They said that it was an offense made for college and an offense that would only work in college.

Side Note: For those who don’t know, Chip Kelly runs a glorified Spread offense..focusing on the no-huddle/hurry up offense and quick passes, shotgun option/zone read and pure team speed. For a more in-depth look, read this, or watch this:

Firstly, I understand the basis of college-type offenses not working in the NFL. You face three teams twice a year and you’re going up against the cream of the crop in terms of players and coaches. Kooky offenses will only work for so long (as seen by Miami’s Wildcat Offense or even my beloved Broncos Tim Tebow offense this year). For the Dolphins, it worked for much of the first season it was employed…and then teams started to figure it out and the Dolphins fell back to earth. For the Broncos, they went on a nice 7 or 8 game run with it this year, and then got smacked around at the end of the season and into the playoffs.

Although Kelly’s offense features the option zone read that the Broncos employed for much of this season, his offense would still work in the NFL, and here’s two reasons why: the no-huddle, and the players he’d have in the NFL.

I’ll start with the players. On the Ducks, he breeds his players to run the zone read right out of high school. In the end, this becomes the only offense they have practice in, so they run it very proficiently (see: Tim Tebow).

However, the downside of this is that they can’t do much else (see: Tim Tebow).

If Chip moved to the NFL, he’d discover a wealth of offensive players who, guess what, can throw the ball! Can run an offense that has a more complicated system! Would Kelly have to slightly change his system? Yes, but it would be for the better, he wouldn’t be locked into a zone option read offense that he teaches his players on the Ducks. He could actually get a bit more creative with the play calling while still keeping some of the option to keep defenses off-balance.

That leads me to my second point, the no-huddle. If you’ve ever seen Oregon play, you’ll see a game that is high scoring and close until around the third quarter, then the Ducks pull away and win by 20+ points. Why is that? Because the opposing teams defense just can’t do it anymore. Opposing teams aren’t built to deal with a no-huddle for four quarters. Once Kelly got his NFL players conditioned like he wants them…no team would be able to keep up with them. Of course the players in the NFL are in better shape…but then again you also have guys like Vince Wilfork.

His belly deserves it's own number

Can you imagine old Vince and his stomach making it against Kelly’s no-huddle? I think he’d wind up thirty yards behind the play and get called offsides…..every time.

Yes, I think NFL teams could adapt better to a Kelly-run offense, but I certainly don’t think it would fail in the NFL either. A mix of spread and option to keep the defense off-balance while they are trying to catch their breath would be devastating. At some point, I’m sure Chip will head to the NFL (sorry, Ducks fans), and you’ll see his offense take the sport by storm.


Speaking of Ducks, here’s an underrated ‘This is Sportscenter’ commercial for ya.

The ‘This is Sportscenter’ campaign is one of my favorite ad campaigns of all time. I’m reading the ESPN book right now, and just got past the part where they talk about coming up with the idea and using Portland based Wieden + Kennedy (the makers of the Nike ‘Just Do It ‘ads) to make it. They couldn’t have picked a better ad company to do it, in my opinion. Almost every commercial is hilarious.


About Mike

Huge sports fan with a passion to discuss any and all sports. Grew up in New Jersey, went to Syracuse University, and am now working at ESPN Radio out in Portland, OR.
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