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Can Chip Kelly’s offense work in the NFL?
There’s plenty of naysayers around former Philadelphia Eagles/San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly, who has been fired two times in the last couple of seasons. Many around the league can point to his failures in Philadelphia can be contributed to his final season with the Eagles being his demise, as Kelly followed up a pair of 10-6 campaigns with a record of 6-9 before being canned ahead of the 2015 regular season finale against the New York Giants.
Chip Kelly’s moves made at the personnel level ended up being his downfall in Philly. The former Oregon coach got rid of Desean Jackson after a strong 2013 season and then traded LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. He also allowed wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to walk in free agency, reuniting with former Eagles coach and current Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid. A forgetful signing of running back DeMarco Murray also became another miscue Kelly made, as the former Cowboy’s running style didn’t fit the zone blocking run scheme that McCoy flourished in between the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
After being fired by the Eagles in 2015, Kelly wasted no time in landing somewhere as a head coach once again and ran over to the west coast to become the lead man of the San Francisco 49ers. A team lacking in talent everywhere and a front office in total disarray, Kelly took a chance in believing his system of football could change the fortunes of a 49ers team that was not long removed from the days under now Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. His beliefs ended up in a disappointing 2-14 season, which ended with Kelly being ousted shortly after the 49ers fired general manager Trent Baalke.
Now with Kelly seemingly having next to no interest in returning to college football, one has to ask the question; can Kelly’s offense work in the NFL? Not many believe so because of the simpler concepts and the tempo of the offense hurting the defensive side of the ball, with Kelly’s defenses being on the field more than any other team during his time in the NFL. Though Kelly’s offenses ranked in the top 10 in both 2013 and 2014, they dipped below the top 20 in 2015 and once again finished in the bottom half this season in San Francisco.
Someone with the football acumen like Kelly, though, may be afforded another shot to run an NFL offense. He’ll have to add and change some of the plays he has in his playbook to maximize the play of his future players. NFL defenses were stating they had caught on to Kelly’s play calls and were able to call out the upcoming play based on formation and sets. Should Kelly be blamed, however, for his latest firing in San Francisco? Maybe if he was given more than a 1-year window to turn around one of the NFL’s least talented rosters through the draft and free agency, who knows what kind of turnaround could’ve become of it. Kelly did good work with Colin Kaepernick in his lone season, as the 49ers’ starting signal caller for 11 games threw 16 touchdowns against four interceptions and a rating of 90.7. The rating was the highest Kaepernick’s had since the 2013 season.
Kelly has already interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator gig and was passed up for quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett. Now Kelly’s name is being rumored to being one of the three potential candidates to replace Kyle Shanahan, who is slated to have a second interview with the San Francisco 49ers for their head coaching opening. Maybe Kelly, paired with stars like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, could revive his career as an offensive genius. If hired to take the gig, Kelly could be surrounded by the most talent he’s had since his 2013 season with the Eagles, as Philly was armed with the likes of Nick Foles at quarterback, McCoy at tailback and Jackson and Maclin at receivers. Atlanta’s offensive talent could match or be better than what the Eagles had a few years ago. If afforded the opportunity, this could be Kelly’s chance to prove that with the right amount of talent on offense, he might just be able to fit in the NFL after all.