Since the hiring of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly by the Philadelphia Eagles, there has been one common misconception floating around the masses. A coach who made his name in the collegiate ranks by lighting up the scoreboards with video game-like numbers making the jump to the professional ranks sounded oddly familiar, and as well it should have. Kelly’s move has closely resembled that of former Florida Gators head coach Steve Spurrier to the Washington Redskins back in 2002.
However, people need to be reminded that these are two different men, in two different situations, in two different eras. While I can see where some may make the mistake of comparing the two, they simply shouldn’t.
To begin with, both men approach their professions differently. Chip Kelly lives and breathes the game of football in a Jon Gruden-esque type way. He will take up residence in the Eagles’ facilities if he sees fit. He will bathe there, sleep there, eat there — whatever it takes for success.
Now, while Steve Spurrier was wildly successful at his job in the college ranks, his personality just wasn’t suited for the NFL life. Spurrier is a creature of habit that is unwilling to adapt to anyone’s demands. He was in no way willing to make the NFL a 24/7 and 365 day-a-year job. He wanted to put in the minimal amount of work that he had to, and then get on the golf course to work on his backswing as soon as possible.
As far as the mind-blowing offensive schemes are concerned, there are similarities as well. However, the way that Kelly is working his in. Spurrier tried to migrate his, and those two approaches are vastly different.
The success of Spurrier’s “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense was based mostly on the fact that the personnel that the ‘Ol’ Ball Coach’ had on the field would just be that much more athletic than the opposition. When they spread the field the opposition isn’t supposed to be able to catch up with them. This worked in the college game. However, in the NFL world where the professional athleticism is mostly equal throughout the league, this was not going to work; Spurrier didn’t adapt to that, nor did he really care to.
Kelly’s read-option spread offense is similar in that the way he ran it in college was unique and somewhat new. It was more or less a new-age take on the old wishbone offenses in the era where Army dominated college football. However, as opposed to Spurrier, Kelly is willing, as well as capable, of adapting his unorthodox style of handling the football to what success in the NFL calls for.
You want proof of this? He drafted Matt Barkley, didn’t he? The epitome of a year 2013 pro-style quarterback was grabbed by him. Not to mention his first pick was an offensive tackle in Lane Johnson. While I heard many bring up virtually every top skill position prospect when it was the Eagles’ turn to pick early in Round 1, Chip went with protection rather than flash. Chip seems so far to be excelling in the personnel department, another area that Steve Spurrier couldn’t quite handle. If you remember correctly, he tried to turn the Redskins into a pro-version of his Florida teams by bringing in his former players.
It also seems that Kelly might be at a better advantage in the way that, if last year was any indication, spread systems are slowly starting to be integrated into the NFL game. By putting together a solid on-the-field personnel squad that is capable of performing at the next level and then tweaking his offensive system to conform with that, Kelly has a much better chance for success than Spurrier ever had.
They’re two different men, in two different eras, with two different personalities. And, when it’s all said and done, they may also have two different NFL legacies.