Is Chip Kelly the Next Big Innovator of the National Football League?

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly is all about tempo. And the first-year head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles did just that in his Monday night debut against the Washington Redskins by running 53 first-half plays en route to a 33-27 victory over their division rival. The Redskins’ defense struggled with the pace of Kelly’s fast-paced offense, and marred the much anticipated return of their heralded second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is coming off of an ACL injury he suffered eight months ago.

Many expected RG III to take care of business, but it was Kelly’s offense who stole the show. And while the entire performance wasn’t perfect, due to the inexperience of the players in the system, Kelly has at least shown that he can run this offense in the NFL. At least, he can for now.

Coaches will inevitably be watching his film closely to dissect the tempo of his offense and the different sets, but Kelly is also sure to make adjustments of his own as well. He has made waves in Week 1 of the NFL after making plenty of them  at the collegiate level.

Is it entirely plausible to say that Kelly could be the next big innovator of the NFL? After all, there hasn’t been a big offensive innovator in the NFL since the likes of Bill Walsh, who popularized the West Coast offense and made it one of the most potent in the NFL, a system that both NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young won Super Bowls with.

Now while we’re not crowning Kelly after one game or comparing him to Walsh, it should be pointed out the trail he has left behind. This offense he brings, which has received its share of skepticism on whether it would translate to the NFL, produced 443 yards in its NFL debut. It also produced 263 rushing yards, 14 rushing first downs and held the ball for 32:39 minutes compared to Washington’s 27:21. Quarterback Michael Vick, while he had his rough spots, performed well in his debut, passing for 203 yards and two touchdowns while adding 54 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on the ground. Running back LeSean McCoy also added 184 rushing yards on 31 carries and a touchdown.

If there’s one thing Kelly’s offense know how to do, it’s get the football into the hands of its playmakers, and it’s exactly what he did with McCoy in their victory over the Redskins.

And as we start to see quarterbacks who are more mobile outside the pocket, more will begin to adopt the use of spread offenses, and more will start adopting the pistol formation, which was made famous by former Nevada Wolfpack head coach Chris Ault. Pure pocket passers with no ability to gain yards past the line of scrimmage with their legs are becoming less prominent in college football and it’s starting to show little by little in the NFL. And it’s not as though everybody can just run and simulate Kelly’s offense; otherwise it wouldn’t have made the big splash it did at the collegiate level and been as successful as it was. Kelly’s offense is literally unlike anything NFL defenses have faced up until this point, and Kelly has the chance to make it his own and nobody else’s. Conventional defenses won’t work against this offense, as nailing the quarterback failed to derail Vick or the offense. It will be interesting to see how defenses try to counter this fast-paced offense.

Kelly could not have entered the NFL at a more opportune time as questions begin surfacing about the long-term potential of spread offenses, zone-reads and fast-paced offenses. He, for lack of a better term, will go through 2013 with a “Chip” on his shoulder as he continues to adjust his offense to the NFL and continue to keep opposing defenses gasping for breath and of balance. The game is changing, and Chip Kelly is now slowly becoming evidence of the direction that we may see offenses try to take.


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