As the hot seats in the NFL grow hotter, the stock of one college coach seems to soar higher and higher. Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be the college football coach most pursued by NFL teams this upcoming off-season. There is no doubt he has earned the chance to display his lightning fast evolutionary spread offense at the professional level. After inheriting the head coaching position in 2009, Kelly has amassed a 43-6 record, three Pac-12 titles, and created a lethal spread option offense who’s scoring and yards per game have been among the highest in thee NCAA since Kelly started calling the plays as offensive coordinator in 2007.
Many of the NFL’s elite franchises may be looking to change their head coach as the league continues to evolve into its new identity. Three of four teams in the NFC East will look to change coaches, and two teams in the AFC West, AFC East, AFC South, and NFC South may look to change coaches. Add the Browns to the list and we may have 12 of 32 teams looking for a coaching change. Chip Kelly represents the next evolutionary offensive mind to come into the NFL, and as any highly wanted commodity he will generally have his choice of destinations. Here we will analyze the top three destinations for Chip Kelly and his spread option offense.
3) Carolina Panthers
Last year, Head Coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski took a floundering Carolina franchise and brought it to seventh in total offense. After drafting superstar Cam Newton, they had adapted a form of Cam Newton’s Baylor option to the Panthers, and succeeded.
Although they only won six games, the Panthers seemed to be going in the right direction. This year, Carolina is last in the NFC, both the offense and defense are struggling, although Newton is having a similar year statistically, minus some touchdowns. Worst of all, the coaching staff seems to have lost the teams conviction, especially Newton, who has created a string of downtrodden questioning audio clips regarding the coaching and direction of the team.
This is a chemical problem, which can contaminate all parts of the organization. Owner Jerry Richardson would be wise to disown the current staff, and start new with Chip Kelly in Carolina. In coming to the Panthers, Kelly reunites with former Oregon superstar Jonathan Stewart in the backfield. With supplementary talented rushers in DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, Kelly would have the kind of deep and talented backfield he is accustomed to at Oregon.
Carolina’s perennial pro bowler wide receiver, Steve Smith, would be the biggest beneficiary from Kelly coming to Carolina. We could see Smith acting as the multitool of Kelly’s offense, catching screens, working deep on play action, and acting as an outside runner and option threat. Brandon LaFell is an emerging threat on the outside, and Greg Olson is a versatile and fast playmaker at tight end. Finally, Carolina has Cam Newton, and Newton is another supremely unique talent. Cam is one of the new trend of multithreat quarterbacks who play at an elite level in the NFL.
Kelly has said that he intends to adapt his offense to that of his talent at the NFL level, and a talent such as Cam Newton’s is rare, it would benefit Kelly to chose a team that carries one of the quarterbacks that has shown the variety of talents that fit his scheme.
2) Washington Redskins
Mike Shanahan took the reigns to this organization in 2010, and other than drafting Robert Griffin III, has done nothing to keep Redskins owner Daniel Snyder from looking to the future. Chip Kelly may be that future. Kelly will either be the next great football mind to enter the NFL, or just another college coach whose scheme does not work in the NFL.
Snyder is the kind of owner who is willing to take that chance if the payoffs are big enough. The idea of combining Rookie of the Year contender and former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and Chip Kelly’s adaptive offense is enough for Snyder to pull out his Washington Monument sized pocketbook, and make a pitch. It helps that rookie Alfred Morris is a talented and adaptable back with room to learn.
Washington has been running a form of the option this year, adapting to the talents of their franchise quarterback Griffin III, so transitioning to Kelly’s spread offense may not be as much of a stretch as it would be for other teams. The Redskins offensive line is young and improving, and may help with Washington’s appeal versus their competitors for Kelly.
The Redskins have also demonstrated the willingness to spend money to bring in weapons. Washington acquired Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garcon off free agency last off-season, Hampered by injuries and inconsistency all season, both Morgan and Garcon have disappointed this season, and Snyder may look to add new weapons, both to lure Kelly to Washington, and to further support budding superstar Robert Griffin III. Even if situations tempt Kelly elsewhere, the lure to work with the NFL’s most unique superstar, under a spend friendly owner, may be tempting.
1) Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie wants to win now, and Andy Reid’s tenure in Philadelphia looks to finally be at an end. Lurie would have no problem giving Chip Kelly total control and a competitive salary. Moreover, the Eagles are a team loaded with speed and talent that excels working in space. Kelly’s spread option offense specializes in creating mismatches by effectively creating space for their speed to work in. LeSean McCoy is a legitimate superstar, the kind of running and catching combination that Kelly has managed to turn into 2000-yard superstars in his offense.
The schematic capabilities increase with speed threats DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to provide threats in space off bubble screens, pitches, and play action. The offensive line troubles the Eagles are experiencing would be lessened slightly in Kelly’s faster offense that gets the ball to their weapons quicker than Reid’s west coast offense. With the dual threat that Michael Vick provides, it seems a match made in heaven for Kelly to come to Philadelphia.
Nick Foles came to the Eagles out of Arizona last year as Reid’s next developmental west coast quarterback, and may not have much of a place in Kelly’s offense, but Kelly is willing to work with what he has. Although Vick is getting to the end of his career, he would provide a stopgap for Kelly to train the next dual threat quarterback for the Eagles. Kelly would have pieces in place for success both now and in the future in Philadelphia and his ability to teach up a team, and orchestrate a game through his play calling are just what the Eagles need.