The Buffalo Bills are reported to be in Arizona interviewing candidates for the team’s Head Coach vacancy. The candidates with which the team has official interviews on it’s slate so far are former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhut, Cardinals defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, former Chicago Bears head coach, Lovie Smith, with the most polarizing figure being current Oregon Ducks’ head coach, Chip Kelly, who the team is expected to interview following Oregon’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with Kansas State.
Chip Kelly has been one of the hottest names floating around in NFL circles since last season, when he reportedly accepted a deal to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before opting to stay at Oregon. Kelly runs the most prolific offense in college football, a no-huddle spread with power running concepts. His Oregon offense competes at a rapid-fire speed designed to have opposing defenses gasping for air. Starting at Oregon in 2007 as the offensive coordinator, he became the head coach in 2009, and has posted a 45-7 record since. This year, his team is averaging 52.3 points per game, while putting up over 500 yards of offense per contest.
But what is even more impressive about his offense is the amount of plays his teams run. His no huddle offense gets off plays sometimes as fast as five seconds after the whistle has blown the last play dead. The Ducks are averaging 84.4 offensive plays per game. The NFL average this year was 66.8.
So why wouldn’t Chip Kelly be a hot commodity? Hiring Chip Kelly is a boom-or-bust situation that could set the Buffalo Bills back years in their progress if his innovative offensive philosophy fails to work in the National Football League.
The first thing many fans point to when speaking of Chip Kelly is how he would be able to utilize C.J. Spiller, much like his running back Kenyon Barner, who has rushed for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns on just 248 carries, and De’Anthony Thomas who gained 686 yards on 90 carries, finding the endzone 11 times. However, Spiller is best when improvising, finding holes and evading defenders. Barner and Thomas are so productive with designed, outside runs. LaMichael James was Oregon’s Kenyon Barner for the previous three seasons, rushing for 5,082 yards and 53 scores, but now in the National Football League, with the San Francisco 49ers, he can’t get on the field.
Oregon’s offensive lines are built with athletes that are designed to keep up with their fast paced offense while running the option. Chip Kelly’s average offensive lineman weighs just 288 pounds. The Buffalo Bills’ average lineman? 318. Rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn is 340 lbs. How do you think he holds up running 84 plays per game? This is just one example of the complete roster overhaul that a Chip Kelly-led team would necessitate. With an offense built on stamina, his players are short, light, and quick at the skill positions. His wide receivers are 5’10″, 180 pounds, and his tight end is 230 pounds. In the NFL, you need at least one big target to compete for the ball in red zone situations, and also simply to match up with the bigger and stronger cornerbacks in today’s league. His tight end is 235 pounds. How does he line up at the point of attack with a 270 pound defensive end, and even attempt to block him?
Also, NFL defenses are far more talented than those he has been pacing in the Pac-12. There will be many more three-and-outs, forcing the defense to go back on the field in very short periods of time. There are games when opposing defenses can simply dominate the contest, and games when offenses aren’t in sync. When this happens, the defense will be out of gas by halftime.
Furthermore, Kelly has no experience in the National Football League. Who would be on his coaching staff? His Oregon defenses were far from dominant, and he isn’t linked with any assistants, coordinators, or even coaches within the National Football League. This is a recipe for disaster.
In the NFL, we saw what happened when quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Michael Vick, Alex Smith, etc. were simply scrambling. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota carried the ball 98 times on designed runs. The best quarterbacks in the league need to stay healthy. Running and putting quarterbacks in the way of 260 pound grown men that run like safeties and hit like defensive lineman is simply unintelligent, and puts arguably the most important player on the roster in harm. While the option is at it’s booming point at the professional level, it’s a matter of time before NFL defensive coordinators figure it out and shut it down.
While it’s obvious that Kelly’s offense has been one of the best, most efficient offenses in college football history, its easy to question how it can be sustained in the National Football League. Will grown men buy into the workout plans needed to operate with the stamina and speed needed for his offense to work? Only time will tell, but with the high risk for failure, it’d be wise for the Buffalo Bills’ front office to pass on Chip.