KC’s Winning Blueprint: Chip Kelly and Geno Smith


Sep 3, 2011; Arlington, TX, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines against the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

As we sit with seven games still remaining in this NFL season, most Kansas City Chiefs fans have given up all hope of the Chiefs as we currently know them becoming a winner. Most fans are in agreement that the Chiefs are in dire need of replacing three of the biggest positions in a NFL franchise: The GM, the coach, and the QB. I’m in 100% agreement with replacing all three of those and have been since I sat in the upper deck and watched the Raiders whoop up on KC on their own home field (although you wouldn’t know it by all the Raiders fans there) despite the Chiefs having an extra week to prepare.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d like to see the Chiefs do. Bill Cowher is probably the most popular choice for coach, but I don’t know how likely that is. Plus, keep in mind how long it took for Cowher to win with the Steelers. The only thing I know for sure is that after watching Romeo just stand there with a Herm Edwards-esqe blank look on his face while his team is getting destroyed, is that I want the next KC coach to have some fire and energy. This is a a young and impressionable team and the need someone to get them fired up and pointed in the right direction.

As far as the QBs go, I was like everyone else in that I was worried that no QB this year would be worthy of a 1st or 2nd overall pick. I’d looked into Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, and Tyler Wilson and found some series concerns with all three.

So I thought that I was going to have to wait and see until I declared my allegiance to any one possible coach or QB for the Chiefs to pursue. That was before I read two different articles on Oregon coach Chip Kelley that have completely changed my thinking.

If you are a fan of football strategy, football x’s and o’s, or just really interested in possible head coaching candidates you MUST read these two articles. I found them utterly fascinating. SERIOUSLY, stop reading my post right now and go read these two articles. DO IT!!! REALLY, I MEAN IT. READ THEM!!!!!

Tim Livingston’s How Oregon Coach Chip Kelley Can Spark ‘Moneyball’ Revolution In NFL from Yahoo’s ThePostGame

Chris Brown’s The New Old School from Grantland

I don’t know how you could read those two articles and not come away impressed with Kelly. What really gets me is that these two different writers basically broke down why Kelly is good enough to not only excel but revolutionize the NFL, but they both had different reasons as to why he can do it.

If you’re one of the incredibly unfortunate readers that didn’t click on the links above and actually read the articles (It’s not too late, go back and do it, it’s worth it, really……….seriously, I’m not going to keep going until you go back and read them………okay, fine!) then here are a couple highlights to sell you on this guy.

From the Yahoo piece that focuses on Kelly’s aggressive approach and playing the odds instead of playing it safe:

"Whenever Kelly does enter the league, he’ll play the game aggressively, with “aggressively” meaning in a mathematically logical fashion. By the end of the season every coach will be going for it on fourth down, attempting fake punts, fake field goals, two-point conversions, and they’ll likely do all of this oblivious to the fact that there’s astounding mathematical evidence supporting the decisions they’re making. They’ll just see Chip Kelly’s team lighting up the scoreboard and follow suit because … well, 90 percent of NFL coaches are followers."

I read this article about a week ago and I was intrigued. I liked the idea of the Chiefs being aggressive. Todd Haley used this same philosophy and I always loved it. He got ripped in the press a few times when it didn’t work, but I like the idea of the Chiefs being the team trying something new and aggressive instead of hiring a retread coach that will follow the same NFL blueprint that most other coaches use.

That having been said, I still was skeptic of Kelly. After all, a lot of good college coaches have flopped in the NFL. Most college offensive systems don’t translate to the NFL and I was worried that Kelly would be another one of these. Plus, it seems like the college coaches that make it in the NFL like Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll, and Jim Harbaugh all had NFL ties before their current coaching position. Kelly has no NFL experience of any kind. Then I read the second article at Grantland about the x’s and o’s of Kelly’s system and how and why it works. It makes sense to me. Here a couple snippets:

"Chip Kelly’s offense works not because it’s a gimmick, but because rather than choose sides between old and new, Kelly’s teams straddle history. Oregon is successful because it does well what good teams have always done well, albeit with a slightly more modern wardrobe."

"This change of pace is actually how Oregon constantly keeps defenses off balance. If they only went one pace the entire game the offense would actually be easier to defend. When the defense lines up quickly and is set, Kelly takes his time and picks the perfect play. When the defense is desperate to substitute or identify Oregon’s formation, the Ducks sprint to the line and rip off two, three, or four plays in a row — and it rarely takes more than that for them to score."

"a Chip Kelly–coached NFL team would win for the same reasons that the Chip Kelly–coached college team wins. Behind the speed, the spread, the Daft Punk helmets, and the flashy uniforms, Oregon ultimately wins with old-fashioned, fundamental, run-it-up-the-gut football. I think everyone, even fans of the spread offense, can appreciate that."

The basic idea is that Kelly attacks wherever the defense gives him numbers. He spreads the field out, not to run a Mike Leach at Texas Tech or June Jones at Hawaii spread passing attack, but a balanced or even run heavy attack. Kelly spreads the field out and makes the defense choose what they are going to do. If they spread out too, then he attacks the middle of the field with the run game. If they crowd the box to stop the run then he takes his chances with his WRs all being in single man to man coverage. It’s a different approach then the spread passing attack that just spreads the field out for the sole purpose of giving a QB sitting back in the shotgun multiple receiving targets.

Here’s why I like this idea so much for KC. Think about the RBs that have thrived in this system at Oregon like LaMichael James and now Kenjon Barner. These guys are home run hitters. Guys that when the defenses spread out can hit an open gap up the gut and be off to the races in a heartbeat. Of all the top RBs in the NFL right now, who do you think best fits that mold? If you were picking the perfect NFL back to use in this system I think you can make a strong choice that Jamaal Charles is tailor made for this system. That’s why I’m 100% on the Kelly bandwagon now. I think the Chiefs have three offensive weapons on the roster right now that would thrive in Kelly’s system: Charles, Dexter McCluster, and Tony Moeaki. Think about McCluster as a slot WR in Kelly’s system that is designed to create space for players to make plays, perfect fit. Kelly loves creating mismatches, so having a TE that can stay in and block for the running attack, or exploit single coverage and become a target downfield is perfect as well. The Chiefs would have to either resign Bowe or bring in another big play WR in order to exploit single coverage if the defense was keying in on the run.

Then there’s the small matter of the quarterback, but we’ll get to that in a second.

The last thing I want to highlight from the Grantland piece that I think would lead to Kelly’s success in the NFL is his approach to practice. The old-school ranks of NFL coaches have had the bulk of their practice taken away by the new collective bargaining agreement. Some have had a hard time adapting. College coaches on the other hand are used to having limitations on the amount of time with their team. Check out this section on Kelly and his practices.

"Operating under the constraint of NCAA-imposed practice time limits, Kelly’s sessions are designed around one thing: maximizing time. Kelly’s solution is simple: The practice field is for repetitions. Traditional “coaching” — correcting mistakes, showing a player how to step one way or another, or lecturing on this or that football topic — is better served in the film room. The up-tempo, no-huddle offense ends up benefiting in practice as much as it does in games. Without time wasted huddling, players get many more practice repetitions, leading to increased efficiency on Saturdays. As Sam Snead once said, “practice is putting brains in your muscles,” and Oregon’s up-tempo practices are all about making Kelly’s system second nature."

This sounds like exactly what the Chiefs need to jump start their pathetic offense. That, and a good quarterback to run this system.

Enter Geno Smith:

Sep 1, 2012; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) reacts after a touchdown in the first quarter against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

As impressive as Geno Smith looked early in the season, I was quick to jump off the Geno bandwagon after his numbers began sliding as he faced more formidable defenses. His completion percentage and his yards per attempt have dropped drastically over the past month. I also haven’t liked his sideline demeanor in some of their loses. I want my QB to always be rallying the troops and at times Smith has looked liked he has accepted defeat. That’s the last thing a team like the Chiefs needs when they are trying to break out of their losing ways.

I’m not doing much to sell the guy yet, am I?

Here’s the thing. Before supplanting myself firmly on the Chip Kelly bandwagon, I was leaning towards either Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson as my first choice for the Chiefs to draft. However, after reading about Kelly’s system, I don’t think there is any question about which of the first round QBs would be best suited to run it.

Check out this quote segment of the Grantland article about Kelly’s system and his use of the QB:

"But despite all his success, there are those who still like to label his offense a gimmick, or, more practically, wonder if it’s possible to run a spread offense in the NFL, given the beating a quarterback might endure. This misunderstands Kelly’s attack. “I look for a quarterback who can run and not a running back who can throw. I want a quarterback who can beat you with his arm,” Kelly explained at a coaches clinic in the spring of 2011, emphatically adding, “We are not a Tim Tebow type of quarterback team. I am not going to run my quarterback 20 times on power runs.”"

So Kelly wants an athletic quarterback who can run if he has to, but that is mainly going to beat you with his arm. If you look at the scouting reports of the three first round options at QB I think you will find that all of them describe Smith as having the best mobility and athleticism and the strongest arm. I don’t think Barkley or Wilson have the mobility to run Kelly’s offense. Smith is not a running QB, but Kelly doesn’t ask his QBs to run very often. Oregon’s QB Marcus Mariota has 78 rushes this season compared to 251 pass attempts. If you compare that to K-State’s Collin Klein who has 154 rushes compared to 208 attempts you see the difference in what he asks his QB to do. FYI, Geno Smith has 53 rushes this season compared to 400 pass attempts.

In addition to the athleticism, I think Geno’s deep ball is the other reason he is the right guy for Kelly’s system. If the Chiefs were running Kelly’s no huddle and wanted to make sure defenses weren’t crowding the line to stop Jamaal Charles, having a QB who can stretch the field is a major plus. Wilson also throws a solid deep ball, but Matt Barkley is widely considered to only have an average arm.

Finally, despite some reservations that I have about Smith’s on field demeanor when his team is down, his work ethic and football knowledge is suppose to be first rate. I don’t think he would have a problem putting in the work to learn Kelly’s system.

For what it’s worth, the rest of my blueprint for next season would include hiring Marty Schottenheimer to a consultant/VP of football operations type of position, and then hiring a no name GM that nobody has ever heard of but other GMs all around the league respect as a talent evaluator. Marty will be the guy that talks to the media and is the “figure head” for the front office while our new no name, no ego GM just sits in an office and scouts players and works out contracts. We’d keep the key members of the defensive coaching staff in place (Gary Gibbs, Anthony Pleasant, and Emmett Thomas). I think the current defense with a Chip Kelley offense would be fantastic. We should resign Bowe, Albert, and Colquitt to long term deals. Let Dorsey go and restructure Tyson Jackson so that he’s paid like a rotational player and not a first round draft pick. Then upgrade wherever else we can through free agency and the rest of the draft.

In the words of Romeo Crennel: I mean…BOOM.

That’s how I’d get it done. (Maybe I should be the new GM?)

I don’t know how the rest of this season will play out for the Chiefs. I don’t know where they will be drafting or if/when they will fire Scott Pioli and/or Romeo Crennel. What I do now know is that this Armchair Addict will be hoping that when next season rolls around Chip Kelly will be our new head coach and Geno Smith will be our starting QB.

Who’s with me?