Senior NFL Columnist

Kelly nice hire for Eagles if he leaves read-option behind

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I was spending Wednesday dissecting read-option tape when news hit that Chip Kelly would be the new coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

My thought: Oh, boy. We're getting more of this crap.

The read-option has become the NFL's new wave, an idea many think is progressive and the way offense will be played for years going forward.

I don't buy it.

Neither do some of the league's coaches.

"One offseason and it's figured out," said one NFL coach this week. "So many more teams are using it now, there will be a focus on it. In the past, only a few teams used it. Now it's a priority. The more teams use it, the more we will study to stop it."

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Kelly's aggressive, up-tempo offenses at Oregon featured a lot of read-option. The quarterback ran lot. The quarterback got hit a lot. That has to change in the NFL.

I do love Kelly's fast-paced approach to offense. More plays mean more chances to score. His teams got lined up and went. No dilly-dallying. That's always been something I believed would work in the NFL. Why waste time? Get going. Put pressure on a defense.

Look at the Patriots. They get after it and have success with it, even if it's a different offensive style with Tom Brady. Kelly helped teach his up-tempo style to the Patriots during a visit there a few summers ago.

What needs to change for Kelly in the NFL are the quarterback runs and hits. In college, if your quarterback gets hurt, you bring in a new one. There usually isn't much of a drop-off, and we've seen that at Oregon. The offense works no matter who is running it.

That's proven out over time. When one gets hurt, the other goes in and it doesn't miss a beat.

In the NFL, the quarterbacks are the team. If yours goes down, you are usually done. The possibility of winning a Super Bowl vanishes.

You have to protect the quarterback, not expose him. As I watched the tape of the read-option teams this week, one play really stood out. It was Atlanta's Sean Weatherspoon blasting Robert Griffin III and sending him into orbit. He didn't return to that game.

We know what happened to RG3 when he hurt his knee. And, yes, it didn't happen on a read-option play, but his instincts as a runner contributed to it. He needed to slide.

Exposing quarterbacks to nasty, violent defensive players in college is OK. In the NFL, you're asking for it. Those defensive players are assassins.

That's why I think Kelly will change. He's smart. I imagine his time in New England taught him the importance of the pocket passer. He can still use his fast pace with that type of quarterback to put pressure on the defense.

You don't have 20 kids to pick from to play quarterback in the NFL. This isn't college. You can't just go from Dennis Dixon to Jeremiah Masoli to Darron Thomas to Marcus Mariota without missing a beat.

So Kelly will have to change with the Eagles, even if the read-option zealots -- they are becoming cult-like by the way -- don't want to hear it.

I love coaches like Kelly who play with an edge, not afraid to take chances. Playing not to lose rather than to win has been too much of a norm in the NFL. Kelly is cutting-edge aggressive. It's too easy to just say he's a college coach who will fail, comparing him to Steve Spurrier.

One thing Kelly has to realize is that he can't just stockpile speed. That was his edge at Oregon. In the NFL, you have to draft it. You can't just recruit it. That's why having a passing quarterback is a must. They are the great equalizers in the game. They cure your ills -- and you will have them.

So Kelly as coach of the Eagles is a nice hire. I just hope his read-option stays back in Oregon with Phil Knight. You can bet the quarterbacks hope so too.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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