It's not the spread offense. Everybody brings that up, but Kelly isn't married to the spread. He started running it at New Hampshire because they didn't have any fullbacks. Few men understand the dynamics and intracacies of football strategy better than Kelly. He could teach any scheme, and furthermore, he's smart enough to know the limitations of scheme. It ain't about the xyz formation and the eagle claw shift: it's getting your fast guy the ball and blocking for him. Chip Kelly knows how to win football games, and he'll win a lot of them, at Oregon and elsewhere, before he leaves the game.
The difficulty Kelly would find at the next level is that the players are harder to motivate. In the pros it's a job, and they're jaded about it. While he won't have to deal with the NCAA, he'll have to deal with agents and contracts and salary caps, free agency and rookie minimums. He'll have to deal with players who are just there for the check.
Trojan hoarse: the NFL has big salaries, big egos and big pressures. For coaches, it's a crucible.
At Oregon, Kelly has a receptive audience. He got a tremendously high degree of buy-in from his players on his philosophy and its tenets. Win the Day. Faceless opponent. We don't measure ourselves by outside influences. Water the bamboo. Every game is the Super Bowl. In interviews players would recite these flawlessly. They took them to heart. They accepted the pace of practice and the demands of Oregon's system. They believed.
A pro lockerroom is a divided, skeptical place. Only .6 of 1% of college football players make it to the NFL. Most have been stars all their lives. Many are millionaires, and most of them live like they are. They can have anything they want, women, cars, clothes, pleasure, fame and leisure. Some are competitors who burn to win, who devote themselves to the pride of the group. But others are mercenaries, gladiators and guns for hire, just trying to protect their own lifestyle and extend it in a world where everyone is expendable. Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas got traded. Most hang on too long.
It's impossible to think that Kelly would have the same influence in an NFL lockerroom. It would be much harder to earn a commitment to the message. To any message. Young men are eager to be molded and led. They'll accept harsh discipline. They'll withstand, even invite, torrents of criticism. They are eager to love a father figure, some never having one in their fractured, gifted lives. Pro football players want to be paid and worshipped. Oddly, there's a greater degree of maturity and teachability in the Oregon lockerroom than anything CK would have found in Tampa Bay, a downtrodden franchise that has trouble selling tickets and keeps its salaries well below the NFL cap. Cheapskate owners breed bitterness and dissension, a poisonous lockerroom environment.
Over time Kelly could draft his kind of players and possibly change the culture of the organization. But the trouble is, in the NFL coaches don't get much time. If a team continues to lose through three or four years, the outcry grows and the coach is gone. Cancerous players and skinflint management rarely get the blame, staying behind the scenes. A lot of the time they are the ones that grease the skids for the coach, wanting to save their own salaries.
Kelly is a good enough coach to succeed at any level. But he wouldn't enjoy the job security and autonomy he has at Oregon, and the pressures would increase exponentially. He is king of Eugene. He'd be a puppet dictator in the league, where the coach is a target unless he's getting immediate results. It's not a fun place to coach. College football, with it's loyalties and traditions, is a place where a successful coach can last 20 years on one job and have a statue, a street and a stadium named after him, and sometimes all three. If Kelly were to win one national championship at Oregon, even a couple more Rose Bowls, the job would be his as long as he wanted it, beloved and respected, collecting the highest salary in the state outside the Nike Boardroom.
The lure of coaching at the highest level and competing with the most talented players and coaches in the game is very great. It just isn't worth it. In the long run he'd achieve more, have more influence, security and satisfaction right where he is.
The wisdom to be satisfied right where you are is one of the hardest things to learn in life. These ARE the good old days, for most of us. There's a lot to be said for blooming where you're planted. It's a wonderful thing to have talent, drive and ambition, and Kelly has all three. He says he stayed because he has unfinished business at Oregon, and that's true. There are enough big, amazing dreams to be achieved right here to make this the best possible time and place. Chip Kelly doesn't need the NFL to become a great football coach. He already is.