There’s an old adage that states the most successful people are those who surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. Clearly, this is Mike Lombardi’s current career strategy. Anyway, with the Browns’ pursuit of Chip Kelly reaching warp speed, these thoughts become even more relevant as the Oregon Head Coach represents a brave leap forward for a Browns’ franchise that has been stuck in previous decades for far too long.
Extending this thought even further (to myself), it’s nice to operate a niche Browns’ site that is read by the kinds of smart, nice people who contribute links, information and thoughts such as the following:
But first, the following link is either extraordinary, insane or just overwhelming. You decide.
And back to Reboot readers, such as PDX Scott, Zack Luby and Fubar – who contributed the following. If you haven’t taken the time, do yourself a favor.
And to throw a couple more links into the pool, here’s something I did a few months ago on Kelly. Inside are links to Greg Bedard’s great Kelly/Bill Belichick/Patriots piece.
And to wrap things back around, here’s another smart comment from Fubar. (Smart as in “intelligent.” Unless Fubar was implying sarcasm throughout the following – which would instead make him “brilliant.”)
From Reboot reader FUBAR:
Kelly’s current Zone Read offense is clearly well suited to the Pac 10/12, but not the NFL. If I, a football scheming babe in diapers, can figure this out; then I think Chip Kelly has long since figured it out. The Oregon Zone Read works in college because it stretches relatively slow college defenses horizontally, which results in huge gaps opening up in the defense on many, but certainly not all, plays. But in the NFL, the defensive players are smarter and faster than in college. NFL defensive backs would feast on a pure college Zone Read system, swooping in quickly to stuff running plays or massively pressure the QB on passing plays.
However, I believe the Zone Read can be adapted to work in the NFL. It would require stretching the defense vertically as well as horizontally. That would mean dropping the run/pass ratio from 70/30 or 65/35 as found at Oregon down to a more NFL reasonable 55/45 or 50/50, and using play-action and bootlegs to maintain the horizontal stretch while adding a strong vertical component to the offensive threat. Bear in mind, that Kelly also runs a no-huddle, often at high speed, but also at slow speed; in such a way as to screw up defensive substitutions and keep defenses confused and wrong-footed.
Also, I think Kelly would use that superior defensive speed against NFL defenses. A critical component of the Zone Read is telegraphing before the snap where the play is going, and thus suckering the defense into over pursuing the ball. It doesn’t always work, but it works often enough to bust some really huge plays. Smart NFL defenders wouldn’t get suckered as often as college players into over-pursuit, but they would screw up often enough for it to work, especially with more sophistiated and disguised pro-level packages. And with so much speed and thus too much over-pursuit, the open gaps would be truly huge. I could see Trent Richardson exploiting enormous gaps in the defensive line to get to the 2nd and 3rd level of defenders. With his ability to break tackles and make huge gains after first contact, TRich could really thrive in a modified Zone Read, even if he isn’t quite as fast to the hole as the ideal Zone Read back.
The Zone Read is primarily a run-first offense, although it can switch to a play-action variant which racks up huge passing yardage against certain defenses. I think a run-first offense in the modern pass-happy NFL is a bold albeit counter-intuitive idea. Defenses are built to defend the pass, and not so much a terrific running attack. Richardson, Hardesty, and Jackson could really thrive in an NFL Zone Read, with Chip Kelly smartly tweaking the playcalls to suit the differing strength of these backs. And contrary to popular myth, the Zone Read is not a Spread Option where the QB runs a lot and subsequently gets tackled and injured a lot. Oregon QBs don’t actually run with the ball very often – though they must present the threat of running to help sucker the defense into over-pursuit. From what I have seen of Weeden and McCoy’s scrambling on broken plays, either of them can run well enough to get by in an NFL version of the Zone Read.
I love analysis like this. Fubar hits on several points here and emphasizes that Kelly’s offense can be both versatile and NFL-friendly. Again, it’s worth stating that several NFL teams already run elements of Kelly’s offenses – and perhaps more importantly, Kelly has certainly borrowed pieces of other offenses to accentuate his own.
As for the zone-read ideas, this again is something that several NFL teams already employ. Obviously, the Redskins have utilized Robert Griffin III’s unique skills by crafting a zone-read offense around him. Throughout most of the season – even during the Redskins’ earlier 3-6 start – the offense has been run first, but has featured enough play action and misdirection to create downfield passing opportunities.
Fubar’s comments are beyond helpful, as most Browns’ fans who will become acquainted with Kelly will likely focus on the Browns not having an athletic, “running” quarterback – which Kelly has featured at the college level. And although RG3 and Russell Wilson to an extent have proven to be successful mobile quarterbacks, this is one of those areas in which Kelly’s Oregon offense will not directly translate to the NFL.
More importantly, Browns’ fans should not zero in on Colt McCoy being the guy to run such an offense – at least based on his mobility. (Because I GUARANTEE this will be the thinking if Kelly gets hired and will be REALLY ANNOYING.) Fubar is right in that both Weeden and McCoy could operate a Kelly-NFL offense, mainly because they both have decent mobility. However, in terms of making downfield plays, we would probably regress into 2011 and 2012 meaningless QB debates – which in a potential Kelly era, should never, never, never, never be allowed to exist.
Certainly, Weeden would be an intriguing option in a new offense and it was painfully obvious that Weeden struggled in trying to become a 1993 QB for Pat Shurmur. (And yes, a similar case can be made for McCoy in 2011.) However, Weeden thrived in a faster paced, zone read type of attack in college and practically deserves the chance to play in a similar offense in Cleveland. Of course, much will depend on how the new Browns’ front office values the players that were drafted prior to 2013.
Anyway, as I suggested months ago, the IDEA of Kelly means that the Browns are finally moving towards becoming a contemporary NFL team rather than one that continues to copy old systems – i.e., the 49ers, Cowboys, Patriots, Ravens, Patriots again, Packers, Eagles, etc. Even if the Browns don’t eventually land Kelly, at least we know that the front office is genuinely trying to drag this franchise into 2013. And as for the real fans of the team, watching Kelly’s offense – in whatever variation it becomes – should be a reward for having to suffer through 32 games of primitive bonehead Shurmurball.
I’m not trying to elevate Banner and Haslam to deity status, but yet again let me state that ANY new ownership group was an unbelievable improvement over Randy Lerner. However, give Banner and Haslam credit for some hustle. Already this week, Arizona has been covered, as both Ray Horton and Ken Wisenhunt have been interviewed, with Kelly due on Friday. Could you even remotely imagine Lerner having the desire to keep up a similar pace OR to actually have a logical plan in place?
As always, leave your thoughts below in the COMMENTS section. Take a look at the links that everyone left and add your voice – either pro or con. Tell us what is missing here.