University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly runs a shotgun, no-huddle, fast-paced, spread offense.
Do not, however, call it a finesse offense.
Oregon has ranked among the top six in the nation in rushing each of his four years as the Ducks’ head coach.
Kelly’s distinctive offense could be headed for the NFL. The Buffalo Bills are scheduled to meet with Kelly today, according to a source close to the Oregon coach. Cleveland and Philadelphia also are scheduled to meet with Kelly, according to USA Today.
Oregon made its fourth straight trip to a Bowl Championship Series game Thursday night when it defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.
The ability of Kelly’s offense to succeed at the pro level has been debated for more than a year, since he was considered for the Tampa Bay head coaching job last season.
Kelly is 45-7 in four years at Oregon. His offense has averaged 48 points per game over the past three seasons. Oregon ranked No. 2 in college football in scoring this year, No. 3 last year and No. 1 in 2010. The Ducks averaged 323 yards per game rushing this season.
Kelly was asked at a news conference on Wednesday in Phoenix whether his offense can adapt to the NFL.
“I don’t think anybody knows any answers until someone does it,” Kelly said. “But I think the Washington Redskins are doing a pretty good job with – I forgot the name of their quarterback.”
Kelly was making a joking reference to Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
“The kid at Carolina has done a pretty good job,” Kelly said, referring to Cam Newton.
“You’ve got to have good players,” Kelly said. “Sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated. … Your job as a coach very simply is to put your players in position where they can make plays and get out of the way and let 'em go make them.”
The Buffalo Bills’ defense was burned this season by Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson running read-option running plays. Griffin and Newton run them, too.
Wilson took a shotgun snap, read the defense, and either handed off to running back Marshawn Lynch up the middle or pulled it out of Lynch’s belly and kept it himself for a sprint off tackle. Or he pulled the ball out of Lynch’s belly and dropped back for a pass.
That’s a staple of Kelly’s offense.
Oregon typically only uses four running plays – an inside zone-blocking run, the outside zone play, a counter, and a draw play. A counter is when a guard pulls to lead the running back through the hole. The back takes a fake step one way, then goes in the other direction, behind his blocker. It was Thurman Thomas’ staple play.
There always has been concern among NFL executives about whether a quarterback can hold up under the physical demands of an option-run attack.
However, Kelly’s offense doesn’t necessarily require the quarterback to be an elite runner. He just needs to be a decent athlete and have the threat of the QB run on the defenders’ minds. In 2011, Oregon averaged 299 yards a game rushing. But quarterback Darron Thomas only rushed 56 times in 13 games. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick rushed 48 times (mostly on scrambles) in 16 games this season.
Oregon has overwhelmed its conference opponents with speed. A running back like the Bills’ C.J. Spiller would be ideal in Kelly’s offense.
Oregon’s passing game uses a lot of quick throws and receiver screens to stretch the defense horizontally. When it works, that opens things up for passes down the field. That’s similar to Chan Gailey’s attack in Buffalo. It’s just that Gailey wasn’t often successful when he tried to stretch the field.
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy told reporters Thursday he has head-coaching interviews lined up in Denver this weekend. Sources in Denver say the Bills and Arizona Cardinals will talk to him Saturday and the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Meanwhile, a league source said the Bills will interview recently fired Chicago coach Lovie Smith. The date was uncertain.