Why Chip Kelly will be more ‘pro-style’ than you think
Reports are coming out today that Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be the next Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a good fit for Kelly, who will inherit a talented roster with plenty of potential. What’s more, the AFC North isn’t quite as intimidating as it’s been in the past. The Browns can be competitive going forward. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert didn’t do a terrible job recruiting talent, but their time in Cleveland shouldn’t be viewed as anything close to a success.
Firstly, they made a complete mess of the coaching situation, to the point where Holmgren would’ve been better just taking the gig himself. They made Eric Mangini a lame duck before turning to Pat Shurmur after a less than high-profile search. All the while you kind of wondered if Holmgren was itching to get back out there. Would a big-name coach take the position with the Walrus judging everything from close by? Doubtful. How can you work for a successful former Head Coach like that? Which is why Holmgren was better off doing it himself. After all, he clearly wants to coach again.
They drafted two quarterbacks early in Colt McCoy (2010) and Brandon Weeden (2012). McCoy lacked anything like the necessary tools to be an effective pro-passer, while Weeden turned 29 during his rookie season leaving very little room for progression during his career. One of Holmgren’s big remits would’ve been to use his vast experience to help identify a legitimate starting quarterback for the long term. He (and Heckert) failed to do so.
I think you can call the Julio Jones trade a big mistake with hindsight. The two first round picks they got in return for Jones turned out to be Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) and Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State). Given Cleveland’s dire need for a receiver over the last few years, they probably should’ve just drafted Jones themselves. He isn’t just one of the more physically impressive receivers in the NFL, he’s also a workaholic without an ounce of diva about his personality. Basically, the kind of playmaker Cleveland has needed for a long time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but with a little more shrewdness they could’ve had an offense that featured left tackle Joe Thomas, Julio Jones and Trent Richardson. That would’ve made life easier for whoever was the quarterback.
Essentially their inability to get a trade done with St. Louis for Robert Griffin III will be listed as the main reason why they lost their jobs. However, it’s more likely a new regime just wanted their own guys all along and needed an excuse. Who can blame them? The Browns are going in a new, exciting and unpredictable direction with their front office set-up and Kelly coaching the team.
So what about the soon-to-be former Oregon coach?
Here’s what I don’t understand. I go on Twitter minutes after the Kelly-to-Cleveland news breaks and there’s a ton of Tweets linking Tajh Boyd to the Browns. Forget that Boyd’s father is still maintaining he’s likely to return to Clemson for the 2013 season, what is it about Kelly that strikes you he’d make this move? Nobody has been touting Tajh Boyd as a top ten pick or even a first round pick this year – and with good reason. A great performance against LSU in the Chick-fil-A doesn’t change a great deal unfortunately – he still has issues with deep accuracy and velocity, his decision making is inconsistent, he’s mobile but not electric as a runner and he’s not particularly evasive. He’s solid. He can throw with some velocity on shorter routes, his accuracy is fine on the short-to-intermediate throws. He’s a fairly good college quarterback.
But nobody has touted him as an early pick before this week’s game against LSU, or before Kelly emerged as a presence in the NFL.
If it’s not Boyd, you can guarantee it’ll be E.J. Manuel being linked. Or some other quarterback with plus athleticism. It reminds me so much of the early days of Pete Carroll in Seattle. Suddenly the Seahawks were going to trade for Reggie Bush, draft Taylor Mays, sign any free agents who ever played for USC. All presumptions based on nothing but a lazy thought process.
What is it about Kelly that makes you think he’ll try and re-create Oregon’s offense in the NFL? Or that players like Tajh Boyd are even remotely close to the players Kelly has been working with? Is he really just going to draft any old quarterback who can move around in the first round of his first draft? Come on!
This is a coach who lists guys like Carroll and Bill Belichick as friends. He watches their teams practise, he asks questions. He studies, he learns. The pro-coaches equally spend time looking at his Oregon team and try to use some of his more fascinating concepts. Kelly might not have any previous NFL experience, but he probably has a good idea what works. That’s why he surrounds himself with winners from the pro’s.
If he does end up in Cleveland, rather than go out and immediately draft whichever quarterback runs the quickest forty yard dash, he’ll probably put tape of the Patriots on. See what they do well. Then look at the New York Giants. And the San Francisco 49ers. And the Seattle Seahawks. And the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Denver Broncos. What are these teams doing well? How can I use this to make Cleveland a winning franchise? In fact he’s probably done all of this already. Several times.
People are getting excited about seeing the Oregon Ducks playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I suspect that won’t ever happen. Kelly will undoubtedly keep some of his concepts – his penchant for speed and a quick tempo offense. But he’ll modify it for the pro’s and do whatever it takes to build a winner. Cleveland aren’t appointing Kelly because they like the Ducks offense or their jersey combo’s. They’re appointing Kelly because he builds teams, gets praised by the best coaches in the NFL and understands you have to adapt to survive.
In all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if he went out and drafted a guy like Matt Barkley with the #6 overall pick, trolling 95% of the media in the process. And then asked Barkley to hand off 60% of the time to Trent Richardson. That’s the brand of football that has won football games in the AFC North for a generation. Rest assured that’s what Kelly is going to be dreaming of – winning in the AFC North – not putting the ultimate spread offense together to get beaten up by Haloti Ngata.
Jarvis Jones to turn pro
One of the players that could be on Cleveland’s radar in round one will be Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs announced his intention to declare for the 2013 draft today. He has enough pure talent to be a top-five pick. However, in November I wrote a piece questioning whether his spinal stenosis condition could impact his stock. The issue was serious enough to end his time with USC, although Georgia were pretty emphatic in their decision to let him continue his career in the SEC. Jones has missed some games, but there doesn’t appear to be any lasting problems so far.
The big question is whether or not those issues will emerge in time. The condition has cut short many blossoming careers. Teams will have to decide whether they want to take the risk on Jones being a possible five-year player. He’ll go through a whole gambit of tests at the combine and front offices will seek every form of expertise and reassurance before pulling the trigger. It’s anybody’s guess what could happen, but Jones could easily be a top five pick in round one… or he could be set for a big fall.
The Browns do need a pass rusher so Chip Kelly could consider Jones with the #6 pick. I went that way in my latest mock. It’ll also be interesting to see if Kelly entertains the possibility of drafting Dion Jordan that early. He’s been touted as a top-ten prospect due to his athletic prowess. If he dominates at the combine, expect to see a lot of Jordan-to-Cleveland projections. Given the Browns’ need for a pass rusher, would it be a cautionary note if Kelly goes for a defensive end but passes on his former player? Similar to when Pete Carroll opted for Earl Thomas over Taylor Mays? That would be an interesting dynamic if Jordan proves worthy of top-ten consideration.
Why not a three-technique?
I mocked a wide receiver to the Seahawks this week. Some have questioned how likely this is given Seattle’s extreme need to improve their pass rush on base defense. I’ve ‘banged on’ about why I think upgrading the three-technique is the teams greatest need, but I’ve also been hesitant to mock the position to the Seahawks in round one.
Let me explain why.
I do not think the defensive tackle class of 2013 is quite as good as first anticipated. Star Lotulelei didn’t quite make the giant strides in terms of consistency that we’d hoped to see. Kawann Short had a mediocre season and went from a potential first round pick to seemingly a range in rounds 2-3. Johnathan Hankins really disappointed me when I watched Ohio State, while further study left me wondering whether Jesse Williams and Sharrif Floyd are better fits in the 3-4.
The three players that impressed me the most were Sheldon Richardson (a pure three-technique who completely looks the part), Jonathan Jenkins (a nose tackle from Georgia who weighs +350lbs) and Sylvester Williams (a big, pass-rushing tackle from North Carolina). I’m going to watch more LSU tape over the next couple of weeks to get a better angle on Bennie Logan, who at least has the size to act as a three-technique.
The Seahawks are going to be picking in the #21-32 range in April. Barring any unforeseen character issues, it’s a major stretch to think either Richardson or Lotulelei will be available without trading up. The likes of Jenkins and Hankins could be around but are too big and aren’t good enough pass rushers to fill this role. The options end up being quite limited, where you either buy into Jesse Williams or Floyd working inside or draft Sylvester Williams.
He’s an older defensive tackle as a former JUCO transfer. I’m not sure that has any impact, it didn’t for Bruce Irvin. Pete Carroll did have previous with Irvin though and he fits the teams LEO position perfectly. Williams is 320lbs which is pretty big for a three-technique and I wonder if he’s better suited to the one-technique. He really just abuses college lineman at North Carolina – which he won’t be able to do as regularly in the pro’s. And while I really like Williams’ swim move, I can’t help but think his size is better suited in the one. Having said that, the Seahawks have used big Alan Branch at the three-technique for the last two years. Isn’t this the issue though? Don’t the team need to get smaller and quicker at this position?
Either way, unless I’m going to project Williams as Seattle’s first round pick every week, I find it hard to solve this problem in my mock drafts. People have questioned why I go for a receiver or WILL linebacker so often in these projections, but I do see those two positions as the second and third biggest needs. Plus, the value at receiver and linebacker looks quite strong in the late first round at this early stage.
Things can change. They often do. But as we stand here today, I still believe Seattle’s best options to solve this problem are to target key free agents (Randy Starks, Henry Melton) or to continue to try and find the next Darnell Dockett or Geno Atkins in the middle rounds. This has been a breeding ground for undersized three-techniques in the past who don’t fit every scheme. The Seahawks drafted Jaye Howard last year I believe with the intention to see if he could be their guy. I’m tempted to say he won’t be given how little he’s featured this season, especially after the injury to Jason Jones.
Players like Kawann Short, Will Sutton and Bennie Logan might be available outside of the first. There’s also been quite a lot of first round busts among interior defensive lineman in recent years. So this is how I justify not addressing the teams biggest need in the first round of my mock drafts. It might not be a problem the Seahawks can solve with that early pick.
John Simon game tape
Someone requested game tape of Ohio State’s John Simon recently. He’s one of my favourite ‘underrated’ players. I think he’s a late first round or early second round pick. I’ve added his performance against Wisconsin below: