BBD Editor Anthony D. Macari
Innovative, ahead of the curve and forward thinking are phrases not typically associated with Buffalo Bills football. Hiring Chip Kelly could forever change that. Known for having one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game right now, Kelly could get the Bills ahead of that curve for a change. How sweet would it be to hire the guy Bill Belichick goes to for advice? Chip Kelly could be the perfect hire for a franchise stuck in sub-mediocrity and in desperate need of a culture change. There is stiff competition for Kelly’s services so the Bills will need to put forth a competitive offer, both in terms of salary and control. The refreshing thing is for a change the Bills job may actually be attractive to a coach like Kelly. The Bills have scheduled an interview with Coach Kelly for Friday, a day after the Ducks play Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
While for most Bills fans the revelation that the outcome of a major shake-up at the top of the organization amounted to little more than more control for Russ Brandon was to say the least, uninspiring. However, one thing Brandon mentioned in his press conference may be something that would very well fit and appeal to Chip Kelly. Brandon discussed bringing a money ball style of analytics to the organization. While Russ dreams of using analytics for building a winning program in small market, cold weather Buffalo, Kelly has already implemented such means to create a winning program in Eugene Oregon. Recruiting and game planning is based on simple formulas that are designed to maximize production based on probability and explained in detail to foster everyone especially players to buy into the philosophy put forth. Sean Peyton and Bill Belichick are disciples of this organization wide approach to the game that has obviously been a proven success at the NFL level. Kelly would seem the ideal fit for what Brandon is looking for and having a CEO already on board with this approach could be appealing to Kelly.
The key to any system is finding the players to run it. Kelly understands this and is not one to force a philosophy without having the pieces in place. One amazingly perfect fitting piece to a Kelly offense based on spreading the field and attacking at rapid fire pace with speed is already in place in Buffalo. CJ Spiller’s talent and abilities are a perfect fit for a Chip Kelly offense. The inability to maximize the talent of CJ was a key factor in Chan Gailey’s release. TJ Graham and Stevie Johnson are also good fits for what Kelly wants to do. Stevie may not have the explosive speed Kelly covets, but his ability to win one on one battles will be a key weapon in a spread attack. Barring injuries, a 1600+ yard season would be the norm for Spiller. Being able to jump to Jackson to relieve Spiller would also be effectively used. Resigning Levitre and keeping Woods and Urbick healthy would also mean the Bills would have a solid interior core group of lineman to run a high powered attack along with emerging bookends Glenn and Pears. Adding another speedy receiver would be a key target this offseason to really give Kelly all the weapons he would need to succeed. Well, almost all of the offensive weapons, QB would still need to be addressed.
While not having a QB in place might be a deterrent for some prospective coaches, I think the opposite may be true of Kelly. Look no further to the success he has had with Freshman QB Marcus Mariota. Kelly’s system is QB friendly and puts an emphasis on athletic ability. A rookie who has experience in either an up-tempo offense or a spread option would be a good fit and capable of stepping in sooner rather than later. In fact, the Bills may have a veteran on their roster that could be a good fit already as a stop gap to use until the rookie is ready to step in. The acquisition of Tavaris Jackson was a real head scratcher since he failed to make it to the active roster all season after the Bills gave away a 7th round draft pick for him. The reason given was he failed to pick up Gailey’s offense. Tavaris should be able to grasp Kelly’s offense currently being run by a freshman and his athleticism will serve him well. Looking to the draft, Geno Smith, EJ Manuel, Aaron Murray and Tyler Wilson all have the athleticism Kelly looks for and Ryan Nassib, while less athletic than the others, has experience running an up-tempo offense with success would all make good fits. A late round option with experience in a similar spread option attack to Kelly’s will face off against him in the Fiesta Bowl is Collin Klein. Klein would have difficulty making it at the next level in a traditional offense, but Kelly may be able to turn him into a legit prospect with time. Smith and Manuel would make the most sense, but again, I think he is flexible enough to work with the abilities of the others mentioned. On the other hand, one of the other suitors for Kelly, the Browns, would seem to have a misfit for him in place in QB Brandon Weeden. Senior Mike Glennon and Matt Barkley would also be misfits in his system I believe.
While Kelly’s specialty is his offensive genius, he has shown a similar approach on the other side of the ball. Speed and an aggressive attacking style is king in Kelly’s defenses. The Bills would have some of those pieces in place in their secondary and front 4. Jarius Byrd who left Oregon before Kelly took over as head coach, would be a high priority free agent. Kelly was offensive coordinator when Byrd won the Holiday Bowl MVP in 2009. Adding more speed and athleticism to the linebackers should and would be a priority no matter who is brought in here.
Kelly has shown that he values the job over the location by his previous stops in Eugene Oregon and his hometown New Hampshire, so Buffalo may not have its initial disadvantage attracting a big name coach. Cold weather also wouldn’t seem to be a deterrent to him or his offense as it was born in New England. A rabid Bills fan base despite the extended period of losing could be seen as a positive. Imagine the excitement that could be generated if the Bills actually started winning again. Chip Kelly may be the answer to many years of prayers by Bills fans to bring excitement and a new tradition of winning to Buffalo.