As the Philadelphia Eagles were dismantling the Washington Redskins defense on Monday Night Football, Cleveland Browns Twitterverse was buzzing about what Chip Kelly could of done for their team. Following an offensive execution that left alot to want, seeing the Eagles run over 50 plays in a half with a balance of run and pass begs the question “What might have been?”
A quick recap of this off-season between the Browns and Kelly: 1) The Browns made a strong play for Kelly, offering him the money and decision making that they hoped would get him to sign, 2) Kelly decided to return to Oregon instead of going to the NFL, 3) He changed his mind a few days later and was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles and 4) A few words were exchanged in the media between ex Eagle, current Browns CEO Joe Banner and his former employers.
In Oregon Kelly’s offense was dictated by speed. Often his Duck offense was thought of as a running quarterback leading the charge, and while the threat of the run is important, overall team speed was the mainstay. The Ducks continue with this focus on speed this year even after Kelly has left. Kelly’s Oregon offense was a run dominant system with a strong spread option and play action passing game. Had Kelly stayed at Oregon his lore would of continued strong and he would continue to position his team high in the national title picture. That he verbalized that he would return to Oregon and then reneged on that is a character concern, but understandable as he had little to prove in college football and chose to take the challenge of the NFL.
Tonight with the Eagles, Kelly has continued his run dominance. In the first half alone RB Lesean McCoy had run for over 100 yards, Michael Vick had 2 passing touchdowns off of play action and Vick also ran for a touchdown. The Eagles deploy speed at the QB, RB and WR position with Vick, McCoy, and Desean Jackson (as well as injured Jeremy Maclin). Tight end Brent Celek has speed for his position and 2013 First Rounder Lane Johnson and LT stalwart Jason Peters are quick linemen. Their speed has allowed Kelly to deploy a very similar offense as what he had in Oregon. Statistically the Eagles finished their opener under Kelly with the following impressive statistics: Total Offense: 444 yards Passing Offense: 203 yards Rushing Offense: 264 yards Michael Vick: 15 – 25 for 203 yards and 2 passing TDs, 7 carries 55 yards and a TD rushing Lesean McCoy: 31 carries for 184 yards and 1 TD Desean Jackson: 7 Rec, 104 yards and 1 TD. Impressive all around numbers, most from the first half.
So many good things about Kelly, so what would of happened if he came to Cleveland instead of Philly? Would the team put up the same number of yards in one half as Chudzinski’s team did in their whole Week 1 game? Would the Browns have a different starting QB via the draft or free agency? Would Mike Lombardi be the Browns’ GM? Would Kelly’s debut be the talk of sports radio for much of the middle of the week as it assuredly will be? Lets explore.
The Browns’ offense lacks speed. Outside of Travis Benjamin and Jordan Cameron (fast for a tight end) the Browns offense has limited speed. Trent Richardson is a strong running back with some speed but his quickness and speed do not compare to McCoy. Josh Gordon is a good receiver with appropriate needed speed for a standard #1 WR but his fast twitch pales in comparison to Jackson. Brandon Weeden is no threat to run anything more then a few feet, the opposite of Vick. With the current roster the creative Kelly would have to cut down on most if not all of the offense we saw on Monday night. If the Browns had hired Kelly a bigger transition would of needed to be completed on the offensive side of the ball. If Browns’ fans were concerned about the transition from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 they would of seen a much larger needed overhaul of the offense with Kelly.
The first priority for a Kelly led Browns’ offense would be to find a QB that could be a run/pass threat. A limited number were available via free agency, including Mike Vick prior to his restructuring his contract with the Eagles. No quarterback with the athleticism of Robert Griffen III or Russell Wilson was available in the draft. With the Eagles Kelly had the chance to draft either EJ Manual or Geno Smith but chose not to, so his opinion of those QBs is up in the air. Given as much it is possible that Colt McCoy could still be on the Browns roster, and starting with Chip Kelly. In the first round the Browns could look to upgrade the offensive line with a player like Lane Johnson or may have been interested in speedster WR/RB combo Tavon Austin to provide a quick upgrade to the speed of the roster. Without a second round pick the Browns would be limited in their ability to upgrade their defense, and would be without Barkevious Mingo. In free agency it would be likely the team would of spent more to upgrade the speed and talent base, unlike holding on to over $20 million dollars of cap space that they still have. This may have led to overspending on Mike Wallace or other veterans that could hinder future cap space. Needless to say its tough to see how a overhauled Browns roster could be a better fit for Kelly then the current Eagles.
Cleveland fans are asking: What could of been? At least Oregon fans have a replacement for their coach and a roster to continue the up tempo pace. Browns’ fans hopefully understand that the team they are watching against the Redskins is not what would of happened if Kelly had chosen to come to the Lake Erie shores. Instead the Browns would be in the first year of a major overhaul, still seeking a QB to fit his system as well as differently dynamic running back and wide receivers.