Eagles coach Chip Kelly plans to bring his Oregon fast-everything style to the NFL. Many have become smitten with tales of personalized smoothies and a mysterious sports-science coordinator, triggering a presumption that a man with no prior NFL experience of any kind and in any capacity will nevertheless instantly revolutionize the game by, among other things, running a staggering amount of offensive plays.
Maybe he will. To get there, however, he’ll need to overcome a fairly significant external challenge.
“We have to make sure teams understand that they don’t control the tempo, our officials do,” NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino told Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal. “We’re going through our normal ball mechanics, we aren’t going to rush [unless] it’s in the two minute drill.”
Blandino’s predecessor agreed; former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira said that the men in black and white “aren’t going to change just to accommodate someone’s offense.”
Pereira explained that, while coaching at Oregon, Kelly lobbied for officials to be more mobile, so that Oregon could get plays off more quickly.
“In the NFL, I don’t see him having the juice to persuade crews to work faster,” Pereira said. “In fact, I know he doesn’t.”
Kelly and the Eagles declined comment. Maybe because there’s not really anything they can say. The rules are the rules, and any revolution planned by any team must unfold within those confines.
Blandino has met with the Eagles as part of the routine pre-season sessions aimed at helping the teams understand rule changes and points of emphasis for the coming season. He didn’t sense any resistance from Kelly and company.
“They had questions about what the parameters were going to be,” Blandino said regarding the Eagles. “It’s going to be different from college.”
As other teams try to speed up the game, Blandino said the league’s Competition Committee has “re-emphasized” that NFL rules differ significantly from college rules regarding a team’s ability to put the pedal to the proverbial metal.
The biggest potential roadblock comes from the placement of the umpire, who spots the ball. Previously positioned just behind the defensive line (where he remains in college football), the umpire as of a few years ago spots the ball and retreats to a position with the referee, behind the offensive backfield. The ball can’t be snapped until the umpire is in position. (Late in each half, the umpire moves to his former position.)
Last year, the NFL saw more offensive snaps than ever. This year, Kelly surely would like to push that number even higher. If it happens, it’ll have to happen in a manner consistent with the league’s desire for a slightly slower pace than what the only level of football Kelly ever has coached allows.