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NCAA football a laboratory for the NFL

January 16, 2013

Wednesday morning the University of Oregon had to bid farewell to possibly one of the most important head coaches the Duck football program has ever seen. Chip Kelly put Oregon onto the map as a football powerhouse and a team that could vie BCS National title on any given season. Though stating, in the past couple of weeks, he was going to stay at Oregon, Kelly decided to take up the NFL Philadelphia Eagles on their offer and make his debut in the National Football League. Like predecessors such as Alabama’s Nick Saban, San Francisco 49er’s Jim Harbaugh, and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, Kelly will take a step into the ranks of professional football as a head coach from the college ranks.
Many may think that his style of offensive which attempts to spread out opposing defenses and tries to strike quickly will not be successful in the quicker and stronger NFL. Yet maybe many forget that the NFL is an evolving game that relies on experimentation to see what works and scraps whatever does not work.
Most recently the read-option, a play which is used in almost every college playbook, has become a facet of some NFL teams, quarterbacks such as Robert Griffin III of the Redskins and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks have used their pure athletic ability to cause trouble for defenses. These plays have been pretty successful this season and we will probably see a little more of these plays come next season.
But beyond plays we will probably see on Sundays next season, I want to keep the focus on college coaches making the step to the NFL. Saban was maybe one of the first college coaches I remember to make the step to take over the helm of an NFL team. Coach Saban though had a failed attempt at leading the Miami Dolphins to considerably successful seasons. After two years in Miami, Saban left only wielding a 15-17 record something that was somewhat of a disappointment for many people following the situation.
Now the majority of football fans understand that Saban is not a bad football coach, far from that to be honest, but was not a truly successful NFL head coach. Yet not all college coaches have been failures in the NFL, consider San Francisco’s Harbaugh who accepted the 49ers job in 2011 after a great coaching spell at Stanford. Harbaugh is currently preparing for a NFC conference championship game and a chance to make a Super Bowl appearance. Harbaugh has amassed a 26-8-1 record which is a very strong showing for only coaching for two seasons in the NFL.
Harbaugh has of course received a great ball team but also has drawn many of his success from coaching in the college ranks. Some of the styles he uses in his San Francisco have been derived from his time at Stanford and in the Univeristy of San Diego. Now using Colin Kaepernick as his starting quarterback, Harbaugh has been able to open up his offense even further. I have been entertained by the play of the 49ers and it all comes from a college football mentality.
Returning to Philadelphia’s new head coach, Kelly will definitely bring his football junkie mentality to the Eagles. It will be entertaining to watch as Kelly goes for two after a touchdown in the NFL or works to spread out more intricate defenses. I am looking forward to finding out how Kelly does in his first season this coming fall.

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