5 Reasons the Jaguars should have hired Chip Kelly

After going 14 – 48 in four seasons, Gus Bradley was fired as Head Coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars interviewed the franchises first Head Coach, Tom Coughlin and the teams Defensive Co-ordinator Doug Marrone for the vacant position. Marrone was eventually hired by GM David Caldwell and team owner Shahid Kahn as Head Coach with Coughlin joining the front office as Executive VP of Football Operations.

The organisation had other coaching vacancies to fill after firing Offensive Co-ordinator Greg Olson following a week 8 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars promoted QB Coach Nathaniel Hackett to OC, where he remained for the rest of the season. Many wondered whether Jacksonville would stick with Nathaniel Hackett or bring in Chip Kelly, someone who was reported to be extremely interested in the vacancy. The following are 5 reasons why I believe the Jaguars should have hired Chip Kelly as their new OC.

 

1) Blake Bortles is currently a broken Quarterback

Blake Bortles’ level of play in 2016 was extremely worrying for the Jaguars organization. Instead of improving on his impressive sophomore campaign in 2015, it is hard to quantify just how much Bortles regressed in 2016. The numbers below do not justify just how large of a step Bortles took back as an NFL Quarterback.

Year Yards Completion % TDs INTs Yards/ attempt QB Rating Sacked
2015 4,428 58.6% 35 18 7.3 88.2 51
2016 3,905 58.9% 23 16 5.8 78.8 34

 

Far from connecting down the field with his big play targets Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee; Blake Bortles struggled to connect with check down targets on underneath routes. This same group of receivers was exciting last year as Bortles regularly connected with his big play targets down the field. In 2015, this Jaguars team had the tied-2nd most ‘big plays’ through the air (passing plays of 25+ yards). However, in 2016 the team managed the 3rd-least.

(Logan Bowles/ USA TODAY Sports)

Not much changed between 2015 to 2016 personnel wise on Offense. The acquisitions of Kelvin Beachum and Mackenzy Bernadeau were largely successful along the Offensive Line, as the reduced sack numbers suggest. The signing of RB Chris Ivory should have been an upgrade over the departure of Toby Gerhart. While WR Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, TE Juilis Thomas and RB T. J. Yeldon were all expected to kick on and take strides in 2016, allowing the Jaguars to load up on Defense in the off season. The Jaguars run game improved in 2016 as it was ranked 22nd (101.9 yards per game), up from 27th in 2015 (92.1 yards per game). 

The only snag? Blake Bortles regressed significantly as a Quarterback. Blake has always shown the toughness needed to play the position and also flashes great athletic ability. However, he appeared to doubt himself in 2016 as if he had lost his inner confidence – and his decision making, mechanics and ability to throw open receivers all suffered. He only posted 1 game with a QB rating above 100 in 2016, compared to 5 in 2015. Bortles admitted himself during the season that his confidence was shot and he felt that he was letting his teammates down. What Bortles needs is a new coach to put an arm round him, and one who has a successful track record of grooming QBs.

 

2) The Jaguars Offense DID NOT improve after Hackett became OC

Nathaniel Hackett took over as Offensive Co-ordinator for the Jaguars final nine games of the season, a substantial sample size from which we can judge his performance. Hackett made a clear commitment to the run game (a QB’s best friend). Hackett did successfully turn this Jaguars run game around. In first 7 games they were averaging 72.6 rushing yards per game, while in Hackett’s 9 games in charge they averaged 124.78 yards.

Having been Blake Bortles position coach earlier in the season, Hackett understood that to get the best out of his young signal-caller, he would need to lighten the load by producing a strong rushing attack. While the run game delivered, Bortles did not. Below are his stats before and after (**) Hackett became OC. Normally you would expect the QBs level of play to improve when his QB coach takes over as Co-ordinator…

2016 Season Yards per Game Completion % TDs per Game INTs per Game Yards per attempt
First 7 games 272 59.21%  2 1.43 6.51 
Last 9 games ** 222.33 58.50%  1 0.66 5.94 

 

Despite the run game taking off in the final 9 games, the Jaguars were still unable to punch the ball into the End Zone. Jacksonville averaged 19.86 points per game over their first 7 games and 19.89 over their final 9 games with Hackett in control. I personally, believe he has not shown enough over those 9 games to warrant the Jaguars offering him the OC job. It is, however, important to remember that Hackett was OC under Doug Marrone in Buffalo in 2013 and 2014. Perhaps that weighed more of a factor than who would be best for Blake Bortles’ development?

 

3) Chip Kelly’s Track record of Offensive Success compared to Nathaniel Hackett

In the NFL, Chip Kelly produced two memorable seasons in Philadelphia. In his first season, 2013, the Eagles Offense put up the 2nd most yards and 4th most points (also compiled the no.1 rushing attack in the NFL). This was also the season an unknown back up called Nick Foles put up 27TDs and 2INTs in 10 starts.

In 2014, Chip’s Offense was 5th in yards and 3rd in points scored. 2015 was a down year as Chip was fired after Week 16 when his teams Defense regressed significantly. The Eagles Offense was 12th in yards and 13th in points, yet Kelly made Mark Sanchez look like an above average QB for 4 games.

Chip Kelly managed to get the most out of Jeremy Maclin & Jordan Matthews in 2014. Maclin had 85 catches for 1,318 yards, 10 TDs. Jordan Matthews had 67 catches for 872 yards, 8TDs as a 2nd round Rookie. (Evan Habeeb/ Getty Images)

 

Critics and skeptics will point to Kelly’s record with San Francisco this year, but are we going to attribute that to Kelly’s Offensive knowledge or the roster he had to work with? His Defense was the worst in nearly every category while on Offense he had Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert at QB with RB Carlos Hyde and WR Jeremy Kerley as his only weapons (if you could call them that). Yet Kelly still managed to squeeze every announce of talent out of this Offense and managed to put up the 4th most rushing yards by playing to strengths of his dual threat QB. Despite winning only 2 games, the 49ers were within 1 score in 5 others.

Nathaniel Hackett on the other hand led a Bills Offense in 2013 that was 19th in total yards and 22nd in points scored. A bright spot on this roster was that he produced the leagues 2nd highest rushing yards with C. J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. However, in 2014 neither the Bills passing or rushing statistics ranked inside the top-25 teams in the NFL. Kelly simply has a stronger track record for developing players and implementing successful Offensive game plans.

 

4) He’s an Offensive guru who could turn this young Jaguars Offense around. Kelly’s problem is his personnel management

Chip Kelly has never coached a good Defense. Kelly also blew up the roster in Philadelphia after demanding management give him full control over the 53 man roster. Kelly does, however, have an excellent track record of coaching Offenses that can put up yards and points. You can either look at the above statistics of what he has done in the NFL or remember how well he performed in grooming and maturing an unknown QB during his time at Oregon. In college, Kelly turned a 2* (ESPN) recruit who was an outstanding track athlete into a Heisman Trophy winner and 2nd overall pick (Marcus Mariota for those who are new to the sport). 

Chip Kelly released DeSean Jackson & traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso. Both were Offensive stars in Philadelphia (Yong Kim/ Philly.com)

 

The problem with Chip Kelly is that he is terrible with personnel management and looking after a roster. If Kelly was left to look after just the Offense, Chip could attempt to get the most out his players. Kelly’s run game is built for east-west rather than north-south runners, while his aerial attack relies on QBs who are athletic (check), can quickly digest information and have a quick release (where Bortles needs to improve) and who are able to run an up-tempo style Offense (would need an off season to install). Kelly has always had speed guys to help stretch the field vertically whether it was DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin or Jordan Matthews.

Chip would have been able to utilize the strengths of Robinson, Hurns, Lee and Thomas; by stretching the field vertically and having shallow, underneath crossing routes which place stress on opponents Linebackers and Secondary. Kelly could have worked closely with Bortles and scripted game plans that utilize his ability to throw as a runner, something Chip’s systems often thrive on.

Look at the Miami Dolphins this year and what Adam Gase was able to achieve with Ryan Tannehill by showing the QB that he had actually had confidence in him. Kyle Shanahan is currently in his 2nd year of a rebuild in Atlanta and has turned Matt Ryan from question mark franchise QB into a potential MVP. The Jaguars may just have missed a trick here by not bringing in Chip Kelly as OC to give Bortles a fresh perspective and approach.

 

5) Chip Kelly knows this might have been his last rodeo in the NFL

After the way it went down in Philadelphia and being booted out of San Francisco after only one season, Chip Kelly knows that NFL Head Coaching jobs are few and far between for Coaches fired from two jobs. Reports indicated that Kelly fully expected to get the job and had his assistants already in place once Jacksonville appointed him. Kelly must have therefore believed that being an OC was beneath him and would likely have viewed this as his redemption opportunity. Kelly would have thrown the kitchen sink at being an OC, with his creative mind and Offensive genius. Chip would have focused solely on Xs and Os and attempting to get the most out of this talented young Offense. While Kelly may not have been viewed as a long-term OC candidate, the Jaguars may have been able to get 1-2 years out of Chip before he moved on to a vacant college or NFL Head Coaching gig. 1-2 years is plenty of time for Kelly to work with Bortles on his mechanics and implement a spread style Offense that utilizes Jacksonville’s young receiving corps.

 

Skinny:

Perhaps it could have been a case of too many chefs in the kitchen? Tom Coughlin, Doug Marrone and Chip Kelly… that’s a lot of egos all under one roof.

Critics will say… ‘Chip Kelly’s up tempo Offense would not allow the Jaguars Defense sufficient time to rest up and would thus be playing tired and conceed large chunks of yardage and points.’ 

Well… Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett ran a very similar style of Offense to Chip’s during their time in Buffalo. In 2013, Chip Kelly’s Eagles ran a play every 23.38 seconds (fastest). Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett’s Bills ran a play every 23.95 seconds (2nd fastest). 

I believe the Jaguars missed out on not bringing Kelly in as OC. Chip’s incredible Offensive knowledge could have helped develop Blake Bortles and fix some of the major mechanical issues he suffered with this season under Hackett. What’s more, Kelly could have reinvigorated this Jacksonville receiving corps by stretching the field and getting the true potential out of this receiving corps who flashed excellence in 2015.

Is Nathaniel Hackett a safe choice? Absolutely. Should the Jaguars have rolled the dice with Chip Kelly? I believe so.

@TomLikeNFL let me know your opinions.

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