So Sunday’s game against Seattle will be the last game of a lost, miserable season and it’s natural to look ahead to next year, which will hopefully be a lot better.
Does that mean Chip will play a lot of depth guys to test them in NFL competition? Probably not.
While that might make a certain amount of sense, it’s just not the way Chip operates. And this goes to the essence of his football philosophy, the “Tao of Chip.”
Kelly does not distinguish between practice and game. It’s all about the process, about consistency and repetition, about perfecting your practices so that games fall naturally in line. His practices have more snaps than any other coach’s, and how players do in those snaps determines who gets to play. Period.
Game performance comes from practice performance, from movements and skills and plays repeated so many times that you peform them automatically, like driving a car after you’ve done it for five years, without even thinking about it. Like wearing a shoe that fits so well you forget it’s even there.
Chip has changed a lot of his theories and approaches to football, but not this one.
The coach discussed this at length Wednesday when asked whether younger players might get more snaps on Sunday.
No. They have to earn that though. This isn’t just Christmas [where] we give out gifts. I don’t think that’s fair to the guys that are here that have worked and done everything you said and just say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to play this week because this other guy that we know is not better than you, we’re just going to throw him out in a game and see what he can do.’ I don’t think that’s fair. ...
[Remember,] we watch these guys every day. We make evaluations every day. We see them practice every day. ... So, to just say, ‘Hey, I know this kid’s been awful in practice, but let’s just chuck him out on the field and see what he can do.’ It just doesn’t work that way.
Thursday, he continued the theme.
Q: Will you go into this game and approach it as if Kap will play the full game or will you try and get one of the other quarterbacks--?
A: No, we’re trying to go win the football game. So, Kap will play unless he gets banged up.
He also touched on this same philosophy when asked about Trent Brown, noting his talent but emphasizing that Brown — like all young players — needs to improve his consistency. Guess where that work takes place? Chip suggested that Brown is lucky because he gets to watch Joe Staley in practice.
Joe practices that same exact way. What you see on Sundays from Joe Staley is exactly how he trains on a Tuesday. Everything is meticulous. He’s very detailed in his steps that he takes, where his hand placement is. All those things are extremely important to Joe even though he’s been in the league 10-plus years. That’s why Joe’s been in the league for 10-plus years and why he’s been such a successful player.
The other relevant part of Chip’s philosophy is that he doesn’t believe in rivalries, or “big” games and littler games. His whole “Win the Day” philosophy is about today, whether that’s practice, a preseason game, or a playoff game. Nail this one now, and we’ll take care of the next day when it comes along.
Another motto of his at Oregon was “Every game is the Super Bowl.” One of the ways he got to a 46-7 record was by focusing just as carefully on early season, out-of-conference opponents as he did on Stanford and USC. His team was overmatched some times, but they never lost an upset.
Kelly never wants his players to feel it’s OK to give less than total effort. Not only does his approach prevent trap games, it reduces pressure when you have a big game, because you’re not riding the roller coaster of emotion. You’re just taking care of business, same as always.