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Chip Kelly at Day 2 of 49ers minicamp - Reading between the lines

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The coach had an unusually long and thoughtful set of answers at mini-camp today.

Welcome back for another in our continuing series of annotated Chip Kelly interviews. Here's the full transcript and the original video. Kelly has one more media session planned tomorrow and we'll be back to annotate it, too.

This was an especially interesting press conference, where Chip went deep on how the longtime player and coach Dana Bible is working with the team as an offensive consultant, on team conditioning and how various players are doing, various speeds of the tempo offense, the limits of practicing without pads, and running the single wing spinner formation at University of New Hampshire when Niners QB coach Ryan Day was his quarterback.

Ironically, there is less for me to explain in this long and fascinating discussion because Chip said it all directly, for the most part. But there are a few notes worth making.

"you typically don’t vary tempo?

“No, we do.”

Well, if you’re ahead and want to bleed the clock a little bit. But generally, you’re saying that you will go fast--?

“Yeah, we vary tempo. There’s a fast speed and a slow speed, so we do vary it.”

Chip has described three speeds to his offense, green light (full throttle tempo), yellow light, and red light. The last one is used in the four-minute drill while protecting a lead; they typically line up fast, to see if the opponent fails to respond, then everyone stands up and looks at the sideline for a play from the coach, while running the clock down.

At a 2012 coaching clinic, Kelly described the middle option this way:

"The 'yellow light' tempo is a check and audible system for the quarterback. We may want to run the play to the 3 technique. It is a 'check with me' type of play. He calls the play and figures out where the 3 technique is and calls the audible. We may want to run toward a safety or away from a certain defensive player. This tempo is slower, but the quarterback controls it on the field."

He also acknowledged that at green light speed, you don't have the ability to respond to where the defense is, and you will "give up some plays" as a result.

That said, the Eagles under Chip were pretty predictable on the tempo last year, mostly full speed and the four minute offense (which wasn't very effective given the running game's woes). It would be great to see more of the yellow light as he described it above with the Niners.

Sam Bradford complained about not being able to call audibles, and teams that have had the most success with tempo -- such as the Patriots -- mix up the looks much more. Even in the four minute offense, ripping of an occasional play right away when the other team expects you to reset could be very effective.


Chip was asked at length about longtime coach and player Dana Bible, who has an incredible pedigree and is working as a sort of consulting coach for the Niners. By "incredible pedigree," I mean that he learned the game directly from Jim Brown, Sid Gilman and Weeb Ewbank. (He's also a rock and roller who considered that as a post-football career, and saw the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix live.)

How did you get coach Bible on staff?

“Called him. He answered. No, I’ve known Dana for a long time. When he was the offensive coordinator at Boston College, I was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire. Coach Day actually worked for him as a graduate assistant. So, we’ve been friends for a long time and spent a lot of time talking football with him. When I got here, he was living down in San Diego and I thought it would be a good fit to see if, he had retired from NC State, but to see if he wanted to come up and has really given us a lot from an offensive standpoint and a great perspective. So, excited to have him.”

Chip came up as part of the tight-knit New England coaching scene, and after the Patriots of course, Boston College (where Ryan Day was recently offensive coordinator) is the center of that universe. It's an excellent sign that Kelly is happy to soak up knowledge from one of the old lions of the game.

What have you seen from Carlos Hyde just out of the backfield as a receiver?

“He’s got really, really good hands. So, I think that’s the first thing. He made a really nice catch yesterday in the flats on a difficult throw but kind of came up with it. It’s interesting from someone that size and that has that skillset as a guy coming out of the backfield. So, it’s certainly something we need to continue to build upon with him.”

Kelly is a big fan of passes to RBs, because it opens up the game and lets him punish defenses who cheat against the run. Kelly traded LeSean McCoy after the 2014 season in a controversial move. One reason, in my opinion, is that Shady seemed to lose his ability to catch passes out of the backfield after a brutal head to head collision with Washington's David Amerson in week three.

His rushing yards were way down for a couple of games (including 17 yards the following week against San Francisco) before bouncing back. But his receptions never really recovered. McCoy caught 10 passes for 64 yards in the first two weeks of 2014; managed only 18 passes for 91 yards in the final fourteen games combined.

G Joshua Garnett was saying yesterday that while he was away, he would get the video and go to practice on his own at Stanford. How did he look out here and where do you think he’s mentally at?

“Well,...you could tell that he’s worked in his time away at the football aspect of things."

Kelly likes his Pac-12 players, so he's familiar with the rule that keeps them out of spring training sessions. In Philadelphia, he pioneered sending video of the practices and other notes for the rookies to download on their iPads and study. It looks like Garnett is doing better with it than his fellow Stanford grad, safety Ed Reynolds, did.


Now this next one ranks as probably the strangest question I've ever heard at an NFL press conference, but there's a reason behind it.

If you were to as an homage to an Ivy League team, run the single wing spinner series, what Ivy League would you pay tribute to?

“Probably Princeton.”

...Quarterbacks coach Ryan Day was talking about you did that your first year as an offensive coordinator. How many series did you run that, do you recall?

“Just one.”

The questioner is asking about a magical time, as QB coach Ryan Day recalls it, when he was QB for newly appointed offensive coordinator Chip Kelly at the University of New Hampshire about 15 years ago. In a long form profile of Kelly I crafted for Philly.com, I quoted Day describing to Josh Peters how they ran every formation imaginable:

“The veer. The wing T. The Power I. The spread offense. And then there was the game at Dartmouth, then celebrating its 100th year of football. Kelly turned back the clock almost 100 years. His offense opened the game in a single-wing, a formation last used with regularity during the days of the leather helmets.”

"Guys are going every which direction, and the quarterback is using those old ball-handling moves, faking passes one way and putting the ball behind the back," Day said. "Week in and week out, we just had a blast."

Chuckle of the day:

A lot of times you’ve gone to small colleges or smaller colleges for [coaching] clinics. Is there a particular reason you’ve sought that out?

“I don’t think I’ve gone to particularly smaller colleges for a reason... I don’t even know if I went to any small schools. Did I?”

The theory goes, I just wanted to get your thoughts, maybe I should have asked a direct question about it.

“That’s a lot easier for me.”