Lost in translation

Injury risk, parity could prevent Chip Kelly's schemes from succeeding in NFL

Originally Published: December 12, 2012
By Ron Jaworski | ESPN Insider
Griffin
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsExhibit A regarding why Kelly's schemes may be risky in the NFL.

When it comes to transitioning a successful but unusual offensive scheme from college to the NFL, the conventional wisdom is pretty simple: It can't work.

The basis for that conventional wisdom is pretty simple too. Yes, the NFL is a more complex game, but above all, it's a more violent game. The sheer impact of the hits at the NFL level are usually enough to deter pro coaches from featuring many popular offensive schemes from the college level, often because those schemes allow greater exposure to the quarterback, who must deal with more accumulated punishment, and over more games.

The spread, the option -- they both lead to more hits on the QB. Even if you execute the option properly, and the pitch gets away to the running back for a big gain, you're still likely scraping your quarterback from the turf after yielding a free shot to a linebacker. Do you really want James Harrison getting free shots at your quarterback every game? Do you think he'd survive the season?

If you want a more visceral, visual example to drive that point home, just replay the image of Robert Griffin III's knee snapping about 70 degrees to the side last Sunday. Like most QBs, RG III is the focal point of his team's offense, but he's also the focal point of the Redskins' franchise. If you lose him, what are you left with? Now, the Redskins aren't running an option, but they have run nearly 70 designed runs for RG III this season. Can that continue?

Injury threat aside, the overall success of Griffin and Cam Newton before him does present a new challenge to the conventional wisdom. With those two thriving and Oregon head coach and offensive maestro Chip Kelly allegedly knocking on the NFL door, could we see Kelly's schemes succeed in the NFL and an evolutionary leap in pro play-calling? In my opinion, no. But there are elements of Kelly's offense that could help promote an offensive trend I already see emerging in the NFL.

Ron Jaworski

NFL analyst / writer
Ron Jaworski is one of the most popular and knowledgeable analysts covering the NFL today. Since joining ESPN in 1990, the former standout NFL quarterback has covered the league from virtually every angle -- sideline reporter, game-site reporter, host and both studio and game analyst. From 2007-11, Jaworski occupied one of the most coveted positions in sports as a Monday Night Football analyst.