Niagara Gazette

January 2, 2013

Watch out for Kelly hype

By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — For years, the Buffalo Bills have been looking for an answer at head coach.

A quick suggestion from an invested observer: Don’t hire Chip Kelly.

It’s not that Oregon’s offensive mastermind doesn’t have the chops to handle an NFL gig — that remains to be seen. It’s that he never has had to. In Kelly’s 22 years of coaching, he’s never, ever held any position on an NFL team.

It’s great that he’s had success in college, and his achievements are certainly impressive. In his four years as head coach of Oregon — the only four years he’s ever been a head coach in his career — he’s won three Pac-10/Pac-12 championships and has won six different Coach of the Year awards, including Pac-10 Coach of the Year twice.

Still, the lack of NFL experience should be a major red flag. Kelly’s greatest strength is his offensive ingenuity. At Oregon, he can find top playmakers from all over the West Coast and promise them an up-tempo offense that is going to score 50 points a game (as well as the the coolest looking unis in all the land). It’s easy to sell that to a high school senior.

How does that translate to the NFL, though? How would that translate to the Buffalo Bills, in particular? It’d take Kelly a year or two to assemble players who fit his system, meaning fans could forget about a winning team in 2013. It’d also mean Kelly would have to play late-season games at Ralph Wilson stadium, where wind, rain and snow could slow down his attack.

With the success of Jim Harbaugh at San Francisco, football fans across the nation are looking for the next great college coach to break into the NFL ranks. But Harbaugh was an NFL quarterback and also spent time with the Oakland Raiders during their run to the Super Bowl in 2002. He knew NFL players and knew the ins and outs of an NFL locker room.

Kelly doesn’t have that yet. He could, and if he were smart, he’d stay in Oregon and bide his time until a domed team in need of a rebuild comes calling.

If Bills brass is smart and care about winning on the field more than winning the offseason, it’ll stay away.

Respond to high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler or by email at mike.meiler@niagara-gazette.com.