Here’s a fascinating piece by Chris Brown (no surprise, that) on Chip Kelly’s impact on the NFL. He’s only been in the league one year, but he’s already exercising an outsized influence in a place that lives to copy cat.
But it’s not just his play calling that’s getting followed. There are a couple of other items that Kelly’s been closed mouthed about that others are trying to emulate. One of those is how the Eagles use sports science. Brown lists what we know about that:
• While coaching at Oregon, Kelly began investing significantly in sports science, both by bringing in outside consultants and by developing in-house expertise and technology. He built principally on research first conducted for Australian-rules football.
• Many of those studies, which have since been expanded to cover a range of sports, used heart rate, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscope monitors worn by players in practice to determine how to train for peak game-day performance3 and how to prevent injuries.4 These studies also tracked the movements that players made in games5 so teams could mold practices and training to what players did on an individualized and position-by-position basis.
• When Kelly arrived in Philadelphia, the Eagles invested huge sums into their sports science infrastructure, and Kelly hired Shaun Huls, a sports science coordinator who’d worked for the Navy Special Warfare Command for nearly five years, training SEALs and focusing on reducing the incidence of their noncombat injuries.6
• Kelly’s team uses the latest wearable player-tracking technology, and his staff monitors the resulting data in real time to determine how players should train and when they become injury risks. “On an individualized basis we may back off,” Kelly said recently. “We may take [tight end] Brent Celek out of a team period on a Tuesday afternoon and just say, because of the scientific data we have on him, ‘We may need to give Brent a little bit of a rest.’ We monitor them very closely.”
Does it work? Well, as Brown notes, the Eagles finished last season with the second-fewest injuries in the NFL. And, perhaps as importantly, the players sound like they believe in the regime.
Would it translate to college ball? Don’t forget where Kelly came from: “We used the same formula at Oregon and I spent a lot of time on how to go about it, how we think you should train, and it worked for us there and it worked for us here.”
How ’bout Athens? I have no idea, but do find this comment worth noting:
Kelly’s chief commitment isn’t to running a no-huddle offense; his goal is for the Eagles to be a no-huddle organization. For Kelly, the benefits extend far beyond the effect on opposing defenses. “One of the benefits we have from practice and the no-huddle offense, where every period is no-huddle, is our second and third [teams] — and I’ve gone back and charted this — get almost twice as many reps as other teams I’ve been at when you’re sitting in the second or third spot,” explained Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis, a longtime NFL veteran. That has a recruiting benefit when it comes to attracting backup players, which in turn helps the Eagles discover hidden gems. “If you’re [second or third string], you want to be in our camp because you get more reps than anyone else,” said Kelly. “Because of the reps we get in practice, our guys get a chance to develop a little more. You go to some teams and the threes aren’t getting many reps — they are losing time compared to our guys.”
That does sound a bit similar to how Richt and his staff have reconfigured reps in practice this preseason. So maybe there’s hope elsewhere.