Pace Yourself...or Brace Yourself?
No hiring in the offseason garnered more interest and debate than Chip Kelly's return to the Pacific Coast to coach the San Francisco 49ers. The reaction to the hiring has ranged from exuberance from those who see Kelly as the answer for the 49ers' recent miasma to downright skepticism from those who see Kelly's 'unique' approach as a gimmick that went supernova and exploded after three seasons in Philadelphia. The truth likely lies somewhere in between, although fantasy owners need/want more clarity on what the 49ers offense will look like and whether they should allocate draft day resources to the likes of Torrey Smith and Carlos Hyde.
Playing Faster = A Reality
Plays Per Game (2013-2015)
Chip Kelly's Eagles led the NFL in plays per game over his three seasons while the 49ers ranked 28th. On average, the 49ers ran 10% fewer plays than the Eagles. While it's tempting to assume the 49ers will vault to the top of the NFL's plays-per-game rankings, we must consider context. For as much as Kelly's Eagles were known for their tempo, let's remember that Andy Reid's Eagles were ALREADY a high-paced team.
Top 10 Teams, Players Per Game, 2012
The Eagles ranked 6th in the NFL with 67.4 plays per game in Andy Reid's final season. What that means is Chip Kelly's teams only ran 1.4% more plays per game than his predecessor.
Points per Play
Running more plays is beneficial, but ultimately it's about scoring points. Where things get interesting is examining how Chip Kelly improved the Eagles points per play (how many points did they average for every play run?).
Philadelphia Points per Play (2013-2015)
- 2013 -- 0.42
- 2014 -- 0.42
- 2015 -- 0.34
- 3-Year Average -- 0.39
San Francisco Points per Play (2013-2015)
- 2013 -- 0.42
- 2014 -- 0.30
- 2015 -- 0.25
- 3-Year Average -- 0.32
Matrix of the Outcomes
|PT/PLAY||61 plays (SF'15)||64 (Modest Improvement)||67 (Significant Improvement)||70 (Elite Pace)|
|0.32 (SF 3yrAvg)||19.5||20.5||21.4||22.4|
|0.39 (PHI 3yrAvg)||23.8||25.0||26.1||27.3|
This chart represents a matrix of potential outcomes based on the 49ers plays per game mutliplied by the points per play. For example, if the 49ers averaged the same points per play as last season (0.25) and plays per game (61), they would average 15.3 points per game. Now, if Kelly can get the 49ers to play at the same pace as the Eagles and score as many points per play, the team would average 26.1 points per game (a MASSIVE improvement).
Meeting in the Middle -- The Personnel Doesn't Line Up
The good news for 49ers fans is pace and efficiency are both likely to improve under Kelly. Which means last year's 14.9 points per game will be a distant memory. The bad news is the 49ers roster isn't imposing:
- Quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert (possibly as good as the Eagles' Nick Foles and Sam Bradford)
- Running Back -- Carlos Hyde (oft injured, not a proven receiver)
- Wide Receiver -- Torrey Smith (51% career catch rate) and a bunch of guys that won't be drafted in most leagues
- Tight End -- Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell
- Offensive Line -- Matt Bitonti ranks the 49ers line 20th versus the Eagles 4th