Chip Kelly found out in Philadelphia what Nick Saban discovered with the Miami Dolphins.
These two highly successful college coaches failed in the NFL for one main reason: they couldn’t find a franchise quarterback. The Eagles fired Kelly on Tuesday just short of finishing his third season.
During his tenure with the Eagles, he test drove myriad quarterbacks, including Mike Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, and Mark Sanchez. He couldn’t find a true answer.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. There is no way around it. If you don’t have a special quarterback, it’s hard to be successful. You can’t hide the position.
New England’s Bill Belichick is considered one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. How successful would he have been with the Patriots if he didn’t stumble upon the second coming of Joe Montana in the sixth round of the draft? Without Tom Brady in New England, do you think Belichick wins four Super Bowls (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, and XLIX)? Very unlikely.
Belichick coached the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95, and ended up getting fired. One big reason? He couldn’t find a quarterback.
In college, you don’t need a great quarterback. Most college defensive backfields are awful, so the coach can dial up wide open first-read throws with regularity. It’s easy pickings, taking candy from a baby, pick your cliche.
In the NFL, pass defenses are much better, the throwing windows much smaller, and defenses way more complex. Pro quarterbacks need to be adept at reading defenses, going through progressive scans, and fitting passes into tight windows. Unlike college, the first-read often isn’t open. You need a special quarterback to handle sports’ version of a Rubik’s Cube. Playing QB in the NFL might be the most difficult job in sports.
And if a coach can’t find a player who can do it on a high level, he will eventually get fired. Chip Kelly can attest to that.