JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –Chip Kelly has interviewed to be the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator, according to a source, and the first inclination is to ask what the hire would mean for quarterback Blake Bortles.
A better question, however, would be: What does this mean for the Jaguars' running game?
The natural jump to make about Kelly's up-tempo, spread offense is that he wants to throw the ball all over the place, that it's a finesse offense. That's not even close. Though Kelly's offenses in Philadelphia and San Francisco threw the ball more than they ran it -- though it was nearly 50-50 in 2013 -- they ranked in the top 10 in rushing three times, and the worst finish was 14th.
Kelly may not line up with two tight ends and a fullback, but he does use a power run attack. He just uses spread formations and zone schemes to get it done. Provided the Jaguars make some upgrades on the offensive line -- and that's the team's No. 1 need heading into the offseason -- Kelly could breathe some much-needed life into the Jaguars' run game.
In his three years as head coach in Philadelphia (2013-15), Kelly's rush offenses finished first, ninth and 14th in rushing yards per game. He had LeSean McCoy for the first two seasons and signed DeMarco Murray for 2015, but Murray struggled and the Eagles mixed in Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Still, the Eagles averaged 108.9 rushing yards per game in Kelly's final season in Philly.
The worst season a Kelly-led NFL team had running the ball was 2015, but even that was better than any season the Jaguars have had since Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing in 2011. Since then, the Jaguars' per-game rushing averages have been among the worst in the NFL: 85.6 (2012), 78.8 (2013), 102.1 (2014), 92.1 (2015) and 101.9 (2016).
The Jaguars added Chris Ivory, who led the AFC in rushing in 2015, as a free agent last March, but he ran for only 439 yards and averaged a career-low 3.8 yards per carry. He also missed five games because of injuries. T.J. Yeldon, whom the Jaguars took in the second round in 2015, has battled injuries throughout his two seasons and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in 2016.
An element to Kelly's offense that he really didn't have in Philadelphia is the quarterback run. Kaepernick provided that in San Francisco, and Bortles has shown the ability and willingness to be a runner. The Jaguars had success on the few zone-read plays in which Bortles kept the ball, and Bortles was able to avoid taking hits by sliding. Bortles has rushed for 1,088 yards in three seasons, which puts him ninth on the franchise's all-time rushing list.
A better ground game would of course help Bortles, who still has to prove he can be the Jaguars' franchise quarterback going forward, and Kelly may be the Jaguars' best choice to get that done.