With one swift move, the rival staffs at Stanford and Oregon were willing to open their doors and playbooks to each other.
Upon Jim Harbaugh’s hiring as 49ers coach in January 2011 and offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s move with him to the NFL, the offensive minds behind two unique college offensive systems got together at least twice to share their own secrets.
“(They’re) two guys I have great respect for,” said Chip Kelly, the former Oregon coach, in a conference call Wednesday morning with Bay Area reporters.
“Greg has come up to visit when I was at Oregon and when they went to the 49ers. Obviously, when he was at Stanford and I was at Oregon, we didn’t share any notes on anything. But when they got to the League, Greg came up once and visited with us. And we shared ideas. And I had an opportunity during an open date when I was at Oregon in-season (2012) to go down and visit with those guys. Two guys I have great, great respect for -- two really good football coaches.”
Now, they’re back to being competitors.
Kelly, the second-year coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, will bring his unbeaten team to Levi’s Stadium on Sunday for a matchup against the 49ers, who are in the midst of a two-game losing streak.
With tight ends Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald unavailable due to injuries on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers played some no-huddle offense that featured four- and five-receiver formations.
The 49ers did not run too much -- Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde combined for just nine rushing attempts -- but Kelly is wary of a run game that features more formations, shifts and varieties than is typical.
“They’re a little bit more exotic than they were even at Stanford,” Kelly said. “I think maybe because they have more time with their players, and they got smart players on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve had a lot of respect for Jimmy and Greg Roman going against them because they can scheme up the run game as good as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
In the loss to Arizona, the 49ers went away from the power-running scheme due to injuries at tight end, as well as right tackle Anthony Davis’ absence as he rehabs a hamstring injury. Even though it was not something he had ever seen from a Harbaugh-Roman coached team, Kelly said he was not altogether shocked.
“I don’t anything’s surprising when you go against a Jim Harbaugh or Greg Roman team,” Kelly said. “I think they’re going to use every weapon available to them. They’re always working to gain an advantage, so I wasn’t surprised they did it. It’s just one of those things you chalk up to yourself that they got another wrinkle now. They’re always going to have a wrinkle, and they’re always going to find a way to be successful on the offensive side of the ball.”
Kelly said Roman was one of the few coaches whose schedule fit into Oregon’s window to allow a visit to exchange ideas and concepts. Roman, who had previously taken a visit to Reno to meet with Chris Ault on the pistol offense, undoubtedly gained some knowledge that is being implemented with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“Yeah, I think they run some zone read stuff with Kap,” Kelly said. “They do a really good job with it, and they’ve added their own wrinkles to it. I don’t think when anybody visits anybody, they say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take this exactly from them.’ I think you learn, and you think, ‘How can I apply this to the personnel I have?’ And I think that’s a strength of Jim and Greg, that they adapt their offense to their personnel.”
Obviously, the sharing of information works both ways. When asked if he gleaned much from those meetings, Kelly was a little less forthright.
"Yes, I’m an information gatherer," he said.
And can he disclose some of the information he gained that he now utilizes with the Eagles?
Kelly answered, "Not off the top of my head."