Kevin Kelley's college coaching debut at Presbyterian was perfect, both for his team and those of us following along for the #content.
The Blue Hose set an FCS record with 12 touchdown passes. They racked up 84 points, 94 snaps, 814 scrimmage yards, 10 onside kicks and zero punts. If you are of the belief that Kelley is a genius and should have been coaching at the college level a long time ago, Presbyterian 84, St. Andrews 43 was all the proof of concept you needed.
If you're skeptical of Kelley, you can point to the fact that damage occurred against an NAIA school hardly anyone had heard of before Saturday. After all, Tommy Spangler led Presbyterian to a 52-14 blowout of St. Andrews to close the 2019 season, and Presbyterian fired Spangler in April.
Watch the highlights and you'll see a lot of fast guys running right by slower guys in single coverage, which: A) fair play to Kelley, that's football in its simplest form, and B) won't knock you off your block if you're holding out to see Kelley's guys do that to Division I football players.
Maybe Kevin Kelley really is a football savant set to disrupt the way the entire sport is thought and coached, maybe he isn't. We don't have enough sample size to know either way yet.
But what we can say is Kelley isn't afraid to leverage himself even further in this grand experience. Check out this passage from Brandon Marcello's 247Sports profile:
Even Kelley’s practices hardly resemble a typical practice. Nearly every drill is 11-on-11. There is no tackling, no whistles and they hardly wear pads. They focus on extra-point kicks only five to 10 minutes each week. “You’re going to make 99% of those whether you practice it or not,” he explained.
They do not work on technique. There are no blocking, tackling or turnover drills and receivers are not asked to work with cones.
“Everybody in football is working on blocking and tackling and I don’t think anybody is gonna be a lot better than the other team unless you have dominant, physical guys,” Kelley said. “Tackling depends on who’s running the ball. I mean, if Barry Sanders is running the ball, nobody is a good tackler.”
Football, at its core, has been a blocking and tackling sport ever since the game was born a century and a half ago. On average, the team that blocks and tackles better, more harshly, more eagerly, will beat the team that doesn't more often than not.
What's more, blocking and tackling was the metaphor that made football, football. Ten guys willing to put their bodies in harm's way so the 11th guy can run untouched is what football is supposed to be on a spiritual level, is it not? Pain is the price of glory. Forget about me, I love you. Shared sacrifice leading to communal glory.
But here Kelley is saying, "No, all that work you do on football's DNA is essentially a waste of time."
So if blocking and tackling, if individual drills, if the majority of what football practice is and has been for more than a century is all just a wash, what does separate the winners from the losers?
"Offensive play calling, play design and teaching — those three together — are the great equalizer.”
Before we go any further, let's not get it twisted. This isn't 1960. No one is smashing heads together for two-plus hours a day in practices and hasn't for a long time. Mike Leach long ago proved a laissez faire approach toward playbooks, blocking, the running game and all the other things we assumed were part of football's DNA can work at the major college level.
But hardly ever -- never? -- have we heard a coach state so plainly that a workman's approach to blocking, tackling and drill work are essentially wasted time, and that games are won by the brilliance of the guy with the clipboard.