Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lessons from Chip Kelly

Last night Chip Kelly's Eagles picked apart the defense of the Washington Redskins, in a way that I hadn't seen in professional football before. The Eagles were playing fast, moving even faster between plays, going for it on fourth down, and mixing up their attack to the point that offensive linemen were split out wide. It got so bad that Kelly let his foot off the gas in the third quarter and nearly let Washington come back; but the game really wasn't as close as the final score indicated.

In a way, the result shouldn't have been surprising at all: Oregon & other college football teams have been doing this sort of wide open, up-tempo stuff for a while. But the NFL is a bastion of conformity: it's odd when we see someone doing things differently & still succeeding. There is a right way to coach and to play and those who think otherwise will learn that lesson sooner or later. Or so the story goes.

It remains to be seen if Chip Kelly's up tempo spread offense is a flash in the pan or not. But I found myself nodding my head during the game and taking away some life lessons from his approach.

Run, Don't Walk
Too often people approach success like it's waiting for them in their mailbox: they can saunter out there any old time they want and just snatch it up. But success isn't stationary. You need to run & hustle if you want to catch it. That might mean moving quickly on a property that you know is underpriced, as Mr. Money Mustache suggests. It might mean generating side hustles like Alexa, who not only finds freelance writing jobs for herself but is cool enough to post others for her readers to pursue. If you're just starting to save, don't follow the advice of those around you who are telling you to make a mere $20 payment to principle, save 10% and enjoy the rest: run, don't walk, to your savings goal.

Whatever the avenue, you're usually better off moving quickly & decisively, rather than waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

If You're Not the Best, Be Different
Michael Vick is not as good a quarterback as Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Desean Jackson is barely considered a #1 wide receiver, and the rest of the receiving corps would not start on most teams. The Eagles certainly don't have a top offensive line. But by tailoring an offense that hasn't been seen before and fitting the strategy to some of the things his personnel does well, Chip Kelly got great results from a merely above average team because his approach was novel.

In personal finance, don't be swayed to follow the advice of Money Magazine, or even to follow in the footsteps of your favorite bloggers. Want to leverage your mortgage to invest more? Go for it. Want to take a job for lesser pay, or even take a haitus from work like Kraig from Young Cheap Living, to find more happiness now? Do it. You don't have to be the next Mr. Money Mustache or Financial Samurai: be the next & better version of you.

Outwork Those Around You
The Eagles' uptempo approach worked because their opponent wasn't conditioned to run as fast or for as long as Chip Kelly's team was. It wasn't just that the Eagles were coming up with creative plays: they were testing the Redskins' conditioning by keeping a tempo that Washington wasn't used to, and wearing them down. Against a tired opponent, just about anything works.

Not that personal finance is a competition. It isn't. But, like in an athletic competition, victory often goes to she who perseveres, not just the most talented. There are benefits from pushing through frugality fatigue & fighting the temptation to break the budget for another dinner out. It's hard to learn to cook great meals at home night in and night out; but that $100 saved each month from avoiding restaurants amounts to a small fortune over time. We are creatures of habit and those who can establish long standing, conditioned habits of frugality reap larger rewards.

Ignore Those Who Say It Can't Be Done
People are generally skeptical of a new approach, and NFL pundits were no different when it came to Chip Kelly. Here comes another college coach who didn't understand how things work in the NFL, and he'd suffer the same fate as Steve Spurrier did when he brought his gimmick offense to Washington. Now those same pundits are wondering whether the NFL will be forever changed by this uptempo approach.

You'll likely hear naysayers give their pessimistic advice if you share your plans to pay off your home early, or to live debt free, or to reach financial independence from your investments. They'll warn that expenses will grow, your investments will under-perform, and your money will run out. You're an outlier and will suffer the criticisms of those who demand things be done in the proper way. Ignore them. Listen to the voice inside, block out the rest, and like Brave New Life says, follow your arrow.


*Photo is from Matthew Straubmuller at Flickr Creative Commons.

22 comments:

  1. Dang, you make me sad I missed that game! Great post, DBF!

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    1. Thanks, Nick! It was a good game but my guess is that it'll take a while for defenses to adjust. You can probably see the same forces in action next week against the Chargers.

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  2. My dad's a huge Eagles fan, so I'll have to mention this to him for extra brownie points. ;) Great correlations, especially with run, don't walk - timing is almost everything, but it won't just magically appear like you said, you have to go for it!

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    1. I've got a soft spot in my heart for the Eagles, thanks to the old timey "Steagles", a team combined between Pittsburgh and Philly back during WWII when so many of the players were away at war.

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, Anna!

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  3. I don't have access to ESPN so I wasn't able to watch the game. Although, I dedicated my whole Sunday to football, so maybe that was a good thing. I did check the score occasionally because I had fantasy stakes in the game. I was absolutely shocked how quickly the game got out of hand. Wished I could have watched it.

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    1. It ended up being a bit better of a game by the end but by the third quarter I knew it was over.

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  4. "in a way that I hadn't seen in professional football before". Sorry, but I have to take issue with this. The Pats ran this offense last year. We ran for almost 300 yards against Buffalo because we ran like 90 plays. But I am excited that Chip Kelly is bringing even more of it into the NFL. If nothing else it will be fun to watch.

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    1. Huh, hadn't thought that the Pats were running Kelly's offense but I missed a lot of their games last year. Good to know!

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    2. Not exactly Kelly's offense, just one run at a very fast pace. Actually, even this past week the Pats ran more plays than the Eagles (89-77), but that has at least something to do with the Bills wanting to move quickly too this year.

      By the way, I hope you sense the sarcasm in my "having to take issue with this". Just trying to rile up a little friendly animosity now that the season's started.

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    3. I'm with you, Beantown. :) No worries -- I'm bad at picking up tone on the internet.

      I doubt I'll have much room to talk as a Steeler fan this year but, hell, a terrible team never stopped Raider fans from talking smack so why should it stop me?

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  5. From Bryce at Save & Conquer (originally deleted & reposted):

    "Good lessons. I especially like the last, "Ignore Those Who Say It Can't Be Done." I've had several people say that they can easily beat the market, so why am I willing to settle for market returns with index funds. I don't ask for proof that they continually beat the market, or tell them how highly unlikely it is over the long term. I simply tell them I am happy to get the market returns, and that costs, including taxes, matter. Using low-cost passive index funds has put my wife and myself on track to retire in 10 years or less (assuming only a 3.6% annual return for our portfolio)."

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    1. That is awesome. 10 years is a fantastic timeframe, and is probably a bit conservative with that 3.6% assumption. Here's to hoping you beat the goal!

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  6. I saw some highlights and that looked like an exciting game. There were plenty of doubters saying that this won't work in the NFL and Kelly proved them wrong for at least one game. We'll have to see a larger sample size to see whether they can maintain this tempo. But there's always been the hurry up offense and teams that have that style...the one that comes to mind from back in the days are the Buffalo Bills with Jim Kelly...and the Pats nowadays.

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    1. I loved those Bills offenses from my youth. Jim Kelly was the man (and yet another great qb from Western PA). It's a shame they weren't able to win one or two championships -- their legacy belies how good those teams were in the early nineties.

      I'm of the belief that defenses will adjust eventually but, like with the wildcat, I think it'll take the majority of one season to do so.

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  7. As an avid football fan as well as a self-proclaimed personal finance geek, I approve of this article!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! It's great to have other football fans comment -- I'll likely be looking for more ways to write about football going forward. :)

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  8. Not a huge football fan. I get your point though. You gotta work hard to improve yourself. You also need to find the pace that work for you. Great article.

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    1. Thanks, Joe! You said it better than I did: find a pace that works for you & work hard. That sums up a lot of what we need to do to succeed.

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  9. If you're not the best, be different. That's incredible advice! There are so many examples of scrappy individuals who have figured out the best life for themselves without necessarily fitting into the mold.

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    1. Thanks, Cash Rebel. Like the subtitle of your blog notes, conventional wisdom is overrated. When it gives you an edge, being different is worth the effort & criticism that comes with it.

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  10. Wow... Football and personal finance. There should be an entire blog dedicated to this. Great article.

    None of us will be Warren Buffet (or Peyton Manning) but I love the idea if we get creative and exploit our strengths we can still accomplish all of our goals.

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    1. Hi Michael,
      Thanks for the kind words. I agree with your point: it's folly to assume we can do the things that Buffet or Manning does. Suiting our strategy to our personal strengths & financial means is a better approach.

      During the fall I'll definitely be doing my best to integrate football & personal finance. I used to putz around with reviews of Steeler games a while back, so I fall back into that routine during football season.

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