A Chicago area High School Hall of Fame player, new Houston Texans offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, a former defensive tackle, is currently enjoying the biggest spotlight of his career. Rising from college player at Eastern Illinois, to defensive coordinator at Minnesota State-Moorehead, to graduate assistant at Penn State under Texans head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, Kelly moved to the offensive side of the ball when O’Brien brought him to the NFL from Penn State with your Houston Texans as an offensive assistant. Kelly was originally an assistant to offensive line coach Mike Devlin before taking over as tight ends coach in 2017 and then landing the offensive coordinator gig last year (though Kelly wasn’t given the responsibility of actually calling plays until this offseason).
Houston Texans hype man Mark Vandermeer recently compiled some questions from Texans season ticket holders, dialed up your new offensive coordinator via Zoom, and pitched a quick Q&A with Kelly.
Right off the bat, Kelly was asked if the 2020 offense was going to look different. While he didn’t say no, Kelly didn’t exactly say yes either. His answer had a Bill O’Brien vibe to it as Kelly took the responsibility for the unit’s future success and laid it square at the feet of the coaches, saying it was up to them to put the players in the best position to “take advantage of what the defense gives us.” Guys like Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Deshaun Watson, David Johnson and even the oft-maligned Keke Coutee made it into the litany of names Kelly rattled off as offensive weapons at Houston’s disposal. If Will Fuller V can stay healthy, imagine what a passing game featuring Fuller, Kenny Stills and Cooks could like in playing to Deshaun Watson’s deep ball skills.
Next up, Kelly was asked what excites him most about the upcoming season. He wasted no time reiterating the philosophy of looking to take advantage of what the defense gives you, a staple of the Texans’ offensive scheme during the O’Brien era. Instead of having a core scheme and forcing opponents to stop what you do best, the Texans, not unlike O’Brien’s former team the New England Patriots, changes the game plan every week to attack the perceived weaknesses in opposing defenses.
Kelly went on to add that “having the different versatile pieces that are going to allow us to be creative is definitely exciting.” Does that mean we’ll see more trick plays, more unconventional plays, more - for want of a better word - exciting plays in 2020? Time will tell.
Kelly then addressed the schedule, pointing out the opening game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football and the NFC North games against the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. A product of Chicago’s South Side, Kelly has a history with those teams and seemed genuinely excited to battle them.
Another interesting question addressed the possibility of having both Duke and David Johnson in the backfield at the same time. Kelly praised their versatility and spoke to using that asset to put the players in the best possible position to take advantage of what the defense gives them.
One of the most intriguing questions revolved around Kelly’s offensive philosophy and how it related to Deshaun Watson. The notion that Bill O’Brien hasn’t gotten the most out of Watson’s skill-set has been debated many times. A lot of the excitement around Kelly’s promotion was buoyed by the idea that he would finally turn the key and unlock DW4 2.0. Unfortunately, Kelly didn’t really answer the question, potentially due to Vandermeer piling another query on top of the first one; Kelly really just repeated things he’d already said.
When it was all said and done, we didn’t really learn a lot more than we already knew about how Houston’s offense will change under Kelly. However, it was clear the new playcaller is excited by all the weapons the Texans have in the arsenal. What he’ll manage to achieve with them remains to be seen, including how he’ll overcome the adversity sure to come from injuries, players failing to hold up their end and other x-factors that make the strategy of an NFL campaign so compelling.
How do you see the Texans’ offense playing out this season? Expect new, dynamic, exciting play calling? Think it’s going to just be an extensive of the Bill O’Brien game plans we’ve seen for the last 6 seasons? When all the dust settles, where do you see Tim Kelly’s name ranking on the list of Houston Texans offensive coordinators?