SANTA CLARA – The arrival of Chip Kelly as coach signaled the stoppage of one of football’s longest traditions with the 49ers.
Kelly sees no benefit in having his offense convene in a circle after every play to allow the quarterback to relay the play call to his 10 teammates. Instead, the players look to the sideline, where assistants Mick Lombardi and Crowley Hanlon signal in the plays.
When the 49ers wrap up the regular season on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium, the game will feature two coaches with entirely different views of the value of the huddle.
Kelly admitted his recent explanation as to what the 49ers lack by not huddling was laced with sarcasm: “You don’t get to go back 7 yards and hold hands together and say, ‘Ready, break,’ and then run back to the line of scrimmage.”
The benefits of no-huddling, as Kelly sees them, outweigh the positives of a little more face-to-face interaction among teammates. The 49ers can save several seconds by lining up on the ball. Then, they can scour the defense to make their pre-snap reads and adjust the play, if needed. It also can limit the capabilities of the defense to dial up exotic coverage or blitz packages.
Kelly believes his teams can play faster, if desired, and reduce the wasted motion of running back to the huddle between plays and, then, getting lined up. After all, the 40-second play clock does not allow much time for communication beyond the quarterback reciting the play call.
But Carroll evoked memories of 49ers Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Jerry Rice when asked about the advantages of all players on offense getting together after every snap.
“There’s a lot of players, historically, that have elevated other guys around them with those kind of connections,” Carroll said on a conference call this week with Bay Area reporters.
“You just go back to your old days of the 49ers when Joe was talking to Jerry when they’re breaking the huddle and he was reminding him of this and that. If Jerry was standing out there on the flank the whole time that conversation wouldn’t take place.”
The huddle appears to be on the endangered list throughout all levels of football. But Carroll said he is not likely to contribute to its demise.
“We’ve always talked about it,” Carroll said of implementing more of a no-huddle approach on offense. “We’re a little more old school, I guess.”