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Chip Kelly is not tied to the traditions of football. He is a football outsider.

He acts as if football tradition is primitive and beneath him. He is enlightened and the rest of the league is trapped in the dark past. He tries to profit from rejecting particular aspects of football tradition he believes coaches irrationally perpetuate simply for the sake of tradition.

Like the huddle. Kelly’s offense never uses one even though every other Super-Bowl winning team in NFL history has. Kelly eliminates one of the most basic football traditions.

Huddles aren’t exclusive to football — they appear in other sports occasionally. Like in basketball, teams sometimes huddle during timeouts. And in baseball, now and then infielders huddle around the mound when a pitcher talks to the catcher and the manager.

But in football, huddles typically happen before every play. They punctuate the action. All 11 players on offense stand in a circle, sometimes holding hands, sometimes wrapping their arms around each other’s shoulders, while the quarterback recites the play and says, “Ready, break,” and then they clap their hands and run to the line of scrimmage.

If football is poetry, huddles are the rhyme scheme. And, Kelly uses blank verse 100 percent of the time. And if you ask Kelly why he’s so averse to the basic rhyme scheme of football, he makes fun of it.

At his introductory press conference earlier this year just after the 49ers hired him, a reporter asked Kelly if his fast-paced, no-huddle offense puts a burden on his defense.

“I think you have to look really at the intricacies of it,” Kelly said. “We get into the time of possession question, and we’ve been in games where it was identical play snaps for us and our opponent, it was identical yardage for us and our opponent, it was identical first downs for us and our opponent, we won the game by seven, but they had the ball for 10 more minutes than we did. So, all I learned is that they stand around better than we stand around.”

And all we learned is that Kelly thinks huddling is standing around for the sake of standing around. Interesting.

Two weeks ago, the subject came up again. I had asked Kelly, why don’t you huddle? What is the advantage of not huddling?

“I think the only advantage is you don’t get to go back seven yards and hold hands together and say, ‘Ready, break,’ and then run back to the line of scrimmage.” Kelly’s tone was sarcastic. As if there is absolutely nothing useful about huddling. Interesting.

I came back to the topic of huddling a week later during another one of Kelly’s press conferences. “In your opinion,” I said, “is there absolutely nothing useful about huddling?”

“Yeah, I think there’s some usefulness to it,” Kelly said in a begrudging way.

“Like what?” I asked.

“You communicate,” he said.

This was the correct answer.

“If the benefit of huddling is communication, why never huddle and why not let your players communicate during the drive?”

“Because they do communicate,” Kelly said, getting defensive. “You asked me what one of (the benefits) was. I was just giving you an example. But, I think our guys, we have a great system in terms of communication. So, I don’t see there’s any flaws in our communication system at all.”

In other words, Kelly, a coach who has won zero playoff games and has beaten only one team this season and may never coach again in the NFL after this Sunday, is more highly evolved than the rest of the league. Interesting.

Shortly after Kelly’s press conference, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll spoke to Bay Area reporters on a conference call. Carroll is a Super Bowl champion and one of the best head coaches in the country.

“Pete,” I said. “This week, you’re facing an offense that never huddles. In your opinion, what is the value of a huddle?”

He paused. “That’s a good question,” he said. “This game was kind of designed behind huddling — guys getting together and talking about it and then going out and playing the next play.

“(Not huddling is) kind of a sign of the times, the ability to communicate on higher levels and more quickly. That’s really what it is. But, it takes away from the interchange and interaction that happens in the huddle and on the way to the line of scrimmage.

“There are a lot of players historically that have elevated other guys around them with those kind of connections. You just go back to the old days with the Niners when Joe was talking to Jerry when they were breaking the huddle and he’s reminding (Rice) about this and that. If Jerry was standing out there on the flank the whole time, that conversation wouldn’t take place.”

Pay attention to what Carroll is saying, Chip. Learn something. Have some respect. Huddles enable player-to-player communication, quarterback-to-wide receiver communication, wide-receiver-to-wide-receiver communication, tackle-to-tackle communication. Communication between players who don’t stand near each other in offensive formations. This is important.

Huddling allows players to ask each other what they’re seeing from specific defensive backs or defensive ends or linebackers. Huddling allows players to ask each other for tips from one play to the next. Huddling allows players to make adjustments during drives and not just between them when they’re on the sideline.

Carroll values huddles. Bill Walsh valued huddles. Montana and Rice valued huddles. Kelly does not. He thinks player-to-player communication is overrated, thinks his voice is the only one that matters. He thinks he is omniscient. Hardly. In novels there are omniscient narrators, and there are unreliable narrators. Call Kelly one of the unreliable ones.

Watch the 49ers between plays this Sunday. Watch where Kelly’s players look. They don’t look at each other. They look to the sideline and stare at one of Kelly’s assistants as he hand-signals in the play. They are robots in Kelly’s system.

“Have you considered no huddle as a regular staple of your offense?” A reporter asked Carroll.

“Yeah, we’ve always talked about it,” he said. “We’re a little bit more old school, I guess.”

Long live the old school. Long live the huddle.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

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