Despite a bad 2015 season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Chip Kelly isn’t going to stay unemployed for long. But where does he go? We still don’t know how many teams are going to fire their head coaches, but the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns come to mind, while college football seems like a good place to return to, although that depends on the vacancy.
Right now, the Titans seem like the one opening that’s definitely going to be worth checking out. Mike Mularkey is the interim head coach, and hasn’t done anything worth keeping him around for much longer. While the Titans might not be the best job in the world considering how far away they seem to be from contending for anything in the AFC, there’s the Marcus Mariota factor: Kelly coached him in college, and tried working out some trade to draft him. Having a quarterback you really want to work with is a good reason to pick up a job.
But it’s also why everyone assumes the Colts is going to be the #1 job this offseason. Chuck Pagano is still at the helm, but missing the playoffs this year hasn’t really helped him. While common wisdom seems to blame the general manager for the Colts’ failure this season (and being unlucky due to Andrew Luck’s injury as well), Pagano has hd some bad coaching moments in 2015, which could lead to a team with Super Bowl aspirations becoming available, and Kelly, like others, will try to land the job in order to coach Luck.
A third time that might be needing a new head coach soon are the Cleveland Browns. Mike Pettine hasn’t been able to build on his 7-9 debut season, and Johnny Manziel is someone Kelly really wanted to sign when he was in Oregon. Normally, joining the Browns seems like putting your head into the wrong place, but if Kelly doesn’t see any other available jobs on the horizon, he might go for it, and try to be the one who helps turn around the worst franchise in the NFL.
Another team with an interim head coach are the Miami Dolphins. Dan Campbell hasn’t been able to turn things around for the Dolphins and although he seems to be quite popular with the players, that might not be enough to hold on to the job. The Dolphins have quality on this team and are always willing to invest in order to move up the pecking order in the AFC East. Is Kelly someone they might be interested in? A little too soon to tell.
And then there’s always college. Linking him to USC and LSU makes no sense – they’re committed to the coaches they have, at least for the next 12 months. But there are other jobs, with more than three letters in them. UCLA seem to be hitting a ceiling again and again, while Jim Mora might be looking for a way back into the NFL despite the very good job he’s done with the Bruins. Auburn could be tires of Gus Malzahn, and the same can be said about Texas A&M with Kevin Sumlin and Texas with Charlie Strong, although right now, it seems like those jobs aren’t opening up.
Kelly could always take the coordinator route, but for someone who went 26-21, it seems a bit soon to take that demotion right away. He might have been stubborn and arrogant in his first run as an NFL head coach, but not everything was bad during those three years. The problem is his best came early during the stint. Now, he’ll be working with more suspicions about his ability to change a program, and with no one calling him an offensive genius. Actually, the less of that pressure might be for the best.