After you max out your potential at a certain program, it’s natural to branch out to a bigger College Football team or move on to the NFL. Chip Kelly still isn’t done with the progress he has made with Oregon.
The lure of the NFL doesn’t affect all College Football head coaches. Just look at Urban Meyer and Les Miles, two of the most successful head coaches over the last decade in College Football, who haven’t budged towards the pros. It sometimes also has to do with fit: Some College coaches have a system that no one in the NFL is willing to look at, or don’t think it’ll fit. Sometimes it’s the money, with quite a few College Teams paying just as good or even better than in the NFL.
Chip Kelly just finished his fourth season in Oregon, going 46-7, taking the team to four BCS Bowls: Losing in the Rose Bowl, losing in the national championship game by a field goal, winning the Rose Bowl and now winning the Fiesta Bowl. Before the 35-17 win against Kansas State last week, Kelly was already in the mix with some NFL teams. It was the same story a previous year, flirting with NFL teams but eventually making the right decision: Staying in a place where he’s had great success, but still hasn’t made the most out of it.
Kelly spoke to the Eagles, Browns and Buffalo Bills. The Browns couldn’t wait for his decision, while the Bills eventually chose Doug Marrone from Syracuse. Kelly spoke for over nine hours with the Eagles, but eventually pulled out of the negotiations.
It’s not a money issue: Kelly is making $3.5 million a season at Eugene, and has six more years left on his contract. His predecessor, Mike Bellotti, helped push Oregon towards the front of the national stage during his 14 seasons with the team, but made a BCS Bowl only once, winning two conference titles. Kelly took that momentum after previously serving as the offensive coordinator and turned Oregon into a Pac-12 and national powerhouse.
The Ducks have won the division three times under his guidance, and were three points away from reaching the BCS national championship for a second time, losing to Stanford in overtime in the weekend that through Notre Dame into the number one spot and one-loss Alabama back in the race.
Leaving before a job is complete just feels wrong. This is a business, but the challenge of winning a national title for a program like Oregon has to be just as potentially satisfying as rebuilding a broken down NFL team. The truth is, Kelly’s offensive system might not work in the pros. He recruits very well in California, building what might be the best and fastest offense in the nation. The pieces of the puzzle are there for him to become more than just a memorable coach; to become a legend if he takes the Ducks to a national title, which they’re in contention of next season, according to early predictions.
The NFL can wait. Kelly is 49, and leaving a program before doing the maximum you can do with it is usually a recipe that goes bad for both sides. Kelly, unless he changes and tweaks his play calling and offense, isn’t destined for NFL greatness. Prestige fades away quickly with losses. In Oregon, he has a chance to do and become something much bigger.