I'm sure a lot of Duck fans have been wringing their hands ever since the season ended thinking about the fact that Kelly might jump to the NFL, but let me reassure you, it's not happening anytime soon.
Last year I wrote a piece talking about why I thought Kelly moving to the NFL was inevitable. A lot of those points are still valid; proliferation of spread offensive players and demand and need for fresh offensive minded coaches. But there is something different now. Kelly is in demand and he knows it.
Let's take a step back. Let's look at the college coaches that have jumped to the NFL over the last couple of years and examine the ones that have been successful and the ones that haven't. Here is the list of successful ones: Jim Harbaugh, Greg Schiano, and Pete Carroll. Now for the ones that haven't been as successful: Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Jim Mora, Steve Spurrier, Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Mike Riley, and Lane Kiffin.
First thing to recognize, how many of those names are related to the Pac 12? It's no secret that Chip Kelly has a great relationship with other coaches in the conference. Along with his connections with coaches out of the circle (Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy), I'm sure Kelly has been able to learn all the good, bad and ugly about what it takes to be a coach in the league. It would be easy for him to pick up a phone and find out all the dirt he needs to about the Tampa Bay job by calling Dungy and Gruden. I'm sure if he wanted to know about how brutal the press is, he could easily text message Kiffin and Mora. Riley and Kelly seem to have a really good relationship in state. I'm sure Riley has plenty of wisdom to impart about being secure in your college career versus grasping for that recognition and appreciation that comes from winning at the highest level.
If Kelly truly wanted to make the jump to the NFL, given his penchant for studying every angle and leveraging every point he can to put the odds in his favor, I'm sure he would take advantage of the wealth of knowledge these coaches have to give.
That brings me to the most interesting aspect of what has changed over the last year.
Earlier this year, the Boston Globe wrote an article about the New England Patriot's up-tempo offense. In that article they talk about how Belichick brought Kelly into practices to help teach his no huddle offense. Belichick is known for gleaming from some of the best football minds out there;
That's what Belichick does, with his alliances with coaches such as Nick Saban (LSU and Alabama), Urban Meyer (Florida and Ohio State) and, now, Kelly.
Belichick considers Kelly one of the best football minds. That has to boost Kelly's ego. A multiple Super Bowl-winning coach wants to learn from him. Obviously, that means Kelly should be keeping his secrets to himself. Obviously, Kelly should take that genius to the NFL and use it against these guys, right?
Told of Belichick's comments Sunday, Kelly again downplayed his influence.
"It's more than a two-way street," said Kelly, whose second-ranked Ducks play at Arizona State on Thursday night. "When you get a chance to visit with Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, I get a lot more out than I guarantee they did."
What is it that Kelly is getting out of them? What exactly is this offensive mastermind being called in from little Eugene, Oregon via D 1-AA New Hampshire getting out of sitting down with Belichick and Carroll?
That answer is easy. How to be successful as an NFL coach.
Look back at that list. Carroll is one of the successful ones. In 2010 Kelly met with Carroll and the Seahawks. That initially led me to believe that Kelly was definitely looking at a jump to the NFL. Two months later he was meeting with the management and front office personnel of the Buccaneers. Something pushed Kelly away from signing with Tampa Bay. Most media will have you believe that it was the insecurity of job status for Helfrich and the other coaches, but that doesn't make sense when you also hear from some of the same media outlets that if Kelly had left, Helfrich would have been promoted in his place. So which was it?
I believe it was a conversation he had with Gruden or Dungy that changed his mind. I believe those two successful coaches told Kelly to take his time and figure out the right place for him to go. I'm sure they left it up to Kelly and even probably advocated for Tampa Bay a bit given their histories with that team, but I'm sure they left one indelible message with him: Figure out what it takes for him to be a successful coach in the NFL and make his choice according to that.
Let's step back again. This isn't the first or even second time Kelly has flirted with the NFL. Before Kelly came to Oregon, Tom Coughlin offered him a coaching position on his staff. Kelly turned him down. If Kelly was hellbent on being a coach in the NFL, that was his fastest route possible. Position coach to coordinator to coach in the NFL. That's how most guys do it. Kelly turned him down to stay at D 1-AA New Hampshire.
A few months later he was coaching at Oregon. Why the change? Because Kelly saw a staff, an administration, an organization and fans, and a media that he could work with. That didn't exist in New York. Kelly felt there was something special about being a coach at Oregon that he could associate with. Kelly felt that coming to Oregon was the best for Kelly as well as for Oregon.
That's what is rare about Kelly. His career choices aren't just about Kelly. They have always been about what is best for the organization, the other coaches and the players.
Now think back to the Tampa Bay job and tell me that it doesn't make a lot more sense on why he turned them down.
So if Kelly wants to make the jump to the NFL, it has to be according to what makes him a successful coach. It's going to take an organization that is built for winning. That means they need to have a decent coaching staff already in place, like it was at Oregon. They need a good to great defensive coordinator cause it is really unlikely that Kelly is going to want to come in and try and overhaul that side of the ball. They are going to need excellent management that has shown an ability to draft well. It's going to need a great owner that understands that innovation and expecting the best out of people are what drives results, not 40 times and vertical leaps at combines.
Kelly is also going to look at the media and the fans. Kelly has built a great rapport with the media in Oregon. They finally get him and understand what he is going to answer and what he won't. He can make bold decisions to close practices or not release any injury info and they're just going to roll with it now. He also has undying fan support. Fans can look at his blunders in games and realize we're happy to trade those for the multitude of wins that come in spite of it. We put up with the lack of information we get from practices and locker rooms because we know we're better off because he's the one doing it.
Now you're probably saying, "there aren't a lot of NFL jobs like that out there" and I agree. But Kelly can afford to wait.
Just like Kelly knew turning down the Giants job was the right thing for him in the long run, he also knows that turning down the unsuccessful NFL jobs will be as well. Just like Tampa Bay. Kelly can afford to wait for the right job to open up. Kelly is well regarded among NFL coaches and management. Who do you think that best serves? Kelly or the desperate NFL team looking for a quick fix? Kelly knows that he can create his NFL wish list and wait until that job opening happens and get it. If it doesn't, then just like the with Giants job, he's happy to continue to be the quirky coach with the gimmicky offense in the sub-optimal league.
You think Carroll told him he wishes he had jumped at the first open NFL position possible when they met in 2010 or that he's glad he waited for the right position for himself? You think Belichick told him he wished he hadn't turned down the Jets and gone to the Patriots, or that what happened to him in Cleveland wasn't a learning experience about working for the right organization? You think Kelly was kidding when he said he gets more out of those guys than they do from him less than a year after turning down the Tampa Bay job and staying at Oregon?
I don't think Kelly is going to the NFL anytime soon. There isn't a position that is opening that fits the criteria that I think Kelly is looking for. If you disagree, think about what it would take for a D 1-AA coach to turn down a New York NFL offer to take an Oregon job and then look at the available coaching positions this year and tell me which one that is.
Then again, I could be wrong and Kelly could be coaching the Jets next year.
I'm sure there is a lot to talk about regarding the Pac 12 today with the release of Bowl game configurations and BCS standings. Go ahead and use this space to talk about that too.