"I’d have a hard time saying, ‘Hey, please come to my program cause we’re really mediocre and I’ll never get offered a job anywhere else.’" — Oregon Coach Chip Kelly, talking to reporters last time he almost took a job somewhere else ..
Oregon Ducks Coach Chip Kelly – who once told reporters, "Last time I checked, there is no ‘Hall of Average,’ " — left a football legacy of excellence for both players and fans behind when he unexpectedly moved up to an NFL head coaching job last week with the Philadelphia Eagles.
His famed mantra — "Win The Day" — is now ingrained in the DNA of a football program turned perennial powerhouse and a fan base enthralled by a gridiron magician.
The caustic responses and wailing from some who thought the coach was staying put and broke a promise is understandable. But Kelly always told his team if they prepared for a starter leaving the field, the next man up would go in and play just as hard and long and well. That institutional philosophy of seamless transition was demonstrated at the top of the depth chart Sunday —Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was named to succeed his former boss.
The Ducks in this flock are thanking Kelly for a wonderful ride and for leaving Oregon in fine shape with great young players and talented new recruits. It’s a team full of promise with a well-respected new head coach who now has a chance to spread his wings.
Kelly is graduating — it happens — and the move makes sense. His time is now. We begrudge him nothing.
What a ride -- 46-7. You know a program has reached the top when a team misses the BCS National Championship game by three points in an earlier OT loss, finishes the year ranked No. 2 in the country and yet there’s that nagging little twinge of disappointment, the thoughts of what could have been, what almost was, because we know what the Ducks would have done to Notre Dame and its imaginary girlfriend.
Chip Kelly helped build an expectation of winning, and we’re looking forward to seeing how that works out as we watch him adapt to the speed and size of the NFL. Those who doubt his chances to morph from dominant Duck to winning Eagle do so at their own peril -- Kelly would be delighted to cook up a little Crow a l'Orange and serve it up after a future Super Bowl win. On a stick.
Duck football will continue to thrive. NCAA sanctions tied to improper payment to a high school "recruiting service" hang in the air, but however tough they are the program and its fans are tougher. Hey, this is Oregon, land of hardy pioneers (and a few Californians).
The haters gonna hate and doubt and criticize, but we believe. The program’s winning tradition will continue to grow, one opponent at a time.
Chip Kelly taught us how that’s done — you take whatever's coming, one day at a time, playing like there's two minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
The best thing is that a new opportunity to Win the Day arrives every morning, another shot at victory for each of us.
Let’s use what we've learned on every play in our own lives, committed to the win, giving whatever it takes on each down because it matters and because the effort is something true and strong and good. But most of all because we know way down deep inside that playing at full speed, as hard as we can at any given moment, is its own reward and makes a game, a season, a life worth both the pain and the joy.
I forget sometimes that just being a Duck fan is more than good enough — even on those nights when a game-tying kick hits the upright and bounces away or a sure fumble recovery is fumbled, even when a trailblazing coach leaves for new frontiers in a green blur that gives some offense until they realize what’s been left behind.
In our quest for a complete game on both sides of the ball or that elusive undefeated season we forget how far we’ve come. We’re creating a complete life made of individual plays that together turn out to be worth so much more than the face value of our game tickets.
Life constantly requires calling plays on fourth and long to get a new set of downs. Sometimes we fumble or we’re intercepted. Sometimes we have to punt and start over. All of that’s OK. Because if we work hard enough, take care of our assignments, soon enough we'll get to hear the crowd shake the Earth in joyful affirmation as we take one all the way to the house.
That's winning one for the Chipper. It’s been a pleasure to watch and learn from a coach who not only knows how to get his talented young charges all the way to the house, he knows how to teach them to design and build one of their own. On spec. That’s quite a lesson to leave behind. That’s an architect, that’s building tradition, that’s a lasting legacy.
Thanks, coach. Time to fly like an Eagle and let the NFL feel the raw power of the plan you draw up, one brought out of the wilds of Oregon like a helmet-to-helmet flash of heat lightning poised to sear playing fields across the country.
We’ll use the same heat to warm the crowd against the initial chill of a quick departure and then later for its intended purpose, starting a grassroots fire nothing can put out, not even a roiling Southern tide stained crimson as longtime opponents are vanquished one after another.
The journey is about redemption, growth, validation, triumph, on a playing field evened and illuminated by the soul’s constant flame.
We commit to winning the rest of our days and watch as a new Ducks coach helps his players soar ever higher, moving forward a game at a time, treating each contest like a Super Bowl and making those key plays with the next man up if needed … whatever it takes, like the last man out taught us over and over. All of us.
We’re pretty sure Chip Kelly still has a few lessons to develop and impart as he starts working on the DNA of another team, this time on a much larger stage. But don't discount his laser focus and drive on winning, his ability to take a singed Eagle franchise and turn it into a Philadelphia Phoenix.
Opening day kickoff can't come too soon as we wait for these birds of a feather to take flight. Two cities, two teams, now linked by the shared philosophy of one man.
It was a great ride, coach. Go make us proud — we’ll do the same.
Let's Win the Day. Each of us and all of them, one at a time ...