When Stepfan Taylor finished his 44 yard touchdown run to make it 21-3 Stanford, many Oregon fans thought the game over. Most Oregon fans had a terrible feeling in the pit of their stomachs, that this team isn't yet an elite team, that our expectations were too high for this mistake-prone team. We came out flat against Tennessee and Arizona State, and we knew that if we keep getting down early in games, we won't be able to save all of them.
I wasn't worried.
I wasn't worried about our defense, who had essentially given up one long drive and one badly executed running play. I wasn't worried about our offense, who were moving the ball extremely well, save for one poor decision. It was the first quarter, and there's no sense worrying when we've shown an uncanny ability to learn and adjust, and score a lot of points. And true to form, this Duck team came roaring back to win 52-31, putting up almost 500 yards of offense and holding Stanford to 10 points over the final three quarters.
Common sense says that if a football team gives up 21 points in a quarter, you should panic. So why wasn't I worried? I wasn't worried because I unconditionally trust Chip Kelly. He has completely changed the culture surrounding the Oregon football program, and it's time for the fans to buy in.
In an industry filled with empty promises, shady dealings, and a subjective view of the truth, Kelly is the exception. He trusts his players. He is honest with the media. And, most importantly, he believes what he tells his players to believe. A philosophy like "Win the Day" is nothing new; "taking it one day at a time" is one of the biggest clichés in sports. But that mantra is how Chip Kelly lives, and his players see that, and in Coach Kelly's second season at the helm, they have embraced it, not only as a team motto, but as a lifestyle. It's one thing to say "Win the Day". It's quite another thing altogether to actually win it.
Many critics of Coach Kelly's style believe his yelling and screaming makes him childish and selfish. What else do you expect him to do? A head coach is supposed to be vocal, subjective, and protective of his team and the players on it. It's not his fault he's loud and the camera loves him. Every coach participates in the same gamesmanship in their own individual way. Coach Kelly is incredibly loyal to his players, and is unflappably stubborn in defending them, provided his players show him the same respect he shows them. He cares about his players as athletes and as men. And you can't build this level of trust with your team with anything less.
Chip Kelly's newly-coined moniker of Big Balls Chip seems apt, but is it more that most other coaches balls are tiny? People are talking about the 4th and 1 call like it was some huge gamble. It was one yard, and we were using our offense. I don't think we should ever punt on a 4th and 3-or-less ever again, and I don't think Coach Kelly does either. It isn't hard to get one or two yards, and it definitely isn't hard for our offense. It shouldn't be Big Balls Chip. It should be Common Sense Chip.
The media's infatuation with Coach Kelly is due to the fact that he challenges the social norms of football coaches. It has become a game for journalists like Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and "journalists" like John Canzano to interview CK; they want to break him, find a chink in his aura of focus and dry wit. He's clever, straightforward, and kind of a smart ass. He never wavers from his ideals because that's all he's got. He doesn't have a public image that differs from his private life. He is who he is, and his natural charisma is doing as much for Oregon's national image as the Duck and his many pushups.
The moment that sums up Chip Kelly's impact on the University of Oregon came Saturday night. The clock had just expired, and fans were pouring onto the field. ESPN's Erin Andrews began to ask Coach Kelly a question, but there were a group of students yelling at the camera. Kelly turns around and says, "Can you show some respect?" Instant silence. There is nothing but the highest respect for this man in the city of Eugene and throughout the Oregon football nation. There is no question in my mind that Chip Kelly will be the Oregon football coach until he decides to leave the program. trumpetduck said to me Saturday night following the game, "Is this what Penn State fans felt like in Joe Paterno's second year?" I say no. This feels better.