Will Chip Kelly coach in 2017? If so, it could mean checking his ego at the door and taking a role as an assistant while keeping his eyes on becoming a head coach again.
The grand experiment of Chip Kelly as a NFL head coach saw some ups – the Eagles went 10-6 in his first season in Philadelphia – and some major downs, the latest being fired by the San Francisco 49ers after just one season in charge.
Kelly, who is only 53 and still has plenty of juice left in the tank, will coach again somewhere soon, but where exactly, and at what level, is unknown. Would the former Oregon head coach consider a return to the college ranks after having been beaten up at the professional level?
“I evaluate all jobs individually. I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Kelly told Fox Sports Bruce Feldman. “I’ve never said I’m only looking at one thing. I will never leave my team when there are games left in the season, so I never looked at college because all those jobs are filled while NFL season is still going on. I only talked to NFL teams after our bowl game was over when I was at Oregon. It’s pretty simple for me: You can never leave your players during the season. How can you ask players to be all in and then leave when you get a better deal?”
While head coaching positions open up throughout the latter part and end of seasons, all of them, as Kelly stated, are currently filled for next year, meaning that if Kelly wants to be in charge of a college program again, he would likely have to sit out this upcoming season and see what becomes available. He would undoubtedly be near, if not at the top of every coaching search committee’s wish list, so Kelly could theoretically be patient and wait for the right situation to present itself.
The other option, should no suitable head coaching positions open up late in the carousel, would take a huge ego check for the proud Kelly: serving as an assistant, perhaps offensive coordinator, somewhere.
Suffice to say, going from the 2010 AP Coach of the Year at Oregon to one of 32 head coaches in the NFL to a college assistant is not the ideal career path. But for some, such as Lane Kiffin, the restoration of a reputation is needed in order to set straight their trajectory.
This is not to say that Kelly is the same as Kiffin, who on Monday had yet another awkward dismissal from a job, but the situations are similar: swift rises to the top of the industry, only to be humbled by failure and hubris.
Adding Kelly to a staff would be a major coup for any head coach, as he brings an offensive acumen that is tough to match and an appeal that could assist in recruiting. Kelly will automatically make a team better.
It is up to Kelly on where the next chapter leads: does he stay off the sidelines for the first time in 30 years, or does he swallow some pride and slowly migrate back into college football as a valued assistant? Either way, it will be interesting to watch what’s next for one of the game’s brightest offensive innovators.