BY GEORGE ARTSITAS — Imagine you’re Chip Kelly for a second.
It’s not really a chore — he’s arguably the most famous person in Eugene, gets paid a handsome $3-ish million a year contract and he brought Oregon it’s first Rose Bowl in history.
Now, you’ve got to understand that he obviously has huge balls. Like, his nickname is Big Balls Chip, running with bulls, balls. And now, if you’re Chip Kelly, you’ve dominated your job with a 42-6 record since signing on and have had a perfect regular season in 2010 with a National Championship appearance. Yet, this year, you’ve plummeted two spots in the last three weeks. You’re a couple of days away from the biggest game of your season and nearly all of its national relevance is gone after USC was knocked off by Arizona last week. And even after a 8-0 start with an average margin of victory of 34 points in a conference that holds four of the Top 25 teams in the country, even if you run the table yourself, you only have an outside shot at the national championship if another two teams go undefeated. That’s your situation: You could go undefeated and not even control you’re own fate at a Championship.
Now, wouldn’t you be frustrated?
These kind of politics must get to college coaches who are that dominant. The politics of the game and the allure to the pros is so monumental, it would be hard not to make a move up to the NFL if the opportunity arose. So after a little game of just the tip with Tampa Bay last year, what would his Top 5 job opportunities be if he decides to ascend up into the NFL? DISCLAIMER: No one at the Quacktown office wants him to leave, but there’s no questioning it, he’s one of the the preeminent coaching options for the pros coming from college. So we’ve decided to cut down to the list to a Top 5 for next year.
There’s only two qualifications:
1: It has to be a feasible situation. The coaches in the NFL need to have a least a lukewarm seat to be up for consideration. This leaves first year coaches and Super Bowl winners practically all out of the picture. He also must mesh well with high-minded executives. This is definitely going to come up.
2: The players on the team he could choose must have personnel that would work well with Chip Kelly’s offense.
5. DETROIT LIONS
This would be a very interesting choice that really just barely snuck in. I think Jim Schwartz could easily be gone if the season keeps on track for their 3-4 start with a medley of tough division games ahead. Nationally, the Lions aren’t looked to as the most mature bunch in the batch. With a smorgasbord of arrests off the field, it’s hard not to try to bring in an authoritative person to help right the ship. Unfortunately, Detroit’s running game has been awful and the team is more built to go down the field. Considering the Lions are armed with Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford and a quickly developing Titus Young Sr., they could certainly could be a lot worse personnel wise. But with a punch-drunk Jahvid Best, an unproven Mikel LeShoure and some guy named Jocqui Bell — who has proven that he’s willing to jump from the four-yard line on a goal line dive, but little else — it just doesn’t seem ideal for what Chip would like to run.
4. DALLAS COWBOYS
This, on the surface, should be No. 1. The money is not an issue. It’s easy to see Jerry Jones just throwing $60 million over five years to pluck Kelly out of Eugene. There are pieces in place in Dallas that Kelly could easily drool over. Tony Romo isn’t as bad as his national perception is, Miles Austin and Dez “Drops” Bryant are a viable 1-2 at wideout. Jason Witten is possibly the most consistent and under-appreciated tight end in the NFL. And they also have DeMarco Murray, who may seem like an injury liability just two years in to his career, but when he stays on the field, Murray is a stud.
All the offensive pieces fit, Jerry Jones could easily be fed up with Jason Garrett by Thanksgiving and he has enough money to simply make a comfortable college coach like Kelly make the leap up. He’s done it before with Barry Switzer. He’s done it before with Jimmy Johnson. Just shove a high 8-figure contract in Kelly’s face and he’ll come calling to “America’s Team.”
The biggest issue facing this is obviously Jerry Jones. Jones is this generations last example of what old school owners like George Steinbrenner were. He’s ruthless, he’s power-hungry, he’s a narcissist, and those aren’t even his shortcomings. It’s impossible to see Kelly open to being the Billy Martin in this situation. But if he did, with the talent on offense, it’s hard not to see it.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
This is a tricky one since the Vikings coach Leslie Frazier isn’t really close to a even warm seat as of now. To people who might point this out, I give you one name; Raheem Morris. Last year at this time, no one had him even close to on the hot seat. Then he lost nine games in a row and was gone from Tampa Bay. Kelly nearly took his spot.
The whole coach leaving thing is an issue, but if it simply were a personnel thing and Chip could get his hands on this team? The results would be incredible. Minnesota has all the makings of what Chip likes in an offense. He’s got the utility athlete/receiver in Percy Harvin (like DeAnthony Thomas), punishing horse of a running back with Adrain Peterson, and a semi-mobile and very competent quarterback in Christian Ponder. His scheme would fit well in the consistent weather of a dome and Minnesota’s turnover-hawk defense would be easy to acclimate to.
With all that being said, it’s hard to see Leslie Frazier getting the boot. He’s started 5-3 and has already been in some early Coach of the Year conversation. It’s a long shot, but it’d probably be his best shot at building a young team that already has the right pieces.
2. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Carolina is a Mitzvah of Players That Would Work Well in Kelly’s system. His two backs would be John Stewart and DeAngelo WIlliams, who were foolishly signed to huge long-term contracts, but could have a revival in a system like Kelly’s. It’s the type of one-two punch at half back that Kelly loves: One scat back and one solid back who could catch balls out of the backfield.
He’d inherit some speedy wide outs like Brendan LaFell and AARP member Steve Smith, and has a solid tight end in Greg Olsen.
And while these pieces are all nice, but it’s hard not to recognize the opportunity in coaching Cam Newton. Kelly saw first hand how good Newton is in the 2011 National Championship game. Newton is like a hybrid of Darren Thomas and Marcus Mariota. It’s scary to think of what he could potentially do under Kelly’s tutelage.
Here’s the big issue though. If Chip’s moving to the pros, he might need 8 figures a year. Will Carolina really pay that? Probably not, but with a new GM on its way in to Pantherland, it’s hard to say it’s completely out of the realm of possibility. Especially since their coach Ron Rivera could be gone before the end of the season.
1. PHILIDELPHIA EAGLES
This is the Big Bang of all Modern Big Bangs. For me, if Kelly decided to make the leap to the pros next year, its hard to see him not ending up in city of Brotherly Love.
First off, like Rivera, Andy Reid could very well be done by the end of this year. It’s been well publicized that Reid’s position in Philly is un-guaranteed at best and it is all dependant on him reaching this team’s sky-high expectations. He’s already hinted at benching his $100 million quarterback for a rookie taken in the third round. If that isn’t a sign of desperation, I don’t know what is.
He’s the longest tenured coach in the NFL and will need a replacement that validates him leaving. Promoting within is out of the question after they let their defensive coordinator, Juan Castilla, go a couple of weeks ago. Philidelphia has no problem dolling out huge contracts (see: Michael Vick), so why not take a chance with the hottest college coach on the market?
And then how could Kelly turn this down. He’d be inheriting Michael Vick, who might be frustrating to all fantasy owners and Philly fans everywhere, but I don’t think he’s broken beyond repair. He’s still electric and Kelly could bring the best out of him. Receivers like Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin, and the DeAnthony-like Desean Jackson are perfect peripheral weapons at wide-out for Kelly’s scheme.
And then there’s LeSean McCoy, almost a carbon copy of Kenjon Barner with a little Barry Sanders spiced in. The defense has under achieved, but they’ve also had an offensive line coach as their defensive coordinator for a year and a half. This, if any, is the team that simply makes the most sense.
Kelly would be silly to turn an opportunity like this down. Let’s all hope, for the Ducks’ case, it remains a hypothetical.