So where could Kelly end up? Here's our short list.
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Alabama (offensive consultant)
It’s unlikely that Kelly will be a head coach anywhere in college football next year, so, if he wants to stay close to the sport in 2017 – without jumping into anything full-time – what better place to do it than Tuscaloosa?
Nick Saban has clearly established a pipeline for doing such things, first turning Lane Kiffin from consultant to coordinator, before doing the same this year with Steve Sarkisian. Saban and Kelly are close, and Saban is so forward-thinking, you'd have to think he’ll at least make a phone call, right? Whether Kelly would accept is another story altogether.
Also, don’t be surprised if Urban Meyer at least checks in on Kelly with the same idea in mind -- especially considering he just hired one of Kelly's protégés to run his offense.
Brian Kelly had a disastrous 4-8 season, and even though Notre Dame’s AD gave him a “vote of confidence” we all know that he won’t be able to surive another season like this one. So if the Irish eventually move on from Brian Kelly, you’d have to think they would make a run at Chip Kelly. The Notre Dame faithful still consider themselves an elite program, and nothing would signify that they’re “back” quite like wooing Chip Kelly to South Bend.
But as far as Kelly's interest goes, remember that this is a guy who absolutely loathed the recruiting process during his stint at Oregon, and you could argue that Notre Dame – a school which has to recruit nationally to stay competitive – is the toughest school to recruit at in the country.
Add in academic restrictions and a heavy booster presence, and this job seems like a reach at-best for Kelly.
Like Brian Kelly, Jim Mora is skating on thin ice at UCLA after finishing 4-8 this year, making it the second-straight season where the program took a major step back.
Kelly had a heavy recruiting presence in Southern California while at Oregon, turning guys like De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner into stars in Eugene. Can you imagine if he had access to all those kids just a short drive from the school? It seems too good to be true.
The sad thing is, it just might be. While most programs would trip over themselves to get Kelly, UCLA probably isn’t one of them. This isn’t the typical blood-thirsty, win-at-all-costs type school, but one that in the past has been hesitant to move off coaches, and invest in its program the way that other top schools do. Assistant coaching salaries have specifically been an issue for years.
Had we made this list before the season, or even six weeks ago, putting Tennessee on it would have been laughable. But with the Vols losing four of their final seven games this season, UT fans have had enough of Butch Jones. And that shouldn’t get any better with virtually every key player leaving following this season.
It seems very realistic that the Vols could make a coaching move within the next 12 months, and if they do, Kelly would have to be at the top of their list. It also seems realistic that Kelly would be interested. Tennessee plays in the SEC, in a 100,000 seat stadium, and is a program that is willing to invest like few in college football.
If Kelly returns to college football, this seems like a near-perfect fit.
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While Kelly to Tennessee seems like a (hypothetical) match made in heaven, you know that Texas A&M – and all those wealthy boosters – will have something to say about it.
So yeah, the Aggies will be a player in any and all Chip Kelly bidding wars. The only question: Would Kelly dare come to the SEC West and try to build a power right alongside Nick Saban? If he’s willing to do that, we very well could have a perfect fit.