In his one year playing for Kelly at Oregon, Mariota threw 32 touchdown passes with six interceptions and completed 68.5 percent of his passes in 2012. The Ducks finished No. 2 in the final AP poll that year.
Kelly went to the Eagles in 2013 and led them to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. The franchise has regressed, however, in 2014 and 2015. The Eagles finished 10-6 last season but failed to make the playoffs. This year, they’re 4-7 and have allowed 45 points in each of their last two games.
If Kelly and the Eagles part ways, can Kelly reset in Tennessee and recapture the magic of 2012 with Mariota?
Mariota’s NFL career is off to workable start even though the Titans are 2-7. He has 16 touchdown passes and eight interceptions and a 92.8 passer rating.
The problem is he doesn’t have a lot of weapons. Delanie Walker leads all tight ends with 59 receptions, but no one else on the team has caught more than 30 passes. Antonio Andrews, Tennessee's leading rusher, has just 408 yards. The Titans rank 30th in the NFL with 18.5 points per game and 314.5 yards per game.
Kelly would have to surround Mariota with talent, but his track record in that department isn’t very good. Jordan Matthews, taken in the second round last year, is the best offensive skill position player the Eagles have drafted under Kelly. He caught 67 passes as a rookie and 58 so far this season. Nelson Agholor, this year’s first-round pick, has just 16 receptions. Josh Huff, last year’s third-round pick, has 28 receptions in his career.
These aren’t late-round throwaway picks. In recent years, wide receivers have had an easier time transitioning to the NFL than players at most other positions. But that doesn’t seem to be happening in Philadelphia.
Kelly would need more than Mariota to succeed as an NFL coach. He’d have to improve his player evaluation and adjust to the NFL. So far the rest of the league has been able to adjust to him.