National Football League
Kelly's decision comes at wary time
National Football League

Kelly's decision comes at wary time

Published Jan. 16, 2013 12:00 a.m. ET

We like to analyze flip-flops, and wonder if they make people flighty, liars, attention-grabbers or fearful or something. Chip Kelly might well be all of those, though I lean against “liar.’’

Sure, he told Oregon last week that he was turning down the offer from the Philadelphia Eagles, and staying. And on Wednesday he was announced as the new Eagles coach. But Kelly meant what he said last week, as well as what he said Wednesday.

He’d always wanted to be in the NFL, and always said he’d listen to offers. His offer at Tampa Bay last year didn’t include enough control, so he went back to Oregon. This year, with so many NFL openings, you had to assume he would jump.

When Kelly stayed at Oregon last week, he didn’t make any false pleas about his love of the college game, or of Oregon. In fact, he really didn’t say anything. Neither did Oregon, which suggested that they still figured he might take some NFL job.


It’s unknown if the Eagles altered their offer, adding more control, or if Kelly just thought about it for a week and decided he had made a mistake.

But when your head goes up into the clouds, the way his did when NFL teams came calling, sometimes it’s hard to go back to work. After he turned down the Eagles, he had to come back to recruiting, the part of the job few coaches enjoy, and some resent.

On top of that, Oregon already knows it violated NCAA rules under Kelly, making payments to a Texas street agent, Will Lyles, whose job was to get recruits to go to Oregon. It was a storyline reported heavily by Yahoo! Sports, among others.

Oregon self-investigated, and then told the NCAA what it thought had happened, and suggested what it considered an appropriate punishment. The NCAA disagreed, and decided to move forward with the investigation.

Did Kelly just run from the NCAA? That was not likely the biggest reason, or he would have taken the job in the first place. But it had to matter. Oregon could be banned from the postseason next season.

Pete Carroll has changed everything for college coaches. His success with the Seattle Seahawks, after he left USC to run from NCAA sanctions, showed so many things. For the NFL, it showed that college coaches can do the job in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh showed the same thing, which is why so many NFL teams have been after college coaches the past few weeks.

For college coaches, Carroll also showed that the NFL can be the great get-out-of jail-free card. For so long, college coaches had to worry that breaking the rules could leave them out of work, albeit with a lot of money. Now, you can break rules to win, and use that success to go to the NFL.

Life decisions are rarely made on one thing alone. Some coaches just see the NFL as the pinnacle of the profession. In Kelly’s case, his mindset is just as hyper and as his offenses.

Surely he wants to see if his ideas on offense will work in the NFL. The league’s focus has been changing, which is why the new head-coaching hires have all been offensive guys.

"Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles,’’ Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team.’’

It’s possible. But Kelly will have to change, and also adapt his personal style to suit NFL players.

NFL offenses are more up-tempo now, allowing quarterbacks to run and looking a little more like college offenses. That’s what makes Kelly so appealing.

But I don’t think that will last, actually, as quarterbacks take too much of a beating and defensive coordinators figure it out. They’ll get there.

Kelly’s tempo will provide a wrinkle to coordinators for a while. The problem is, his up-tempo style in practice, mixed with his thin skin and giant ego, will be a disaster when dealing with NFL stars.

He’ll need a quarterback with the Eagles, and already people are wondering if that means Michael Vick will be back. Don’t count on it. He costs too much (would be guaranteed $15 million to stay with the Eagles in this current contract), and already took too much of a beating under Andy Reid’s system.

No, Kelly will need a new quarterback while putting in his system. But the Eagles do have some speed, and, unlike Reid, Kelly will use it.

Still, I’m not predicting big things for Kelly in the NFL. I’m not even predicting he’ll be there for three years. Plenty of big college jobs will be open by 2015, and when pro reality hits Kelly, college reality will start looking good again.

It’s just the way his brain works. But for now, this week, Kelly is in the NFL for the long run.


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