Aside from the obvious current college candidates for the Florida job — UCF head coach Scott Frost and Oregon head coach Willie Taggart have been in the lead, per SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey, while Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen is another obvious consideration — an old name is raising some eyebrows: former Oregon Ducks head coach and current ESPN commentator Chip Kelly.
Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reports Florida is indeed interested in Kelly.
A thorough vetting of Kelly has begun. That includes calls to NFL executives to do general background on Kelly and exploration of his NCAA issues at Oregon.
Kelly wasn’t thought to be intrigued by SEC jobs, but Florida presents a different dynamic as it has more of Kelly’s preferred East Coast vibe. For now, it’s not known if each party is completely sold on each other. But the mutual exploration process is underway.
Another rumor, from one of the first to report Jim McElwain’s time at Florida was about over:
Confirmed that UF is looking at Chip Kelly as next head coach. Decision could be as soon as this week. Also heard that Florida was becoming very frustrated with Jimmy Sexton, who represents many other potential candidates. Chip is represented by David Dunn.— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) November 13, 2017
While Kelly hasn’t coached at the collegiate level since 2012, he’s been rumored to be a candidate for virtually every major college opening since.
And just about every time a prominent school is losing, you can find fans of that team calling for Kelly to take over.
As for Florida specifically, Alligator Army points out why having him on the list makes sense:
Kelly is the No. 1 candidate of frustrated Florida fans, 2010-present and also Alligator Army’s all-time Florida wide receivers coach. His Oregon offenses revolutionized college football in a way very reminiscent of Spurrier’s offenses revolutionizing the SEC, and his Ducks were cool and arrogant in ways that harkened back to Spurrier’s halcyon days, too. There are many Florida fans who see Chip Kelly as a squatter Steve Spurrier with fewer visor tosses.
Kelly jumping to the NFL and failing at both Philadelphia and San Fransisco reminds me of Steve Spurrier’s jump from the Gators to the Washington Redskins in 2002. He had the offensive creativity to become a successful NFL head coach, but it never panned out.
He ended up returning to the collegiate ranks with South Carolina, where he led the Gamecocks to historic heights from 2005 to 2015. I’m not a fortune teller saying Kelly’s story would go the same way if he does return to college, but I could see it happening.
Pete Carroll and Nick Saban won national titles after leaving the NFL head coaching ranks as well.
There is cause for hesitation, though.
In 2013, Kelly was hit with a two-season show-cause ban due to his connection with the 2011 Oregon recruiting scandal. Alligator Army points that out as the reason his name wasn’t mentioned much for the job in 2014:
Kelly’s show-cause penalty was a strong reason he was not a strong candidate for Florida in 2014; now, it’s easier to point to a lot of reasons other than Florida’s strong preference for not thumbing its nose at the NCAA that Florida would not want to pay the premium to pry Kelly off of TV and get him to Gainesville, and even easier to believe that Kelly simply doesn’t want to coach college football again. (And, well: Rules might get in the way anyway.)
He’s also never coached in the Southeast, and there’s an argument that many of his tactics have been adopted by programs all across the country anyway.
Plenty of Florida fans wouldn’t mind having Kelly, though. A sample of the AD’s mentions during McElwain’s exit:
I want Chip Kelly at Florida. Make it happen @ScottStricklin— Scoochie (@HAleYeAhh) October 29, 2017
@ScottStricklin love the move today. No need to waste anymore time with this nonsense. Please call Chip Kelly ASAP!— Jason Krehbiel (@jaxsurfer84) October 29, 2017