Chip Kelly will receive another opportunity to be an NFL head coach. While his firing after a 6-9 campaign by the Philadelphia Eagles has brought about pot shots for his inability to bring his "college system" to the NFL, it was ultimately his struggles as a personnel director that proved to be his undoing. As a coach, there are plenty of reasons to give him another chance.
It wasn't Kelly the coach who traded away LeSean McCoy, made an ill-advised quarterback swap that landed Sam Bradford in Philadelphia or gave DeMarco Murray a big contract in free agency. Those were his failings in trying to build an elite roster. Prior to that, Kelly led the Eagles to back-to-back 10-6 seasons.
Nick Foles was a Pro Bowler and the Eagles offense finished No. 2 in the NFL in Kelly's first season. But even when Foles' play dropped off and he suffered a collarbone injury, the Eagles still managed to finish No. 3 in the NFL in scoring in 2014.
But when Kelly completely reconfigured the backfield in 2015, the team couldn't run the ball with the same efficiency and the Philadelphia offense fell to become just average. And just average isn't nearly good enough when the team's philosophy is to ignore time of possession and just outgun its opponents.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie tried to strip Kelly of his control of the team's personnel, according to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, and the coach reportedly balked at the idea, leading to his firing. According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, Kelly says he doesn't want to control personnel at his next stop and that he just wants to coach.
So where will that next stop be? After Week 17, we'll have a better idea of his options after several coaches get fired, but there are already a couple landing spots that make sense.
The Titans will pick in the top two of the 2016 NFL Draft, and are likely to be the owners of the first pick, one year after taking Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The former Oregon Ducks quarterback had to deal with a lack of offensive weapons around him in his first NFL season and while he showed plenty of promise, the team is 3-12.
After a 1-6 start, the Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt and replaced him with Mike Mularkey as the interim head coach, but the former Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach hasn't fared much better.
Now the Titans will look to hire someone who can successfully coach an offense led by the young franchise quarterback. Who better to do so than the former Oregon head coach and architect of the offensive system that eventually earned Mariota a Heisman Trophy?
The two really only worked together for one year before the Eagles came calling for Kelly after Mariota's freshman year. Mariota finished his freshman season with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions as Oregon cruised to a 12-1 record, a win in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 2 in the final BCS rankings.
It's doubtful that Tennessee has the firepower to be anywhere near a Super Bowl contender in 2016, but Mariota did manage to lead the Titans to offensive explosions of 33, 34, 42 and 42 points. If the team can use the offseason to add offensive talent and more protection for Mariota, Kelly is a fit that makes plenty of sense.
Likelihood it happens: 6/10
How It Ended in Philly
How It Ended in Philly
The Browns have never done well with being patient, so it wouldn't be surprising at all if a Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers is Mike Pettine's last as the team's head coach. After blowing a 7-4 start to the 2014 season with a five-game losing streak to end the year, the Browns were bad in every aspect in 2015 and Pettine's own inability to manage clock proved costly, too.
Pettine has had the challenge of dealing with Johnny Manziel during his last two seasons and it's tough to say that he did well with the job. He benched Manziel after a video surfaced that showed the quarterback partying, but didn't levy the same punishment when another video surfaced. When he benched Manziel after the first video and dropped the quarterback to third on the depth chart, some in the organization reportedly felt Pettine only stuck to his guns as a way to "exert his presence" as head coach.
If the Browns decide to fire Pettine, the team will need to hire a head coach ready to handle the spotlight and drama that comes with Johnny Football, and Kelly has shown himself to be a disciplinarian. Perhaps too much so, as Kelly has ruffled feathers during his time as a coach, but the tight structure of the former Eagles coach might be a perfect fit for Manziel.
Once upon a time, Kelly's heart was broken by Manziel when he decommitted from Oregon and opted to go to Texas A&M instead. Kelly told Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly that Manziel would've been a huge success in the Ducks offense:
"When I coached at Oregon he was tailor made for it," Kelly said. "He broke my heart. I love the kid. I think he's a hell of a football player."
After two seasons, the Browns still haven't had a chance to really evaluate whether or not Manziel is a quarterback worth trying to build around, but Kelly's offense could provide the opportunity to really find out. After all, the Browns almost hired Kelly three years ago, but settled with Rob Chudzinski after the Eagles swiped away their first choice.
Likelihood it happens: 4/10
College coaching job
There's no doubt that Kelly was hugely successful at the collegiate level, racking up a 46-7 record in four seasons at Oregon with two trips to the Rose Bowl, one to the Fiesta Bowl and one to the BCS National Championship in January 2011.
Even before he arrived at Oregon, he led a record-breaking offense at New Hampshire.
There isn't much reason to believe that Kelly wouldn't be an immediate success in college football again if he elected to return, but there's a couple big reasons why it won't happen.
- Kelly seems determined to find NFL success.
- There are no college jobs for him to take.
Kelly telling Glazer that he wants a job that doesn't offer personnel control speaks volumes about his determination to make it in the NFL. In college football, he could run the show entirely, but telling Glazer that he'd be willing to take a back seat and "just coach" certainly sounds like he's ready to immediately give the NFL another shot.
But even if he wants to return to college football, where is he going to go? The only job openings right now are Ball State and Texas State, and marquee jobs like USC and Miami have already filled their vacancies. The most realistic scenario that ends up with Kelly in a top college coaching job is one where he sits out of coaching in 2016 altogether.
Likelihood it happens: 1/100
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