After the Fiesta Bowl, the Chip Kelly-to-the-NFL discussion went into overdrive. On Friday Kelly spent seven hours in discussions with the Cleveland Browns about their vacant head coaching position. Late Friday night reports began to trickle out that Kelly and the Browns were near a deal for Kelly to become the next coach of the Browns. As Lee Corso would say, though, not so fast my friends.
Kelly has always been one to try and keep his word. He had promised both the Bills and the Eagles he would listen to what they had to say about their also vacant head coaching positions. After meeting with the Bills, Kelly sat down with the Eagles for a short meeting. Well, what was supposed to be a short meeting. As it turns out, that short meeting turned into a nine hour session. The meeting was so long that it cut out a planned second meeting with the Browns Saturday evening.
Suddenly, nothing was assured. As Sunday dawned, with no agreement made between Kelly and the Browns; and no agreement between Kelly and the Eagles, the Browns contingent, consisting of owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, returned to Cleveland and the Eagles staff moved on to Denver to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Speculation began to change as sources said Kelly was not 100% committed to making the jump to the NFL. Kelly was torn between the school that gave him a chance in 2007 and the NFL. Later in the day Sunday, the rumors that Kelly was indeed returning to Oregon as their head coach and spurning yet another NFL opportunity got even stronger.
Kelly had said after the Fiesta Bowl, "I've said I'll always listen. That's what I'll do."
Listen he did; Kelly listened to two different teams for over 16 hours of meetings. On Sunday, Kelly returned to Eugene to continue considering his options. There was a team meeting already scheduled for Monday. The meeting, however, is a standard meeting that happens on the first day of Winter term every season. It allows the coaches the opportunity to remind the players of their schedule and responsibilities during the off-season.
The process was not as simple as many thought. Chip Kelly, after being somewhat surprised by the sudden interest of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, chose to return to Oregon once before. Despite telling everyone who would listen that he had not given the NFL any thought this season, sources indicated to me that he had been giving it very careful consideration since last February.
Kelly has been studying what it means to be an NFL head coach for nearly a year. It is well established that Kelly is close to several current and former NFL coaches like Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick. Over the course of the last year, he has sought their opinions and knowledge of the job.
Sources also confirmed to me that Kelly has been vested in really understanding the culture of coaching in the NFL. So much so that he took the time during the season to read Coaching Confidential: Inside the Fraternity of NFL Coaches.
The book works to give a composite view of what a year of coaching in the NFL is like. Rather than follow one coach, the book makes a composite picture following coaches like Super Bowl winners such as Bill Parcells, Tom Coughlin, Jimmy Johnson, Tony Dungy, Sean Payton, Mike Shanahan, Dick Vermeil, Mike Holmgren, Brian Billick, and Joe Gibbs. In total, the portrait is drawn through interviews with more than 20 current and former NFL head coaches. Coaching Confidential covers the draft, free agency, big trades, training camp, family crisis, player troubles, coaching relationships with members of the staff, coach-owner dynamics, rivalries, X's and O's, the playoffs... all the way to the Super Bowl.
The selection of this book was no accident and you can be sure that reading the book had a great impact on Kelly's decision. Going into the interviews with Cleveland, Buffalo and Philadelphia, Kelly had an idea of what it would take to sway him into leaving Oregon.
According to sources, ultimately, after listening to what these three teams had to offer, Chip Kelly has made the decision to return to Oregon and will no longer pursue NFL opportunities at this point in time.
After winning the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks are sure to be an early top five team to open the 2013 season and have plenty of firepower returning with Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff all returning to an exceptional offense. Though the Ducks lose a couple of senior offensive linemen and the second leading rusher in school history, they are also adding one of the most talented high school running backs in Oregon high school history as Thomas Tyner, the state record holder in the 100-meters has pledged him commitment to Oregon. He has the size and speed to be one of the best ever.
Clearly, though, the biggest impact is the return of Kelly to the program that he took to the next level. Kelly, who has gone 46-7 during his four years at the helm of Duck football continues to be one of the brightest minds in all of football, not just the college game. His innovative approach to the game on the field and practices are legendary throughout football.