These days everyone has an opinion on what Chip Kelly's future will hold. The consensus is that by this time next year, Kelly will be roaming the sidelines of an NFL team. However, what if Kelly held out a little longer? What possibilities could be looming down the road?
It seems the list of possible destinations for Kelly this offseason will be extensive. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Philadelphia, Cleveland, San Diego and Kansas City will all have voids to fill come January. There has also been a good deal of speculation surrounding at least a handful of other coaching positions around the league, including great destinations like Dallas, Carolina and New Orleans.
There are still four games remaining in the 2012 season and a lot can go right, or wrong, in the span of a month in the NFL; so no position openings are guaranteed. However, no matter what jobs do become available, it's popular belief that Kelly will be at the top of every team-in-need’s list of candidates.
While it wouldn't be exactly shocking if Kelly did move on to the next level (he's surely earned the right), there may be a better idea.
Be patient. Wait for the New England Patriots to come calling.
The idea may seem a little far-fetched but if you stop and think about it, it makes all the sense in the world.
Think about it for a minute
First of all, remember whom we are talking about here. Every single move that Kelly makes is a calculated one. He is a man who prepares one step (or day) at a time and always has success at the highest level as his number one goal. This means Kelly isn't just going to take any old job offer that comes along. If say the Browns come calling, it wouldn't appear that Kelly would jump at the opportunity just because it's the NFL.
If and when Kelly does go to the NFL, he will want to win and win quickly. You can guarantee that wherever Kelly goes he will have thought long and hard about the personnel, management, and coaches already in place, as well as the ability to be successful with all of them. New England is definitely a place in which winning immediately is possible.
Granted by the time the Patriots will be in need of a new head coach it’s likely that Tom Brady will have ridden off into the sunset already, but the Patriots are an organization that knows what it takes to win. They also have ownership that will do whatever it takes to do so.
It is likely that no organization that will have coaching vacancies in the next couple years can say that.
Not so fast my friend
Kelly isn't in as big of a hurry to get to the NFL as many assume, if so he would be in Tampa Bay. In fact if the issue were so pressing to Kelly, he never even would have come to Oregon in the first place.
While Kelly was still the offensive coordinator for the University of New Hampshire, Tom Coughlin offered him an entry gig with the New York Giants. Kelly didn’t think the time was right and instead became Oregon’s offensive coordinator months later.
If Kelly was so hell-bent on getting into football's top league he would have taken Coughlin's offer and worked his way up the coaching ranks like most NFL minds do. However as Oregon's opponents have painfully learned over the past six years, Kelly analyzes and calculates all of his options before pulling the trigger on anything.
Knowing full well that Oregon had a fantastic group of coaches already in place, an athletic department dedicated to winning and a group of donors able to afford such dedication; Kelly chose the best opportunity for himself at the time and it wasn’t the NFL. Who’s to say that isn’t still the case today?
Influence from 3,100 miles away
Take a look at the Patriots offense this year. Does it remind you of anything or more importantly anyone?
According the Boston Globe's, Greg Bedard, Kelly has already made at least three trips to Gillette Stadium to meet with the Patriots’ coaching staff, giving them some pointers along the way.
Granted the meetings were likely mutually beneficial (anyone who picks Bill Belichick's mind is bound to come away a better football coach), but it's obvious Kelly influenced the way the Patriots and Belichick do things. There is no better proof of Kelly’s influence on the Patriots then from the mouth of Mr. Belichick himself.
“I was interested to hear how he did it,” Belichick said when asked about Kelly's take on the no-huddle. “I would say he expanded it to a different level and it was very interesting to understand what he was doing. Certainly I’ve learned a lot from talking to Chip about his experiences with it and how he does it and his procedure and all that.”
The proof can be found on the field as well. Since Kelly’s most recent visit, the Patriots are scoring (and running plays) at a whole new pace. The Patriots are averaging over 36-points per game this season and have scored over 29 points in nine of their twelve games so far. In the NFL, those numbers are equivalent to Oregon’s level of scoring.
The seed has already been planted and it appears that Kelly has been watering it well. As a college coach stationed 3,100 miles from Gillette Stadium, Kelly is already influencing the Patriots’ ways. This is something that has to have the Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, wondering what Kelly could do if in New England.
A Chip off Belichick's shoulder
Whenever the day comes that Belichick finally does decide to hang up the hoody, who better to replace him then Chip Kelly? Of all the coaches out there, who reminds you of Belichick more than Kelly himself?
The way they both dance around the media's questioning. Their stances on talking about injuries or personnel. Their ability to scout talent and get the most out of players others couldn't (see Danny Woodhead or Kelly's early recruiting classes). Their attention to detail. Their undeniable knowledge of the game and ability to turn it into winning. When you think about it, they're virtually the same guy except one wears a visor.
For all we know these may be moot points and Mark Helfrich could be the new Oregon head coach come January 4th. Kelly's relationship with the Patriots could be put on hold and he could be on his way to Philadelphia (or somewhere else).
Or, when Kelly said he had "unfinished business" at Oregon last offseason maybe he was talking about more than just a national championship for the Ducks. Maybe he is also paving himself a path to coaching his hometown's favorite team and to the top of one of the NFL's best organizations.
Vince Tushner is on Twitter. Follow him at @sportsvince21