Chip Kelly lives his life much like his offense— completely unpredictable.
Just ten days after announcing that he would be returning as Oregon's head coach for the 2013 season, Kelly shocked the Oregon community by announcing he would instead be leaving Eugene to take the Philadelphia Eagles head coaching position.
While the Ducks are shocked and somewhat saddened by the announcement, there is no time to dwell on the past. The Ducks are now tasked with picking a new head coach, a decision that is obviously very crucial to their continued success moving forward.
All prior indications have led one to believe it would be current offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, that would be replacing Kelly whenever he left. Defensive coordinator Nick Allioti's name has also been thrown around quite a bit, while the rumor mills have also brought up names like Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden and Boise State head coach, Chris Peterson.
The Ducks are required by the state to hold interviews and open the job up to all qualified candidates, so no announcement has been made yet, but it is likely that one of the men mentioned already is next in line.
Continued solidarity in the Oregon coaching staff will likely be key to the Ducks' future moving forward and the Ducks' athletic director, Rob Mullens, echoed this idea when he met with the public on Wednesday.
"What we want is someone who understands the culture. It is unique here and not only within our football program but within our community. We want someone who has proven excellence, who's been around proven programs, who knows what it takes because the expectations for this program have shifted. We want to compete for Pac-12 championships and we want to be in BCS bowls. So we want someone that understands what that takes," Mullens said Wednesday.
Up until Kelly's departure, Oregon was the only program in the country to have no coaching turnover during the past four seasons. When Kelly was first promoted to head coach in 2009, many in the booster circles worried that he would completely shake up a coaching staff that already had four members with 15-plus years of in-house experience on it. Not only did Kelly not make any major changes, but he kept the same staff during his entire tenure.
Kelly's desire to make the jump to the NFL has been common knowledge for over a year now, meaning Oregon's recruiting pitch over the past year has likely included this knowledge. As coaches have made their in-home visits and pitches to recruits, playing for Kelly has obviously been a selling point. However, with Kelly's uncertain future, the fact that the nine current assistant coaches have a combined 133 years of coaching experience in Eugene had to be the most important thing Oregon was selling.
In today's college football coaching landscape, the loyalty and consistency among Oregon's staff is nothing to scoff at. Coaching turnover is at an all-time high in college football, with coaches coming and going almost as fast as De’Anthony Thomas runs.
While it is a business and each coach must look out for what is best for themselves and their families, it is the athletes that truly suffer when their coaches up and leave. When a coach leaves a program, all the players he recruited to play for him are forced to stay put no matter who is hired as a replacement. Often times when a head coach leaves or is fired, his coaching staff also goes with him or goes elsewhere. This leaves the players left to pick up the pieces of the program while learning a new coach's system and new set of rules. If Oregon plays their cards right however, their players won't be left with the same burden.
No other program in the country can boast the kind of coaching continuity that Oregon has had over the past couple decades, and this is a feat that can't be destroyed by one coach leaving. Even if Oregon hires from within some things will have to change, that is unavoidable as every coach has to but his own stamp on a program.
However if Oregon does promote from within, most of the program's core principals that have been in place for roughly twenty years will remain, as well as the long-tenured coaching staff. This is a fact that will keep Oregon one-step above other schools when recruiting and hopefully will keep the future looking mighty bright for the Ducks.
And if it leads to continued success, it will help fans get over the loss of Kelly as quick as they were able to get over the loss of Mike Bellotti just four years ago.
Vince Tushner is on Twitter. Follow him at @SportsVince21