Standing in the concourse of the Rose Garden before the Portland Trail Blazers played the Cleveland Cavaliers, I didn't hear much talk about the young, exciting team that has so far exceeded everyone's expectations. The talk wasn't about rookie guard Damian Lillard, who has won two straight rookie of the month awards. Not one word was heard about coach of the year candidate Terry Stotts. Instead, the talk was all about a man who has nothing to do with basketball and who was 3,000+ miles away: Chip Kelly.
Wednesday was a whirlwind day when it came to the Chip Kelly saga. Kelly, who was believed to be staying in Eugene as of a couple weeks ago, all of a sudden was off to Philadelphia to coach the Eagles.
The story first broke on Twitter and continued to spread like wildfire throughout all media sources. Sports talk radio was buzzing, Twitter kept constant updates coming and everyone had their opinions on Facebook.
To many people, Kelly leaving to Philadelphia came as a shock, and to some, as a slap in the face. The general consensus of Duck fans was that Kelly would be returning for next season, at least. But when did Kelly ever come out and make that announcement? I must have missed it.
People were angry, confused and upset that Kelly left Eugene for a chance in the NFL. There were hateful messages towards Kelly spread throughout social media.
My two cents: Kelly did not owe the University of Oregon or their fans anything. Kelly came into Eugene as a relative nobody and led this program to greatness. In his four seasons at the helm of the green and yellow, Kelly led the team to 3 Pac-12 championships and 4 BCS bowls, one of those being the school’s first BCS championship game. He instilled a culture of pure focus and an attitude of expecting to win. The dizzying speed of his offense turned the heads of every football fan, coach and commentator in the country. In my mind it was inevitable that Kelly would make the jump the NFL sooner or later and his stock was never going to be higher than it was this year.
Kelly, an east coast guy, was bound to take a job back east. He also wanted to coach the best talent in the world. Who wouldn't?
If there was a job advancement available, who of us would turn it down? That's exactly what this is for Kelly; he is taking his talents to the most competitive and athletic football league in the world.
So many people doubt that he can be successful in the NFL and that he would have been better served to stay in Oregon. I couldn't disagree more. Kelly has said that he’s not bound by his offensive schemes that he ran at Oregon. He boasts an extremely high football I.Q. and will take his freakish dedication and focus to the next level.
Philadelphia is a great spot for him. They are extremely fast and talented. Remember that it was only two years ago that Vince Young deemed the Eagles, "the Dream Team". Well Young is no longer in the picture but LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson are legitimate treats from anywhere on the field. The quarterback situation is a little unsettled but you can assume the Michael Vick would at least get a chance at it. With that much talent and speed, Kelly should be free to experiment with whatever offensive schemes he wants.
Back to the Rose Garden, the screen behind me had Comcast SportsNet playing without the sound, and they were obviously constantly talking about Kelly. There was a stream of images of him in his visor, leading his team to victory over and over again. I continued to hear people say, "Hey look its Chip," or, "Did you hear about Chip Kelly?" I had never heard so many people comment on what was playing on a muted TV. Some people were positive, some were negative, but it seemed like everyone had something to say about it. He's a polarizing figure. Some will doubt him, some will root for him. It comes along with the territory and I'm sure Kelly has accepted that is just part of the job.
I'm proud of Chip and hope the best for him. I'll root for him (except twice a year when he plays my Cowboys). I'll be in Philly in May; maybe we could grab a Cheesesteak at Geno's. Go Ducks and Go Chip!
Garrett Thornton is on Twitter. Follow him at @PortlandGarrett