Chip Kelly said thanks, but no thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year. Some say he flip-flopped. Kelly says it was a straight-up no. Doesn't matter either way because he's back and Oregon is a better program for it.
But that's not going to be the last time that Kelly is courted by The League. So ESPN's Brock Huard decided to look at Kelly's NFL potential, along with a few other college coaches who might have the stuff to be successful at the next level.
The obvious basis for comparison, Huard notes, is Jim Harbaugh because of 1) what he was able to do in such a short time at Stanford and 2) what he was able to do immediately in the NFL. Harbaugh was able to do what others -- so called "geniuses" -- were unable to, and that's make the transition from college to the pros appear seamless.
Huard lays out some traits needed, such as "grind" and "adaptability," which Harbaugh certainly has, and so does Kelly. The criticisms that Kelly's philosophy and offense won't translate to the NFL are just ignorant. Kelly would have better athletes in the NFL than he has at Oregon and would adjust his offense accordingly. That's Pop Warner 101. A lot of the play-action and screen elements would still exist. The only difference is his quarterback probably wouldn't carry the ball 5-10 times per game.
It worked in New Hampshire, it works in Oregon and if/when he chooses to make the jump, it has a good chance of working in the NFL.
More of a concern than the philosophy or the offense is the unknown. Would Kelly land in a spot with a general manager who sees eye-to-eye with the head coach and gets him the pieces he needs to make his system work? Just because the GM hires the coach, doesn't mean in two or three years he won't sour on his decision.
The perception of NFL coaches is fickle. Mike Shanahan was once considered a genius. And he might be -- but he was a lot more genius with John Elway in the fold. Bill Belichick was a re-tread -- until Tom Brady came along. There are great coaches who never get recognized because the personnel isn't there. There are coaches who are overly praised and probably don't deserve it. Then there are coaches who seem unconventional at first and end up revolutionizing the game.
So it's impossible to predict if Kelly would be a top-tier NFL head coach. But he certainly has a lot going in his favor.
A few more coaches Huard writes about are Stanford head coach David Shaw, USC coach Lane Kiffin and Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. Shaw, given his long history as an NFL assistant coach and Harbaugh disciple, could get the call in the next few years if he continues to keep Stanford on its current path. Kiffin has been there, done that and Sarkisian reportedly drew some interest from St. Louis in the offseason, but declined.