What’s Next For Chip Kelly?
The Chip Kelly era is over in Philly. The former University of Oregon coach took over there in Philadelphia three years ago after the team parted ways with longtime coach Andy Reid. When they hired him there, plenty wondered if he could make the transition from college to the professional ranks. Well, he answered those questions immediately with a 10 win season and a playoff berth in his first season. He followed that up with another 10 win season although he did not make the playoffs in his second campaign. But going into his third year, Kelly took on another role, controlling player personnel as well as being the head coach. That move led to Kelly moving his leading rusher (LeSean McCoy) and leading passer (Nick Foles) via trade. He replaced those two with quarterback Sam Bradford (whom he traded Nick Foles for) and free agent running back DeMarco Murray. Murray along with cornerback Byron Maxwell were the two big free agent acquisitions for Kelly and were expected to be bigtime contributors for the team. But instead of them being bigtime contributors, both seemed to not live up to the hype and the contracts they signed. And instead of being smart moves by Chip, those moves ended up looking pretty bad. Add in that the linebacker that Chip acquired in the LeSean McCoy trade (Kiko Alonso) was not as impactful as Chip thought he would be and the Eagles were not very thrilled with what he had created in this team. The team, coincidentally, did not do so well this season and was 6-9 going into the last game of the season. Eagles owner Chip Lurie decided he was going to take away his personnel power this offseason and Kelly decided he did not want to do so. So when Lurie got that response, he decided to let Kelly go. And now Kelly has gone from a mad scientist to an unemployed coach in the matter of three seasons. He is a talented coach, but there has been some question as to where does he fit. Does he stay at the professional level or does he go back to college? He has said that he wants to stay in the NFL, but there will be plenty of offers out there. So what does he do next?
One place that has been mentioned numerous times is the Tennessee Titans. Even before he was fired, there had been mention of the Titans taking a look at him because of him being the former coach of the Titans 2015 1st round pick, quarterback Marcus Mariota. Before the 2015 NFL Draft, Kelly tried to put a deal together to get the talented quarterback to Phily. But that deal was balked at by the Titans and they drafted him to be their franchise quarterback. If Kelly comes here, he would get probably the most talented quarterback he has had in his NFL coaching career and someone he is very familiar with from his Oregon days. And along with him being the coach, he more than likely would be able to come in with a new general manager in Tennessee that fits more with his personality. If that happens, then we can see if Chip has learned from his mistakes in Philly in terms of player relationships. One thing he would be wise to do is keep the defensive coaching personnel he has here now, which includes Hall Of Famer Dick LeBeau. The good thing about coming to Nashville would be he would be coming to a team that needs many things and that would buy him at least three years or more to get it right here.
But Tennessee is not the only option for Chip Kelly. Cleveland is another place that is on shaky ground right now. Head coach Mike Pettine and management seem not to be on the same page and that relationship seems to be heading towards an end after this season. Back when Kelly was hired as the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles three years ago, he had a choice between heading to Philly and going to Cleveland. He took the Philly job and the Browns decided to hire Rob Chudzinski, who was the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator at the time. Chudzinski was fired after one season and the Browns then hired former Buffalo defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to follow him. And ever since he has been there, there just seems to be some kind of issue with him and management, mainly general manager Ray Farmer. Both have things they want to get done and players they want to see on the field and their agendas just don’t seem to be the same. So what more than likely will happen is Pettine will get fired in Cleveland as soon as Monday. And if that happens, the Browns will likely pursue Kelly. In going there, Kelly would have a team that is in worse shape than the Tennessee Titans are. The team still does not have a solid quarterback they can depend on and the defense is not very good either. Chip would be walking into something that could take a while to get back to respectability. But the challenge would be something that Chip could like. He could come in there and potentially make Johnny Manziel a solid quarterback in his system. But in terms of winning, he would be in a worse position than he would be if he came to Tennessee. And if he signs there, he would be facing the possibility of being unemployed again very soon based on the disarray there.
Those two options could be there, but there is also the option of Chip to sit out a season. After all that has happened in Philly with him, that could be something that he does. The Tennessee and Cleveland jobs are not something that are guaranteed and all the colleges that may have been interested in him have hired their coaches already or decided to keep their current coach. So taking a year off may make him even more in demand, especially at the college level, which is where he could land next. For example, his name was mentioned as a potential replacement for Les Miles at LSU if he would have gotten fired. But Miles is safe heading into next season per the athletic director there. If Miles is to stumble next season there, then the noise will start again for Kelly to be brought in. And with his style of offense and the athletes that LSU has, Kelly would be right back to his winning ways at the college level that he was in Oregon. Of course, Kelly has said that he wants to remain at the professional level, but that does not mean he will balk at a collegiate job that opens up if the fit is good for him.
Chip Kelly learned hopefully learned some lessons in his three years in Philly. One thing he has to do is make sure he does not fill his plate with too many things like he did in Philly. If he focuses on just the coaching aspect of the team should he stay in the NFL, he will set himself up for success better than he did in Philly. But if he wants more power over things, then he needs to go back to college where he can be given what he wants. And in that instance, he would have to wait until next season. We shall see what Chip decides to do next. But for now, he is an unemployed mad scientist.