Earlier on Thursday it was announced that Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien would be staying with the university and won’t be jumping to the NFL to cash in on his recent success. That means that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly just became the best college option, in theory, for NFL teams to look at.
This isn’t new, as Kelly has long been viewed as the one college coach just about every team looking for a head coach will call and try to hire. Does that mean he’s actually the best choice, probably not, but there is no denying his popularity among NFL teams and owners. But while everyone is focusing on Kelly’s journey in the NFL, what happens when he leaves has been washed over by just about everyone.
Well, washed over by everyone but those Kelly would be leaving at Oregon. In the highly likely event that Kelly leaves for the NFL, the Oregon Ducks have installed a replacement plan that they hope means the program won’t miss a beat in his absence.
A high ranking source told USA Today that should Kelly leave for the NFL, offensive coordinator Mike Helfrich could be named the new coach of the Ducks within 72 hours of Kelly’s departure.
“Conceptually, it’s about continuity,” the source told the paper.
There is one kink in Oregon’s plan, and actually to call it a ‘kink’ is borderline politically incorrect. Similar to the “Rooney-Rule” in the NFL, Oregon state law requires that a minority candidate be interviewed before anyone is officially hired. Despite this, Oregon officials are convinced they’ll “arrive with the same conclusion” regarding Helfrich.
Helfrich was nearly promoted last year when Kelly accepted then declined a head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oregon believes that should that situation arise again, they may not run back from promoting Helfrich to allow Kelly to crawl back of he gets cold feet again. According to the USA Today piece, it sounds like this very thing happened last season.
It also would be the same conclusion the school reached almost a year ago, when Kelly told officials he was taking the Tampa Bay job. Within the space of a few hours, Oregon considered its options and made the decision to quickly promote Helfrich before Kelly changed his mind.
It appears abundantly clear that if Kelly flirts with the NFL as intensely as he did last season, the Oregon Ducks won’t play his sloppy seconds for another year. Helfrich has been endorsed by future Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and that’s all the Ducks needs to make their breakup with Kelly go as smoothly as possible.