Oregon Ducks' head football coach Chip Kelly has been more than just one of the nation's best coaches in recent years. Kelly is a revolutionary mind that brought the spread option offense from a gimmicky, niche concept to the forefront of college football. Furthermore, Kelly has recruited an endless onslaught of speed players that fit within his system.
Needless to say, Oregon would not be a perennial national championship contender if not for the efforts of Chip Kelly. However, reports have indicated that in the event Oregon wins their first national championship in program history in 2012, Chip Kelly will likely take his talents to the NFL.
Will Chip Kelly's spread option offense work in the NFL?
College coaches have been successful in the NFL before. Jimmy Johnson, Tom Coughlin and Barry Switzer have all won the Super Bowl. However, since 1996, seven college head coaches have made the jump directly to the NFL. Six of them had or have losing records. The NFL is a completely different game from college football.
However, that statistic has not scared Chip Kelly away from wanting to take his talents to the professional ranks. Last offseason, Kelly was incredibly close to taking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching job, and he has made it known to sources close to him that there is a good chance that this will be his last year at Oregon. Athletic director and former Ducks football coach Mike Bellotti says he thinks Kelly's jump is "inevitable."
“It's just inevitable that he will eventually be in the NFL,” Bellotti said. “Chip is one of the ultimate competitors and he sees that. It actually surprised me he changed his mind [with the Bucs] last year. Whether they get to the national championship and whether they win the national championship, I don't know. To think he'll stay there when ultimately his idea of top jobs is to get to the Super Bowl, it won't happen, unfortunately, at the college level.”
The allure to having Kelly coach an NFL team is his spread option offense. No coach has ever given the spread option a legitimate shot in the NFL because of the physical nature of the professional game. Option offenses generally open up the quarterback to big hits and increase the chance of injury. Given the vast dollar amounts paid to starting NFL quarterbacks, teams are smart to subject their gunslingers to minimal physical contact.
However, given a mobile quarterback and the right speed receivers, Kelly's offense can work. He runs spread formations that force defenses to defend the entire football field. These formations open up rushing lanes in the middle of the field and can lead to big plays later in games. Coincidentally, Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and the Philadelphia Eagles will most likely be looking for a new head coach nest season.
If Chip Kelly wins the national championship this season, he will have accomplished just about everything he could have ever dreamed of in his tenure at Oregon. He's established the Ducks as one of the premier programs in the nation, revolutionized the college football game with his offensive schemes, and proven that he can win with his unconventional style. Jumping to the NFL would be the next logical step.
So while watching the Ducks play their remaining games this season, be sure to take a moment and appreciate just how influential Kelly has been not just within his program, but as one who has changed college football for good. Just don't expect him back in 2013.