The worst-kept secret in the college football coaching world these days is that Chip Kelly may be approaching his final game at the helm of the University of Oregon.
Then it should come as no surprise when NBC Sports' “ProFootballTalk” rather bluntly states:
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, multiple NFL teams are already checking into Kelly and considering how they could lure him after the season.
At the moment, of course, no NFL teams have job openings available, but suffice to say there are some owners who expect to fire their head coaches when the season ends, and these owners want to be ready to move on Kelly quickly when the time comes.
So what is it about Kelly that makes NFL owners drool at the mention of his name? Why is he the top pro coaching prospect when Nick Saban is not? What makes Kelly a better possibly NFL-bound coach than Saban?
Nick Saban does have more experience than Chip Kelly, but even with the limited résumé of Kelly, it's hard to ignore a .880 win percentage.
Saban's not far behind at .831—but that's just counting his time at Alabama.
Add in LSU and Michigan State, and all of the sudden, Saban drops to .733 (146-53-1).
Among the coaches of BCS-AQ programs, Chip Kelly really has no equal when it comes to pure wins and losses.
Chip Kelly has put together such a rare collection of offensive talent at Oregon, we haven't seen anything like it since, well, last season's Oregon team. Or the Oregon team before that.
Kelly knows how to recruit some fantastic talent to Oregon, and the Ducks have been rewarded with 44 wins in 50 games since Kelly took over, including three-straight conference championships (and quite possibly a four-peat after 2012 is all said and done).
While having that talent makes winning a lot easier, it still takes a calm, confident coach to wield such a weapon with as much precision as we see in Eugene.
Kelly is the type of guy most Vegas casinos would blacklist. He's a numbers guy. He knows his team inside and out, but he also knows the other guy's team just as well.
He knows the 40 times of the Arizona corners. He knows how much every USC linebacker can bench.
And he knows which tool in his arsenal to use against each and every opposing player in the Pac-12.
Why do you think Oregon attempts so many two-point conversions or goes for two so often?
Kelly knows the numbers and plays the odds. And Oregon's odds are almost always better.
There's no debating the fact that Nick Saban is the undisputed king of the University of Alabama.
While that may be fine and dandy for many Crimson Tide fans, it's worth noting that a number of top programs over the recent past have found a heap of trouble in similar situations.
All across the SEC, football is king. Other conferences—the Pac-12 included—still try to at least put a veneer of academic integrity on the program. The SEC doesn't even try any more.
Chip Kelly is, at heart, a company man. He returned to Oregon because he felt he could accomplish more in Eugene. NFL owners have to like that. There's no better face for your organization than a guy who'll tote the line, no matter what, and isn't necessarily keeping his ear to the ground for the next great gig.
Whichever NFL team lands Kelly can expect to keep him awhile, and he can become as big of a name in whichever city as he is in Eugene.
It's a very rare thing to find a man who will look a billionaire in the eye and say, “no.”
That's what Chip Kelly did to Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kelly turned down an opportunity to become head coach of the Bucs after the 2011 season because of “unfinished business” at Oregon.
We'll just go ahead and assume that “unfinished business” means the program's first national championship, since these comments came less than two weeks after Kelly had just guided Oregon to its first Rose Bowl victory in nearly a century.
But the Ducks actually winning a national championship may soon become immaterial.
Telling billionaires they can't have something will only make them want it that much more, if only to prove to the world—and themselves—there's nothing beyond their grasp.
The NFL contract offers to Kelly that are coming his way may simply be too good to turn down this time, unfinished business or not.
Finally, we already have a known quantity when it comes to Nick Saban in the NFL.
Saban was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins for two seasons (2005 and 2006) right in the middle of what many would call his greatest college successes: the 2003 BCS National Championship at LSU and the 2009 and 2011 BCS titles at Alabama.
Saban clearly has a penchant for the college game, and that fondness is returned by the college game in the form of crazy-go-nuts success.
Kelly, on the other hand, is the great unknown for the NFL. All anyone has to go on is the success at Oregon, turning the Ducks from a Pac-12 “some other team not named USC” into a perennial conference champion and national title contender.
Even if the Ducks haven't won a national title yet, and even if they never do under Kelly, just being the conversation each and every season is something for which most NFL owners would give their first-born son.