The rumors of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's future in the NFL just won't go away.
Kelly has won a plethora of awards including the 2010 Associated Press Coach of the Year and Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. Now in his fourth year as the Ducks head coach, Sports Illustrated's Peter King has the rumor mill churning over his possible departure to the NFL.
You buying this?
His 45-7 record is simply exceptional. But is he NFL coach material? Not only is he NFL material, he's already an NFL made man.
Kelly had received, accepted and eventually declined an offer from Tampa Bay last January, according to multiple reports. Kelly referred to some "unfinished business" at Oregon as his reason for turning down the offer.
Kelly's "unfinished business" could be referring to his team not winning a BCS Championship. That, as well as the Pac-12 Championship, are no longer in play this season. Would Kelly want to wait another year to give it another shot? Even more pressing, would he want to bail on his team in the midst of an NCAA investigation?
Former USC head coach Pete Carroll was heavily criticized for leaving USC for the Seattle Seahawks right before the NCAA hammered the school with heavy sanctions for violations that occurred under Carroll's watch. If Kelly left Oregon before the NCAA had made a decision on Oregon's recruiting scandal then he too would be looked upon as a captain leaving a sinking ship.
Then again, if he's interested in an NFL gig, he has to strike while the iron is hot.
And the iron is hot. Scorching hot.
Former Oregon athletic director and coach Mike Bellotti said he was "surprised" that Kelly initially accepted but finally declined the Tampa Bay offer last January, according to CBS columnist Dennis Dodd.
"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."
Carroll was repeatedly approached about his potential departure for the NFL after the Trojans' regular season had ended in December 2009 but he danced around the topic. Also worth noting was that USC was not expecting heavy sanctions from the NCAA—that turned out to be a false sense of security.
According to an article on ESPN.com, a source told reporter Joe Schad that "Kelly and Oregon were not anticipating heavy sanctions from the NCAA's inquiry into the school's relationship with scouting service owner Willie Lyles."
Kelly's stock as a college football head coach at a higher-profile school would certainly take a dive if the school did receive heavy sanctions, and let's face it, there aren't that many schools that are more high profile than Oregon.
Would Kelly stick it out this year and possibly take that big of a risk? If he waits and the school gets sanctioned, that takes out any future head coaching jobs at an Alabama-type of school. If Oregon doesn't get sanctioned, then Kelly's options increase considerably. But that's a big and risky "if."
The NFL is really his only option—beside staying at Oregon for the rest of his life—and right now, the NFL appears to be interested.
Then again, the rumors could just be that.
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