Chip Kelly is likely on the short list of many NFL teams looking at head coaching candidates. But before he can make the big time, he has plenty to prove.
The Ducks have struggled in a few key ways under Kelly.
First, Kelly's speedy offense has struggled when faced with a top defense.
To end the 2010-2011 season, the Ducks lost to an Auburn team that drastically slowed down the high-octane Oregon offense. Quarterback Darron Thomas was forced into two turnovers, showing that he was unable to carry the offense when the running game couldn't get going. For sure, the running game was completely shut down, gaining just 75 yards on 32 carries.
Simply put, the Ducks don't succeed when they can't run the ball effectively.
This trend continued in the Ducks' 2011-2012 season opener against LSU, when the Ducks gained 95 yards on 28 carries.
Finally, in the most important game of Oregon's 2012-2013 season, the Ducks choked against a less talented Stanford team. Even though they managed 198 rushing yards, they regularly failed to punch the ball into the end zone. Going 4-of-17 on third down was enough to keep the Ducks from winning their most important game of the year.
While Kansas State's defense isn't elite, it is good enough to slow down Oregon. Chip Kelly cannot let that happen. This is a win he desperately needs to cement his legacy.
Another issue worth raising is how ethical Kelly's recruiting practices have been. The Ducks were under investigation early in 2012 for their practices under Kelly. The team admitted to minor wrongdoing, but nothing major came of the investigation. Still, does the NFL really want to hire a coach that has been linked with unethical recruiting practices?
Despite these issues, Kelly still deserves plenty of credit for what he's done at Oregon. He turned a dysfunctional team into a perennial contender, and that cannot be understated.
A win over Kansas State, though, would show that Kelly can coach his team to success in the biggest games. That could be enough to land him a premier job in the NFL.
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