Roger Goodell, NFL Have No Business Disciplining Chip Kelly
On Wednesday, the NCAA slapped Oregon—Kelly's former employer—with three years of probation and scholarship losses after finding the school guilty of improper use of recruiting services, per Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports. Kelly was served with an 18-month "show cause" penalty, which effectively eliminates the former Oregon coach from finding a job in the collegiate ranks over the next 1.5 years.
However, the NFL has no business taking further action against Kelly, who jumped ship and landed with the Eagles in late January.
Goodell and the NFL already have a spotty record when dealing with NCAA-to-NFL discipline.
The NFL concluded that Pryor willingly took steps to ensure he would be declared ineligible to play by the NCAA, thus setting up a way to sidestep the coming sanctions against Ohio State and enter the NFL. The Raiders eventually drafted Pryor, who was previously in line for a five-game suspension at Ohio State, in the Supplemental Draft.
However, if the NFL found Pryor to be in the wrong regarding his exit from Ohio State, he shouldn't have been eligible for the Supplemental Draft in the first place. Allowing his forced entry and then suspending him upon entry would seem to be contradictory.
Of course, Kelly's case differs greatly from Pryor's.
For starters, there were no suspensions—of player or coach—handed down in the Oregon case. We can't know for certain if Kelly would have been banned had he stayed at Oregon, but that's now a moot point.
From what we know and can prove, Kelly didn't land in the NFL to avoid a suspension. He simply took advantage of an enticing opportunity to coach at the highest level and in a major market. And even if the looming decision from the NCAA played a part in his decision, it certainly wasn't the sole motivating factor.
Furthermore, Kelly didn't manipulate or cheat any of the rules for obtaining an NFL head coaching job. He interviewed and later accepted the position like any other head coaching hire.
However, the NFL has another NCAA-to-NFL case that is now being brought into question.
Around the same time Pryor was being handed his suspension from Goodell, the Indianapolis Colts were in the process of hiring former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
Instead of going through the NFL offices, the Colts took the initiative and banned Tressel for the team's first six games, per Pro Football Talk. Tressel had recently resigned from Ohio State over possessing (and not sharing) knowledge of improper activities from a number of his own players.
While the Colts' decision kept the process out of Goodell's hands, the NFL commissioner later admitted on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" (h/t ESPN.com) that if Indianapolis hadn't dealt with Tressel, the NFL would have.
"I think it was clear that if they didn't take an appropriate action, I would have taken appropriate action," Goodell told the show.
It was fairly ease to connect the dots: The NFL had suspended Pryor for participating in the events that forced Tressel to resign, which left little chance that the coach would enter the NFL without some kind of internal discipline.
But once again, even the Pryor and Tressel situations were different. Did Tressel manipulate the system in any way to earn the Colts job? Or was his suspension a result of the precedent set when banning Pryor?
Should the NFL discipline Eagles head coach Chip Kelly for punishments handed down at Oregon?
Differences are also evident in the cases of Tressel and Kelly.
The former Oregon coach did not resign from the school, and his eventual sanctions were far less than what Tressel dealt with at Ohio State. Tressel's actions handcuffed his school for several seasons; Oregon didn't even receive a bowl ban. Clearly, the two situations land on opposite ends of the severity scale.
And as you'd expect, it's much easier for the NFL to discipline a third-string quarterback or low-profile assistant coach than it would be to take action against a first-year head coach.
Like Pete Carroll, who left the rotting carcass of USC for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 and received no punishment, Kelly should also avoid discipline from the NFL.
Goodell might have overstepped his boundaries when dealing with Pryor and Tressel, but he has no basis for imposing any similar punishment on the former Oregon head coach.
The NFL should leave the NCAA's dirty laundry in the college ranks. There's no need to police the wrongdoers of college football upon entry. Goodell's league has enough to deal with on its own.
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