Who's the better coach—Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks or Lane Kiffin of the USC Trojans?
At first glance, this argument might look a bit ridiculous. Chip Kelly looks like the obvious choice, but after examining the individual aspect, it is a lot closer than it first appears.
For this article, I have taken the approach to look at the individual aspects of the coaching profession, including salaries, success at the current school and X's and O's to lead to one verdict on who is the better coach.
Both of these coaches are early in their careers at these schools. They have held the head coaching position at their current schools for a combined three years.
Chip Kelly was given his first head coaching position in 2009, when he was named head coach of the Oregon Ducks.
Kiffin left Tennessee and took over for Pete Carroll in 2010 after Carroll bolted to the NFL to coach the Seattle Seahawks.
Kelly, in his second year as head coach of the Ducks, led his team a berth in the BCS National Championship, but they came up short against Auburn.
The Ducks won the Pac-10 in 2010 following an undefeated regular season. Oregon won the Pac-10 in 2009 as well.
In his first year at USC, Lane Kiffin went 8-5, and the Trojans did not go to a bowl game because of their punishments as a result of the Reggie Bush fiasco.
Both of these coaches are some of the best in the game, but one of them holds a slight advantage.
So, who is a better coach?
Before looking at the individual aspects of coaching, it is important to recognize the history and tradition of the schools they coach at.
USC is one of the most storied football programs in the history of college football, and Oregon has only had success in the last couple of years.
The Trojans have 761 wins; the Ducks have 555.
The Trojans have 11 claimed national championships, 38 conference titles, six (or seven) Heisman Trophy winners and 78 consensus All-Americans.
The Ducks have zero national championships, eight conference titles, zero Heisman Trophy winners and four consensus All-Americans.
There is no comparison here—the Trojans run away with this one.
This does not contribute to the ability of these two to coach, but it is interesting to get a brief history lesson of the two programs.
This one isn't even close.
Kelly has gone 22-4 in his first two seasons and has won two Pac-10 championships. He also led the Ducks to a berth in the BCS National Championship following the 2010 regular season.
Kelly received multiple Coach of the Year honors following the 2010 season, and he has been named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year the last two seasons.
Down at USC, Kiffin has only coached one year and he led his team to an 8-5 record. Because of NCAA sanctions, the Trojans did not compete in a bowl game and they will not following the 2011 season as well.
Granted, Kiffin was put into a tough position with the penalties handed down by the NCAA, but there are only a few coaches overall that have done better than Kelly the last two years.
Advantage: Chip Kelly
Kelly originally agreed to a five-year, $7 million contract when he was hired as the Oregon head coach back in 2008.
During the 2010 season, Kelly agreed to a contract extension through 2015 worth $20.5 million.
Kiffin, on the other hand, is making an estimated $4 million per year, although that number is not confirmed because USC is a private institution.
Either way, they are two of the highest-paid coaches in the Pac-10, and this is not an area of concern for either coach.
Advantage: Push (because actual salary amounts are very similar and the number for Kiffin is not confirmed)
Chip Kelly has brought in top-level talent to come play in Eugene, Oregon, but on the recruiting trail it is tough to find a better coach out there than Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin was able to bring in a top five recruiting class, while on probation. According to Rivals, USC received 14 letters of intent from 4-star prospects and one letter from a 5-star recruit.
However, it is not like Oregon is that far behind. Following their national championship game run, they were able to sign a top 10 recruiting class in 2011, including nine 4-star athletes.
Both of these schools have done a great job, and it goes to show how great of recruiters these coaches are. However, in the end, it is tough to go against Lane Kiffin is this aspect.
Advantage: Lane Kiffin
Lane Kiffin may be a better recruiting, but when it comes to X's and O's and knowledge of the game, Chip Kelly is your guy.
Kelly runs one of the most exciting and well-run offenses in college football period.
The pace and speed of how they play is fascinating from a person that loves the art of football.
Kelly has a great knowledge of the game, and the success of his offense is evident of that.
Kiffin is a great coach as well, he has great knowledge as well, but he just can't compete with Kelly in this category, only a few coaches can.
Advantage: Chip Kelly
All you need to do is look at the picture on the left. Kiffin is the winner.
Advantage: Lane Kiffin
To ultimately answer the question of who is the better coach, the question I ask myself is who would I rather start a college football program with.
The answer to that question is Chip Kelly, plain and simple, although Lane Kiffin makes a compelling case.
Lane Kiffin may be the better recruiter, but Kelly is the better coach.
Kelly is the guy that I want to start my college football program with.
I have confidence that he will actually stay at my program, instead of bolting to a better opportunity only a couple years down the road.
The way Kelly coaches, and the way his team performs on the football field is evident of his success as a football coach.
At the end of the day, you can be a great recruiter, but you have to be able to teach the game of football and translate that onto the football field.
As it stands in 2011, Chip Kelly is the guy that I want leading my team onto the field. It is closer than it may appear, but Kelly is still the guy.
Certainly in the future Lane Kiffin will lead USC to BCS bowls, but Kelly gets the nod in 2011.