Chip Kelly

Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

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Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

Mark Helfrich's move to the NFL as the Chicago Bears new offensive coordinator hit the sports world today like an unblocked, blindside blitz. 

Bam!

Where did that come from?

Helfrich waited 13 months before jumping back into the coaching world after Oregon fired him in 2016 following a 4-8 season just two years after he had guided the Ducks to the national title game. During his hiatus, according to some close to Helfrich, he received interest from several college teams about becoming their head coach or offensive coordinator. Repeatedly, however, Helfrich rejected inquiries while instead choosing to keep his family in Eugene, take time off from coaching, work in television and consider his future coaching options. 

Now he's back in the coaching game, taking his quarterback developing and offensive coordinating skills to the NFL to work for a team in desperate need of an offensive overhaul.

It's an interesting move for Helfrich and one that smacks of a man attempting to completely reinvent himself as a coach. It's a move that could pay off big time should he find success.

The easy move for Helfrich would have been to join former Oregon coach Chip Kelly at UCLA as the Bruins new offensive coordinator. Kelly hired Helfrich for the same position at Oregon in 2009 and the results were the greatest run of offensive production and victories in program history before it all came crashing down in 2016, four seasons after Kelly departed for the NFL. 

But taking that rout would have placed Helfrich right back under Kelly's shadow. Had they been successful, all of the credit still would have gone to Kelly just as it did while the two were at Oregon. 

By heading to the NFL, however, Helfrich is taking a swing for the fences at the highest level the sport has to offer.  Helfrich will still be in the shadows of an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy, hired by the Bears this week away from Kansas City.

Nagy has said that he will call the plays in Chicago, as Kelly did for Oregon, which means that Helfrich's heavy lifting will be done during the week while game planning, offering play call suggestions during games and, maybe most importantly, assisting in the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

The irony here, of course, is that one of the more amusing takes from Helfrich haters has been that he failed to develop a quarterback while riding the coattails of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota to success for two years post Kelly. Of course, that's a complete contradiction given that Helfrich recruited and developed Mariota.  Helfrich also coached and developed Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas, and he recruited, developed and coached Bryan Bennett and Justin Herbert. 

In the end, Helfrich's starters at Oregon were Masoli, Thomas, Mariota, Vernon Adams, Dakota Prukop and Herbert, a certain future NFL draft pick. That's one hell of a run for any coach, and it's one that current coach Mario Cristobal will be fortunate to duplicate, providing he remains at Oregon long enough to do so.  

But, because Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak didn't work out, Helfrich has somehow labeled by some as having been a failure at developing quarterbacks. 

All of this nonsense also ignores the fact that long ago, while Helfrich was the quarterbacks coach at Boise State, he helped Bart Hendricks earn Big West Conference player of the year in 1999 and 2000. Later, Helfrich coached quarterbacks at Arizona State where he helped Andrew Walter set numerous ASU and Pac-12 record, and become a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. 

Both stints were under coach Dirk Koetter, a former Oregon offensive coordinator and the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach (more on that connection later).

In 2006, at the age of 32, Helfrich became the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation at Colorado. That run led to Kelly hiring him at Oregon in order to add Helfrich's pro-style acumen to Kelly's spread attack. 

Now Helfrich finds himself in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. The reality is this: Should he succeed in developing Trubisky and help Nagy turnaround the Bears' offense, Helfrich would then be in position to work his way toward becoming a head coach in the NFL. 

That's typically how these things work. The NFL is all about connections. Helfrich has a few, including Koetter. 

But, at the end of the day, Helfrich must produce. He must develop Trubisky. He must help Chicago's offense rise from its 2017 ranking of 30th in the NFL. Chances are that he will do just that. The guy can coach. He proved as much by going 33-8 over three seasons before that disastrous 2016 mess. He's also proven, despite inane beliefs to the contrary, that he can develop quarterbacks. 

Should Helfrich work that magic again, he could be will on his way to far bigger and better things than Oregon football. 

Former Oregon head coaches reunited? Chip Kelly has reportedly offered Mark Helfrich UCLA's OC job

Former Oregon head coaches reunited? Chip Kelly has reportedly offered Mark Helfrich UCLA's OC job

Former Oregon head coach and current Fox Sports college football analyst, Mark Helfrich, has been linked to multiple open coaching positions according to reports, including an offer by Chip Kelly to be UCLA's offensive coordinator.

FootballScoop is reporting that Chip Kelly has offered UCLA's offensive coordinator role to Mark Helfrich. Two former Oregon coaches in blue and gold?

Also, after Arizona fired its head coach Rich Rodriguez, Helfrich's name was linked to the now open Wildcat job.

Last but not least, he is also rumored to be an addition to the staff at Texas.

Last year, Helfrich was fired from Oregon after a 4-8 season. Oregon is still paying Helfrich's buyout for another two years. The Ducks owe 3.5 million for 2018 and 3.85 million for 2018, adding up to a total of $7.35 million.  Will update this story as more develops. 

Yes, the Ducks were awful, but judging Cristobal now is unwise

Yes, the Ducks were awful, but judging Cristobal now is unwise

Let's start off by saying that was one miserable performance by the "Men of Oregon" Saturday afternoon in Sin City. And I use the program's favorite phrase -- "Men of Oregon " -- because I'm including the coaching staff along with the players.

It was embarrassing. This game was supposed to be all kinds of things for the Ducks -- a fresh start, a validation of the new coach, a chance to build for next season, a first step in the Heisman campaign for the quarterback --- and on and on and on.

What it proved to be, though, was a disaster. The Ducks couldn't move the football and looked so much like the Oregon teams that played without Justin Herbert during the season -- Unimaginative, untalented and uninspired.

But look, I'm not going to go nuts over this game. It was what it was -- a miserable performance in a game that meant very little. If you think it's a harbinger of things to come, just look back at Chip Kelly's first game as Oregon head coach, also against Boise State. The Ducks were awful -- worse than the Vegas Bowl. And the game was topped off by a nasty cheap shot of a punch that gave the Ducks a black eye for the season. But as we all know, Chip and his team recovered quite well from that disastrous beginning.

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Bowl games are there to give teams a few extra days of practice after the season, put money in the pockets of bowl organizers and the NCAA and oh yes, give the players a bit of a working vacation. The games don't mean a whole lot -- win or lose. And I don't think winning that game would have changed Oregon's fortunes next season to a great degree.

There are so many things that matter more than the outcome of that game yesterday. And let's get real about them:

  • Play calling. It was unimaginative all season and I'm not sure if that departed with Willie Taggart. The head coach and the offensive coordinator have a lot to prove next season but they have plenty of time for a rebuild, too. The offense must get better -- it's the backbone of the Ducks' flash-and-dash program.
  • Defense: Everyone is assuming Jim Leavitt is leaving and I would agree. Well, not only is a quality defensive coordinator needed, more premier defensive players are needed. It's about coaching, sure -- but it's about the players, too. And there needs to be more emphasis on recruiting talent on that side of the ball.
  • And up front on offense. I'm not sure what has happened to Oregon's offensive line but I seem to remember that it was supposed to be one of the squad's strengths. It didn't look that way in Las Vegas. And guess who coaches the offensive line? That's right, head coach Mario Cristobal.
  • Penalties. This coaching staff has an entire off-season to instill more discipline into the the program but what went on this season was unacceptable -- and the Vegas Bowl topped it off with some seriously unnecessary and embarrassing conduct that resulted in major penalties. That has to stop. I cannot recall ever seeing a team, at the very end of its season, need to call a timeout to keep from getting a delay-of-game penalty while the clock reads "15:00" at the start of the game. Can you imagine? You have weeks to plan your first play of this game and you can't get it off before the play clock expires, so you have to spend a timeout? That was incredible.

I have no idea whether the Ducks made the right hire with Cristobal. I know he flunked his first test. It was an "F." But it will all be forgotten if he can get things on the right track next season. He'll have time to build his own coaching staff and his own off-season program. He can shape the franchise the way he wants, rather than just picking up Taggart's pieces and trying to build something temporary out of them.

Don't forget, Oregon went into that game with a coaching staff full of question marks. Who will stay? Who will join Taggart? Who does Cristobal want to replace? Who does he want to bring in? That's a lot of baggage -- for the coaches and the players. Some of those assistant coaches -- the ones who are leaving -- quite possibly had their minds elsewhere last week.

Yes, we've heard so much (way more than is necessary) about the hotshot recruiting class that Taggart built. Cristobal is probably going to salvage some of that and those players better be as good as advertised because they' will be needed. And by the way, aren't we all a little tired of hearing about that group of players? Just get them on campus and keep them there and we will find out for ourselves what their impact will be.

I hope Cristobal has the freedom and the leeway to do things the way he wants on offense and defense, on the field and off -- rather than simply following someone else's path. He's going to find a lot of pressure with this job but he knew that when he signed his contract. Forget the Vegas Bowl and all that went with it. The real season starts in August with fall practice and by then we will know a lot more about the new coach, his staff and his team.

But this is no time for judgments. Move on. Move forward and forget about it. That's what you do when you lose.

Cristobal: He's a recruiter and isn't that the most important thing at Oregon?

Cristobal: He's a recruiter and isn't that the most important thing at Oregon?

Aaron Fentress scooped the college football world this morning with the first report that assistant coach Mario Cristobal will be named Oregon's next head coach.

The one thing that sticks out for me about this hire is that the Ducks are getting a big-time recruiter as their head coach -- which may well be the biggest part of Cristobal's resume. To win big in college football -- and Oregon is firmly in that group of schools that thinks winning a national championship is possible -- you need players. Big-time, blue-chip, NFL-first-three-rounds-of-the-draft players. And Willie Taggart aside -- because he cast himself aside so quickly -- the Ducks haven't really had a recruiting dynamo as the leader of the program. Ever.

Again, excluding Taggart, who departed prior to actually landing his first highly regarded class.

Cristobal has long been considered one of the top recruiters in the country and while at Alabama was instrumental in the Crimson Tide hauling in prized recruits year after year.

It's about time the Ducks brought in a premier recruiter, isn't it? For years, all I've heard is how difficult it is to bring top players to Oregon, which is so far from where all the top high school players live. So why not seek out one of the best recruiters in the country? Once you realize a top-flight sales job is needed, why not hire a very good salesman?

The Ducks have come close to a national championship a couple of times in recent years and I don't think they lost title games because of on-field coaching mistakes. I'm not saying the strategy and hands-on work with players isn't important. But I do think there are plenty of coaches capable of getting a team through a season without messing up the weight-room requirements, who to start at safety, defensive sets and third-down play calls.

Where the Ducks have usually fallen short is in the talent area. Frankly, they just haven't quite been good enough. Chip Kelly's schemes were great and I think his teams were disciplined, played hard and were well-coached. But they were always just a few big-time players shy -- especially up front on both sides of the ball -- from climbing all the way to the top of the college football world.

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Cristobal may be able to rescue a majority of the recruiting class that Taggart put together this year. But if he doesn't, that's not the end of the world. The Ducks need big-time recruits EVERY season. And ie appears to me Cristobal is someone with the credentials to make that happen. At least it's worth a try. My only real concern about the hire is that he's another guy from the opposite corner of the country who may be, like Taggart, another candidate for an early exit.

Oh, his record as a head coach leaves something to be desired at first glance. But if you dive deeper into his situation at Florida International, you will find extenuating circumstances.

And recruiting to Nike U. will surely be easier than it was at FIU.

Karma bit Oregon in the backside, but the Ducks will recover

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Karma bit Oregon in the backside, but the Ducks will recover

In the end, Oregon got what it deserved. 

Karma bit the Ducks in the backside when former coach Willie Taggart, after one Swag Surfin' season, hopped on his boogie board and glided out of town to become Florida State's new coach, leaving behind a lot of angry UO fans and jilted players (see Troy Dye).

For the first time ever (or at least based on what I can tell), an Oregon football coach has flat out left the program for another college job. It's no coincidence that this occurred a year after Oregon fired a coach for the first time in 40 years. 

Yes, I'm back on the Mark Helfrich kick once again. But only because I warned this time last year last year that firing Helfrich after one losing season and just two years removed from guiding Oregon to the nation title game could set into motion a vicious cycle of coaches coming in and out of the program for a variety of reasons. 

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Here we are a year later and the Ducks are already searching for their second coach post Helfrich. 

What's most amusing is all of the whining about "loyalty." Really? Loyalty is not sending a group of coaches that had accomplished so much at Oregon out to recruit when the writing was on the wall that they would be fired, then firing them while they literally were in the process of meeting with recruits. That was a messed up and totally disrespectful move by athletic director Rob Mullens on every level.

One recruit's family member, who wished to remain anonymous, recalled an awkward home visit with Helfrich, who clearly believed he was on thin ice. Helfrich told the family that he didn't know if he would remain Oregon's coach while also trying to recruit the player to UO.

That's just wrong. Let's go ahead and set aside Helfrich for a moment, how does one place in the same situation former long-time assistants like Steve Greatwood, Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, Tom Osborne and John Neal? 

Those guys only helped anchor the greatest era in Oregon football and what will likely remain the greatest era into the near future unless the Ducks magically win a national title, which remains only remotely possible. 

How Taggart dealt with Oregon's players is another story. But in terms of the business side of things. spare me the talk about how disloyal Taggart was to a program he worked for only one year. Especially considering that he didn't leave the Ducks for, say, Arkansas or Louisville. He left Oregon for Florida State, an all-time marquee program that Oregon can't measure up to, and it just so happens to be the team he grew up rooting for while growing up in Palmetto, Fla., where his widowed mother still resides. 

That, right there, is loyalty. Loyalty to family. Loyalty to roots. Loyalty to that childhood connection many of you have with Oregon. And, yes, loyalty to the almighty dollar, because Florida State offered more money (six years and $30 million) than Oregon did. 

And don't think that Taggart hadn't noticed how Helfrich and company were treated when fired.

During a candid conversation with Taggart last February, he said that he believed that the previous staff were unfairly fired given all that they had accomplished. But, that's the business, he added. On Tuesday, he played that business to his advantage. 

Oregon had avoided that side of the business for decades because the program didn't panic when things went south, as they did last year when the Ducks went 4-8 under Helfrich during the program's first losing season in 12 years. Oregon had a legacy coaching tree in place that went from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly to Helfrich. The latter three were promoted from within after serving as offensive coordinators to their predecessor. Bellotti retired from coaching in 2009 order to promote Kelly. Kelly left for the NFL in 2013 opening the door for Helfrich. All three came within a game, or two, of winning the national title. 

Then, well, Oregon got too big for its britches. The Ducks fans and hierarchy decided that the program was far too big to ever have a down season, which of course is absurd. So, UO blew out the former coaching staff and set out to find someone that would return the program to glory. 

That someone was expected to be Taggart. Oops. 

What Mullens should have done last year was sat Helfrich down and given him the "win or else" talk. Mullens should have made it clear that he must at least reach a bowl game in 2017 and reestablish discipline in the locker room.

One former assistant coach who didn't believe that the staff would be fired up until they were, stated late last season that had the staff returned in 2017 and had another losing season, he would fire himself.  

Instead, Mullens pulled the trigger last year. Clearly, he believed that Oregon could do better than a staff that had won four Pac-12 titles, two Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl in six years. Yet, he ended up striking out with all of the so-called "big named" candidates before hiring a young coach in Taggart on the speculation that he was ready to thrive. 

Truth be told, I liked the hire. It was a bold roll of the dice on a young coach. Oh, and he is African-American, which for me (also African-American and long annoyed by the clear racism involved when it comes to the hiring of football coaches of color) earned Mullens triple bonus points.  

But the right move still remains to have given Helfrich and company one year to turn things around. With quarterback Justin Herbert in place, that turnaround would have happened and Oregon wouldn't be in the mess that it is now. 

The good news is that Oregon should still be able to find a good coach to lead what will be a potentially really good team in 2018. The trick, though, is finding someone that cares as much about Oregon as Oregon cares about winning. 

For all of its bells and whistles, Oregon is not a marquee job. The stadium is small, it's tough to get to Eugene, the region is short on recruits, the fan base is fickle and not nearly as rooted as they are in places such as Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Florida State. Oregon has accomplished a lot with many disadvantages thanks to what was an innovative offense, Nike's support and brilliant marketing that elevated the Ducks brand, making UO a desirable place to play for high-end recruits. But not many proven coaches out there are going to view Oregon as a destination job. Helfrich did. But UO wasn't even on Taggart's radar until he interviewed for the job. 

So where does UO go from here. 

Kevin Sumlin and Mario Cristobal are good options. Sumlin, fired this year by Texas A&M, is looking to rebuild his career. Cristobal, once fired by Florida International and from Miami, Fla., longs to return to being a head coach. 

But would either consider Oregon a place to set up roots? At this point, Mullens will have to build a contract for UO's next coach that makes it very painful to leave for another collegiate program.  He failed to do that with Taggart. However, I'll bet that Taggart and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, would not have allowed such language to get in the way of the coach taking off for FSU. 

All of this is why I want to see Oregon go after California coach Justin Wilcox. He is an up-and-coming talent that has deep connections to Oregon. He played there. His brother, father and uncle also played there. He likely wouldn't leave Oregon down the road unless it were to jump to the NFL. 

Hiring Wilcox would return the Ducks to a place that values connections and roots, a formula tha worked so well for 40 years, save for a few bumps in the road such as the 2016 season. 

Whatever Oregon does, the Ducks will have a chance to return to greatness but will never avoid having bumps in the road here and there. Few programs ever do.  

But maybe returning to the past in terms of how the program hires and fire people should be more important than the unrealistic quest to become something the program will never be, a place strong enough to keep a Taggart from jetting off to a Florida State.  

At the end of the day, the entire Helfrich debate comes down to one more year. Had he succeeded, everyone would be happy. Had he failed, then he would be gone. The former staff deserved that one year more so than a Florida State fan with ambitions beyond Oregon. 

SOURCE: Don Pellum to reunite with Chip Kelly at UCLA, coach linebackers

SOURCE: Don Pellum to reunite with Chip Kelly at UCLA, coach linebackers

Former Oregon assistant coach Don Pellum will become the new linebackers coach at UCLA, reuniting him with former Ducks coach Chip Kelly, according to a source.

The Bruins named Kelly as their new coach on Monday, .  

Pellum, who spent more than two decades coaching at Oregon where he played from 1980-1984, coached with Kelly at UO from 2007 through 2012. Kelly served as the Ducks' offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2008 before operating as head coach from 2009 through 2012. 

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Pellum became UO's defensive coordinator under Mark Helfrich in 2014 when the Ducks won the Pac-12 championship, defeated Florida State in the first round of the college football playoffs played in the Rose Bowl and lost to Ohio State in the national championship game.  That season, Oregon allowed 23.6 points per game despite facing one of the most potent groups of offensive opponents in program history. 

The following season, however, Oregon's defense struggled, allowing 37.5 points per game, last in the Pac-12. That led to Pellum stepping down as defensive coordinator and returning to coaching linebackers. 

The defense struggled again in 2016 under coordinator Brady Hoke and the Ducks finished 4-8. Following that season, Oregon fired the entire coaching staff and hired current coach Willie Taggart. 

Pellum did not coach in 2016 but continued to live in Eugene. 

According to the Orange County Register, Kelly is likely to hire Jerry Azzinaro as defensive coordinator. He coached the defensive line at Oregon from 2009 through 2012 before leaving with Kelly when he became the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

There has been speculation that Kelly might hire other former Oregon assistant coaches he worked with in Eugene. Not included among the possible options is Gary Campbell, who has retired from coaching. Plus, UCLA has retained running backs coach DeShaun Foster, according to FootballScoop.com 

Former UO offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, now with California, also will not be joining Kelly in UCLA, which has retained Hank Fraley for that position.

No word on Mark Helfrich, hired by Kelly at Oregon in 2009 to be the offensive coordinator. Helfrich replaced Kelly as Oregon's head coach in 2013. 

 

New UCLA coach Chip Kelly could haunt Oregon or get exposed

New UCLA coach Chip Kelly could haunt Oregon or get exposed

Chip Kelly could have returned to the Oregon Ducks last year. He chose not to because he never shared the same level of love for Oregon and its fans that they feel for him, almost embarrassingly so. 

Now Kelly becomes the new coach at UCLA and will be gunning to take down the Ducks program where he made his name as a head coach. The Bruins, who on Monday introduced Kelly during a press conference, will visit Oregon on Nov. 3.  It will be the biggest sporting event in the Northwest in 2018. For the state of Oregon, it will be the equivalent of when former NFL quarterback Brett Favre returned to Green Bay as the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings. 

Kelly becoming UCLA's new coach was a punch in the gut for Oregon fans that blindly believed he bled green and yellow. Kelly could have gone to the SEC where he would have only encountered Oregon in a bowl game. But no, he chose to take less money (five years, $23.5 million) than he would have received from Florida, which went after him hard, in order to reside in the Pac-12 where he will compete against the Ducks, and others, for Pac-12 supremacy. 

Should Kelly pick up where he left off at Oregon where he won three conference titles in four years, a Fiesta Bowl, a Rose Bowl and guided UO to a national title game, the Ducks under coach Willie Taggart could be in for a long, painful ride while wondering why Kelly didn't want to return to Oregon. 

The Ducks talked to Kelly last year about a potential return after firing Mark Helfrich following a 4-8 season. Heck, Helfrich, before he was let go, said he reached out to Kelly to ask him to return to UO in order to save the coaching staff. Kelly declined. He reportedly said he didn't want to quit on the San Francisco 49ers despite nearing the end of a 2-14 season. Or, was it really that he simply didn't want to return to Oregon under any circumstances? He had to have known that the 49ers could very well have been ready to quit on him as they did a month later. We could give Kelly the benefit of the doubt and just buy that he stayed with the 49ers out of principle and would have taken the Oregon job if it were available right now. But nobody I've ever spoken to at Oregon that is in the know believes Kelly would ever return to Oregon. 

The Ducks, as it turned out, appear to have lucked out with coach Willie Taggart, the Ducks' seventh choice if we're counting Kelly. Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens could very well have made a genius hire in Taggart, who has already demonstrated that with a healthy Justin Herbert at quarterback he can produce the same types of offensive numbers that Kelly did while at Oregon. 

This entire situation presents a double-edged sword for Oregon fans who vilified Helfrich for supposedly destroying what Kelly built. If Oregon's success from 2009 through 2015 was all truly about Kelly, even after he left following the 2012 season, then he should be expected to duplicate that success at UCLA and do so at the expense of Oregon.

Or, maybe Kelly falters in his first opportunity as a coach taking over a rebuild that requires assembling a staff and completely reinventing a program. He's never done that at the college level.

Taggart, however, is in his third stint of rebuilding a program. He is a better recruiter than Kelly is or would ever hope to be given that he dislikes that aspect of college coaching. However, Kelly won't have to work as hard at recruiting while operating in the talent-rich area of Southern California and being armed with a brand new, $65 million Wasserman Football Facility that rivals Oregon's Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. 

So the arms race is on between UCLA and Oregon with much at stake. Taggart not only faces the prospects of living up to grand expectations at Oregon created by Kelly's three consecutive Pac-12 titles (2009-2012) but he will have to match them while competing against Kelly both for players and titles. 

It is quite possible that Oregon and UCLA could meet in a Pac-12 title game soon enough. That is, if the college game hasn't already passed Kelly by. 

Be sure that nobody in the Pac-12 is afraid of Kelly and not because of his unsuccessful stint in the NFL. Kelly didn't fail in the NFL on the field. He failed off of it in terms of dealing with coaching adults. On the field, Kelly had a winning record in Philadelphia despite issues at quarterback. He had no chance to win in San Francisco with that mess of a roster and was let go. His offense scored. He simply was never given enough time to see his rebuilds through to the end. 

So now the question is: Will Kelly live up to his God status with many Oregon fans and dominate at UCLA. Or, will he be exposed for simply being a good coach who caught lightning in a bottle for four years at Oregon? 

In college, Kelly benefited from inheriting an already strong program in place under Mike Bellotti and his staff. The Ducks had already contended for national titles. UCLA under Jim Mora Jr. went 4-8 in 2016 and was 5-6 when he got fired.  

Also, while at Oregon Kelly ran what was then a unique offense in terms of its pace. Not scheme. Pace. Big difference. Oregon's no-huddle offense, adopted by Bellotti in 2005 and sent into overdrive by Kelly, wore down opposing defenses that lacked the offensive firepower to keep pace.  Most of Kelly's victories during the 2010 and 2011 seasons were iced in the second half when close games moved in Oregon's favor because opposing teams ran out of gas. Who will ever forget Cal resorting to having defensive players fake injuries in order to slow down the Ducks' offense?

Today, most of the conference runs up-tempo offenses, and all of the programs have changed the way they prepare on defense in order to be able to hold up over the long haul.  Only six of 10 conference teams in 2010 averaged 25 points or more with four over scoring more than 30 per game. This season, 11 teams averaged 25 points or more with eight averaging 30 or more. 

This doesn't mean Kelly can't overcome the trend if he averages about 45 per game again as he did at Oregon. What will be interesting is to see if he can make sure UCLA is good enough on defense to avoid seeing opponents, such as Oregon, also rack up 40 on the Bruins while they give no regard to time of possession. 

Kelly has never before had to deal with that dilemma. Well, he sort of did in the NFL and it didn't quite workout so well. 

That said, one of Kelly's strength is stressing and teaching fundamentals. Ask any of his former players and they will tell you that his attention to detail and the culture he created at UO helped foster success. As for the Xs and Os, Kelly will make sure UCLA doesn't beat itself very often. 

However this all plays out, Kelly being back in the Pac-12 promises to be quite entertaining. Either the Ducks will return to championship form and in the process damage the Kelly mythology that has some comparing him to Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Or, Kelly will live up to his legacy and by doing so, deny Oregon its return to glory along the way, which would be a double whammy for Ducks fans. 

Can't wait to see how this plays out. 

Oregon's penalties have reached ludicrous levels

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USA Today

Oregon's penalties have reached ludicrous levels

The Oregon Ducks are no strangers to having officials throw numerous yellow flags at them during games but this year's team has raised the bar on infractions accrued to new heights. 

Oregon (3-1) was penalized 14 times on Saturday night during a 37-35 loss at Arizona State to run the Ducks' season total to a Pac-12-leading 42. It could have been worse. Technically, Oregon committed 17 penalties against ASU but the Sun Devils declined three.  

Oregon's 10.5 penalties per game are the most for the program since at least 2000 (see chart below). The most Oregon has ever committed in a season since 2000 is 8.8 in 2015. The Ducks have plenty of time to reverse the trend for this season but averaging double-digit penalties per game certainly is cause for alarm. 

"It's as frustrating as it gets," Oregon redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson said following Saturday's loss. "You can't expect to win games when you have over a 100 yards of penalties. We have a lot of stuff to cleanup this week."

Oregon was charged with 99 yards in penalties on Saturday and is averaging 89.2 on the season (third most in the Pac-12). The penalties hurt. Earning flags and a general lack of execution contributed to the Ducks converting on just one of 11 third down attempts during their loss to the Sun Devils. 

"I think penalties are a huge factor," UO sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert said. "Anytime when you're moving backwards it isn't a good thing." 

UO coach Willie Taggart said the proper technique is needed to avoid penalties such as holding (Oregon committed five total on offense and defense vs. ASU) and pass interference.

"We've just got to teach," Taggart said. "Teach and practice."

False start penalties on the offense were also a big problem against ASU (2-2). The Ducks committed five, four in the first half when UO managed to score just 14 points with one touchdown set up by a muffed punt return by ASU at its 11-yard line. 

'You can't do that," Taggart said of the false starts. "You've got to listen for the call."

Interestingly, while penalties have been a problem for Oregon over the years, they typically haven't hurt the team's won-loss record. The Ducks have ranked at or near the bottom in the conference for much of the past 17 years. In fact, Oregon has committed a whopping eight or more penalties per game in eight out of 17 seasons since 2000. 

In 2010, when Oregon went 12-1 and reached the BCS National Championship game under coach Chip Kelly, the Ducks ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in both penalties per game (7.2) and penalty yards per game (61.2). Kelly's teams ranked ninth in the conference in total penalties in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and ranked eighth in 2009. 

The 2014 team, which reached the national title game under coach Mark Helfrich, ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in penalties per game (8.2) and seventh in penalty yards (72). 

Some of the elevation in numbers over the years could be contributed to the number of plays generated by an uptempo offense. More plays could certainly lead to more penalties. But not enough to account for the poor overall rankings. And, tempo certainly wouldn't necessarily impact the team's conference ranking in that area during today's era when most teams run an uptempo offense. 

In 2004, the year before the Ducks moved to the spread offense and began running some no-huddle, the Ducks committed 8.6 penalties per game, the third most (counting this season) since 2000.

While great UO teams, such as the 2010 and 2014 squads, were able to overcome their penalty totals, lesser Duck teams did not. The aforementioned 2004 Ducks went 5-6 that year. The 2016 season, the program's only other losing campaign since 1993, saw the Ducks rank last in the Pac-12 at 8.3 turnovers per game. 

This Oregon team is closer in playing level to the 2004 and 2016 teams than it is to any of the Ducks' championship teams. These Ducks are simply too young and too inexperienced to be good enough to win many close games while giving away yards through penalties. 

Oregon and Taggart had better clean up this penalty mess or more close, frustrating defeats will surely come their way this season. 

OREGON'S PENALTY TOTALS - 2000-2017

2017 (3-1)

Penalty per game game = 10.5 (12th PAC-12)

Penalty yards per game = 89.2 (10th)

2016 (4-8)

Penalty per game game = 8.3 (12th)

Penalty yards per game = 75.8 (12th)

2015 (9-4)

Penalty per game game = 8.8 (10th)

Penalty yards per game = 61 (10th)

2014 (13-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.2 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 72 (7th)

2013 (11-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.2 (12th)

Penalty yards per game = 70.2 (10th)

2012 (12-1)

Penalty per game game = 7.9 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 71.1 (9th)

2011 (12-2)

Penalty per game game = 7.2 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 65 (7th)

2010 (12-1)

Penalty per game game = 7.2 (9th PAC-10)

Penalty yards per game = 61.2 (9th).

2009 (10-3)

Penalty per game game = 7.3

Penalty yards per game = 62.7

2008 (10-3)

Penalty per game game = 7.3

Penalty yards per game = 62.7

2007 (9-4)

Penalty per game game = 6.1

Penalty yards per game = 55

2006 (7-6)

Penalty per game game = 7.5

Penalty yards per game = 60

2005 (10-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.0

Penalty yards per game = 72.7

2004 (5-6)

Penalty per game game = 8.6

Penalty yards per game = 79.7

2003 (8-5)

Penalty per game game = 7.8

Penalty yards per game = 69.7

2002 (8-5)

Penalty per game game = 8.5

Penalty yards per game = 71.2

2001 (11-1)

Penalty per game game = 6.4

Penalty yards per game = 57.9

2000 (10-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.0

Penalty yards per game = 72.0

Chip Kelly is returning to football... as an analyst

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Chip Kelly is returning to football... as an analyst

Chip Kelly has finally landed a gig. This time though looks a little different... Want to see more of Chip Kelly's iconic TV interviews? Well now you can. Former Oregon Ducks head football coach and NFL Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly will be joing the ESPN staff as a college football analyst on Saturday's and appearing on SportsCenter to provide NFL analysis on Sunday's.

"I spoke with a lot of people this offseason about different situations for me — in coaching and TV," Kelly said in a statement. "I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take."

Kelly, who was with the Oregon Ducks from 2009-2012, accumluated a 46-7 record and lead them to a Rose Bowl victory in 2011 and a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2012 before heading the NFL. His three-year NFL coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2015) came to a hault after recording 10-6, 10-6, and 6-9 seasons. Kelly then made his way to the Bay to coach the 49ers for just one season after going 2-14. 

Be sure to check out this article for more information on the move.

Chip Kelly to Alabama as OC under Nick Saban makes zero sense

Chip Kelly to Alabama as OC under Nick Saban makes zero sense

Chip Kelly doesn't have a job.

Alabama has a vacancy at offensive coordinator.

1+1 in the sports world of connect the dots = Kelly to Alabama.

However: reality + logic = no way in hell that happens.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has been left with a huge job opening after former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who held the job for all of one game, accepted the newly vacated job of offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons.

While a Saban-Kelly marriage would be as entertaining as all get out, it would appear to be far more likely that the vacancy would be filled by Oregon offensive coordinator and former Florida International head coach Mario Cristobal, who was Alabama's offensive line coach before joining the Ducks. Even former UO coach Mark Helfrich seems like a more viable candidate for Alabama than Kelly.  

Still, the immediate hot rumor is that Kelly could become a candidate in Tuscaloosa. 

But that makes about as much sense as Kelly returning to Oregon as OC. Here are the reasons why:

  • Kelly has made it clear he wants to stay in the NFL. To do so, he must stay in the NFL, even if it's as an assistant or a consultant for his good pal, Bill Belichik at New England. Coaching at Alabama would do nothing to improve Kelly's chances of remaining in the league. He must reinvent himself as an NFL coach. He can't do that in college. 
  • Kelly runs what was a revolutionary and up-tempo offense that made Oregon a national power. Although Kelly didn't win big in the NFL, his offenses were typically quite productive both in Philadelphia and San Francisco despite having limitations at quarterback. But his style wouldn't play well with Alabama's defensive-minded philosophies.In the past, Saban has complained about the impact no-huddle offenses have had on college football, particularly his defenses, which dominate conventional offenses but have struggled against no-huddle teams with dynamic quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Deshaun Watson).  The last thing Saban wants is to see his defense on the field for 35 minutes while Kelly is calling a play every 15 seconds.  This reason also makes Helfrich appear to be an unlikely candidate, although he does have a pro-style background he could lean on. 
  • If Kelly wants to return to college he would do so as a head coach. If nothing materializes in the NFL, Kelly would become a hot head coaching in the college ranks when jobs come open next season. He could use coaching a year at Alabama as a springboard to a college head coaching job. But, again, he wants to remain in the NFL and he wouldn't need a boost of any kind to land a big time job in college. So, coaching at Alabama for one season doesn't help him at all. 
  • Speaking of being one-and-done, why would Saban want Kelly as a rent-a-coach for a year? It wouldn't benefit Saban to have Kelly waltz in, reinvent the offense and then leave after one season. Again, Cristobal would be a better choice than Kelly would be for one year. 
  • Kelly could possibly adapt his offensive style, but why would he want to do that for a season? Plus, for all we know Kelly would be an average coordinator of a conventional offense. His calling card is a spread, up-tempo offense, not pro-style attacks. 
  • Could you imagine this clash of egos? Think Godzilla vs. King Kong. Saban is a bully. He intimidated and verbally abused Lane Kiffin to the point where he left Alabama to take the head job at Florida Atlantic. Nobody leaves Alabama for Florida Atlantic. But Kiffin did. Saban couldn't bully Kelly like that. Kelly wouldn't take it. And Saban likely wouldn't want someone that strong working under him, potentially undermining his authority, and that works both ways. Kelly taking orders from Saban on how to run the offense probably wouldn't go over very well. I don't care how good of pals they are. 

To be fair here, maybe this is all too negative. Maybe Saban wants to get some of that spread attack philosophy into his system to see how it meshes with his defense. Maybe their friendship would derail any potential clashes. Maybe, just maybe, it would be a match made in heaven.

Or, maybe math doesn't lies and this coaching equation is a non-starter. 

I'm betting on the latter.