ORLANDO, Fla. -- The man who replaced Chip Kelly has been fired as Oregon's head coach.
Kelly is certain to be mentioned as one of the top candidates for the job – even after two blanket denials he has any interest in returning to the college ranks. Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens announced the firing of head coach Mark Helfrich on Tuesday.
"We want to thank Mark for his eight years with the University of Oregon and appreciate his efforts on behalf of Oregon football," Mullens said in a statement. "We wish Mark and his family the best."
The 49ers are 1-10 in Kelly’s first season. The club is in the midst of a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak as the 49ers remain in Florida to practice before traveling north to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Kelly is considered a logical candidate to fill the position he held with the Ducks from 2009 to ’12. Oregon compiled a 46-7 record under Kelly. In Helfrich’s four seasons, the Ducks went 37-16.
Earlier this month, Kelly dismissed the notion he could end up coaching at the college level next season. The 49ers signed Kelly to a four-year, $24 million contract in January, but things have not gone well in his first season after replacing Jim Tomsula. The 49ers were 5-11 last year under Tomsula.
“I haven’t talked to a college since I’ve been in the NFL and that’s not my goal,” Kelly said on Nov. 7. “My goal is to be head coach of the 49ers.
“It surprises me that that continues to be a new story. It’s been the same story since I left (Oregon) four years ago. I’m not looking to go back and that’s what I’ve always said. So I don’t know how it’s stayed a story.”
Two weeks earlier, Kelly said, "I'm not going anywhere."
Even if Kelly wishes to remain with the 49ers, CEO Jed York must decide whether retaining him as coach is the best long-term move for the organization. General manager Trent Baalke’s future with the franchise is also uncertain after three consecutive seasons in which the 49ers have gotten progressively worse under coaches Jim Harbaugh, Tomsula and Kelly.