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People close to Oregon’s Chip Kelly think he’s heading to the NFL

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio - Wisconsin v Oregon

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks calls out in the second quarter while taking on the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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Oregon coach Chip Kelly has his eye on the NFL and wants to see if his brand of football can work at the next level, according to people who know him well.

Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who hired Kelly as his offensive coordinator in 2007 and then promoted Kelly to head coach when he became Oregon’s athletic director, says Kelly is an NFL coach in the making. In fact, Bellotti expected Kelly to leave in January, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered him their head-coaching job. Kelly considered it but ultimately turned down the Bucs, who hired Greg Schiano.

It’s just inevitable that he will eventually be in the NFL,” Bellotti told Dennis Dodd of CBS. “Chip is one of the ultimate competitors and he sees that. It actually surprised me he changed his mind [with the Bucs] last year. Whether they get to the national championship and whether they win the national championship, I don’t know. To think he’ll stay there when ultimately his idea of top jobs is to get to the Super Bowl, it won’t happen, unfortunately, at the college level.”

Oregon is currently undefeated, and a source close to Kelly who didn’t want to be identified told Dodd that if the Ducks win the national championship, Kelly will have accomplished everything he wants to accomplish in college football, and will turn his attention to the NFL.

“There are nine chances in 10 if he wins out [this season] he’s gone,” the source said.

When NFL teams have hired college coaches, they’ve generally gone with more conventional choices like Schiano, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, all of whom had prior NFL experience and were planning to run more or less standard NFL systems. But Kelly has no NFL experience, and he’s a different breed of football coach, the kind of coach the NFL has never seen.

Although NFL teams have employed spread offense concepts, no NFL team has ever employed a spread attack like Kelly’s as its primary offensive system. And what makes Kelly different goes far beyond the offense: Kelly goes for it on fourth down at times when no NFL coach would, he goes for two-point conversions at times when no NFL coach would, and he has a completely different approach to playcalling than you’d ever see in the NFL. Kelly’s offense can be backed up at the 1-yard line, and he’ll have his quarterback drop deep into the end zone and chuck it 40 yards downfield. Or Kelly’s offense can be facing third-and-15, and he’ll call a handoff up the middle -- and it works.

At least, it works in college. Would Kelly’s approach work in the NFL? Who knows. But it would be fun to see him try.