Tampa Bay

Kelly might have a single-minded pursuit of the NFL

Oregon's football coach has plenty of reasons to move to the pro game
Jan. 22, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Jim Harbaugh had quite an affect on the world of professional football this year, and maybe even the world of college football, too. How else can you explain Chip Kelly even considering a move from Eugene and the University of Oregon to Tampa and the NFL's Buccaneers?

But, it actually seems like a good idea for Kelly, especially after the Rose Bowl and his sit down with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema on game day. As they were interviewed hours before the game, they were both identified as being single. Single dudes in charge of huge responsibilities overseeing a major college football program.

It's the kind of responsibility that comes with a lot of money, a lot of time and so many connections to other people having a hand in your pocket telling you what can work and what can't. They both have this kind of responsibility. Bielema, though, has an edge over Kelly in that he's on the way to getting married.

Maybe this is the way for Kelly to make time and space to find a soul mate. And, it's a great challenge, which Harbaugh seemed to be having a great time with this season, taking the San Francisco 49ers within a field goal of the Super Bowl in just his first year.

Harbaugh took over a 6-10 team. Kelly would be taking over a 2-14 team that lost its last 10 games.

He'd be in Florida, too. That's not saying anything bad about the prospects for marriage in Eugene, but there's a lot more people i Florida and a lot more social mixers.

Kelly's already gotten about as high as you can get in the college world and made millions off it, so money probably isn't one of this chief concerns. The task of running a pro football team is significantly less stressful that a college program, where you have tons of scouts scouring the nation, sometimes paying for info, sometimes not (the NCAA is looking over every teaspoon of sugar you put on your Wheaties), and you've got games that mean essentially nothing on your schedule - hello Missouri State.

And, there's no playoffs.

The NFL has a much simpler game plan for coaches - just win, baby. Get to the playoffs and win. College is like that, too, but the top colleges have a much better chance of attracting the best players, so they have an edge every time they talk to a player. The pro game attempts to make every team as equal as possible, giving the downtrodden teams a chance to rebuild through the draft. And, the Bucs have a great draft upcoming in that they get to pick early in each round because they were so downtrodden this past season.

Coaching is way more complex in the pro game because the season is longer and there's so much more pressure on winning - Oregon will sell out Autzen Stadium even in a 6-6 season. Tampa? People stop showing up when you're 8-8 or 2-14. That complexity has to be a lure for Kelly, and maybe even dealing with older men, too, the kinds of guys he can hang out with after a game or when the season is done.

Kelly has done great things in Eugene, and I've talked with friends about his leaving and can't see why he'd move to the NFL, especially because he can have about five average seasons and not even be close to getting moved out - plus, what's the odds the Ducks will even be remotely close to average anytime soon?

But, the NFL is the kind of challenge someone like Kelly has to be looking at as the next step in his career. The national title didn't happen, but he sure came close - twice.

And, there's that thing about being single.

If it doesn't happen this year, it's going to happen soon. Chip Kelly is too good of a partner for an NFL team, or a single lady, to pass on.

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