Deceptive as the Ducks’ option plays, Chip Kelly blasted out of Eugene for Philadelphia. The question is, will the rest of the Pac-12 benefit by his departure?
Two weeks ago, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Chip Kelly would bolt Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles. Then a week ago, Kelly withdrew his name from consideration and said he would remain at Oregon, prompting athletic director Rob Mullens to say that Kelly “is a great leader, and we’re thrilled he’s going to remain in Eugene.” But Wednesday, and to the considerable relief of every other program in the Pac-12 Conference, Kelly finally took his offensive act to Philadelphia.
No school can be more elated at Kelly’s departure for the NFL than USC, which allowed the Ducks to average 50 points and 601 yards the past couple of years — except for maybe the University of Washington.
Since 2007, when Kelly became Oregon’s offensive coordinator, the Ducks have whomped the Huskies six consecutive times. Not one was close. Oregon cumulatively outscored Washington 281-117, an average pounding of 46.8 to 19.5. The Ducks averaged 495.5 yards of total offense.
In Kelly’s four-year tenure as head coach, he directed the Ducks to four consecutive BCS bowls — two Rose Bowls, one national championship game, and most recently the Fiesta Bowl in which the Ducks throttled Kansas State 35-17 — and accumulated a 46-7 record.
“Chip Kelly was the reason that Oregon became a national power,” Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for rivals.com said on the website Wednesday. “The facilities and attention with the uniforms are fringe benefits, but it is his offense that is scoring a ton of points and making every player want to go there.”
With national signing day just three weeks away, Kelly’s departure could play havoc with Oregon’s current recruiting class. To ensure some measure of continuity, it’s assumed that Oregon will promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, although there has been no official word out of Eugene yet.
If that happens, Helfrich probably won’t change Kelly’s spread offense much. But just as Washington never was the same after Don James left, Oregon won’t be the same without Kelly.
Washington has made some remarkable strides under head coach Steve Sarkisian, who has coached three bowl teams in four years following the Huskies’ 0-12 flop in 2008. But the Huskies and Ducks are currently in the same league in name only. Kelly’s departure might start to change the dynamic. Or maybe not. This is where you come in.