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Chip Kelly will be the Driving Force of This Year’s College Football Coaching Carousel

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He may be getting ready to make his return to college football.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Oregon v Kansas State Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

When Chip Kelly bolted for the Philadelphia Eagles, college football lost a powerhouse program. Maybe not right off the bat, but Oregon football has deteriorated and is now in complete rebuild mode. Mark Helfrich couldn’t sustain success after Kelly’s players exited. This past year, things got ugly — ugly enough for Oregon to blow it up completely and start an entirely new era.

Kelly took his shot at the NFL while his old Oregon program hit the skids. His time in the league wasn’t pretty. He was granted full roster control in Philadelphia, but things went down in flames. He took a really tough 49ers job after that, only to predictably go 2-14 with virtually nothing to work with on either side of the football. He was canned after just one season.

The NFL just isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t jive with every personality or scheme. Chip Kelly was just a bad fit in the NFL. He’s a college guy. Kelly probably realized this when nobody came knocking during last season’s coaching cycle. He had a couple nibbles as a potential offensive coordinator, but even that didn’t come to fruition. I was convinced that he was going to find a way to take back the Oregon job, but I think he was convinced that the NFL still wanted him around in some capacity.

Kelly will spend 2017 working for ESPN as an analyst, but I don’t think anyone really thinks that’s where he wants to stay. Looking back, Kelly probably could have gotten the California job if he wanted it, but his decision to stand firm is going to place him squarely in the sights of several top schools come November of this year. I think he becomes the driving force of this whole cycle, assuming he throws his name in the running.

Think about it. If your team is 3-5 and the writing is on the wall, are you really going to keep your current coach around to finish the season? Or are you going to get the inevitable over with and put yourself in the driver’s seat for Chip Kelly’s services? I think a few powerhouses could take that approach.

Dan Wetzel is already connecting some dots between Kelly and Texas A&M. Notre Dame, UCLA and yes — Tennessee — have all been mentioned as potential landing spots too. There are a handful of other powers that could jump into the running as well if things go south.

Coaching is everything in college football. There are a handful of guys that can transform a program overnight, and Chip Kelly would certainly make that list.

Nick Saban has absolutely ruined the SEC and teams are scrambling every two to three years to find another guy that can try to top him. There’s no time to let someone truly build a program anymore. This season you’ve potentially got a top five coach in the college landscape on the market. Things are going to happen quickly. Chip Kelly is going to have his pick of which powerhouse he wants to take over. It’s going to be fascinating.

Guys like Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, Jim Mora and Kevin Sumlin better win football games this year, or athletic directors could pull the plug quickly. Look what LSU did last year with Les Miles. They moved quickly to get out in front of everyone else. In their case, it ended up backfiring, but that was more of a perfect storm with Texas and Tom Herman. Regardless, they took their shot. I think multiple teams take their shot at Kelly before the 2017 season is over.