As the game clock wound down at last Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl in Glendale Arizona, the chants of “Chip Don’t Go” could be heard throughout the Oregon fan section.
Watching the Ducks and head coach Chip Kelly accept the Fiesta Bowl trophy, it seemed obvious to everyone remaining in the stadium that this indeed was the swan song for Kelly who’s led the Ducks to two consecutive BCS wins.
After last years flirtation with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it really had become a foregone conclusion that Kelly would indeed accept an offer this year from either the Philadelphia Eagles or Cleveland Browns – Kelly’s two suitors who put on the full court press to nab the coaches signature to a 2013 contract.
Then it happened. Kelly again returned to Eugene to coach the Ducks without ever leaving.
After two days of wild speculation and reporters citing inside sources that Kelly was certainly moving on, he surprised everyone and never left.
If you were to ask him, Kelly would simply say he’s always been the coach of the Oregon Ducks and that never changed since the end of Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl.
The dance between Kelly and the Browns and Eagles began last Friday when it was reported Kelly spent a significant amount of the day with Browns management who flew to Phoenix to convince Kelly to become their next coach.
On Saturday, reports surfaced Kelly spent more than 9 hours with management from the Eagles who also targeted Kelly as their number one coaching candidate.
In fact, additional reports suggested Kelly dismissed a follow up meeting with the Browns on Saturday to remain in discussions with the Eagles lending speculation Kelly and his agent David Dunn were indeed close to signing a deal with Philadelphia.
But when all was said and done while reporters continued to speculate across twitter, word finally came down Sunday evening that Kelly once again decided Oregon was the best fit for him.
And fit is really what this weekend romance came down to. When asked in his post game press conference what exactly he was looking for when going through the interview process Kelly admitted he wasn’t sure.
“I don’t know” said Kelly. “I’ve only been in one interview in my life. I can’t really tell you I have a checklist of what I’m looking for. Last year, it kind of came out of the blue. I thought it would be a good life experience, and it was.”
No doubt Kelly made the best decision for him. It was clear whatever Kelly was looking for wasn’t there.
By the same token, what’s currently at Oregon is something Kelly is certainly enamored with. By returning to coach the Ducks in 2013, he’ll certainly have the opportunity to coach a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Marcus Mariota and no doubt once again be in the conversation for a national championship.
After no official comment from Chip Kelly since speculation of his departure diminished, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens provided the University’s first comments on Monday.
Mullens told reporters Kelly called him Sunday evening during the Civil War basketball game to tell him he was indeed remaining at Oregon.
Mullens explained Kelly kept in contact with him throughout the weekend interview process calling Mullens twice – once Friday morning before speaking with the Browns and Buffalo Bills, and again on Sunday after meeting with the Eagles the previous night.
“He did exactly what he said he would do,” Mullens explained to reporters.
“He would talk, he’d gather all the information, he’d reflect and he’d make a decision. And that’s exactly what he did. I appreciate the way he handled it. He kept me in the loop the entire time, and I was pleased to get the call.”
“Obviously, we’re ecstatic that Coach Kelly decided to remain at the University of Oregon,” Mullens continued. “We’ve had unprecedented success over the last four years and that’s a tribute to his innovative style.”
It was also widely speculated that Nike head man Phil Knight had used his influence to convince Kelly to remain with the Ducks. The thought being Kelly was angeling for a pay raise. Mullens told reporters Kelly’s contract or discussions of a pay raise was never discussed over the weekend.
While success brings heightened interest to a football program and its coaches, Mullens explained that’s the good and bad part of Oregon participating in four consecutive BCS bowls.
“If that happens, it happens,” Mullens explained when asked about future NFL flirtations for his head football coach.
“The reality is, when you’re 46-7 in four years, you’re going to draw a lot of attention. … If we’re winning 11, 12, 13, 14 games, it’s something we’ll deal with.”