Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino: great college head coaches, stunk it to high heaven at the NFL level. Every NFL team thinks that college coaching can translate to NFL coaching; recent history shows Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll having great success upon their entrance to the NFL, as best evidenced by the fact that they’re both in the playoffs this year, but both of them came into solid situations they were able to improve quickly. Now, I’m not diminishing what Harbaugh and Carroll have done; if anything I over-promote it here. What I am saying is that some coaches work out, and others don’t.
Which brings us to Chip Kelly, aptly named considering his stock is soaring right now. Is he really worth all the attention and investigation he is getting right now? Yes, he has had great success with Oregon, but Nick Saban won a BCS Title with LSU, and look at how well he worked out with Miami. Kelly has a high upside, but most of them have inherent requirements: he has an unorthodox offense, which requires the right personnel by the way, an ability to motivate his players, if they are willing to buy into his system, and a solid pedigree, albeit one from the college ranks.
Chip Kelly does have one advantage in this regard, though: his system has had success in the NFL. Bill Belichick has had Kelly fly out to Foxborough to learn about Kelly’s up tempo offense, and used it to damaging effect against the AFC East and others; and that’s high praise when you consider that Belichick likes to stay one step ahead of the rest of the NFL. So, you can make the argument that his style of offense can be effective in the NFL, with the right players, which New England usually has.
However, the vacant openings are not ideal. Kelly is not interviewing with teams who fired their head coach, not teams looking to replace a coach who is retiring (from which spring really good opportunities). He won’t inherit a great roster, and will have to draft and scout really well to get things moving. Unless Kelly gets a guarantee that he’ll have a few years to turn things around, his hiring could have no effect on the team’s bad fortune.