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Jump to NFL not always right move for college coaches


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Someone please find Chip Kelly and lob some green and yellow confetti in his direction.

The Oregon football coach needs to be congratulated for coming to the realization that, well, he’s got it made. That the grass isn’t always greener. Or at least not as green as Phil Knight’s bank account.

Kelly, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly will be coveted by NFL franchises until the only offensive and defensive strategies they’re plotting is in checkers.

College success equals opportunity at the pro level. No need explaining this to Saban, who two years after leading LSU to the 2003 national championship began a two-season stint with the Miami Dolphins that netted him a forgettable 15-17 record.

He’s been Tuscaloosa’s most-famous resident ever since.

I would be stunned if Saban ever returned to the pro game. Age is not on his side. Yes, he’s a youthful 61, but the bottom line is that after securing three of the past four BCS trophies the Saban surname invites expectations that can’t always be achieved.

Think about it. The minute one of his Crimson Tide squads finishes 10-2 or 9-3, some members of the Houndstooth fraternity will be calling for Saban’s head. Or toilet-papering the statue of the coach that since April 2011 has stood outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“See, Jim. He’s lost it. I told you he was no Bear Bryant.”

It’s apparently going to take a pretty special carrot dangled in front of Chip Kelly for him to bolt Eugene for an NFL head coaching position. The recent Cleveland, Buffalo and Philadelphia coaching vacancies weren’t tempting enough to sway Kelly, to the surprise of no one.

Kelly with his inventive offensive schemes and 2,873 helmet/uniform combinations has made Oregon must-watch entertainment regardless of what time zone you live in.

However, I’m guessing Kelly, 49, makes the jump if the New England, Dallas or one of the two New York head coaching positions opens up in the next two or three seasons. His resume is totally void of NFL experience, even as a position coach, so prepping for Sundays is the next logical challenge.

Likewise Brian Kelly, 51, whose meteoric rise has been something to observe. As recently as 2003 the man who just last week led the Fighting Irish to the BCS National Championship Game in Miami was cashing paychecks as head coach at Division II Grand Valley State.

To quote Michael Keaton’s character in the 1980s movie “Night Shift”: Is this a great country or what?

This Kelly situation is different, however. Rising to legend’s status at Notre Dame carries far greater significance than doing so at Oregon. Not trying to be mean. It’s just reality.

Having said that, I straddle the fence as to whether Brian Kelly one day leaves South Bend or remains at Notre Dame until forced out the way most high-profile coaches inevitably are.

This I do know: If the Irish go 7-5 next season and he begins to hear the screams from the stadium stands, his decision becomes a whole lot easier.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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