Ten days after it appeared the wild speculation was silenced that Chip Kelly was leaving Oregon for the NFL, comes a bombshell that the Ducks coach is in fact leaving Eugene. A source confirmed to CBS Wednesday morning that Kelly will be the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
This story was earlier reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The Eagles later confirmed the news by announcing Kelly as their new head coach.
"Chip Kelly will be an outstanding head coach for the Eagles," said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. "He has a brilliant football mind. He motivates his team with his actions as well as his words. He will be a great leader for us and will bring a fresh, energetic approach to our team."
The Eagles had interviewed Kelly right after he lead the Ducks to a blowout win over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. That interview was early in in the Eagles' search for a replacement for Andy Reid.
According to a source, the Eagles had gone back to other head coaching candidates with increased offers where they had financially been pushed to a level they hadn't been at before, but were still turned down. At that point in the process, the source said, the Eagles were offering their head coaching candidates way above the salary Nick Saban is making at Alabama (over $5.3 million per year).
Kelly's record in four seasons at Oregon is a jaw-dropping 46-7 and has included a trip to a BCS bowl in every year he's been the Ducks head coach. His teams have ranked in the top three in scoring the past three seasons.
Kelly's skills as a game-planner and play-caller made a dramatic impact on college football. His rise to stardom was dramatic, especially for a guy who just seven years ago was an anonmymous assistant coach at New Hampshire. When asked about hearing that Kelly was moving on to the Eagles, one Pac-12 coach said in a text to CBSSports.com: "Great. Let the f@ckin NFL deal with him."
The news of Kelly's departure comes just three weeks before National Signing Day. The coach was even doing in-home visits with recruits earlier this week. While it is expected that the Ducks will promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, the school must conduct an official search before it can hire the new head coach.
The 39-year-old Helfrich, who grew up a Ducks fan, the son of a former Oregon O-lineman. The younger Helfrich was a quarterback at Southern Oregon in the early 1990s. He got his start as a graduate assistant at Oregon in 1997 under Mike Bellotti, working closely with then Ducks OC Dirk Koetter before following Koetter to Boise State as quarterbacks coach from 1998-2000. He then spent five seasons as quarterbacks coach at Arizona State (2001-2005) and three seasons in the same role at Colorado (2006-2008) before landing back at Oregon in 2009 when Kelly was promoted to head coach after Bellotti stepped down. Helfrich also appears to have Kelly's blessing too.
"I think Helf could succeed at anything he wanted to," Kelly told reporters after Oregon's 35-17 victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. "Intelligent, detail-oriented, great manager of people, great friend. One of the funniest guys I've met in my entire life. ...
"I think he's special. I love the guy."
Inside the Ducks program, Helfrich has been seen as one of the unheralded stars in Oregon's rise. "This is (Kelly's) system, people know this, so they automatically think Helfrich has little input on what happens on Saturdays. This is simply not true," former Oregon quarterback Nate Costa told CBSsports.com. "Helfrich doesn't get half the credit he deserves. He is one of the smartest people in the college football world and has a great football mind. He has a large amount of involvement in the game planning, scripting and coaching on a weekly basis.
"He may not call all the plays on game day, but he has a high amount of input in what plays are called and why they are called."