Friday Five: Which college football job Chip Kelly should take right now
Chip Kelly is open to the idea of returning to college, so let's figure out where he should return to
Every Friday, the Friday Five will rank something in the world of college football -- anything and everything from the logical to the illogical. This week, we rank five possible jobs in college for former Oregon coach Chip Kelly to take.
Chip Kelly is currently unemployed. After only one season with the San Francisco 49ers, Kelly was fired, and he currently finds himself with a 28-35 record as a head coach over four seasons in the NFL, including a mark of 8-23 over the last two years with the Niners and Philadelphia Eagles.
So it doesn't really come as a surprise to find out that Chip is open to the idea of returning to the college ranks. When there probably aren't any NFL teams that will be banging down your door, you have to keep your options open, and believe me, nobody on the college level will care about Kelly's struggles in the NFL.
Plenty of college coaches have left for the NFL, fallen on their face, and made triumphant returns to college. One of them will be trying to win his sixth national title on Monday night in Tampa.
So if Kelly is interested in returning to college, colleges will be interested in Chip Kelly. In fact, the interest would be so high that I wouldn't be shocked to see a school up and fire a coach we assumed was safe at this point just to hire Kelly.
But which school?
That's what I'm trying to figure out in this week's Friday Five. If Chip Kelly is on a college sideline next season, which one is it most likely to be? In order to figure this out, I racked my brain to come up with a combination of schools that would not just be interested in Kelly, but ones he'd be interested in as well.
These are the five most likely schools I decided upon.
5. Notre Dame: In the interest of full disclosure, when I first wrote this week's Friday Five, it was Minnesota that was in this fifth spot. It only made sense to put the Gophers job here because it was the only open job in the country at the time, and that gave it something of an edge over everybody else, even if I wasn't entirely sure that Chip Kelly would be interested in the job, or that Minnesota would be interested in him.
Well, it's all a moot point now, because Minnesota's hiring P.J. Fleck.
So in steps Notre Dame. I know for a fact that there are Notre Dame fans out there who would love to see the Irish and 49ers pull off some kind of trade that sends Brian Kelly to San Francisco and Chip Kelly to South Bend. I know this because moments after Chip Kelly was fired, I began receiving text messages from friends and family members asking me if this scenario was plausible.
My belief is that if the 49ers offered their job to Brian Kelly, he might just take it. As for the other half, where Chip Kelly ends up at Notre Dame, I'm not so sure.
There's just so much that goes into the Notre Dame job that most coaches at other schools don't have to worry about, and I'm just not sure that Chip Kelly is a fit in South Bend. Still, it would be interesting to see if it did happen, so for that reason alone, I'm willing to put Notre Dame at No. 5 on this week's list.
4. Arizona State: Things have been going the wrong way for Todd Graham at Arizona State. In his first three seasons with the Sun Devils, Graham's teams went 28-12 overall with a 19-8 record in conference play, including a Pac-12 South title. The last two seasons have not been nearly as successful, as the Sun Devils have gone 11-14 overall and 6-12 in the Pac-12.
So a shakeup wouldn't be the craziest idea in Tempe, and I do think Chip Kelly would have interest in the gig. He's familiar with the Pac-12, and at least Arizona State is in the South if he doesn't want to compete directly with Oregon.
Where I see problems emerging is in the financials. Chip Kelly himself won't come cheap, and Todd Graham's buyout at this point would be rather prohibitive. According to USA Today, Graham's buyout is in the $14 million range.
That's a lot of money to pay a coach to go away just so you can pay another coach more.
3. Texas A&M: Now we move to a school where money isn't much of an issue. If Texas A&M wants to replace Kevin Sumlin with Chip Kelly, money isn't going to matter. What matters in College Station is that ever since that magical season in 2012 when Sumlin, Johnny Football and the Aggies took the SEC by storm, they haven't been able to replicate the same kind of success.
There have been too many eight-win seasons and November slides for some people at A&M, and you know that Sumlin will enter the 2017 season on the hot seat. So if he's entering next year with his job in peril, doesn't that mean his job is in peril now?
And if Kelly is interested in Texas A&M -- and I think he would be, as he can find a lot of what he likes in Texas -- that might be enough to convince A&M to pull the trigger early and begin a new era.
2. UCLA: There are a few logical reasons why I have UCLA this high. First of all, it's a Pac-12 school, and it's not only in California, but it's in Los Angeles, which would give Kelly a lot of easy access to high school talent. It's also reaching a point where you have to wonder how much rope Jim Mora has left to work with.
The Bruins will be making another change at offensive coordinator this season, and maybe those in charge decide that the best way to solve the offense is to hire somebody with the offensive pedigree of Chip Kelly.
Plus, with the number of NFL jobs that are currently open, I wouldn't be surprised if Mora looked for one of those jobs. Now, this is all purely speculation on my part, but there is an NFL job in the same city as UCLA that's currently open, and I just can't help but believe Mora is someone who has plans to return to the NFL at some point.
1. Tennessee: Listen, Butch Jones has done a magnificent job of leading Tennessee to multiple life championships, but at some point, you have to wonder if Tennessee will become more interested in division, conference, and possibly even national titles.
I don't know if it's entirely fair to hold Tennessee's 9-4 mark in 2016 against Jones given all the injuries the Vols suffered, but there are still plenty of people in and around Knoxville that remain skeptical about Jones' ability to lead Tennessee back to the top.
Chip Kelly, on the other hand, is a name they just might believe in, and if you're Kelly, you have to think Tennessee is an attractive landing spot. It's a talented team that's in the SEC, but not in the SEC West where you have to compete with Alabama for a division title every year -- though you still have to play it.
I just can't help but believe that there isn't a school out there that would be more capable of successfully making this move right now than Tennessee.
Honorable Mention: Arizona, California
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