The surprise turn of former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly continues to beg the question as to why college coaches at schools where they have job security for decades opt to join the NFL?
Kelly is suddenly a hated man in Oregon. Less than a week after saying he was staying put as the head coach of the Ducks, who are the dominant school in the Pac 12 after unseating USC for that mantle, he shifted course and opted to join the Philadelphia Eagles. Less than 48 hours after assuring Oregon school officials and boosters that he was staying, he went to the absolute worst place for a college head coach looking to make a splash in the NFL – the City of Not-So-Brotherly Love.
For those unfamiliar with Eagles fans, the term “Minnesota Nice” need not apply. The fact Andy Reid was the most tenured coach in the NFL before being fired at the end of the 2012 season speaks volumes.
Numerous conversations with Brad Childress hammered home the point of the lunatic passion Eagles fans have toward the team. The 600 level at the old Vet was a hooligan fest in which fans who dared to wear opposing team apparel were either beaten or had their jerseys, helmets or stocking caps taken away from them by force. Kelly is walking up to a massive hornet’s nest and hitting it with a stick – in the end, it may be the undoing of Kelly’s career ambitions.
Just as players are quick to point out that, not only is the NFL a business, it’s a pretty cutthroat business, the survival rate of NFL head coaches with the same team is pretty intense. It’s an elite fraternity, but just as it does with players, the NFL devours and spits out its coaches.
It was thought that the cycle of elite college coaches making the jump to the NFL was in reversal. Two of the biggest coaching bail-outs on teams have seen the head coach leave an NFL team for what appeared to be greener pastures in the college game. In 2006, his second season with the Miami Dolphins, rumors began circulating after Mike Shula was fired as head coach at Alabama that Nick Saban was a frontrunner. He denied the allegations, but had an “out clause” in his contract that allowed him to jump ship if the “sweetheart deal” came along.
A year later, amateur motorcyclist Bobby Petrino abandoned the Atlanta Falcons for the University of Arkansas with three weeks remaining in Atlanta’s 2007 season. Vikings wide receiver Michael Jenkins has spoken to the sense of betrayal that cut deep. The result of the Saban-Petrino exodus was that it put a stink on college coaches that wasn’t easily removed, which makes Kelly’s jump from the security (and deep pockets) of the Oregon program for the Eagles coaching vacancy so stunning.
This year alone, eight head coach vacancies were created – 25 percent of the league in one fell swoop. Only seven coaches have held their current jobs as NFL leaders longer than five years – Bill Belichick (2000), Marvin Lewis (2003), Tom Coughlin (2004), Mike McCarthy (2006), Gary Kubiak (2006), Sean Payton (2006) and Mike Tomlin (2007). Leslie Frazier has only been the Vikings’ head coach for a little over two years and he is already in the upper half of tenured head coaches in the NFL. It’s amazing how quickly coaches are recycled when things don’t go well in a given season.
Good luck, Chip Kelly. You’ve broken the hearts of an entire state – what older Minnesotans refer to as “Lou Holtz Syndrome.” Welcome to Philadelphia, Chip! Understand that your middle initial may start a vulgar word as long as you are the Eagles’ head coach. The Grateful Dead won’t be the ambiance music at the local restaurant. It will be The Dropkick Murphys. Kelly is a test-case for the glove slap Saban and Petrino gave to “the shield.”
Kelly couldn’t be in a worse place at worse time. He had a job that, even in hard times, he could retain for the next 10-20 years. He jumped to the NFL and blew up Oregon behind him when he left. Given that Frazier has coached 38 regular-season games and is in the top half of the fraternity, it doesn’t bode well for the life expectancy of a head coach, much less in Philadelphia – where they have a jail and a judge in the stadium because they don’t expect that a handful of people will be arrested, they have an express lane. It’s inevitable.
The scars on the scorched hands of the NFL have healed post-Saban/Petrino. Kelly is the next in line – standing firm with a broom stick looking to knock the hornet’s nest. We may need to learn Kelly’s 40-time, because he is breaking new ground on thin ice. Good luck with that.
On a Sports Illustrated podcast, Christian Ponder and his wife, ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele announced they will have a second wedding for friends and family in April. The couple also shared the story of how he proposed – asking if she would marry him using Christmas lights (the rarely-used Lite Brite gamut?). However, he didn’t put a question mark on the end of it. FSU guys don’t take no for an answer, apparently. Apparently a sign of the times in the social media world, Steele was asked if she was pregnant, which many speculated when they had a civil ceremony in Wisconsin before a judge, not a member of the clergy. She said she wasn’t.
The coaching staffs of the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions will coach the Senior Bowl teams (the Raiders staff helming the North team and Detroit coaching the South squad.).
The Vikings weren’t the only ones who had a bad night in Green Bay Dec. 2. An incident that allegedly included a father-son ‘Sconny Fight Club tandem has landed a Minnesota man in hot water with the local authorities. Mark Swanson from Lakeland, Minn., is going on trial for felony battery and disorderly conduct for his alleged role in a fight outside the Sideline Sports Bar in downtown Green Bay. He pleaded not guilty in Brown County Circuit Court, but the main evidence against him may be his girlfriend’s own cell phone. According to a law enforcement officer who testified at Wednesday’s plea hearing, he said video on his girlfriend’s phone showed Swanson and Paul Hrubesky shoving one another in a parking lot and later showed Hrubesky unconscious on the asphalt – a bad ending to the night regardless of guilt or self-defense. According to Swanson’s attorney, Hrubesky’s son started the fight and Swanson was merely defending himself.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.