Posted on June 23, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When Chip Kelly took the head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles, fans of the other Pac-12 teams were relieved. Kelly and his offensive machinations were now a problem for NFL defensive coordinators to worry about dissecting. As luck would have it, NFL teams didn’t struggle against Chip Kelly’s offense in Philadelphia or San Francisco—which led to Kelly getting fired.
There has been tons of speculation over what the future holds for Kelly, but for the immediate future, he’ll be part of the ESPN college football studio team—which will put him in an excellent position to scout every job in college football as it becomes available next year.
This, of course, assumes that he wants to return to college. He could like life in the studio talking about football rather than coaching it. Vegas puts the odds on him staying in the studio at +185 (a $100 bet will win $185). Odds on him returning to the college sideline are -200 (a $200 bet will win $100).
The odds on him getting another NFL job are a lot higher +750 (a $100 wager wins $750). But after how his tenure in Philadelphia and San Francisco played out it is hard to imagine any NFL team giving him another shot anytime soon.
College teams tend to be more forgiving of former college coaches that failed in the NFL. Many have returned to college and went on to have great success (Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll).
Many coaches will be entering the 2017 season on the hot seat. Some of those guys will win their way to cooler seats, but some will end up losing their jobs. If the right program decides it is time for a coaching change, they could find Kelly ready to move right in.
So—who will the contestants be and who has the best chance of winning?
There is a good chance Northern Illinois, Marshall, Rice, North Carolina State, and Boston College could be looking for new coaches. But it is hard to imagine Kelly wanting to return to anything other than one of the nation’s premier programs.
However, the chances are good that many top-notch programs could be looking for new leadership in the near future:
- Tennessee: Butch Jones is on the hot seat list of many, but unless the Volunteers take a nose dive this season going 9-4 the last two should keep him employed unless Tennessee’s new AD doesn’t like him.
- Notre Dame: According to the rumor mill, Brian Kelly could be looking for an out in South Bend. Another 4-8 season (like he had last year) may not be enough for the Fighting Irish to kick him to the curb but it will certainly nudge him in that direction.
- Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin has led the Aggies to an 8-5 record the last three seasons. For some schools that would be good enough. But for a program looking to be considered one of the nation’s elites it is not. Another season with a fast start and cold finish could mean the end for Sumlin.
- Arizona State: Todd Graham had the Sun Devils on the right track back in 2014, but after posting losing records the last two seasons his job is likely on the line this year. But he could be in luck. If former Alabama QB Blake Barnett lives up to expectations, the Sun Devils could be competitive this year.
- UCLA: Jim Mora started off well with the Bruins, but after back to back 10-win seasons the team has gone downhill. Vegas projects his Bruins will only win six games this season. If that ends up being the case—he’s gone. If they just win eight, he may still be.
- Auburn: Gus Malzahn started off with a bang in 2013 by leading the Tigers to 12 wins and a trip to the national championship game, but since then they have been mediocre at best. He could survive a 9-win season, but nothing may save him if he loses to Alabama again.
- Arizona: Rich Rodriguez has been looking for his next gig almost since he arrived in Arizona. The previous AD didn’t seem to mind his looking around, but the new one may feel differently. This could especially be true if the Wildcats fail to break .500 again and lose to the Sun Devils.
- Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury knows how to develop an offense, but his defenses have been horrible with the Red Raiders. Averaging over 500 yards of offense a game and 40+ points is great. But not when it only results in five wins. He’s popular, and his offenses are exciting, but he may need to win this season to keep his job.
Arizona, Arizona State, and Texas Tech are likely out of the running already. Kelly is going to want to take over a bigger program. UCLA could give him what he wants, but the Bruins will probably not let Mora go. It would not be shocking to see Tennessee, Auburn. Notre Dame, and Texas A&M looking for new leadership by the end of the season.
But who would Kelly be the most interested in coaching? Probably Notre Dame or Texas A&M. Notre Dame has the national following and name recognition he’ll like. That will make it easier for him to get the program back on top. Texas A&M doesn’t have the same kind of notoriety and swag as Notre Dame, but Kelly could bring it to College Station.
The question may be whether the boosters are willing to pay Kelly what he’ll demand and pay Sumlin’s buyout. Oil hasn’t been doing that well these days.