There's no denying what Chip Kelly has brought to the Oregon football program over the past six years.
As an offensive coordinator, he turned Dennis Dixon from a talented guy failing to live up to his potential into a top-tier Heisman trophy candidate. He discovered Jeremiah Masoli, who led the Ducks to their first of three straight BCS appearances in 2009 (that streak will reach four in January).
But speculation has been rampant that Kelly will soon depart for an NFL head coaching job. Sports Illustrated's Peter King has Chip Kelly as the top college coach in line for a job at the next level. And of course there's last year's flirtation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after which Kelly ultimately decided to stay at Oregon.
Reading between the lines, it would appear that Chip Kelly will not be in the college ranks for much longer. But for everything he's done with the Ducks, I don't think Oregon will be hurting if/when Kelly departs.
The big question immediately becomes: Who would the Ducks hire to replace Kelly? But that may not be such a big question after all, as the Ducks would likely turn to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich (according to Adam Jude of The Oregonian via inside sources).
And that's exactly the right move in this situation.
If you've ever listened to Helfrich, you were probably struck by his calm demeanor and friendliness, which is in stark contrast to Kelly's style. He seems like a well-liked guy.
This profile by Adam Jude on Helfrich showcases how he gets along with his players, and his development of the quarterbacks has been instrumental to Oregon's success on offense over the last few years.
The key word in the transition to a new coach is continuity, and promoting Mark Helfrich would achieve that. He knows the system, and he knows what works. It's not like he was taking a nap while Oregon was piling up wins.
"Win the Day," Kelly's philosophy on taking things one day at a time, would likely remain the key phrase of the Oregon program. The uptempo practices aren't going anywhere, either.
Kelly will forever be known as the guy who revolutionized the spread offense in college football. But Oregon is known as the program that took his ideas to new heights and broke scoring records year after year.
That's not going to change. The Ducks are still the premier offense in the country, while everyone else is playing catchup.
If you picture the spread offense as a timeline, other teams are currently where Oregon was back in 2007 and 2008, when the system first began to produce positive results.
Ohio State's Urban Meyer, leader of the Florida Gators spread attack under Tim Tebow, has developed his own successful brand of spread offense. But the Buckeyes also scored fewer than 30 points on five separate occasions. That happened to Oregon just once.
It's easy to speculate that with Kelly gone, the allure of the Ducks could vanish with him. But by hiring a guy who's been there every step of the way, they'll maintain the same great offense that has dominated the Pac-12 over the past four seasons.
Then there's Nike, and Phil Knight.
Knight has been one of the major reasons for Oregon's ascension into the elite, and according to Jude's first piece this article linked to, Helfrich has his full support.
With Knight's various donations continuing to flow in, the Ducks aren't going anywhere.
A potential downside could be that recruiting takes a hit. But when now-freshman Arik Armstead committed to the Ducks last January, he did so in part because of Kelly's honesty. Armstead was told by Chip himself that he couldn't guarantee he'll stay at Oregon.
So it's safe to assume Chip has been telling the 2013 recruits the same thing. Plus, new players will still be joining a program at the height of its success.
Kelly staying put is the ideal scenario for the Ducks. But if he does to decide to make the jump after the Ducks' bowl game, he'll leave behind a program that will continue to flourish in his absence.
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