Chip Kelly to NFL: Oregon Coach Mark Helfrich to Continue Winning Culture

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2013

Jan. 3, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA: Oregon Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich prior to the game against the Kansas State Wildcats during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Oregon defeated Kansas State 35-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly is now head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is now head coach of the Oregon Ducks football program.

Yet the Eugene skies may remain a winterish grey, and the world keeps on turning for this powerhouse. The announcement, which came ten days after University of Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens confirmed that Chip Kelly had decided to remain in Eugene, was still not a surprise for many Oregon fans. After all, Kelly had always subscribed to a “plug-and-play” philosophy. For Oregon, Mark Helfrich is simply the next man in line for the Oregon head coach position.

"The [players are] excited too,” said Chip Kelly, according to Stephen Nelson of KEZI news. “Program has always been a next man up operation".

Kelly, who flirted with NFL teams earlier this offseason, and at a similar point last year as well, had long been speculated to make an NFL leap. As the dust of this story began to settle, so too did the realities.

"We were aware a year ago that this was a very real possibility," said Mullens, in regards to Chip Kelly packing up and taking an NFL job, during the press conference introducing Helfrich as head coach.

I never went through with publishing my initial piece celebrating Chip Kelly’s alleged return to the University of Oregon; I found his return to be a non-story. Nothing was changing.

When Mark Helfrich was promoted to head coach, as Chip Kelly superstar LaMichael James crossed the touchdown plane for the first time in his NFL career, news of change was heading to Eugene at the University of Oregon. Thankfully, for fans of the Oregon Ducks football program, adjustment is hardly the worst thing that could happen to this team, which subscribes to a culture of change.

"We will attack in all phases,” said Helfrich in his press conference, persuading any and all that he has embraced the role of Oregon Ducks head football coach. “We will embrace innovation."

Oregon, who has made an incredible effort over the last few years to keep their foot in the door of innovation via their unique spread offense and impressive relationship with Nike, has leveled off as one of the premier coaching jobs in all of football.

"I've been the luckiest man in the world,” said Helfrich. “I have a great wife, a great family and an incredible job."

And quite an incredible job he has. The Ducks football program, coupled with an emerging basketball program, has the Oregon brand is skyrocketing.

When I began to write my initial story, I decided to write about the fact that Kelly chose the Oregon job simply because it was a better job than the Cleveland Browns head coaching position. In this article on the Best Jobs in Football by ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski, Oregon is ranked with USC, Georgia and the Chicago Bears as honorable mentions in the hierarchy for the premier position.  

The new Oregon coach will get a chance to coach Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas, two of the most naturally gifted players one may ever have the opportunity to coach, to a national title, all while working with some of the best facilities in college football.

“Players would be crazy to leave Oregon with Chip Kelly leaving,” said Richard Obert of “The infrastructure for champions will always be there.”

Around two weeks ago, I was in Phoenix, watching a smiling Bryan Bennett pour Gatorade over a celebrating Chip Kelly. Bennett said he would return to Oregon after the win over Kansas State. It was his second straight BCS bowl victory, and fourth consecutive appearance in a BCS bowl game.

This Oregon football program had done incredible things for Chip Kelly.

He had gone to a BCS bowl games in all four years in which he served as head coach of the Oregon Ducks football team.     

Kelly had been involved with the Oregon program for two years before he was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mark Helfrich’s already young résumé?

Since coming to Oregon in 2009, Helfrich was the one who first discovered a certain Hawaiian 3-star prospect that goes by the name of Marcus Mariota.

He also was named the NCAA’s Quarterback Coach of the Year in 2010, and again last season in 2012.

Under his leadership, Mariota is now considered to be an early Heisman favorite for the 2013 season. Helfrich now has full reign to control Mariota to the best of his abilities as head coach of the program.

Helfrich represents not only innovation, but also the continuity that the leader of the University of Oregon team must provide.

"I feel like our team has a great vibe,” said De'Anthony Thomas.

The familiarity around the locker room will continue a tradition of winning for the Oregon Ducks, and should keep them as a Pac-12 favorite and national title contender in the upcoming season.   

"Win the day,” said quarterback Marcus Mariota, closing the press conference on Helfrich’s arrival, “that doesn't change for us."

Bryan Kalbrosky is a Featured Columnist for the Oregon Ducks and student of journalism at the University of Oregon. Follow more of his stories and adventures on Twitter to Follow @BryanKalbrosky.