Gunther: Kelly should be wary of NFL

2012-11-28T11:00:00Z Gunther: Kelly should be wary of NFLBy John Gunther, The World Coos Bay World
November 28, 2012 11:00 am  • 

As the college and NFL seasons wind down, the coaching pink slips have started flying right and left.

Jon Embree didn’t get a third year at Colorado after the Buffaloes got blown out repeatedly this fall.

Gene Chizik’s national title at Auburn a few seasons ago wasn’t enough to overcome going winless in the Southeastern Conference this year, especially with Alabama in line for a second straight national title.

Tom O’Brien left Boston College for North Carolina State and now he and the coach who replaced him in Massachusetts, Frank Spaziani, both are looking for new jobs after being fired over the weekend.

Vince Dooley is out at Tennessee. John L. Smith’s one season as interim coach at Arkansas was just that. Joker Phillips is out and Mark Stoops is in at Kentucky.

In just over a month, the same stories will be coming from the NFL, with Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and San Diego’s Norv Turner likely to be on the chopping block.

And when that happens, Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be at the top of the list of candidates for most NFL positions.

It’s no secret that Kelly nearly ended up in Tampa Bay last winter. Columnists everywhere speculate whether he could make his system at Oregon successful at the next level.

My big question: Why would he want to make the jump?

Sure, he’s probably curious whether his breakneck pace and spread option system would be successful in the NFL. And he doesn’t have a lot more to prove in Eugene.

But history shows odds are against him. Many great college coaches have taken the temptations from the NFL and soon found themselves out of work, including some with outstanding credentials. Alabama’s Nick Saban fits in that category, but Kelly doesn’t need to look any further than Corvallis for a couple of other examples.

Mike Riley’s first tenure at Oregon State University included bringing the Beavers to the edge of a winning season after nearly three decades without one. Before his arrival, he won two Grey Cups as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League and later was the top assistant at USC. It wasn’t a stretch for the Chargers to think Riley would do well as an NFL coach, too.

Of course it didn’t work out and Riley found himself out of a job after winning just 14 games in three seasons.

Meanwhile, the Beavers hired Dennis Erickson, who had an impeccable record of turning college teams into stellar clubs, but had failed to make the playoffs in his attempt at the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks.

True to his past, Erickson finished the job Riley had started of making the Beavers into winners. And when the 49ers came calling, his desire to prove he could win in the NFL caused him to return to the pros.

That opened the door for Riley to return to Corvallis, and he has no intentions of leaving his post again, at least until retirement.

As for Erickson, he lasted a couple of years with the 49ers before his second run in the NFL ended just like the first, with a pink slip.

Kelly might prove to be successful in the NFL. Or he might follow in the footsteps of Riley and Erickson.

Or he could stay in Eugene, where he has helped turn the Ducks into one of the best programs in the country, and where the Nike-backed athletic department can pay him nearly as much as an NFL club.

I suspect Kelly is headed for the NFL, if not this year then in the not too distant future.

But I wouldn’t blame him if he stayed.

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