I was going to title this column: “Chip Kelly: Get A Rope,” “Chip Kelly: Out With The Old, In With The New,” or “Win One For The Chipper…Or Else,” after-all, according to nearly everyone being paid to cover this game, an ill-fated attempt at a third consecutive BCS bowl game could only leave us with the following interpretation: This guy can’t coach.
That’s right, it’s become popular opinion that due to a nine-point defeat in the 2010 Rose Bowl coupled with a whopping three-point loss in last year’s BCS Championship Game, Chip Kelly’s 32-4 regular season record as a third-year head coach has been deemed “fool’s gold” by scribes, talking heads and witnesses to one of this country’s favorite games.
Problem being: I don’t buy it.
Chip Kelly has been coaching football at the FBS level for five years, as a head coach for merely three. Aside from the aforementioned regular season record (32-4), he’s 33-6 overall, 26-2 against the Pac-12 Conference, and never finished worse than 1st in the league since he took over the reins from Mike Bellotti in 2009.
Did you get that?
Kelly has never managed anything less than a conference championship in his three seasons at the helm! I know that it’s become vogue to pick apart those at or near the top of any prominent profession, but to assert that close losses at the hands of one of the game’s most storied programs (Ohio State), and versus the National Champs led by the Heisman Trophy winner is evidence of substandard coaching, rivals on absurd.
Sure, people in and around the football program in Eugene would love nothing more to have won both the Rose Bowl and BCS Championship, put LSU in their place to the start the year nearly four months ago and supplant themselves amongst the games perennial title contenders, but so would each and every one of the other 119 teams playing at the FBS level, including teams like Ohio State (27-11 during Kelly’s three years as Head Coach), Texas (25-13) and last year’s champion Auburn (29-10). In addition to coaches like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops and coaching legend Joe Paterno, who’ve gone 21-6, 29-10 and 26-9 during Chip Kelly’s tenure as the University of Oregon’s head football coach. All of which are likely NCAA Hall of Fame coaches, and none of which have won National Titles in the last three years.
Is Chip Kelly in their league? Not yet, but based on his track record over his first three seasons he’s certainly on his way, and a BCS loss, or two, or three doesn’t derail that in the slightest.
It took Urban Meyer six years to win his first National Championship, Bob Stoops won his in his second year but none since, and Joe Paterno won two National Titles in 46 years, but pundits hound Kelly about his failure to win “big” over a three-year window with a team with nowhere near the history and talent of Florida, Penn State in its day or Oklahoma?
Please, someone make sense of that for me.
Certainly, in order for the Ducks – in addition to Coach Kelly - to take the next step towards the very top elite of the college game, they’re going to have to start winning some of these BCS games. They would obviously benefit from a win over Wisconsin Monday, victories in games versus teams like LSU, and dominating performances against nationally respected programs like you find in the SEC, but an inability to do so in the short term doesn’t negate the possibility over the long haul, it merely delays an inevitability of a coach and program far exceeding expectations from as recent as five years ago.
People quickly forget where Oregon was even under the guidance of Oregon legend Mike Bellotti. They weren’t regularly ranked in the top-5, a staple in BCS bowl games, and part of the National Championship conversation. Bellotti – in spite of his success – never coached in a Rose Bowl game, appeared in only one BCS bowl game, and lost five or more games in nearly half of his seasons on the sidelines at Oregon. None of which to be ashamed of, but none of which nears the stratosphere Chip Kelly has lifted the Ducks too.
Oregon, its players and its head coach want to win the Rose Bowl game. They’re likely tired of finishing on a bad not, certainly tired of playing second-fiddle, and without question tired of listening to the ridiculous narrative that they “can’t win the big one.”
Do the Ducky have to win in order to validate their success?
Does Chip Kelly have to win in order to be a great coach?
And do they have to win in order for their fans to be proud of this team?
The answer is no to all three questions.
Oregon is a good team, Chip Kelly is a great coach, and everyone representing the green and yellow should without question be proud of this team. You don’t need neither a BCS win, I or anyone else to tell you that.
But winning today wouldn’t hurt. (Wink wink)