When you look around the college football landscape there are a few things that you take notice of. Unfortunately, the only thing most fans and media have been noticing as of late are the problems surrounding Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor, and the Ohio State University football program.
The Oregon Ducks came in to the 2010 season without running back LaGarrett Blount, who left for the NFL, and 2009 starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli who transferred to Ole Miss after being dismissed from Oregon's football team.
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The Oregon head coach admitted that there may have been some bad press surrounding not only Masoli and Blount but also LaMichael James who was arrested back in February of 2010 on charges of domestic violence.
When asked about some of the things being said about the football program because of the actions of those three players, Kelly made it clear what's expected of his team. "Our players need to understand that when you represent [Oregon], you represent it 24/7. It doesn't change when you're off the field. The players who have done that the right way are still here and the players that haven't done that aren't here."
His actions regarding Masoli have shown that he's has no problem kicking a star player off a team for doing something detrimental to the program.
With Masoli's departure, a young quarterback by the name of Darron Thomas stepped into the spotlight and took control of the offense. It didn't take long to show just what kind of player he was going to become for the Oregon Ducks.
In two seasons as the head coach, Kelly has taken this program to back-to-back BCS bowl games, the Rose Bowl and the BCS National Championship. Although both were losses, it seems the Ducks' head coach has this program firing on all cylinders.
"Kelly could be the biggest sleeper coach in FBS football," said Fox Sports' Lisa Horne. "You have to understand where Oregon football was and where it is now. From 1942 to 1994, only two coaches posted career aggregate winning records at Oregon: Jim Aiken and Len Casanova. The Ducks have won only one Rose Bowl (1917) and had a 68-year bowl drought starting in 1920—they were basically the laughingstock of the Pac-8 and Pac-10."
He is already a big name around college football and someone who, without a doubt, will get interest from not only other Division-I but also the NFL.
"I see myself trying to hopefully be [at Oregon] tomorrow," Kelly said when asked about possibly going to the NFL after his days at Oregon. "Our philosophy with this football program is 'Win the Day' and I can't talk about things way down the road because then my actions wouldn't match my words."
With those words, it seems Kelly is committed to staying with the University of Oregon for as long as he possibly can. While long term coaches are a rarity in college football these days, Lisa Horne told me it's quite possible he could be there for the long run.
"He could be one of those career coaches like Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden—something that in this era of college football is rare—and so far, he seems committed," she said. "Kelly has demonstrated his close ties to the Ducks' community by writing a check for $439 to a fan who demanded a refund for his traveling expenses after watching the Ducks embarrass themselves [in 2009] against Boise State."
Two seasons just doesn't seem to be quite the right amount of time to be able to rate just how good Chip Kelly is as a football coach. His teams have been one of the strongest offensive teams in college football during his tenure, leading the nation last season in points per game (49.3) and finishing second in total offense (537.5 ypg), just one tenth of a yard behind the Oklahoma Sooners (537.6).
Heading in to the 2011 season, the Oregon Ducks are once again expected to be one of the strongest teams in not only the PAC-12 but also in college football.
Running back LaMichael James will be returning as well as quarterback Darron Thomas, two players who were a huge factor in the team's success last season.
It might not be fair to say Kelly has a chance to solidify his career at Oregon going in to just his third season at the helm. However, he's already drawing comparisons to another long tenured college football coach.
"Kelly is in his third year now and has two big BCS Bowls under his belt, albeit both were losses," says Horne. "The only coach that comes close to those kind of attributes, in my mind, is Bob Stoops, of Oklahoma."
But Horne didn't stop there, even putting Kelly among some of the best active college football coaches out there.
"Mike Bellotti changed the Ducks' program, but Chip Kelly put the stamp of "BCS contenders" on them," she says. "He's a top 20 coach for sure, but he's only coached two full seasons at Oregon, so it's hard to rank him compared to other coaches with longer tenure, like say, Steve Spurrier. If Kelly wins a BCS Championship in the next few years, he jumps to a top 10 coach, but right now I put him at No. 20."
That's high praise for a coach heading into just his third season at the helm. But, if things continue to go the way they've gone over the last two seasons, maybe top 10 just wouldn't be good enough.
For a coach who began his career at Central High School in Manchester, New Hampshire, I'm not sure you could have ever convinced him he would be a house hold name at one of the biggest and most well known college football programs in the country.
Now if they would only change those hideous uniforms. But that's another story for another day.