GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Chip Kelly-to-Florida train has become very noticeable over the past 48 hours.
While nothing is finalized or guaranteed at this stage of the Gators’ coaching search, it’s an interesting revelation. If Florida were to hire Kelly, it would represent a shift from eyeing an up-and-comer with potential to succeed to targeting a guy who already has proven he has what it takes to run a top football program.
Just look at the Gators’ last two hires for context.
First Will Muschamp, a defensive-minded coach with 13 years of experience but zero as a head coach. He was an up-and-comer after successful stints as defensive coordinator at both Auburn and Texas. He had one successful year on the field at Florida — an 11-2 season in 2012 — and the defense ranked in the top 15 in each of his four seasons in Gainesville. However, a lackluster offense and a 28-21 overall record made it impossible for him to remain as the head man in Gainesville.
After Muschamp came Jim McElwain, who had success in four seasons as Alabama’s offensive coordinator and then turned around Colorado State during his three seasons as head coach before accepting the Florida job before the 2015 season. While McElwain won 19 games in his first two seasons with the Gators and reached the SEC Championship Game both years, the offense failed to improve. Add in his abrasive demeanor and a downward spiral on the field in 2017, and McElwain lasted just two-and-a-half seasons.
Which brings us back to the Gators’ current coaching search situation, which is in the midst of its third week.
The pros of hiring Chip Kelly
In simplest terms, Kelly has a proven track record for winning and putting up absurd numbers on offense.
He went 46-7 as Oregon’s head coach from 2009-2012, won the Pac-12 three times and made it to the national championship game in the 2010 season.
During his two seasons as Oregon’s offensive coordinator (2007-2008) and four as head coach (2009-2012), he never averaged less than 36 points or 412 yards per game. Florida hasn’t had a season close to those numbers offensively since 2009 (35.9 points and 457.9 yards per game).
Kelly knows how to put together an offense and his high-octane, speedy-priority approach should work at just about any school on the college level so long as he has the right pieces.
Also, Florida wouldn’t have to wait to hire Kelly and there would be no buyout to worry about since he’s not currently coach. This would expedite the hiring process, which would help ensure a coach is in place before the Dec. 20 early signing period begins.
The cons of hiring Chip Kelly
Kelly’s long-term commitment to the program would be a key to his hiring. Kelly has already gone through both the college football and NFL circuits. He also commented back in 2013 about his preference to coach in the NFL and about the fact that he does not have to worry about recruiting at the NFL level.
If Kelly does becomes Florida’s next coach and succeeds, he likely will be tagged for NFL openings each year. This raises the possibility of him becoming a short-term solution to Florida’s problems and pushing the Gators back into this coaching search situation sooner rather than later and creating yet another unstable environment.
There’s also the personality factor, which is more in line that of McElwain, who was let go in part because of his abrasiveness. Would the Gators go down that road again?
The decision is entirely in Scott Stricklin’s hands. He might want Chip Kelly to be Florida’s next head coach. He might not.
His on-field success is hard to deny, but with Stricklin’s emphasis on the togetherness culture that surrounds the Florida athletics program, that easily could factor into the decision as well.