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Former Oregon and NFL coach Chip Kelly has been the topic du jour for Florida fans as the Gators' coaching search continues.

Florida has more to offer Chip Kelly than any other suitor

Ryan Young

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As the Chip Kelly buzz keeps escalating, with reporters camped out at the airport Tuesday to see if Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin may or may not be flying to Connecticut where Kelly may or may not be, the discussion has been all about what the former Oregon and NFL coach could do for the Gators.

But how about what Florida could do for Kelly?

He spent this year out of football, working as an analyst for ESPN (in, yes, Bristol, Conn.), after being fired from an NFL coaching job for the second time in as many seasons.

After lasting three years with the Philadelphia Eagles and one with the San Francisco 49ers, Kelly does not seem to have any suitors clamoring for him to take over another NFL team. Thus, a return to the college ranks where he went 46-7 over four seasons at Oregon makes sense.

As outlined earlier Tuesday, he specifically makes a ton of sense at Florida if that’s how it plays out.

But let’s look at the other side of the equation in the latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day.

Jeremy M. asks … “Is it a race between us and Tennessee to get Chip?”

I can’t imagine those two programs would be competing for any candidate, or rather that Tennessee would have any chance at beating Florida for a top target.

Since pushing Phillip Fulmer out the door after the 2008 season, the Vols have run through three head coaches while topping 7 wins only twice — a pair of 9-win seasons under Butch Jones, who was just fired this week.

Florida has had its struggles in that time too, no doubt, but the Gators job is still a significantly more attractive opportunity. Heck, the program was in the SEC Championship Game each of the last two seasons.

Sure, there are betting odds that list Kelly as the third-most likely hire for Tennessee, but that list also starts with Jon Gruden, whose interest in coaching college football or coaching anywhere for that matter is not even certain.

Fans can debate whether Kelly is the best fit for Florida, but the case also can be made that Florida is the best fit for Kelly.

What are the other options, aside from Tennessee? Ole Miss, Oregon State, maybe Texas A&M and UCLA?

Texas A&M is arguably a better job than Tennessee with its Texas recruiting pull and deep pockets. That would make more sense as a competitor for Kelly’s services than Florida, if the Aggies do choose to move on from Kevin Sumlin. But USA Today reports Texas A&M will target Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher to replace Sumlin.

Meanwhile, Florida is a prime fit for a coach of Kelly’s credentials. His track record of building some of the most prolific offenses in recent college football history should resonate immediately in the most fertile recruiting region in the country.

The speed he could presumably attract to Gainesville to plug into his up-tempo, spread offense should already be giving the rest of the SEC East nightmares.

And the bar is presently set so low offensively in Gainesville that Kelly should have little trouble turning Florida’s going-nowhere pro-style offense into a more productive unit simply by implementing his system. Meaning, he’d have a hard time not achieving immediate progress while buying time to build the program in his vision.

Florida may be a couple big recruiting classes away from competing for a national championship, but even in the midst of this nadir, it’s hard to argue that Tennessee offers a better opportunity. The Vols haven’t finished in the final Associated Press top 10 since 2001.

For that matter, it’s hard to imagine there is any better opportunity for a coach like Kelly to prove he’s still the guy who turned Oregon into a must-watch TV team.

A program starving for offense success, that has won three national championships between two different coaches, that has proven it can draw in top athletes on both sides of the ball? Seems like a quite a match.

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