To just about everybody’s surprise, including mine, Chip Kelly is apparently staying at Oregon, spurning advances from the NFL. I throw in the disclaimer “apparently” because Kelly hasn’t issued any unequivocal statement, and there’s always the chance some NFL owner says, “Gee, we didn’t think he’d be available, but now . . .”
Assuming he’s back, though, the take here is that it’s a good thing.
— It’s good because Kelly is 46-7 at Oregon, and with the Ducks having attained a never-dreamed-of interest nationally, his presence is beneficial for the Pac-12. He makes the league more interesting.
— It’s good because he’ll be part of the entourage answering NCAA committee on infractions questions about the Willie Lyles affair, wherever that might be leading.
— It’s good for people like the four-star recruit twins of San Diego, wide receiver Tyree and linebacker Tyrell, as well as another four-star receiver from that town, Darren Carrington, who don’t have to pull out of commitments to the Ducks because of Kelly’s heretofore presumed exodus.
— I’d even argue that it’s good for Washington (although perhaps in a perverse way). Sure, a lot of UW fans were salivating at the notion that the Ducks were about to disappear from prominence entirely if Kelly left, with the assumption that Washington would then have an easier upward path.
That may well be true, but as an outside observer of such trends, I’d much rather see the Huskies have to deal straight-on with the Ducks at full throttle, instead of as a watered-down operation suddenly going 7-5 (if — big if — that was where they were otherwise headed). In their heart of hearts, I’ll bet a lot of UW fans agree with me, even as they’re waiting for the day when the string of nine straight woodsheds by the Ducks over the Huskies ends. As UW athletic director Scott Woodward likes to say, a rising tide floats all boats.
In that vein, if Kelly is indeed back, the Pac-12 North could be monstrous next year. The Ducks have a young team, and they’re awaiting the arrival of five-star back Thomas Tyner of Aloha High outside Portland. Stanford, like Oregon, just won a BCS bowl game, and even as it loses tight end Zach Ertz, it just got assurance that linebacker Trent Murphy, end Ben Gardner and linebacker Shayne Skov are returning rather than bolt for the NFL. Murphy and Gardner were first- and second-team all-league, respectively, and Skov, who will be in the second season off a knee injury, is of that caliber. (Stanford needs to replace Stepfan Taylor and still needs speed outside. But remember, this is a program that got to the Rose Bowl with sub-par quarterbacking through September and October, and that issue appears to be fixed.)
Then there’s Washington, which believes it’s about to blossom, and an Oregon State team that was within a few minutes in the Alamo Bowl of a 10-win season. I’d bet that Cal and Washington State — which should much better acclimated to Mike Leach’s peculiar ways — will be more equipped to put three-win seasons behind them.
So what’s not to like about the return of the White Visor?