This is a tale of three Irishmen: Kelly, Kelly, and O’Brien. All three are college football coaches. All three have flirted with big money jobs in the NFL lately, but only one thus far has succumbed to temptation; however, the other two are by no means losers. It is indeed a great day for the Irish, as the old Judy Garland song goes. (Who? Never mind.)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or if you happened on it because you’re a Penn State news junkie, you’re very familiar with the story of Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s head football coach. Your memory won’t need much refreshing, but I’ll touch on the salient facts before moving on to the other fellows. Some combination of O’Brien and his agent had conversations with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cleveland Browns, and it is not beyond belief that they might have shopped him elsewhere more quietly. When the media caught wind of the coach’s roving eye and blasted it all over their front pages, O’Brien demurred, in the process denying rumors that he extorted a raise out of Penn State that would be covered by a donation from a wealthy booster.
Kelly #1 is Brian Kelly, head coach at Notre Dame. Last week, Kelly met with the Philadelphia Eagles to discuss the notion of his assuming the head coaching position there, which was vacated by the firing of Andy Reid. (The ever spinning NFL merry-go-round has dropped Reid off in Kansas City as head coach of the Chiefs, but I digress.) The Eagles were interested in Kelly, but Kelly turned them down, making the following statement:
“This week, I had an incredible opportunity to speak with one of the premier organizations in sports about becoming their head coach.
“Like every kid who has ever put on a pair of football cleats, I have had thoughts about being a part of the NFL. However, after much reflection and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to remain at Notre Dame.
“This decision was motivated purely by my love for Notre Dame and the entire Fighting Irish community, the young men I have the great fortune to coach, and my desire to continue to build the best football program in the country.
“We still have a lot of work to do and my staff and I are excited about the challenges ahead.”
There is work to do and Kelly is up to the task — just so long as Notre Dame agrees to his negotiated contract extension and raise. Discussions are rumored to be in progress.
Kelly #2 is Chip Kelly, erstwhile coach of the Oregon Ducks. Like the other Irishmen, he interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike the other two, this Kelly became the Eagles’ new head coach. He initially passed on the Eagles, but as of Wednesday he changed his mind, claiming that the pending NCAA investigation of recruiting practices at Oregon had nothing at all to do with his decision. Eagles owner Jeff Lurie is making a bold move with Kelly, one that is destined to either make him look like a genius or a complete idiot. Presumably, he hired Kelly for his offensive innovations, most notably the “blur” offense. Will it or something similar work in the NFL, a league with lightning-quick defenders? Ask Steve Spurrier how well the Fun ‘n’ Gun did with the Redskins. But I digress.
So, what do you think? Looking at these three cynically, as is my wont, I see the first two sitting on top of their proverbial worlds with all the chips in front of them. Shopping themselves to the NFL was a successful bluff in both cases, assuming they both get the new deals they wanted. (Yeah, I know. O’Brien denied asking for a raise and said he knew nothing of a booster donation to partially fund his salary. But this turkey isn’t buying that angelic innocence routine). On the other hand (the third one, I guess), you have Chip Kelly who was sitting on a potential NCAA investigative powder keg at Oregon when his better sense told him to git while the gittin’s good.
This all leads me to continue to piss and moan about college football being a big business (duh!) and essentially an NFL farm system. That there is a continuum between big-time college football and the NFL is beyond doubt. However, the coaching merry-go-round in the NFL, driven by team owners desperately seeking offensive innovation and freshness, is now sucking in college coaches as never before. Meanwhile, successful college coaches can use their NFL offers for leverage. (Oy! The L-word!)
It’s going to be increasingly difficult to keep good coaches down on the farm, now that they’ve seen Paree!